The Trouble with Big Data

Do you ever feel that just about every product that you want or need squeezes you from every possible angle. Customer service has been replaced by automated responses and call center robotic confusion. It may be my cynical nature — but the more I use design thinking and analysis the more I realize that the opportunity to misuse big data against the customer is rampant throughout business today.

Big Data might be more to blame than big “D” (design) but the two are closely related and often rely on each other when structuring customer interactions and pricing models. Off hand I can think of several companies who put the ends before the experience. Everyday it seems that more of our products and services are being controlled by these corporations, resulting in a poorer customer engagement that we are seemingly powerless against.

Note: see http://www.businessinsider.com/these-10-corporations-control-almost-everything-you-buy-2012-4
and http://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6 or http://www.forbes.com/sites/bruceupbin/2011/10/22/the-147-companies-that-control-everything/

Priority of profit is affecting customer loyalty creating a opportunity gap between smaller, customer-centric companies and everyone else. Small startups have the opportunity to generate a massive amount of customer loyalty — when a company makes the transition through the stages of competition from small, targeted, and agile to large, broad and monolithic, winning and retaining customer loyalty becomes more difficult — because of the dependance on profit margins and investor confidence.

This is where the big data problem comes in. Big data analytics offers a nano point of view. It is readily possible to pin point opportunities that may effect revenues by leveraging what is most important to the customer, but at a cost. To the customer it feels as though the service model has changed. These incremental changes add up over the life cycle of business as a company grows. the developmental changes lead to consumer cynicism. In a world that is increasingly built on the customer experience and responsiveness this customer cynicism is bad for any business.

The Switch

A prime example of this squeeze can be seen with the current climate of cable/internet service providers. Recently my family just made the transition from one cable company to another. Not a very easy transition or painless but, unhappy with our existing service we started shopping around. We couldn’t throw a remote without (apparently) hitting a better deal. So, we took the leap and made the switch.

The cancelation and installation portion of the switch was relatively easy — besides the fresh new set of holes in my home and twice the coax. After the first few days, the value and squeeze started rearing its ugly head. The switch was made because the offer seemed to better fit our use to our needs at reduced cost. The truth was that after all the nickels and dimes were added up the service versus the experience was not rewarding at all, in either case with neither provider.

It is readily apparent that analysis of user data is used to design a model around pricing rather than being designed around the customer experience. On it’s face it makes complete business sense — but when it comes to building a customer experience (and loyalty) that relationship is being compromised.

Human Factor

When it comes to service design keeping the human factor in mind can build customer loyalty and brand confidence the likes of which that can last throughout your customers lifetime. Think about the brands that you are faithful to today. Where does that loyalty come from? — more likely, it was a customer experience that resonated a deep empathy for your needs at a particular time in your life — they understood you. Big data analytics has the power to remove all consumer empathy from an experience.

By leveraging big data in unison with design thinking businesses can give consumers a more pleasant experience with increased profits. Rather than framing a product or service around targeted price points a company has the opportunity (or rather obligation) to create a pleasurable user experience that is built around understanding the wants and needs of the consumer. In the long run the loyalty created through empathy can be much more valuable than the short term profits created by the design by price model.

This squeeze is creating a hole in customer service and it is only a matter of time when smaller more customer-centric companies rise up and leverage customer loyalty and a more robust user experience that will force the hand of these service providers to change the face of home data use and consumption, again.

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