Big data allows us to overcome the human tendency to oversimplify. Whereas we focus on one or two big causes to our problems, big data allows us to see the integration of many smaller causes. As the article, “Be My Guest” (The Economist, December 21, 2013 edition), exemplifies, this allows further detailing of our standard operating procedures. It means further programming our employees’ comments and actions, especially in customer service.
Oversimplification means focusing on the big things at the expense of the small. Six Sigma and Lean have proven big payoffs can come from small improvements. Translating to customer service, customers’ impressions originate from the collective impact of many small incidents not just a couple big ones. Big data allows us to leverage small incidents, thus transforming customer service and its training.
If you don’t tell a joke right, it falls flat. Customer service is like that. Big data teaches us to say the right things at the right times, but if we don’t deliver right, as early findings are showing, we convey mechanicalness or worse, creepiness. Tone might not fit words. Response might have mirrored exactly a co-worker’s earlier one. Too many personal particulars of the customer might have been referenced.
Big data isn’t about showing customers how much we know them. It’s about delivering without leaving the impression we know anything at all about them. It’s the joke comedians tell a million times as though they’ve just thought of it even though everyone knows it’s well planned, rehearsed and delivered. It’s the dancers, musicians and athletes who deliver performances seducing us into believing they required no practice.
Just as better information helps them, big data can do the same for customer service . . . as long as training methods adapt to incorporate that information.