In today’s world managing the customer experience is a 24-hour job for most retailers and tech companies in general. Technology is changing how we all expect to interact with products, services and the people we buy them from. Technology executives are faced with the challenge of turning buckets of information into meaningful data and value for end clients.
I had the opportunity to sit down with the CIO of ThinkGeek to discuss this growing trend of continuous customer engagement. ThinkGeek is an online retail site that has been around since 1999 and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of GameStop.
As many of you know I’m a big believer in the fact that technology is changing everything in the world around us. So what are the biggest things that technology executives must do to ensure their organizations are using all of this data to drive value and not just creeping us all out with overly invasive information?
Steve Weiskircher is responsible for this task at ThinkGeek and has an interesting perspective on the whole ecosystem that drives the Consumer / Provider relationship in today’s world. Here are some of the top things that I took away from our hour-long discussion on this great topic:
Don’t be creepy! – Steve and the ThinkGeek Team have seen a clear shift in not only customers’ willingness to receive unsolicited valuable information, but in the expectation that customers be catered to with this valuable information in the form of a very individualized experience. General Marketing is not something that customers appreciated but neither is the weird feeling that someone is watching everything you do online (even though we know it’s true). Technology Leaders must find a way to automate the custom consumer experience and make the customer feel like you are looking out for us, not just looking at us.
Understand and Define the value you are trying to add – Ask the questions…what are we collecting this data for? Once initiated, the collection of data can become a fire hose that is hard to turn off. You must define what actions you will take, based on what you are seeing in the data. If no one on the team is doing something with the data then it’s just interesting information. What is the end goal and what problem are we solving by collecting this data? Location tracking, web browsing history and so many other data points are available to companies these days. As a company it is important to clearly define the value that leveraging this data will bring to your customers. How will this data be used to improve my experience…not just to improve your knowledge about me? See Section 1…Don’t be Creepy.
Do you have the right people and capabilities in place? – Organizations must have people that are capable of doing something with the data and must invest in the right tools to take action. Everybody in the world seems to want a Data Scientist, but is that really what you need? Companies need solid analysis of data to make tactical decisions. The answer is not always more data… How are we turning data into information? Steve is a big believer that data in the wrong hands can get you the wrong answers very quickly.
Security – Consumer Data is a commodity that companies spend billions of dollars on every year. So why don’t companies protect it like the currency that it is? Data breaches can literally destroy a company in today’s world – take Equifax for example – and in the online market consumer options are literally endless. Failure to protect your customer’s data breaks down the foundational trust that companies spend years building with their customers. If companies don’t respect and protect consumer data then doom may very well be looming just around the corner. The more data we have the more we must protect it…and unfortunately, not all of the threats come from outside of your organization.
From Steve’s perspective, we have just begun to scratch the surface on how data will be used to drive the continuous customer experience and companies must focus on Value, not Data. Data in the wrong hands is dangerous and can be counter productive to your corporate mission. So have a plan, have the right people and remember…nobody likes a creepy big brother!