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  • Big Data v. Big Wisdom

    Posted on: 03/29/2013

    By Tim Nichols

    The term "big data" is a somewhat all encompassing umbrella for the morass of distributed, loosely connected, and often unstructured data that modern business operations are blessed with. Blessed, that is, in the same way that someone on an episode of A&E's Hoarders is blessed with a wealth of old newspapers and magazines. Information without useful access and analytics is just clutter.

    What you have is big data. What you need is big wisdom. Somewhere buried in the stacks of hard drives that litter your server room, or floating in the cloud of web service and social media sites, is a trove of data about your customers. Data, which if transmuted to wisdom about your customers, would enable you to provide better, quicker, more efficient service, to the delight of both your customers and the company. If only alchemy were that simple.

    According to Microsoft's "Global Enterprise Big Data Trends: 2013" study, customer care is driving 41% of the demand for big data solutions. Clearly there's an organizational hunger to know more about the customer, and there is recognition that customers are leaving ever larger and more accessible digital footprints. But what big wisdom can all that big data offer, and how can you go about synthesizing it?

     

    What's In a Name?

    This starts with knowing which data is associated with which customer, facilitated by having a complete collection of known customer handles. Handles may include actual names, email addresses, and phone numbers. But they also include Twitter, Pinterest, or YouTube usernames, or other online aliases like Amazon reviewer profile IDs.

    It's long been a best practice to unify all your contact modalities into your CRM system. In this way, customer interactions can proceed seamlessly between phone, email, chat, or even social media channels. Yet equally important, is the linking of other non-transactional activities by this customer, in which your company may be interested. These activities may include social media posts, product reviews, blog entries, or online rants. While it's nice to know that BigDogBob86 has just declared your new product to be the best thing since Chuck Norris, it's better to also know that he called twice last month, is married with kids, and lives in Austin.

    Most CRM systems support this sort of cross-modal tracking today, but in practice it's maddeningly difficult to do it well. People have multiple email addresses, multiple phone numbers, multiple Twitter accounts, and multiple internet connected devices. They feel quite free to use them all, and have little patience for your institutional clairvoyance not being up to the task of knowing they contacted you before.

    There's no magic solution to this issue, but it certainly helps if anyone or any system interacting with the customer makes a point of recording the current modality identifier (e.g. phone number, email address, Twitter handle) into the customer record. Customers will generally have little tolerance for or interest in cleaning up their records, so this opens the opportunity for you to have lots of deprecated, or even incorrect, contact information about any given customer.  But storage space is cheap, and incorrect, old, or unused handles will just never be searched. In other cases, like a shared home phone number or a Facebook page with multiple administrators, the customer search may return two or three possible customers-still a better situation than having the search return no one.  Further, CRM systems that support the addition of a "verified" or "preferred" flag on each contact handle are quite useful. In this way it's possible to denote a known-good or preferred number or address at which to contact the customer.

    There's also the opportunity to proactively mine for handles used by your customers through social media. Many people reuse handles across multiple sites. After all, the typical goal of social media is to be found, not to stay hidden. If you know one handle, it's straightforward to test that handle against other sites to see if it results in a valid page, and if so, assume it's the same user. This can be easily automated and done without user intervention.

    This collection of customer handles can not only be used within your analytics and business intelligence tools to look across disparate data sets to synthesize wisdom about specific customers, but also to create views of different demographic slices to which they belong.

     

    Consumer Privacy

    Consumer privacy issues are a delicate balancing act. It's in your company's interest to know everything about the consumer, but the consumer is often inclined to be a bit less forthcoming. Pitney Bowes conducted a survey in 2012 of consumers in Europe and the U.S. and their attitudes about the collection of personal information. The survey found that consumers are aware of the value of their data, and they also value their privacy. The survey found one-third of consumers are unwilling to trust any type of organization with their personal data. But for the most part, consumers are ready to part with certain types of data so long as they perceive a benefit in doing so.

    Dimitri Maex, Managing Director of OgilvyOne and author of the book, Sexy Little Numbers: How to Grow Your Business Using the Data You Already Have, suggests the value equation is different now; ".it is no longer a question of consumers' willingness to share data but one of establishing a fair value exchange." Maex's study showed that 72% of US consumers are willing to share data, as long as they receive something valuable in return.

    Millennials have an even stronger willingness to share personal data for rewards. Aimia's study "Born This Way" notes, "When asked in an open-ended question what value brands needed to provide in exchange for sharing their personal information, Millennials identified reward incentives as the top factor fueling their trust-and in greater numbers than their older counterparts. They also expect brands to secure their personal data and to use it in an ethical manner."

    The value customers receive for their information sharing does not need to be directly monetary. While discounts and coupons are always welcome, value may take the form of enhanced levels of service or even ego-appealing bonuses such as the opportunity to have their comment or review appear on your website.

