The DIY Model Of Customer Service

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Customers today are accustomed to researching products and services quickly and easily prior to making purchase decisions. The ability to find reviews, testimonials, cost and quality comparisons, lifecycle expectations, and other product information is easier than ever.

It is after the sale that customer satisfaction sometimes takes a hit. The reasons for this dip in satisfaction are many, ranging from slow response times to customer queries and inability to resolve product questions in a timely manner to overly complicated steps needed to deploy and use the solution.

The self-service model of customer service can easily make these issues more frustrating for the customer, not less. Without a robust self-service platform that puts the right information in the right hands at the right time, customers might not engage and may ultimately churn.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Built well, a DIY model of customer service can offer a superior level of customer service that mirrors the ease and immediacy of information during the purchase process.

A well-built customer-centric self-help customer service platform has several characteristics that ensure success:

Contextual search

The self-help platform provides contextual search based on intelligent ticket routing, escalation, and distribution rules, and the automated surfacing of related tickets.

Intuitive user interface

The self-help platform requires an intuitive user interface. The smartest knowledge base in the world is no good if the average consumer has difficulty navigating through links to find an answer to their particular question.

Effective learning pathways

Creating a learning experience within the customer’s journey to resolve an issue or a question is a powerful opportunity to build loyalty, reduce churn, and add value to the brand reputation. The more product experts you can create among your customers, the higher their satisfaction will be.

Access to the right information

Access to the right information should be comprehensive. A customer query should generate not only direct answers but also correlated resources. From user manuals to how-to documents to videos and product updates, the customer will get more than answers—they’ll get actionable and highly relevant information.

Natural language search

Truly excellent self-help platforms offer sophisticated search that offers more than keywords or matching citations. Natural-language search empowers self-service customers (and agents) to search for knowledge base documents based on their own words. The system then captures the results according to a complex algorithm that ranks results based on intent.

Better, more accessible content

Capturing real-life customer help content (answers, queries, related articles, and how-tos) and making it available on a self-service site perpetuates and hones the knowledge over time, creating a rich library of resources to site visitors and an unparalleled customer experience.

To get and keep customers, companies need to implement highly intelligent, intuitive, and integrated product help experiences that mimic the ease of shopping and buying online. Readily available content and easy-to-use interfaces that are integrated into an automated customer service portal work to build an unstoppable customer service process that drives more loyalty and increases future revenue.

For more on effective customer service strategies, see 5 Ways Field Service Supports Top-Notch Customer Service.

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Marketing To Millennials: Four Questions Brands Must Answer

Rita Shapiro-Das

Is brand loyalty dead with millennials?

This question is setting off alarm bells in the retail space over the past few years as the concept that the same customers will keep returning to the same brand over and over again, whether because of cost, convenience, or mere consistency, fades away.

To remain competitive and relevant, brands need to adapt as consumer mindsets change. Millennials have a much different approach to brand loyalty and consumption – a company needs to align with their beliefs and values to earn their business.

Brand loyalty isn’t created overnight; it is a continuous journey. If brands haven’t already begun to recognize that millennials require an entirely different approach to doing business, they are already behind the eight ball.

Most importantly, is brand loyalty dead with millennials?

Marketing to millennials: 4 questions brands must answer

In 2016, I wrote about how I remain loyal to Starbucks regardless of their loyalty program. However, as I reflect on that now, I’m certain that’s the case with every retailer, whether it be consumer goods or food retail. As a millennial, I stay loyal to a few brands, but for the most part, I enjoy trying different things.

In this digital landscape where options are limitless, I choose the brands I patronize based on a few key items.

1. Does the brand align with my values and beliefs? 

This is one of the most important things I, along with most millennials, look for in a company and brand. For example, if an individual consumer is invested in helping the environment and is opposed to animal testing, they are more likely to seek out brands that don’t test products on animals and whose products are biodegradable.

