Today's businesses are becoming more data dependent than ever before. The problem, however, is that collecting more data doesn't make a company smarter, understanding the data does. But the latter is easier said than done.
There are plenty of good reasons to collect valuable data. The insight gleaned can help organizations learn customers' wants and needs, get a better picture of customer experiences, and assess and improve profitability, just to name a few. All of this information is helpful, but to obtain any of it on a regular basis, organizations must address a few emerging data trends.
1) First, let's start with a trend that's right in front of us: Interactions over traditional channels are more demanding. It used to be that customers would often call customer service reps (CSRs) for simple queries, such as placing an order or resetting a password. However, the Internet and automated solutions have empowered customers to accomplish these tasks on their own. So when a customer calls a company for support, it's likely he has done some of the research on his own via a Google search or the company's Web site. And if the agent isn't prepared, today's knowledgeable customer can unload a salvo of information that can stump even a veteran CSR. So it's important that agents are trained well enough to meet the demands of today's highly knowledgeable customers.
2) In addition to the increasing demands on traditional channels, organizations are expected to interact with customers on social media. Companies can certainly attempt to do this themselves. However, more companies are turning to customer service outsourcers for help. According to one expert in the cover story, "The New Roles of Customer Service Outsourcers," by Leonard Klie, organizations are turning to outsourcers "more than ever for guidance on social media strategies, technologies, and tactics."
3) One of the biggest challenges facing organizations today is the level of connectivity that mobile devices create. Take retail, for example: It's not enough for many smartphone-toting customers to simply rely on what's available to them in a physical retail store. Many whip out their smartphones while inside that store to find additional product information or customer reviews, or to comparison shop. That's why retailers must meet shoppers where they are—physically and virtually. Making sure in-store customers are able to find what they're looking for online will help retailers better understand their customers' interests and improve their chances of making a sale. To see how some of today's progressive retailers are accomplishing this, read our feature story "Retailers Bring the Digital Experience In-Store," by Sarah Sluis.
4) The ability to deliver, capture, and understand valuable data across multiple channels is creating a significant skills gap. So much so that, according to a recent study conducted by Forrester Research and the Business Marketing Association, 47 percent of B2B marketing executives polled stated they can't find job candidates with the right skill sets. Additionally, 28 percent of those polled stated it's nearly impossible to fill important positions with today's applicants. Fortunately, business schools are responding by incorporating more digital studies in their curricula, according to the feature story "The Evolution of the MBA," by Maria Minsker. Read this story to see how MBA programs offered by Cornell University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School are evolving to address the needs of today's students and the companies that hire them.
These trends are affecting many companies around the world. Addressing them in a way that is best suited for your organization will better enable it to meet the needs of today's highly connected customers.