    Clearly, customer privacy requests must be respected, but the chances a customer will opt-out are significantly lessened if there is some perceived value to remaining in. Further, much of the digital footprint data about customers is now public. This means that while customer opt-out requests may dictate how your agents or marketing programs interact with customers during transaction processing, it doesn't necessarily limit your back-end analytics.

     

    What Wisdom Lies Within?

    There are two basic approaches to analyzing big data.  One is called rich wandering, and is a relatively novel approach for data analysis made possible because of the integration of disparate data sets enabled by big data analytics tools.

    In some ways, rich wandering may be thought of as surfing through your data. Consider the times you've been surfing the web, only to find that you stumble onto something particularly interesting; something that affords a valuable insight or provides a new perspective you otherwise never would have thought to go looking for.  You arrived at that gem by following a series of links, which from the outside would appear unrelated and uninteresting.  That's rich wandering-the art of serendipitous discovery.

    In much the same way the web enabled rich wandering through information; big data analytics enable rich wandering through data.

    You might start with a search to constrain an initial data set. You might use faceted classifications to filter certain structured data elements to further constrain your set, in much the same way that EBay or Amazon lets you use facets to narrow your shopping selection. Then you might use graphing tools to create various vectored representations of the set along multiple dimensions. Each peek leads you to think about the data set a bit differently. And that leads you to try different searches, different facet filters, and different graphs. The result being that oftentimes you'll wind up discovering something valuable you never intended to look for.

    This is not to encourage spending hours wandering aimlessly about in the data. Much like web surfing, this can consume copious amounts of time. It's more akin to the process of discovering things en route to looking up other things.  A flexible real-time analytical tool will allow you to wander from your set path to satiate your curiosity-and serendipity happens.

    A second analytical approach for big data is the more traditional approach of creating and generating periodic reported metrics and showing metric trends over time.  This is not fundamentally different than the analytical techniques you are probably using today, but may require the use of tools specially designed to traverse heterogeneous and less structured data repositories to generate the reports.

    What's new here is the ability to generate metrics and trends that were previously unavailable or too difficult to track.

    For example, any state-of-the-art consumer affairs operation is already tracking all the interactions customers have directly with the company. Some are also actively monitoring their company Facebook pages or Twitter feeds for posts that require intervention and handling. But do you know what your customers are saying when they are not speaking directly to you?  More importantly, do you know who is listening?

    Net Promoter Scores (NPS) have been around for a decade now. The premise of NPS is to gauge a customer's intent to recommend or advocate for your product by classifying them as a Promoter, Passive, or Detractor based on direct survey results. NPS has often been used as a metric of success of the consumer affairs operation, but some companies also use NPS as a service differentiator. You might go the extra mile to appease a Promoter, where you might not do the same for a Passive customer who is likely to switch brands at the drop of a hat anyway.

    While being a Promoter might indicate intent to share, it doesn't usefully assess a customer's ability to share. That's where Social Influence Scores (SIS) come in. SIS is a measure of the ability of a customer to influence their social connections.

    One factor of someone's SIS is their raw number of connections, or their social graph density. That's relatively easy to measure based on the number of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or blog subscribers someone has. But graph density doesn't say anything about the actual influence of that person. It merely indicates the potential to influence.

    Wisdom comes in understanding a customer's social relationship strength, centrality, and prestige.  These are more qualitative measures, but can be gleaned by analyzing:

    • The frequency of posting original content (as opposed to sharing or retweeting)
    • The number of references to a specific company or product
    • Geographic or demographic diversity of the social graph
    • The post activity in terms of total comments, replies, shares, or retweets
    • The post activity in terms of number of unique commenters, repliers, sharers, or retweeters

    By combining all these factors, a customer's true influence can be estimated, and service differentiated accordingly. It may well turn out the squeakiest wheels aren't worth greasing because, while they make a lot of noise, no one is listening.  Alternatively, some comparatively quiet voices might be having an outsized impact on your brand. This is big wisdom worthy of the investment in big data tools for customer care.

     

    Flipping the Equation

    The Oracle white paper, "Integrate for Insight," argues that "big data-information gleaned from nontraditional sources such as blogs, social media, email, sensors, photographs, video footage, etc., and therefore typically unstructured and voluminous-holds the promise of giving enterprises deeper insight into their customers, partners, and business."

    Accessing that insight requires investment in tools as well as the labor to wield them. It also may require adjustments to your customer care processes to facilitate the integration of, and connection between, these far flung data sets-many of which you may not control. But the results can be profound.

    Historically, customer care operations have struggled with determining what they can discern about their customers' behavior from the available data. The advent of big data turns this equation around.  The world of big data makes it impractical to start from the point of asking what you can do with the data available. It provides the opportunity for operations to seek answers to questions by asking what data will factor into those answers, and then seeking the connections and tools to acquire that data.

