Hear that?  Those are the sounds of angels singing as the customer experience is saved by high tech’s latest buzzword – big data.  Too bad that no amount of big data can overcome small minds.


Presumably, the logic goes like this:  Data is good so big data must be better.  Here’s the flaw:  Data is good IF you use it.  But IF you can’t (or don’t or won’t) use it, big data is just an expensive chimera.

Big data is too costly when you consider how much actionable data already goes unused.  A Bain study found that 80% of firms felt they delivered a “superior experience” while only 8% of their customers agreed.  Think you need big data to illuminate this discrepancy between perception and reality?  Not likely.  To close the gap they suggest talking with and listening to customers.

 … initiatives to “better understand” customers typically backfire. A company can get so engrossed in collecting and sifting through data on patterns of use, retention, purchases and other transactions that buyers become numbers rather than people, segments rather than individuals. Companies become deaf to the real voices of real customers.

For years companies have known what to do to improve the customer experience and they haven’t done it.  Big data isn’t likely to solve that kind of ignorance or intransigence.  The problem isn’t big data or small data, but big delays caused by small minds.  Far more useful at this stage in our collective customer experience maturity, would be to advocate, initiate, and carry out actions on the “small data” that already exists.

  • Ask for customer feedback – then DO something with it.
  • Be responsive and fair to customer questions about billing, functionality, etc.
  • Solve a consumer problem (address a customer’s need) with a product or service that is simple to use.

Some will say that big data is the saving grace because it finally provides facts to validate customer experience initiatives.  Possibly.  But do we really need it?  Oracle, which earns high NPS scores learned in a recent big data study that (paraphrased):

  • Quicker initial responses had no impact on customer satisfaction
  • Customers preferred to be helped by the first person they talked (versus being passed around to another resource)

Perhaps Oracle, with its war chest of $32 Billion, can afford such “insights”.  For the rest of us, the pivot point is that the insights already exist.  Our job is merely to shut our mouths and open our minds to what customers are already telling us.

Even Big Data Can’t Overcome Small Minds in Customer Experience
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5 thoughts on “Even Big Data Can’t Overcome Small Minds in Customer Experience

  • 17 December 2013 at 15:39

    Big agreement here. I’m often quoted as saying “You can’t change just one thing.” Meaning, as you note so well, you can’t just grab the data. You have to effectively act on it. I’ve been smiling for two days as I noted big data expert Amazon make money off me. A friend had placed an item in their wishlist using Amazons browser tool that lets you add from any source, not just Amazon. I clicked to buy. Amazon kindly offered to let me buy the same item on Amazon for less (and w free shipping since I’m a prime member). No doubt they are using the pricing info they see from customer supplied items — and I win as a result.

    You have to use it for it to be valuable. Intuit also provides a great example at least in terms of testing before jumping in — experiment on how you might gain value before making the plunge.

    • 17 December 2013 at 18:09

      Thanks Terri. Amazon has their hooks into me as well. But as you say, I benefit – so win/win.

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