Summer on the East Coast of the United States is magical, as temperatures in the Northeast can veer between 55f and 102f in a matter of days, and blazing dry days can be supplanted by near torrential downpours. It is also a time of travel for vacation versus work, and time to laugh at things that, when one is rushed, can be aggravating. Like hotels that don’t remember who you are, or that you have been a loyal customer for 15 years (in central Washington, DC), or when one asks, “are there any less expensive places to park a car than here – where it is $40/night?” And the answer is, “Not that I know of, sir.” But then when I go for a walk there is a sign right across the street for a rate $5 cheaper. Of course I walk back into the hotel and ask the sweet receptionist: “what about across the street? It is $5 less expensive.” Her answer? “Sir, generally people don’t consider $5 to be worth the effort.” To which your intrepid guest asks: ‘Bottled water in the room is $6, would you cross the street to the CVS to buy it for $1?” That puzzled her. “But how can you compare!” Enough said.
Then there is the rental car company that can’t switch your bill from the credit card on file to another credit card without putting you in a 20 minute queue, even if you are a Gold Customer. Or messaging systems from airlines that tell you your plane is 90 minutes delayed but neglect to update you that the delay is gone and now you must be there on time. And then there is my brilliant hands-free headset that I got for my iPhone4 six months ago, which is modestly touted as “The world’s smartest headset.” Until I upgraded to the iPhone5, and it won’t pair. It may be smart, but only about the past – not the future. And try the headset maker’s corporate website and type “iPhone5” into the browser and what do you get? The very headset that is incompatible with the iPhone5. In fact until one opens a PDF with technical detail and gets to the bottom, there is no mention of what is/is not compatible.
The list is endless of terrific companies, and the CIOs at all of these terrific companies are waist deep in the big muddy of Big Data. They are attending conferences, hiring data scientists, and using ever more cutting edge analytics tools to mine data and engineer the human soul. All of that is great, and at the same time the startlingly obvious process failures are more likely to diminish trust and lower customer engagement with a Brand or company. The Siren-sound of Big Data is calling, but it can’t be at the expense of the obvious. But the obvious – the small things that are easily tweaked – are not on the CIO’s agenda because they won’t gain her/him visibility in the Boardroom or with the CEO.
Here’s the thing: of course Big Data should be exploited. But like a balance investment portfolio, the factors that drive customer excellence need to be tended to first: no customers means no need for Big Data – except to find your next job.
If you are not careful and fail to keep your eye focused on the customer experience, all of this infatuation with data mining may come back to haunt you. It took Marvin Lee Aday (AKA Meat Loaf) and his buddy Jim Steinman five years to finally produce Bat out of Hell in 1977, but it went on to sell tens of millions of albums. One of the best numbers summarizes the CIO’s dilemma well. It is, Paradise by the Dashboard Light, and the key lines are:
I swore that I would love you to the end of time!
So now I’m praying for the end of time
To hurry up and arrive
‘Cause if I gotta spend another minute with you
I don’t think that I can really survive.
So let’s look before we leap with Big Data, and give ongoing customer engagement initiatives their due.
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