Monday, 19 November 2007

It's all about the experience

It is a while since I have posted something here and for a while I have been thinking of what I could possibly say about the world of data which isn't already being said.

And then last weekend happened.

When I booked the "De-Stress" hotel weekend package for last weekend a few months ago, I booked 2 rooms for a friend and I. Very efficiently 2 days later the confirmation letter arrived in the post and had us both in the same room. I immediately phoned them back and explained that the rate we were paying was a special on their website and was for 2 separate rooms.

When checking in on Friday they had again booked us into one room. After 45 minutes of 'discussion' we were separated once again and in two rooms. We were also each given a list of 'de-stressing' activities for the weekend with times.

Glancing at the list, my friend's first activity was on our first day (16th of November) and mine was the 17th so I went off to my room to get sorted and she got stuck in.

We enjoyed a great dinner together and afterwards I went back to my room. Given my first activity was on the following morning I thought I would check out how my entire day was panning out. Instead of packing my activities into the Saturday and Sunday, I had one on Saturday, one on Sunday (scheduled after I should have checked out), and two on Monday (when I was back at work).

I called reception. The lady who managed the appointments had gone home for the night and there was no one else there to help. The receptionist suggested I sit in reception from 9am and wait for the lady in the morning to get everything rescheduled.

Instead, at 8am I spoke to the duty manager and explained the situation and asked him to work a plan to fix everything appropriately. This he - and the rest of the team - did superbly.

It's a shame that I had to say something to get things fixed, but it occurred to me that the problems I experienced were all caused by data. Not connecting the data dots between my booking for a website package, my phone call to sort the booking, and my activity appointments caused a customer experience far less than 100%, and it so easily could have been superb.

The late check-out and free wine we received as an apology were excellent, but it cost the hotel money. As a customer I didn't really need the wine or the late check out - I'd far rather they had it right from the start.

Connecting the data reference points means joined up thinking and a better customer experience.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Too much data

You know what it's like. Your email Inbox is overloaded, your postbox is full, the list of things to do sitting next to you on your desk just gets longer and longer.

Information overload.

What do you do about it? Well if you're like most of the population you probably bury your head in the sand and go for a nap / cup of tea / run / holiday...

But some people do cope. More than cope, they succeed in getting on top. How so? They have the same lists as you do, maybe longer.

The key is prioritisation. Finding the top 200 things on a list of infinite possibilities, and then doing the 2 or 3 most significant.

It is absolutely the same for businesses.

Companies are being overwhelmed by huge big shiny pieces of technology which will be defunct next year, holding wonderful data which will be useless if it isn't being used.

A lot of analysis of that data is destined to confuse. Either that, or simply present raw data in a 'useable' format.

Organisations who get it really wrong conduct analysis at department level or in a division.
Different departments using data in different ways depending on their own set of objectives.

Finding the 2 or 3 'nuggets' which can make the biggest financial impact and strategically set the direction for the business at the highest level is critical to success. The work each department does is then a function of that direction.

A common goal grounded in data.

The start of a data trail

I'm often asked how I got into 'data' given my background was in advertising and media.

I joined advertising at the tail end of the heady days of the 80's. At the time advertising was hailed as the new 'profession' alongside Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants...

Having done econometrics, I was particularly interested in the economics of advertising. How could we understand as much as possible about people we wanted to target, so we could identify the right media channels to find them? And then: How could we prove that our campaigns were having an effect on sales?

Often the communication choices we made were based on research with small sample sizes done months prior to campaign implementation. Campaign results were too difficult to extract from other factors... Incredibly frustrating. Clients were way ahead of us in their knowledge of what was going to work, so I spent a lot of time with them trying to acquire that learning.

It became abundantly clear after unsuccessfully trying to integrate a multivariate econometric approach into an agency, that most of the agencies weren't interested in knowing whether campaigns worked, they were interested in producing great creative. For me these aren't mutually exclusive. The best creative should engage the customer in a way which makes them want to desperately have the product.

I left Adland to start a business working with Venture Capital funds. We were valuing the future potential of a customer database or target audience in businesses they were seeking to acquire or invest in. We were also responsible for evaluating the performance of the Marketing Department (and suppliers) in those companies.

It struck me - still does - that many organisations had not linked Marketing to the customer database. Product, sales and marketing initiatives were not linked to the knowledge the company already had on their customers. As a result opportunities were being missed and marketing was anything less than optimal.

A friend introduced me to a business with lots of data. Data at the sharp-end of grocery retail loyalty. What people were buying linked to who they are and where they live.

I was asked to develop their media proposition. They had the seed of an idea that the data they had could somehow help advertisers and agencies with the decision on where to invest their cash. An amazing idea. I could understand customer actual (real) shopping behaviour (not self-reported) to do better targeting, but better still, if I put an ad on TV I could see who was buying it within a matter of days / hours.

Holy Grail stuff. It's now a multi-million pound business.