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Big data kills by a thousand cuts

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Death by a thousand cuts was an ancient punishment reserved for heinous crimes such as treason or killing one's parents. The process involved tying the person to be executed to a wooden frame, usually in a public place, and proceeding to cut off little slices of flesh until the guilty party expired. Big data has the potential to do just this to your company. The worst part of it is that you will not even know this is happening to your company until it is too late.

In the world of today, your customers are writing about you and their experiences of your products or services across thousands of different websites, Yelp, Google, Bing, your own Facebook page, your own Youtube channels, your own website feedback forms, win-loss data from your own sales force—you name it. The big data explosion is coming from the hundreds of millions of transaction and social media engagement channels across the Internet and your own systems that you set up to serve your customers in the first place.

The genie is out of bottle and there’s no retreating from the world of big data. Before your business has even been contacted, 57% of the purchase decision has already been made—this is based on 2011 research from the Marketing Leadership Council of Corporate Executive Board. Where is all this decision-making happening if you haven’t even met once with this prospective customer? It’s happening on the Internet. Prospects are using the myriad web channels to find out just what everyone really thinks of your solutions and forming their own opinions without ever meeting you.

“Well Kevin”, you say, “this is such a bleak picture, it just can’t be. We’ve been a customer-centric company for many years. This is how we have grown our business in the first place.” And you would be correct.  It is a well-known fact that companies that listen to their customers win.  Aberdeen Group’s “Customer Experience Management: Engaging Loyal Customers to Evangelize Your Brand”  report cites 70% of customer experience management best-in-class adopters use customer feedback to make strategic decisions. 50% of industry-average organizations and 29% of laggards do this. This hasn’t changed; it’s just that now this feedback is being posted in a thousand other places than your website.

Businesses today have to embrace big data to really understand the totality of what their customers are experiencing and reporting to out to their networks. You have to develop strategies for being able to collect all of this feedback in whatever format and bring it together with your own information to have a true 360-degree view of your customer. The truisms on which the most successful businesses have been built stand true; it’s just that the execution of those truisms have become much more complicated with the hundreds of new communications channels that we are using in our everyday lives. Gartner, the world's leading information technology research and advisory company, estimates that CMOs will be outspending CIOs on IT in the next 5 years, driven by the inexorable rise in on-line business and big data.  With the right big data strategy, instead of a thousand cuts, you could be facing a thousand compliments.

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