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Making data useful

Is data telling your business to make the right decisions? Mat Wylie explains how to use data to take the guesswork out of business.

Long gone are the days where, as David Ogilvy famously quipped: “Fifty percent of my advertising works, I just don’t know which 50 percent.” All areas of a business can and should be measured to understand where it is succeeding, along with those areas that still need improvement. Traditionally ignored areas, previously considered too difficult to measure accurately, should now stand as KPIs within every business.

The ability to analyse large and complex data sets (‘big data’), are crucial to the operations and development of businesses. Chris Lynch, ex-Vertica CEO, explains that, “big data is at the foundation of all of the mega-trends that are happening today, from social to mobile, to the cloud and gaming.” Pinpointing relevant and useful data can back up decision-making, allowing managers to make properly informed choices for their business operations.

Managers and business owners spend an average of two hours every day sorting through data. Of course collecting, analysing, reporting, and sorting data is part and parcel of running an effective and profitable business, but it takes up a considerable chunk of time and might be producing inaccurate insights.

“Half of the information located later turns out to be useless anyway,” says Lynne MacDonald of Demand Media. “Businesses need to find efficient methods to turn their data into usable information.”

Most businesses rely on an accountant to crunch numbers at the end of the financial year, against which they then make future projections about the business. Figures that fall out the back of an accountant’s report highlight the areas that are doing well, those that are underperforming, and which parts of the business should be divested. This snapshot in time, in the form of a financial report, is often the roadmap by which businesses follow through with daily activities.

Essentially, this sort of reporting is like looking at the rear-vision mirror. While it is useful, businesses that seek to gain a competitive edge should also be front-facing, looking through the windshield. To see the whole road ahead, businesses need to be able to measure the intangible aspects that are likewise critical to their success, such as staff and customer satisfaction.

Fortunately, we live in a time where we can measure those intangibles. New technology allows businesses to measure their customers’ satisfaction, experience in real time, and the likelihood that they will return. Similarly, being able to measure employee engagement is important for future growth, as it can help to predict costly turnover rates if they’re unhappy. Staff happiness is important from a sales perspective as well, since it often has a direct effect on customer experience. Staff members who are disengaged will find it hard to deliver a wonderful customer experience, or be a good representative of their business.

To measure this and gain useful data, businesses are turning to the likes of Customer Radar as a tool to define and measure their intangibles, allowing them to plan effectively. Customer Radar technology produces measurable and clear results so that businesses can place customer experience at the centre of their business operations. The idea is to understand how a business delivers on customer experience, and apply a metric to it. From there, different aspects of the business can be improved, because a baseline has been established and a plan can be put in place to increase profitable and positive growth areas.

Are your customers happy?
Uncovering this kind of new data may seem scary, as it could bring to light some unflattering truths or dispel beliefs that have been long-held. But discovering why customers are happy or not, should in fact be looked at as a great opportunity. Using this information, it’s possible to address any issues and improve the business. Similarly, knowing what keeps customers coming back for more is crucial to business growth and sustainability. Making assumptions about business success or failure, and worse still, making decisions based on those assumptions, can easily lead to things going wrong.
Fact beats opinion every time, so it’s always best to back important decisions with solid, meaningful data and take the guesswork out of business.  

Publishing Information
Magazine Issue: NZBusiness June 2015 Page Number: