In your next staff meeting, take a lesson from Big Data. Hint: Personalized service matters.

I read an interesting article about big data that cites some examples of things businesses can learn about customers from sifting through mounds and mounds of customer records.

The holy grail of this type of market research is ‘Predictive Analysis’ allowing companies to foresee such things as when customers will cancel their subscriptions, opt-out of services, or be most likely to buy.

One of the examples cited was that an airline saw that vegetarians are more likely to make their flights than non-vegetarians. The initial thought of course is “How could they know that?” followed by a healthy skeptical dose of “Really?” After all, the promise of big data to some degree is that it is so big, that it dwarfs other variables.

bespoke suitWell, airlines know who some of the vegetarian (and I suppose Kosher) customers are because they often self-identify by ordering their meal ahead of time. These customers have a higher rate of making flights than the general public, so voila….voila! I said voila! What do we do with this information? If marketing says, “Let’s advertise to vegetarians!” and yield managers start adjusting loads, there will be outcomes, likely some unintended ones.

In this case, the author of the book suggests that customers who know that something personalized awaits are more likely to follow through with the transaction. Nothing big or data about that.

That should remind us that when people call our restaurants and book rooms at our hotels, they would be less likely to cancel if something personalized awaits. That could be a nice room, a quiet table, or the realization that the staff was really and truly looking forward to their patronage.

In your next staff meeting, I urge you to ask what can be learned from some big data ideas. Ultimately the data will resolve to something as simple and ‘un-datalike’ as yet another good reason to really engage our customers.

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