5 data sources IT leaders overlook

By Rick Michaels

When I was moving into a new house, I began to receive bank statements meant for someone else. After two years trying to get the bank to at least stop sending its customer's confidential information to me, I gave up. I ended up tracking down the intended recipient myself.

Where did the bank go wrong? You could point the finger in several directions, but one leads to the data that the contacts should have generated. Why weren't any flags raised? How could something so simple fall through the cracks? It appears the bank overlooked one of its data sources, showing it lacked the agility expected in the digital age.

Meanwhile, businesses in just about every industry are racing to deliver on the promise of digital business, and CIOs are driving the transformation. For example, 92 percent of top-performing CMOs are focused on delivering a consistent face to customers, and CIOs are making it possible, with 85 percent prioritizing improved insight and intelligence.

Of course, these insights are built with data. To overlook important data sources is to limit the potential of digital innovation. Fortunately, seemingly everyone and everything is connected and generating immense amounts of data. How much of it is your business using? Let's look at five data sources that you're likely missing today:

1. Customer service

Here, expectations are high. According to Convince and Convert, an average of 42 percent of customers expect a response within an hour, and each interaction can be a turning point that could destroy or galvanize a customer's loyalty. Either way, each contact can reveal valuable, specific information on customer expectations, actual experience and their level of satisfaction. Learning from this mostly unstructured data may require a new approach to accessing and governing all types of data.

2. Social media

Your business likely has a Facebook page and perhaps a presence on Twitter, YouTube and others. Plus, with 2.3 billion active social media users worldwide, according to Brandwatch, there are countless other relevant conversations beyond the accounts your marketing department maintains. Marketing may scan some of these posts, but no one can keep up with them all. They need help to access the relevant data for deeper analysis of trends and patterns.

3. Reviews

In online reviews, your customers are taking their time to tell you — and your customer base — what they like and don't like about your products, services and brand. Just occasionally reading individual posts can lead to decisions based on outlier data points. Analysis of the broader wealth of reviews will yield far more meaningful insights — if you're harnessing the data.

Plus, beyond the actual words exchanged, tone and style of communication can reveal whether customers are delighted, disappointed or downright angry. Humans are great at picking up on the cues. Computers, not so much — until now. By applying advanced artificial intelligence to much of the data discussed so far, marketers can gauge customer sentiment and find ways to further improve experiences to build loyalty.

4. Operations

Beyond the quality of customer engagement, the overall experience depends heavily on the ability to deliver a satisfying product or service on time. It depends on efficient, effective operations. With the right data, you can help operations managers avoid service outages, reduce costs, improve time to diagnose and fix problems and improve overall efficiency.

5. Expertise

"Our best asset is our employees." You've probably heard it, and you may have said it and meant it as well. Yet how much vital expertise is held by just a few of those employees? How much more valuable would every employee be if each one had better access to that knowledge?

Augmented intelligence can deliver on that vision. The technology absorbs immense amounts of unstructured information, learning from the world's experts. It then detects patterns and offers predictions and advice, with a specified level of certainty. It augments expertise and can empower each employee to deliver greater business value.

Taking control of your data

My local bank had a simple task: flag an incorrect address. Customer service had the data, but it went nowhere from there. Your data is only valuable if the right people, processes and analytics tools have access to it. This gets particularly challenging when the data is unstructured. It's complex and thus often skipped, but, accounting for up to 90 percent of all data, it paints a huge portion of the big picture needed to compete in the digital age.

To take control, look for a partner with deep industry and technical expertise that can tailor a solution to integrate, secure and govern all types of data, from any source, across a hybrid IT environment. It's a vital step toward becoming a data-driven, digital business.