By Paul Meade, M.Sc, MPH

The world is changing all too fast. Surviving in modern business means adapting and embracing new ways of doing things.

The success of an exchange between any two people depends on how well they know each other. And the customer experience is measured by how much they feel valued and respected by that exchange. Good salespeople have always relied on their inherent skill to know as much they can about their clients. Thus, successful prospecting translated into improved sales.

Today, we live in a world of information. In fact, one could say we are drowning in it!  And every customer wants their experience to be completely customized to their specific needs. How can you achieve this level of customization, when everyone is different? Can the customer experience be N=1 when we may have so many customers? The answer is yes, if you know how to use data wisely.

We are all hearing how artificial intelligence and machine learning is going to change everything. We hear about how big data can be analyzed and digested for tremendous insights. We hear about how every message for every customer will be completely customized to meet their exact needs. We hear about how the age of “cold calling” is dead. Can all this be true? Well, maybe!

Picture a scene where two people are engaged in a discussion where each person is trying to convince the other of something they wish them to do, such as buy their goods or services. If I don’t know your needs or understand how you think, how can I possibly provide a positive customer experience?  Can big data solve this problem. Not really—at least not yet. Humans are very complex, and this complexity cannot be broken down by “0s” and “1s.”

What we can do to enhance customer experience is to use data analytics to spot trends and patterns with the information we have, and then create models and algorithms to predict certain behaviors. But, you might say, successful salespeople have been doing this for years! And you would be somewhat right. Some people have an innate ability to conduct such analysis without constructing such complex models. That is what humans are good at, after all! It’s gong to take machines a long time to get there with this ability. So, what is this new way of enhancing the customer experience?

Everything starts with good information. With the explosion of data out there, it’s difficult to extract the good information from the bad. The term “fake news” has exploded on the scene to try to give a term to someone “spinning” the information to make their point, good or bad. So, the first step to take is the ability to discern information that proves helpful to enhancing the customer experience. Start with objective, validated data about your customer. This could include their skills and experiences, their beliefs, their preferences, their needs, etc.

Next, gather as much of this validated information as you can and begin to apply data analytics to look for trends and patterns. From there, you can create algorithms and models to suggest predictive behaviors. But there’s more!

You also need to layer on some insights. These insights could be gathered from previous engagements or from outreach programs, such as surveys and interviews. But how do you know if an insight portends a trend or if it’s simply an outlier piece of data? You next need to validate these insights against meaningful criteria, such as the impact on your current strategy, or the ability to act on the insight. There are several techniques to validate an insight. However, the greatest mistake we can make is to take a single insight and over-react on the belief that everyone thinks that way.

This is where some of the newer technologies can play a role. AI-enhanced analytics can spot trends and patterns in data and with the help of algorithms and models, begin to predict certain behaviors. Machine learning can run simulations on these algorithms and models to shape a competitive landscape. Thus, you can be moving from a reactive business model to an algorithmic business model.

So, how do you enhance your customer experience in this new world? Use data wisely by making sure you have objective and validated information about your customers, capturing meaningful insights that are significant and actionable, and using sound predictive analytics to optimize every minute of your customer exchanges. Every customer’s time is too precious to waste it on meaningless dialogue. Know yourself, and just as importantly, know your customer.

About the author

With nearly 40 years of experience working in industry and consulting to an array of healthcare entities, Paul lends a comprehensive understanding to our company’s consulting work with healthcare and life sciences companies. Paul’s leadership has taken Clear Point Health into its second decade as a leader in helping companies identify, understand, and engage with key customer and stakeholder groups. Together, with his partners and team, he has devised multiple proprietary research methodologies focused on quality, ethics, and transparency. Paul was recently appointed Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he teaches and collaborates with faculty on research in the Public Health Leadership Program. 

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