Similarly, if someone doesn’t want goods that are made internationally, they are willing to spend a little more on things made within the country that they call home. With infinite options, there’s a brand that fits with everyone’s values. Companies need to understand that not everyone will be loyal to their brand, and work with that instead of trying to cater to every single person.

2. Does the brand provide consistency?

Millennials tend to select brands that have a proven track record of consistency, whether it be food retailers serving the same quality food on a daily basis, or consumer goods companies providing impeccable customer service. This concept in itself has made me loyal to a few select brands.

For example, I buy my eyeliner only from Sephora. There are, of course, many eyeliner options in the market, but I choose Sephora because it’s reliable, not costly, and works for me. It’s simple to restock on my favorites, so I don’t spend time shopping around since I have already found something that meets my needs.

On the other hand, I enjoy trying different food retailers. Although Starbucks is my preferred caffeine fix, trying different coffee brands broadens my pallet. Brands need to provide consistency to keep customers happy, and also understand that’s not where the customer journey ends.

3. Does the brand innovate?

Innovation is key to not only keeping customers happy but also in keeping them loyal to your brand. A company that is always innovating keeps customers on their feet. Apple is a great example of this. Apple is the epitome of innovation, and it enjoys massive brand loyalty because the company is continually evolving and encouraging users to grow as well.

As I noted earlier, brand loyalty doesn’t happen overnight. Apple has been honing this art since 1976. According to Forbes, “By creating an emotional connection with its customers, Apple has done the near impossible – it has acquired a loyal following.” This is a true testament to emotional connection driving brand loyalty. Regardless of software updates or device crashes, Apple customers stay loyal because they believe in the values and power of Apple.

4. Does the brand provide an experience?

Finally, millennials seek experiences over goods. We want to form an emotional connection with the brand, whether it be happiness, calmness, love, or something else, and to experience something. A few weeks ago I went to the Harney and Sons tea shop in New York City. In addition to selling tea, they have a small coffee/tea shop in the back of the store. This creates an experience: Customers can not only purchase the tea, they can also savor the products while working or relaxing with friends in the shop.

As brands and organizations learn these lessons, millennials are disrupting the digital landscape. It will be interesting to see how companies keep up with change in their efforts to turn millennials into loyal brand customers.

Why do consumers love or leave your brand? Download the free report. 

This article originally appeared on The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce.

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Rita Shapiro-Das

About Rita Shapiro-Das

Rita Shapiro-Das is a detail oriented, entrepreneurial Marketing Manager who understands all the different aspects and components of growing a business.

How To Solidify Your Digital Core With The Right Retail Innovations

Lori Mitchell-Keller

It’s a digital-first world, and to keep up with the current industry pace, retail must be prepared to innovate. Innovations like artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) commerce, robotics, and 3D printing have impacted all elements of the retail industry. A recent study by IDC Retail Insights finds innovation is at an all-time high, with more than $4 billion invested worldwide in retail startups over the past 12 to 18 months.

These new innovative technologies are central to the digital business transformation in retail. With more IT budgets invested in innovation, it has become imperative for retailers to leverage enabling technologies and new business constructs at scale.

While there are many factors that contribute to having a successful digital core, retailers need the right innovation in place to improve efficiency and deliver business value. By selecting, piloting, and scaling technical solutions to build a strong infrastructure, retailers will set themselves up for long-term success.

Identify priorities

Upgrading the shopping experience through organizational shifts and technology requires retailers to identify priorities and devise a strategy for implementation. These priorities likely include omnichannel commerce, operation strategy innovation, customer experience, as well as product and service advancement — all rated as the top business priorities for Western European retailers in 2017 based on the IDC study.

Select and pilot

Before selecting a solution to pilot, it’s important for retailers to consider use cases and technologies worth exploring. These decisions can be made by considering customer archetypes or analyzing demographic information, then evaluating the technology through pilot testing before a decision is made. Through this real-world recognition of what it takes to define the transformational opportunities, deliver extended business benefits, and gain deeper industry insight and capabilities, retailers can identify what solutions will work best for their customers.

Implement and scale

Once the technology or new business model adoption is underway, retailers can start to see the high-level results of implementation from revenue, campaign performance metrics, or social engagement. Other benefits can include further insight into the customer and loyalty chain through active users, number of visits, or increased traffic conversion and transaction value. From there the process is to expand the usage of the technology, whether it’s in other areas of the organization or to construct new and bigger goals.

Shoe brand Aldo began implementing a new business model that digitally enhanced the customer experience by merging e-commerce with in-store capabilities. Using IoT and mobile technology, Aldo created an interactive and integrated store touch point that links to a mobile app. This new customer experience included product wish lists, high-resolution product images and descriptions, social media sharing, and the ability to purchase items in sizes, colors, and styles that are not physically present. By offering an adaptive customer experience, Aldo is providing high levels of engagement to shoppers and has started seeing increased conversions as a result. This success has led them to begin planning for future growth, like site redesign.

Technology has never been more critical to business model transformations. The first step to achieving such a transformation is by adopting a solid digital core as an innovation foundation, in support of a retail platform based on technologies that encompass the business strategy, human engagement, and information monetization.

Learn how to innovate at scale by incorporating individual innovations back to the core business to drive tangible business value by reading Accelerating Digital Transformation in Retail.

This blog was originally featured in Retail TouchPoints

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Lori Mitchell-Keller

About Lori Mitchell-Keller

Lori Mitchell-Keller is the Executive Vice President and Global General Manager Consumer Industries at SAP. She leads the Retail, Wholesale Distribution, Consumer Products, and Life Sciences Industries with a strong focus on helping our customers transform their business and derive value while getting closer to their customers.

More Than Noise: Digital Trends That Are Bigger Than You Think

By Maurizio Cattaneo, David Delaney, Volker Hildebrand, and Neal Ungerleider

In the tech world in 2017, several trends emerged as signals amid the noise, signifying much larger changes to come.

As we noted in last year’s More Than Noise list, things are changing—and the changes are occurring in ways that don’t necessarily fit into the prevailing narrative.

While many of 2017’s signals have a dark tint to them, perhaps reflecting the times we live in, we have sought out some rays of light to illuminate the way forward. The following signals differ considerably, but understanding them can help guide businesses in the right direction for 2018 and beyond.

When a team of psychologists, linguists, and software engineers created Woebot, an AI chatbot that helps people learn cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for managing mental health issues like anxiety and depression, they did something unusual, at least when it comes to chatbots: they submitted it for peer review.

Stanford University researchers recruited a sample group of 70 college-age participants on social media to take part in a randomized control study of Woebot. The researchers found that their creation was useful for improving anxiety and depression symptoms. A study of the user interaction with the bot was submitted for peer review and published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health in June 2017.

While Woebot may not revolutionize the field of psychology, it could change the way we view AI development. Well-known figures such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates have expressed concerns that artificial intelligence is essentially ungovernable. Peer review, such as with the Stanford study, is one way to approach this challenge and figure out how to properly evaluate and find a place for these software programs.

The healthcare community could be onto something. We’ve already seen instances where AI chatbots have spun out of control, such as when internet trolls trained Microsoft’s Tay to become a hate-spewing misanthrope. Bots are only as good as their design; making sure they stay on message and don’t act in unexpected ways is crucial.

This is especially true in healthcare. When chatbots are offering therapeutic services, they must be properly designed, vetted, and tested to maintain patient safety.

It may be prudent to apply the same level of caution to a business setting. By treating chatbots as if they’re akin to medicine or drugs, we have a model for thorough vetting that, while not perfect, is generally effective and time tested.