    Perhaps more importantly, this breadth and depth of data can provide answers to questions operations may not previously have even thought to ask.


    Tim Nichols is a former SOCAP International Board Member and currently serves as Chief Strategy Officer for Wilke Global.  You can find Tim on mySOCAP or on Twitter @TimAtWilke

     

  • 70 Brands to Network With at the SOCAP Symposium

    Posted on: 03/26/2013

    When you’re at a conference, some of the best “Ah-Ha!” moments come from the random conversations you have over a cup of coffee, or when walking from one session to the next.  The most valuable lessons learned come from other customer care professionals who are in the trenches with you, facing similar challenges on a daily basis.

    Here’s a list of 70 of the more than 100 brands who will be at SOCAP’s 2013 Symposium.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of the list later!

    The Brands You’ll Find at the 2013 Symposium:

    • Abercrombie & Fitch
    • Airgas Inc.
    • Altria Group Distribution Company
    • American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
    • American Type Culture Collection (ATCC)
    • Associated Bank
    • Bacardi USA, Inc.
    • Bayer HealthCare LLC
    • Bigelow Tea
    • Bolthouse Farms
    • Butterball, LLC
    • C.B. Fleet Company, Inc.
    • Campbell Soup Company
    • Capital One Financial Corp.
    • Carnival Cruise Lines
    • Church & Dwight Co., Inc.
    • Clif Bar & Company
    • Coca-Cola Refreshments
    • Colgate-Palmolive Company
    • ConAgra Foods
    • Consumer Reports
    • Crayola, LLC
    • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
    • Delta Airlines, Inc
    • Diageo
    • Dremel / RotoZip Div.-Robert Bosch Tool Corp.
    • Driscoll Strawberry Associates, Inc.
    • Eli Lilly & Company
    • Elizabeth Arden
    • Federal Citizen Information Center
    • General Mills, Inc.
    • Georgia-Pacific Corporation
    • GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare
    • Guthy-Renker Corporation
    • Hillshire Brands
    • Hyatt Hotels & Resorts
    • InterContinental Hotels Group
    • Jarden Consumer Solutions
    • Jockey International, Inc.
    • Johnson & Johnson
    • Johnsonville Sausage, LLC
    • Kao Brands Company
    • Kellogg Company
    • Kraft Foods, Inc.
    • L’Oreal
    • Maple Leaf Foods
    • Marriott Corporation
    • McCormick & Company, Inc.
    • McDonald’s Corporation
    • McKee Foods Corporation
    • My Brands
    • Niagara Bottling, LLC
    • Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.
    • Omaha Steaks
    • Penn Foster
    • Pepperidge Farm, Inc.
    • Perdue Farms, Inc.
    • Pier 1 Imports, Inc
    • Pinnacle Foods Group LLC
    • Roche Diagnostics
    • SC Johnson, Inc. A Family Company
    • ShurTech Brands, LLC
    • SunRun
    • The Clorox Company
    • The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
    • The Hershey Company
    • Unilever
    • WellPet
    • West Business Services
    • West Corporation
    • WhiteWave Foods

     

  • Three Customer Care Conversations You Can't Afford to Miss

    Posted on: 03/14/2013

    Sometimes, the best “Ah-Ha!” moments at conferences come from random conversations in the hallways, while getting coffee, or when you’re walking from one session to the next.  Here are three important customer care conversations you can’t afford to miss.

    Sometimes, the best “Ah-Ha!” moments at conferences come from random conversations in the hallways, while getting coffee, or when you’re walking from one session to the next.

    You’ll find more than just great keynotes and breakout sessions at the SOCAP 2013 Symposium, where over 100 leading brands come together for the best networking and learning available.Here are three important customer care conversations taking place at the SOCAP 2013 Symposium you can’t afford to miss:

    1. What are you doing to prepare for Big Data?
      Many companies are talking about Big Data, but what are brands like ConAgra Foods and General Mills doing right now?  Buzz about big data has been growing, and customer care leaders across all industries are talking about how consumer affairs can and does play a pivotal role in data collection, organization, analysis and visualization.
    2. How are you motivating employees?
      There are more age groups working together now than during any point in history. How do we manage so many different groups and keep them all motivated? What rewards and recognitions work, and what don’t?
    3. Where will customer care be in 5 years? 10 years?
      Explore this question with senior executives from major brands like Associated Bank, L’Oreal, Marriott, My Brands, Roche Diagnostics, Kellogg, Unilever, Carnival Cruise Lines, and many more. No other event features more senior leaders from more brands!

    You never know who you’ll run in to and what conversations you’ll strike up at the 2013 Symposium, and the only way to find out is to join more than 350 customer care professionals in New Orleans for the SOCAP 2013 Symposium.

