Making Big Data Work for the SME

The significance of Big Data and Analytics for productivity improvement became more high profile in the business rush towards Digital Transformation DX) and the achievement of Customer Service Excellence (CX). As the old adage says, ‘It’s very difficult to manage what you don’t measure’.

The global growth in the volume of data is well documented but you don’t have to be a big company to leverage big data, size does not count and big is in any case a highly relative term.
What is more important for the SME is for them to recognise that their data volumes are likely to be growing at a similar rate to larger companies, albeit from a smaller starting position. They need to recognise too that there is tremendous value that can be mined from that data given the right tools and management impetus.

Expanding a business is a big challenge. It takes dedication, uncanny foresight and savvy. If you built that business from the ground up, the stakes are even higher. Nevertheless, success is found at the intersection of great business sense and hard work.

Forsyth Alexander, Chief Storyteller for Watson Analytics and a 12-year veteran of IBM, says that successful business owners know the needs of their ideal customers.

“They know where they are located. And, they know how to get the word out there. This includes collecting and properly using the data that drives, informs and incites new action. This is where business analytics that offers self-service data discovery with data governance and a touch of predictive and planning comes in.”

Alexander has identified ways business analytics can help expand business the data-driven way. Here she outlines just three ways.

1. Expansion planning

Let’s say you’re ready to expand your business and open a branch, store, restaurant or office in a new location. And you have a ton of information about your growing customer base, equipment or other asset maintenance, employee payment and delivery or distribution scheduling. You can use it all to build a detailed expansion plan based on what you know.

2. Finding your audience

You’ll want to examine your current customer data to prepare. But, you should also research what people are saying about your company or brand and in what parts of the country or region. Business analytics offers social media analysis you can combine with internal customer data. Then, you take it and create a profile of your current and potential customers. As a result, you can find your ideal demographic.

3. Developing your marketing campaign

With what you’ve learned about your audience and local competitors with business analytics, you can send the right message to the audience most eager to try your restaurant as part of a perfect marketing campaign. Moreover, you can narrow down branding details, messaging tone and consumer preferences, like the right offers that will differentiate you from the other businesses in the area. You gain the competitive edge by making sure you offer something new to your customers and prospects.

How can analytics be used as a source of new business?

Carl Boraman, Director of Strategic Alliances at Tollring says that with analytics, businesses can understand how to achieve the best performance possible within the constraints of their technical and commercial resources.

Boraman says there are two key ways: customer segmentation and customer experience.

1. Whilst previously the domain of larger enterprises, SMEs can now access essential analytics to continuously evolve segmentation, delivering insight into successes and highlighting new trends. Businesses of all sizes can then focus on the customer profiles that generate the best value and replicate them via new business activities.
2. Analytics also make it easier for organisations to build a complete picture of customer experience. This is where monitoring interactions across the whole business – not just a contact centre, and over multiple channels – becomes important, particularly for SMEs with more informal customer interaction processes.

“Customer segmentation and customer experience must inform business strategy, ensuring that the feedback guides the way the company grows and prioritises its activities. It should also feed directly in to customer service and product development – a key lever for differentiation and competitive advantage, and a critical ingredient for generating new business.”

Iain Sinnott, Head of Sales at VanillaIP believes the opportunity for cloud versus traditional business solutions is based on analytics and the customers response to those analytics.

“If a customer doesn’t know they are missing sales calls, they’re then not motivated to change to call queues, or even chat queues to capture that revenue. If they don’t know customers are attempting to call when they are closed, then they can’t change to different shift patterns and if they can’t fully audit the performance of a worker, when they are in the office against when they are at home, then they will never embrace flexible working.”

Colin Gill, Product Manager at Akixi, “Analytics is no different to any other product or commodity. If it has a value, customers will buy it. The trick is understanding what information and analytics is of worth to whom, and how much it’s worth.”

The Increasing Volume of Data:
• Data is growing at a rapid pace. By 2020 the new information generated per second for every human being will approximate to 1.7 megabytes.
• By 2020, the accumulated volume of big data will increase from 4.4 zettabytes to roughly 44 zettabytes or 44 trillion GB.
• Originally, data scientists maintained that the volume of data would double every two years thus reaching the 40ZB point by 2020. That number was later bumped to 44ZB when the impact of IoT was brought into consideration.
• The rate at which data is created is increased exponentially. For instance, 40,000 search queries are performed per second (on Google alone), which makes it 3.46 million searches per day and 1.2 trillion every year.
• Every minute Facebook users send roughly 31.25 million messages and watch 2.77 million videos.

What do you say to a customer if they ask you ‘What information do I get from your communications platform and how can I productively use it?