It may seem like overkill to think of chatbots that manage pizza orders or help resolve parking tickets as potential health threats. But it’s already clear that AI can have unintended side effects that could extend far beyond Tay’s loathsome behavior.

For example, in July, Facebook shut down an experiment where it challenged two AIs to negotiate with each other over a trade. When the experiment began, the two chatbots quickly went rogue, developing linguistic shortcuts to reduce negotiating time and leaving their creators unable to understand what they were saying.

Do we want AIs interacting in a secret language because designers didn’t fully understand what they were designing?

The implications are chilling. Do we want AIs interacting in a secret language because designers didn’t fully understand what they were designing?

In this context, the healthcare community’s conservative approach doesn’t seem so farfetched. Woebot could ultimately become an example of the kind of oversight that’s needed for all AIs.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that chatbots have great potential in healthcare—not just for treating mental health issues but for helping patients understand symptoms, build treatment regimens, and more. They could also help unclog barriers to healthcare, which is plagued worldwide by high prices, long wait times, and other challenges. While they are not a substitute for actual humans, chatbots can be used by anyone with a computer or smartphone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of financial status.

Finding the right governance for AI development won’t happen overnight. But peer review, extensive internal quality analysis, and other processes will go a long way to ensuring bots function as expected. Otherwise, companies and their customers could pay a big price.

Elon Musk is an expert at dominating the news cycle with his sci-fi premonitions about space travel and high-speed hyperloops. However, he captured media attention in Australia in April 2017 for something much more down to earth: how to deal with blackouts and power outages.

In 2016, a massive blackout hit the state of South Australia following a storm. Although power was restored quickly in Adelaide, the capital, people in the wide stretches of arid desert that surround it spent days waiting for the power to return. That hit South Australia’s wine and livestock industries especially hard.

South Australia’s electrical grid currently gets more than half of its energy from wind and solar, with coal and gas plants acting as backups for when the sun hides or the wind doesn’t blow, according to ABC News Australia. But this network is vulnerable to sudden loss of generation—which is exactly what happened in the storm that caused the 2016 blackout, when tornadoes ripped through some key transmission lines. Getting the system back on stable footing has been an issue ever since.

Displaying his usual talent for showmanship, Musk stepped in and promised to build the world’s largest battery to store backup energy for the network—and he pledged to complete it within 100 days of signing the contract or the battery would be free. Pen met paper with South Australia and French utility Neoen in September. As of press time in November, construction was underway.

For South Australia, the Tesla deal offers an easy and secure way to store renewable energy. Tesla’s 129 MWh battery will be the most powerful battery system in the world by 60% once completed, according to Gizmodo. The battery, which is stationed at a wind farm, will cover temporary drops in wind power and kick in to help conventional gas and coal plants balance generation with demand across the network. South Australian citizens and politicians largely support the project, which Tesla claims will be able to power 30,000 homes.

Until Musk made his bold promise, batteries did not figure much in renewable energy networks, mostly because they just aren’t that good. They have limited charges, are difficult to build, and are difficult to manage. Utilities also worry about relying on the same lithium-ion battery technology as cellphone makers like Samsung, whose Galaxy Note 7 had to be recalled in 2016 after some defective batteries burst into flames, according to CNET.

However, when made right, the batteries are safe. It’s just that they’ve traditionally been too expensive for large-scale uses such as renewable power storage. But battery innovations such as Tesla’s could radically change how we power the economy. According to a study that appeared this year in Nature, the continued drop in the cost of battery storage has made renewable energy price-competitive with traditional fossil fuels.

This is a massive shift. Or, as David Roberts of news site Vox puts it, “Batteries are soon going to disrupt power markets at all scales.” Furthermore, if the cost of batteries continues to drop, supply chains could experience radical energy cost savings. This could disrupt energy utilities, manufacturing, transportation, and construction, to name just a few, and create many opportunities while changing established business models. (For more on how renewable energy will affect business, read the feature “Tick Tock” in this issue.)

Battery research and development has become big business. Thanks to electric cars and powerful smartphones, there has been incredible pressure to make more powerful batteries that last longer between charges.

The proof of this is in the R&D funding pudding. A Brookings Institution report notes that both the Chinese and U.S. governments offer generous subsidies for lithium-ion battery advancement. Automakers such as Daimler and BMW have established divisions marketing residential and commercial energy storage products. Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and General Electric are all experimenting with various electric propulsion systems for aircraft—which means that hybrid airplanes are also a possibility.

Meanwhile, governments around the world are accelerating battery research investment by banning internal combustion vehicles. Britain, France, India, and Norway are seeking to go all electric as early as 2025 and by 2040 at the latest.

In the meantime, expect huge investment and new battery innovation from interested parties across industries that all share a stake in the outcome. This past September, for example, Volkswagen announced a €50 billion research investment in batteries to help bring 300 electric vehicle models to market by 2030.

At first, it sounds like a narrative device from a science fiction novel or a particularly bad urban legend.

Powerful cameras in several Chinese cities capture photographs of jaywalkers as they cross the street and, several minutes later, display their photograph, name, and home address on a large screen posted at the intersection. Several days later, a summons appears in the offender’s mailbox demanding payment of a fine or fulfillment of community service.

As Orwellian as it seems, this technology is very real for residents of Jinan and several other Chinese cities. According to a Xinhua interview with Li Yong of the Jinan traffic police, “Since the new technology has been adopted, the cases of jaywalking have been reduced from 200 to 20 each day at the major intersection of Jingshi and Shungeng roads.”

The sophisticated cameras and facial recognition systems already used in China—and their near–real-time public shaming—are an example of how machine learning, mobile phone surveillance, and internet activity tracking are being used to censor and control populations. Most worryingly, the prospect of real-time surveillance makes running surveillance states such as the former East Germany and current North Korea much more financially efficient.

According to a 2015 discussion paper by the Institute for the Study of Labor, a German research center, by the 1980s almost 0.5% of the East German population was directly employed by the Stasi, the country’s state security service and secret police—1 for every 166 citizens. An additional 1.1% of the population (1 for every 66 citizens) were working as unofficial informers, which represented a massive economic drain. Automated, real-time, algorithm-driven monitoring could potentially drive the cost of controlling the population down substantially in police states—and elsewhere.

We could see a radical new era of censorship that is much more manipulative than anything that has come before. Previously, dissidents were identified when investigators manually combed through photos, read writings, or listened in on phone calls. Real-time algorithmic monitoring means that acts of perceived defiance can be identified and deleted in the moment and their perpetrators marked for swift judgment before they can make an impression on others.

Businesses need to be aware of the wider trend toward real-time, automated censorship and how it might be used in both commercial and governmental settings. These tools can easily be used in countries with unstable political dynamics and could become a real concern for businesses that operate across borders. Businesses must learn to educate and protect employees when technology can censor and punish in real time.

Indeed, the technologies used for this kind of repression could be easily adapted from those that have already been developed for businesses. For instance, both Facebook and Google use near–real-time facial identification algorithms that automatically identify people in images uploaded by users—which helps the companies build out their social graphs and target users with profitable advertisements. Automated algorithms also flag Facebook posts that potentially violate the company’s terms of service.

China is already using these technologies to control its own people in ways that are largely hidden to outsiders.

According to a report by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, the popular Chinese social network WeChat operates under a policy its authors call “One App, Two Systems.” Users with Chinese phone numbers are subjected to dynamic keyword censorship that changes depending on current events and whether a user is in a private chat or in a group. Depending on the political winds, users are blocked from accessing a range of websites that report critically on China through WeChat’s internal browser. Non-Chinese users, however, are not subject to any of these restrictions.

The censorship is also designed to be invisible. Messages are blocked without any user notification, and China has intermittently blocked WhatsApp and other foreign social networks. As a result, Chinese users are steered toward national social networks, which are more compliant with government pressure.

