TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Leverage Your Data for Better Customer Service

Even when organizations have the necessary data to improve service processes, customers may still receive confusing communications that make organizations seem incompetent.

In the past month or so I have experienced several instances where organizations sent me incomplete or even inaccurate notifications. These notifications would have been much improved and perhaps less of a nuisance if these organizations had leveraged their data more effectively.

Mystery schedule change: I received an email notification that a multisession online course I was registered for had a change of schedule, instructor, or location; it did not specify which! Because it was an online class I didn't really care about location, but I certainly needed to know if the date or time of any of the sessions had changed. In order to find out, I had to log in to my account and then search for the course and its associated schedule.

Sign for this package somewhere else: A major delivery company sent me an automated phone call advising that a package requiring an in-person "adult signature" was scheduled to be delivered the following day. Because the phone call referenced a tracking number for the package, I went to the company's website for further information.

It turned out that my wife had ordered wine as a gift for her brother's birthday and requested that it be delivered to his home. Even though the company had a phone number for her brother and the wine was being delivered to his home, it notified us, not him, that someone needed to be home to sign for it.

Rate this item you don't have: My wife ordered a baby gift from a major Web vendor. One of the boxes she clicked on during the checkout process asked if the order was a gift so that a card would be enclosed with the product. Even though the vendor had the data to determine that the item was a gift that she would not be using, and that would be delivered to someone else, a week or so after the present was delivered my wife received a request from the vendor to rate the product.

Replace this product you just bought: We ordered a clothes rack from another website. Although it is fairly durable and expected to last at least five years, the company almost immediately started sending us offers to purchase competitive products.

Sell your new car: A few months ago we purchased a new automobile, yet almost every week since then the dealership has sent us a letter or an email asking if we want to trade in our current vehicle and take advantage of a special sales event.

Organizations Can Do Better

In each of these situations, the organizations that contacted us had the data, most likely stored in a data warehouse or operational data store, to improve their processes and not have me question their business acumen.

For example, in the online course example, the email could have specified, probably with minimal programming effort, the specific change that occurred rather than send me a generic "something has changed" notification form. The company selling the baby gift knew that it was a present and not intended for our own use, and the clothes rack vendor should have recognized that the rack was not an item most households need more than one of.

As for the delivery company, I still can't understand why it notified the sender rather than the recipient when it certainly had the data needed to avoid this. The automobile dealer knew that we had just purchased a new vehicle and that our other vehicle, also purchased from that dealer, was also relatively new.

Do You Have an Opportunity to Improve?

As data warehouse practitioners, we help our organizations gather, store, and analyze the data needed to make better decisions, enhance business processes, and facilitate customer relationships. We should advise our users when we recognize that our organizations have data that can improve any of these.

When we receive a request to produce reports or notifications, we should consider whether data that we already have could be incorporated to make these reports more useful or accurate. We should also recognize that we don't necessarily need to be subject matter experts when simple common sense could be enough to prevent our organizations from looking foolish.

Think about the data at your organization -- could you be using it more effectively to impress your customers rather than confuse them?

About the Author

Michael A. Schiff is founder and principal analyst of MAS Strategies, which specializes in formulating effective data warehousing strategies. With more than four decades of industry experience as a developer, user, consultant, vendor, and industry analyst, Mike is an expert in developing, marketing, and implementing solutions that transform operational data into useful decision-enabling information.

His prior experience as an IT director and systems and programming manager provide him with a thorough understanding of the technical, business, and political issues that must be addressed for any successful implementation. With Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from MIT's Sloan School of Management and as a certified financial planner, Mike can address both the technical and financial aspects of data warehousing and business intelligence.


TDWI Membership

Accelerate Your Projects,
and Your Career

TDWI Members have access to exclusive research reports, publications, communities and training.

Individual, Student, & Team memberships available.