Iain Sinnott at VanillaIP, “I say let’s sit down for 30 minutes, walk through the reporting options related to your services and the core objective of those services, select the reports that are of most value, schedule the periodic ones and put a hot button on the portal front page for the on-demand ones.

If we have queue monitoring/management or live hunt group monitoring via Kakapo, or Akixi, then make sure they are set up to deliver the live information and dashboard required.
Again, the first job is to motivate the customer to demand this sort of data to achieve their ultimate goal of reducing operation costs and increasing productivity returns, as opposed to making the phone bill smaller.

Carl Boraman says that by embedding its technology at a platform level, Tollring ensures that all customer data from the system can be considered for analysis.

“This presents a big opportunity for the channel to offer margin-rich consultative selling, highlighting the most valuable metrics for specific verticals.

For most SMEs, scientific certainty is near impossible. The recommendation is to focus on metrics that support pragmatic decision making, with the aim of reducing risk and uncertainty. Big data is helpful in this regard since increasing the number of data-points reduces risk.

However, it’s important for SMEs to not obsess over demanding absolute certainty from their data. The quest for the optimal is never ending because there are just too many variables. The most productive use of analytics is to choose which analytic levers to pull in order to exact the most effective result at any given time.

Embedding our technology at a platform level presents a big opportunity for the channel to offer margin-rich consultative selling, highlighting the most valuable metrics for specific verticals.”

“This can be a tough question to answer and one we face time after time,” says Colin Gill at Akixi.

“If we listed to a customer all the information that our platform could provide, we would be talking to them for a very long time and in all honesty, a lot of that time might be wasted as not everything we can do is relevant to every single business, though it would be nice if that were the case.

We have specifically designed our platform not to be a ‘you get what you’re given’ type of analytics and reporting platform, but have designed it to be highly configurable and flexible as well as accurate, providing customers with a powerful analytics tool to help run their businesses efficiently. However, I have often ended up in the never-ending discussion of Customer: ‘What information can you give me?’… Me: ‘What do you need?’… Customer: ‘Tell me what information you can give me and I’ll tell you what I need’. I often liken our product to a bag of building bricks as users are free to build what they want with little restriction. This admittedly can bring its own challenges, as customers quite often don’t know what information they want, let alone how to start looking for it. Even in relatively inexperienced hands, building a report in Akixi can take seconds, however, knowing how to configure reports if you don’t know what information you need is challenging. This is why we have been putting a lot of time and effort in to self-serve training and product education to help users get the most out of Akixi, not only as an everyday tool for performance measurement and management, but also to start using Akixi to identify problem areas within their communication solution.”

John McKindland, Head of Solutions Sales at Nimans says there is a lot of varied information that can be productively used.

What we get asked the most for at an SMB level is in terms of call volumes in and out – and what was the average time to answer. Others will want live stats about how many calls are in a queue and what are the busiest periods so that enough staff resource is available. Unreturned calls is another big factor where a caller has hung up and not rung back as that’s possibly a missed opportunity to clinch a sale.”

What about some real-world examples of how business is benefitting from Big Data and Analytics?

Carl Boraman at Tollring says the biggest benefit for businesses comes from involving their channel partner’s expertise in specific verticals.

“For example, GP surgeries are using wide datasets to directly influence customer experience and their resellers know that key metrics like caller tolerance needs to be the starting point for improvements.

We’ve had considerable success with car dealerships. Smaller dealers are often in direct competition from large national brands for car servicing, MOTs, etc. Partners working in the sector know that increasing average order value is a key priority, alongside good call handling. Providing analytics around these KPIs increases staff awareness and feedback, ultimately increasing ROI as staff are empowered to make decisions that can make a real impact.

Tollring’s analytics suite has evolved over time to meet customer needs, resulting in features that reflect the metrics that SMEs most require. This understanding of what businesses need to know about their customer experience is a proof point of how important it is to acknowledge the trends presented by multiple data-points.”

Colin Gill says that despite what the name implies, Big Data doesn’t have to be all that big.

“It can be as simple as looking for call trends on a weekly basis over a number of months, to see which days of the week or even which times of the day over a week are the busy call periods. We have many end user customers who have been using our product to define such insights to help them efficiently staff their call centres, or even just make sure the phones are covered at the right time. One specific example is with a company that plans staff lunch times around information gleaned from historic calls on the half hour plus day reports.”

Ed Says…

Big data is the new age technology that has made ground-breaking insights available in real-time. Business and organisations of all sizes can benefit by leveraging the insights offered by data analysis and with time the access to data has also increased multi-fold.
Today, data is in fact everywhere so let’s use it.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine