Archive for February, 2013

Data and Caring do Mix

I’ve been a customer of Roadrunner Sports for over twenty years.  They’ve always provided me with excellent service – during the early years with a catalog and over the phone, later via the web as it evolved, and still later in person in their stores.  I think what’s always impressed me is that in every transaction they’ve made a sincere effort not just to service my needs, but first to understand my needs…by getting to know ME – how often I run, how far, and where.  Am I prone to injury?  Do I race?  What brand of shoes do I favor?  Finally, when I’m in their store, they do an in-depth analysis, using a treadmill, hi-tech video, and pressure plates, to be able to make shoe recommendations customized for me and my needs.  Now THAT’s selling!  Notice all the asking, listening, and observation!  Great lessons!

Now, after 20 years they have a LOT of history (data) on me!  You’d think that they’d know me like their own family, but there ARE hundreds of thousands of me and thousands of them, so realistically I’m just a number…but a number with lots of data attached!  I DO get postcards and emails throughout the year, most of which contain general messages to all customers, but some are targeted to ME, based on my most recent shoe purchases.  My shoe is on sale, or is in danger of going out of production (the “endangered shoe” list), or a similar or complimentary product is on sale.  Good, targeted use of data, yes, but nowhere even close to where they could be.

I imagine a day where when I call or walk through the door their systems will identify me and present staff with everything  (data wise) they need to help fill my needs…and sell me what I need to meet those needs.  Or, through intelligent data use, they could send me a reminder four months after my last shoe purchase to remind me that it’s time to save my legs and feet with another pair.  I’d like that!  The data’s there, the system just hasn’t caught up….but I am certain it will.

I believe most companies worth their salt will get there as well!  We all have mountains of data, and we’re learning to “mine” it better and better all the time.  I believe we will learn to mine it, present it, and use it to help us better understand, better serve, and better sell customers the products that will help them be successful.  But I wouldn’t wait for that to happen.  Instead, adopt an attitude of genuine interest in your customers.  What kind of work do they do, what do they use, what do they like…or dislike?  Create a mental profile (data) of each customer and then present, rather than just react when they visit your business.  Most B2B businesses’ advantage over Roadrunner is that we see the same faces with regular frequency, so creating a mental database is relatively easy.  You’ve probably experienced this with the better places you shop or eat, where the waiter or clerk knows you well enough to anticipate and better, accurately direct you to things similar, but better than “the usual”.  Makes you feel good…even important!

Yes, the day will come when much of this will be automated!  This is good and a bit sad; Sad, if we let “systems’ do not only the thinking, but also the caring for us.  Data and caring do mix, and when used together can produce magical moments for customers.  So, take every opportunity to ask, listen, observe, building a mental database, and then present your customers with solutions that will make them feel good…and important!

Lead [and sell] on!

Cliff

February 13, 2013 at 4:22 pm Leave a comment


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