Customer relationship management practices often don't exploit big data effectively, analytics executive says. Are you overlooking these 3 opportunities?

Jeff Bertolucci, Contributor

February 4, 2013

4 Min Read

Big Data's Surprising Uses: From Lady Gaga To CIA

Big Data's Surprising Uses: From Lady Gaga To CIA

Big Data's Surprising Uses: From Lady Gaga To CIA (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Big data can enhance your company's customer relationship management (CRM) strategy, resulting in greater customer loyalty and increased sales. But according to one marketing analytics expert, many businesses' CRM practices don't use big data wisely.

In a phone interview with InformationWeek, Chris Diener, senior VP of analytics for AbsolutData, an analytics and research firm based in Alameda, Calif., described three of the biggest missed opportunities in big data CRM.

"Big data is somewhat of an intimidating topic to folks," said Diener. "For a lot of people, especially in the CRM area, it's potentially threatening," in part because its area of expertise beyond their comfort zone.

For instance, the need to hire data scientists -- highly trained professionals who specialize in analyzing big data -- might seem daunting to some CRM pros.

[ Big data has value that's often not reflected in the books. Read What's Your Big Data Worth? ]

According to Diern, there are three often-missed CRM opportunities in big data:

1. Real-Time Analytics.

Increased velocity of information is one of the three major characteristics of big data, the other two being massive volumes and greater variety of content. "If we take into account the velocity of big data, we can see there's a [missed] opportunity of doing more real-time analytics," Diener said.

Businesses, unfortunately, often don't use this velocity to their advantage. "We get data minute by minute, second by second, and if we have systems set up that can process that data in real time, it can be very powerful from a CRM perspective," Diener said. By not doing so, "we're losing the opportunity to connect with our customers more immediately."

One problem is that a business might lack the necessary technology or expertise to process data in real time. "Maybe they don't have the skills on hand to set up algorithms in the machine-learning genre: self-learning, self-healing, self-adjusting kinds of algorithms," said Diener.

Another problem: CRM departments in large corporations might be constrained by inflexible, indifferent or just plain bad management. "They may be managed so tightly that they don't feel the freedom to advocate a different kind of solution," Diener said. "In a corporate hierarchy, you can be assigned a fairly narrow silo of 'you do this,' and feel like you don't have the freedom to explore or advocate a different approach."

2. Interaction Cultivation.

Big-data analytics in CRM often focus on social media. And usually that means listening to customers to see what they're saying -- good or bad -- about your company or brand. Businesses, for instance, might scrape data from social sites, or have human analysts monitor these services to detect customer sentiment.

So where's the lost opportunity here? Businesses, it seems, aren't doing enough to "cultivate interaction" with their customers. "We're scanning social media to make sure we're picking up on concerns or questions -- problems that are cropping up among those using our products," said Diener.

But CRM is about interacting with your customers, too. "It allows you to provide them with customized opportunities that either encourages them to not leave, to buy more, or to feel more engaged with your brand," he said.

3. Partnering With CRM Staff.

Rather than simply react to social media posts and other big data sources, businesses should proactively design strategies for these channels. Assertiveness is key. Said Diener: "For instance, we should ask ourselves: 'Do we have a YouTube channel? What kind of interaction can we facilitate through that?'"

Although such questions have become basic social media planning for many companies, CRM can be forgotten. In fact, CRM folks might not be "involved as to how that data is going to help generate cross-sell or upsell opportunities with customers," said Diener.

If you're under pressure to deliver big data solutions fast, the Are There Shortcuts To ROI? webcast will give you pragmatic advice to help you get the balance between a quickly delivered product and a product that works. It happens Jan. 31.

About the Author(s)

Jeff Bertolucci


Jeff Bertolucci is a technology journalist in Los Angeles who writes mostly for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, The Saturday Evening Post, and InformationWeek.

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