China’s policies play into a larger global trend: the nationalization of the internet. China, Russia, the European Union, and the United States have all adopted different approaches to censorship, user privacy, and surveillance. Although there are social networks such as WeChat or Russia’s VKontakte that are popular in primarily one country, nationalizing the internet challenges users of multinational services such as Facebook and YouTube. These different approaches, which impact everything from data safe harbor laws to legal consequences for posting inflammatory material, have implications for businesses working in multiple countries, as well.

For instance, Twitter is legally obligated to hide Nazi and neo-fascist imagery and some tweets in Germany and France—but not elsewhere. YouTube was officially banned in Turkey for two years because of videos a Turkish court deemed “insulting to the memory of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,” father of modern Turkey. In Russia, Google must keep Russian users’ personal data on servers located inside Russia to comply with government policy.

While China is a pioneer in the field of instant censorship, tech companies in the United States are matching China’s progress, which could potentially have a chilling effect on democracy. In 2016, Apple applied for a patent on technology that censors audio streams in real time—automating the previously manual process of censoring curse words in streaming audio.

In March, after U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News, “I think maybe I wouldn’t be [president] if it wasn’t for Twitter,” Twitter founder Evan “Ev” Williams did something highly unusual for the creator of a massive social network.

He apologized.

Speaking with David Streitfeld of The New York Times, Williams said, “It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that. If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”

Entrepreneurs tend to be very proud of their innovations. Williams, however, offers a far more ambivalent response to his creation’s success. Much of the 2016 presidential election’s rancor was fueled by Twitter, and the instant gratification of Twitter attracts trolls, bullies, and bigots just as easily as it attracts politicians, celebrities, comedians, and sports fans.

Services such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are designed through a mix of look and feel, algorithmic wizardry, and psychological techniques to hang on to users for as long as possible—which helps the services sell more advertisements and make more money. Toxic political discourse and online harassment are unintended side effects of the economic-driven urge to keep users engaged no matter what.

Keeping users’ eyeballs on their screens requires endless hours of multivariate testing, user research, and algorithm refinement. For instance, Casey Newton of tech publication The Verge notes that Google Brain, Google’s AI division, plays a key part in generating YouTube’s video recommendations.

According to Jim McFadden, the technical lead for YouTube recommendations, “Before, if I watch this video from a comedian, our recommendations were pretty good at saying, here’s another one just like it,” he told Newton. “But the Google Brain model figures out other comedians who are similar but not exactly the same—even more adjacent relationships. It’s able to see patterns that are less obvious.”

A never-ending flow of content that is interesting without being repetitive is harder to resist. With users glued to online services, addiction and other behavioral problems occur to an unhealthy degree. According to a 2016 poll by nonprofit research company Common Sense Media, 50% of American teenagers believe they are addicted to their smartphones.

This pattern is extending into the workplace. Seventy-five percent of companies told research company Harris Poll in 2016 that two or more hours a day are lost in productivity because employees are distracted. The number one reason? Cellphones and texting, according to 55% of those companies surveyed. Another 41% pointed to the internet.

Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, argues that many product designers for online services try to exploit psychological vulnerabilities in a bid to keep users engaged for longer periods. Harris refers to an iPhone as “a slot machine in my pocket” and argues that user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers need to adopt something akin to a Hippocratic Oath to stop exploiting users’ psychological vulnerabilities.

In fact, there is an entire school of study devoted to “dark UX”—small design tweaks to increase profits. These can be as innocuous as a “Buy Now” button in a visually pleasing color or as controversial as when Facebook tweaked its algorithm in 2012 to show a randomly selected group of almost 700,000 users (who had not given their permission) newsfeeds that skewed more positive to some users and more negative to others to gauge the impact on their respective emotional states, according to an article in Wired.

