Of data, that is. Data is everywhere. We’re swimming in it; in some cases drowning. And, we’ve become really good as organizations at collecting it, to the point of hoarding. But, how much smarter has this data made us about our customers? How much closer have we become to, not only understanding our customers wants, needs and desires, but anticipating them?
Customer surveys, focus groups, point of sale, demographics, technographics, psychographics, CRM, SCRM, web analytics, “likes”, social network analysis…the sources and types of data about customers, prospects and people in general is virtually unlimited. And the stream of technologies claiming to lay the golden egg is ever-growing.
The direct and opportunity costs of collecting and storing data have plummeted recently and continue to drive lower, towards zero in some cases. Heck, 10 years ago, a terabyte of data was futuristic cocktail conversation at IT conferences. Now you can get a terabyte of storage on a flash drive for a couple hundred bucks. And Toshiba is working on a 1Tb SSD the size of a postage stamp.
The last frontier, unstructured data, of which Gartner estimates makes up greater than 80% of enterprise data, is now no longer unaccessible either. So, throw all that in the mix and our data store ends up looking like this.
The unfortunate impact is that we have now become hooked on the ‘data pipe’; addicted to collecting it. We’re doing it as individuals too. We collect (sometimes hoard) followers, friends and contacts across social networks; confusing popularity and reach with influence and relationship to stroke our egos. Instead of focusing on better understanding, we have been lulled into a false sense of security and accomplishment through the very activity of data collection. The acquisition and mining of the data has become the objective, the compulsion. And, so we convince ourselves that we have a more intimate relationship with our customers. But, the data on customer satisfaction and loyalty shows that the emperor has not clothes.
I’m often left to wonder, then, how the best in class companies seem to anticipate and satisfy customer expectations so well. Is it a result of the analysis of all this data? Or, is it the fact that they simply hoard less and listen more?