     

  • SOCAP International Executive Gains Prestigious Recognition

    Posted on: 02/21/2013

    SOCAP International President and CEO Matthew R. D'Uva, CAE was one of five association executives to be named to the 2012 ASAE Class of Fellows.  This recognition comes from the Center for Association Leadership at the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), the nation's leading membership organization for association executives.  ASAE is composed of more than 21,000 association executives and industry partners representing 10,000 organizations.

    February 25, 2013
    For more information, contact:
    Marjorie Bynum, VP, Education and Communication
    marjorie@socap.org

    Alexandria, VA-SOCAP International President and CEO Matthew R. D'Uva, CAE was one of five association executives to be named to the 2012 ASAE Class of Fellows.  This recognition comes from the Center for Association Leadership at the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), the nation's leading membership organization for association executives.  ASAE is composed of more than 21,000 association executives and industry partners representing 10,000 organizations.

    "We are extremely proud to have a talented professional like Matthew D'Uva lead our organization," said SOCAP Board Chair Linnea Johnson, director of consumer services at Unilever.  "This recognition is well deserved, and I know that the entire SOCAP Board of Directors as well as our membership can appreciate what it means to have such an accomplished trade association executive at our helm."

    "The ASAE Fellows program is an honorary recognition bestowed upon less than one percent of ASAE's membership representing the best of the association community. The 2012 Class of Fellows is made up of committed association leaders, and it is my pleasure to welcome them to the Fellows community," said Stacy Tetschner, CEO, National Speakers Association and chair of ASAE's Fellows Selection Committee.

    Since the Class of Fellows program was established in 1986, 234 association industry professionals have received this prestigious recognition.  To be so named, fellows candidates must be endorsed by a peer; provide an in-depth application describing the individual’s innovation, leadership, and commitment to the profession; undergo an interview with a member of the selection committee; and be selected from among a group of highly qualified candidates.

    About SOCAP

    Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia and formed in 1973, SOCAP is composed of over 2,000 best-in-class customer care executives and professionals from over 100 brand name companies throughout the U.S. and Canada.  SOCAP is a member-driven organization committed to promoting customer care and engagement as competitive advantages.  SOCAP members include vice presidents, directors, and managers of customer care and consumer affairs as well as hundreds of business partners, individuals representing the solution provider community.  SOCAP member benefits include education and training, peer-to-peer networking, relationship building, partnership programs, conferences and seminars, news and information, research, and more.

    Visit SOCAP on the web at www.socap.org.

  • SOCAP International Issues Big Data White Paper

    Posted on: 02/21/2013

    A new white paper produced by SOCAP International, the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals, explores Big Data as a challenge and an opportunity for customer care professionals. The white paper is written to help SOCAP members–customer care executives at leading brand name companies–identify the issues, see the possibilities and parse the options in advancing a game changing Big Data agenda.

    ALEXANDRIA, Va.,-A new white paper produced by SOCAP International, the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals, explores Big Data as a challenge and an opportunity for customer care professionals. The white paper is written to help SOCAP members–customer care executives at leading brand name companies–identify the issues, see the possibilities and parse the options in advancing a game changing Big Data agenda.

    Big Data supports several key functions from a customer care perspective, including customer service and support, assessment of customer satisfaction and quality, amplification of the voice of the customer within the enterprise, operational exception spotting and trouble shooting and trend analysis. The increasing use of sophisticated data analytics tools by business users is also helping companies gain new insights into customer expectations, attitudes and behaviors.

    “The Big Data discussion is exciting and will continue to make a huge mark in businesses. That said, Big Data is both a reality of the present and a wave of the future in customer care,” said SOCAP President and CEO Matthew D’Uva. “Our goal in developing this white paper is to help our members better understand the potential of Big Data, to see new opportunities for its effective use and to better communicate its relevance for customer care within the enterprise.”

    D’Uva said the white paper is one of many activities SOCAP will be undertaking to educate its members about Big Data, including webcasts, conference sessions and additional white papers. A copy of the new white paper is available at http://bit.ly/SOCAPBigData.

    About SOCAP

    Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia and formed in 1973, SOCAP is composed of over 2,000 best-in-class customer care executives and professionals from over 100 brand name companies throughout the U.S. and Canada. SOCAP is a member-driven organization committed to promoting customer care and engagement as competitive advantages. SOCAP members include vice presidents, directors, and managers of customer care and consumer affairs as well as hundreds of business partners, individuals representing the solution provider community. SOCAP member benefits include education and training, peer-to-peer networking, relationship building, partnership programs, conferences and seminars, news and information, research, and more.

    Visit SOCAP on the web at www.socap.org.

    Marjorie Bynum, VP, Education and Communication(703) 910-2473 marjorie@socap.org