As computers, smartphones, and televisions come ever closer to convergence, these issues matter increasingly to businesses. Some of the universal side effects of addiction are lost productivity at work and poor health. Businesses should offer training and help for employees who can’t stop checking their smartphones.

Mindfulness-centered mobile apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Forest offer one way to break the habit. Users can also choose to break internet addiction by going for a walk, turning their computers off, or using tools like StayFocusd or Freedom to block addictive websites or apps.

Most importantly, companies in the business of creating tech products need to design software and hardware that discourages addictive behavior. This means avoiding bad designs that emphasize engagement metrics over human health. A world of advertising preroll showing up on smart refrigerator touchscreens at 2 a.m. benefits no one.

According to a 2014 study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, approximately 6% of the world’s population suffers from internet addiction to one degree or another. As more users in emerging economies gain access to cheap data, smartphones, and laptops, that percentage will only increase. For businesses, getting a head start on stopping internet addiction will make employees happier and more productive. D!


About the Authors

Maurizio Cattaneo is Director, Delivery Execution, Energy, and Natural Resources, at SAP.

David Delaney is Global Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, SAP Health.

Volker Hildebrand is Global Vice President for SAP Hybris solutions.

Neal Ungerleider is a Los Angeles-based technology journalist and consultant.


Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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The “Purpose” Of Data

Timo Elliott

I’ve always been passionate about the ability of data and analytics to transform the world.

It has always seemed to me to be the closest thing we have to modern-day magic, with its ability to conjure up benefits from thin air. Over the last quarter century, I’ve had the honor of working with thousands of “wizards” in organizations around the world, turning information into value in every aspect of our daily lives.

The projects have been as simple as Disney using real-time analytics to move staff from one store to another to keep lines to a minimum: shorter lines led to bigger profits (you’re more likely to buy that Winnie-the-Pooh bear if there’s only one person ahead of you), but also higher customer satisfaction and happier children.

Or they’ve been as complex as the Port of Hamburg: constrained by its urban location, it couldn’t expand to meet the growing volume of traffic. But better use of information meant it was able to dramatically increase throughput – while improving the life of city residents with reduced pollution (less truck idling) and fewer traffic jams (smart lighting that automatically adapts to bridge closures).

I’ve seen analytics used to figure out why cheese was curdling in Wisconsin; count the number of bubbles in Champagne; keep track of excessive fouls in Swiss soccer, track bear sightings in Canada; avoid flooding in Argentina; detect chewing-gum-blocked metro machines in Brussels; uncover networks of tax fraud in Australia; stop trains from being stranded in the middle of the Tuscan countryside; find air travelers exposed to radioactive substances; help abused pets find new homes; find the best people to respond to hurricanes and other disasters; and much, much more.

The reality is that there’s a lot of inefficiency in the world. Most of the time it’s invisible, or we take it for granted. But analytics can help us shine a light on what’s going on, expose the problems, and show us what we can do better – in almost every area of human endeavor.

Data is a powerful weapon. Analytics isn’t just an opportunity to reduce costs and increase profits – it’s an opportunity to make the world a better place.

So to paraphrase a famous world leader, next time you embark on a new project:

“Ask not what you can do with your data, ask what your data can do for the world.”

What are your favorite “magical” examples, where analytics helped create win/win/win situations?

Download our free eBook for more insight on How the Port of Hamburg Doubled Capacity with Digitization.

This article originally appeared on Digital Business & Business Analytics.

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Timo Elliott

About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist for SAP and a passionate advocate of innovation, digital business, analytics, and artificial intelligence. He was the eighth employee of BusinessObjects and for the last 25 years he has worked closely with SAP customers around the world on new technology directions and their impact on real-world organizations. His articles have appeared in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Forbes, ZDNet, The Guardian, and Digitalist Magazine. He has worked in the UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Silicon Valley, and currently lives in Paris, France. He has a degree in Econometrics and a patent in mobile analytics.