My Grandmother, Customer Service and Big Data

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Burton on Trent Town Hall

Great customer service – in the 1920’s

My grandmother (Nellie) was born in Shoreditch in London, in 1887. After she married, in 1917, she eventually tried Sainsbury’s. They used to deliver her groceries to her door. Nellie was not a rich woman. Sainsbury’s leadership was built on convenience, value, cleanliness and great service – and home delivery was central to this for all of their customers.

Nellie moved to Burton on Trent after my mother was born, at the end of the 1920s. She found a new grocery store, Wilkinson’s, near the Town Hall.

It was not a chain, and the staff knew her by name. She often bought the same produce. A side of streaky bacon, if I remember her stories, was a staple. And whilst there wasn’t a formal loyalty program, Nellie was occasionally given new things to try, or handed special treats for the kids.

She got personalised service from the best and most convenient place she could find.

My mother later shopped at Wilkinson’s, too. In the 1950’s and 60’s, she visited on a Tuesday, placed her order, and paid. I remember walking in with her, and was fascinated by the huge bacon slicer. The order was delivered to our home by van on Thursday.

Consider how we shop today

Buying a camera, perhaps? Well, we probably first read the reviews on the web, ask the advice of friends both real and on social media, and comparison price shop. We might also pop into a bricks and mortar store to hold the camera and ask more details. Yet the chances are we don’t buy the camera then. We might order it from Amazon before we walk out!

Customers since retail was invented have looked for perfect, personalised service – using all the channels, information and search tools open to them. Today, they are also using all the data and mobile technology that they can get their hands on – more than ever before.

And today’s customers don’t see channels – they see information and results. That’s why all retailers must understand how data and insights generated are critical to the customer experience.

Today’s Customers – and their Digital Day

First thing in the morning, we download newspapers and check email. Facebook, Twitter, eBay, voicemail, phone calls: which of these are in your morning digital routine?

At each step, data is created. What we do, where we “visit” – both in the bricks-and-mortar world and the digital one – and what we see or buy is noted somewhere. Most of the data is collected by the websites visited or the services used.

The government watches us too – they are recording what taxes are paid, what education we have, what cars are driven, what laws are adhered to, how passports are used, who is in the family circle, and what our medical history is.

At work, there’s more email and the web. Depending on the company, customer data is collected – sales, credit histories, names, addresses, likes and dislikes. Internally, the company collects data on suppliers, its manufacturing plants, process performance, and distribution systems. There is data on employee performance, salaries, and more.

Booking flights, hotel stays, or going to a restaurant creates more layers of data. In the evening, during leisure time, millions of people stream music over the web, or upload pictures so that friends and family can see what they are doing and where they have been. Not just pictures are recorded – but also which friends view the pictures, their comments, where the photo was taken, and the camera settings used.

“Big Data” is a buzz-concept

Everyone is talking Big Data. But too often it gets discussed in technological terms. What is its real meaning for business strategy?

Remember the old adage “data – knowledge – insight – wisdom”? Well, “Big Data” is only as useful as the insight and ideas that are derived from it. We accumulate lots of data but we can’t always make sense of it. We need to extract wisdom.

Read the rest of Mick’s post