Mission Intelligence: Quality Service: Game, Set and Match - InformationWeek

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Mission Intelligence: Quality Service: Game, Set and Match

Just as no one really wants to hit a golf ball into a sand trap, it's doubtful that good businesses try to produce bad customer service. With blogs and other social media rampant, companies can't count on controlling the message and blowing off customers who have bad experiences.

While running around the track at the local high school the other day, my concentration came undone thanks to an explosion of profanity that nearly knocked me off my feet. The source was a tennis court nearby. Pacing there was a middle-aged man in shorts and a polo shirt; his shoulders hunched and head down, he was loudly spitting out angry words and hurtful admonishment--to himself! When I realized he wasn't talking to me, I cranked up my own balky physique and continued to run.

Coming by the court on another lap, the soft summer afternoon once again filled with sharp expletives. Tennis balls flew out of bounds: more nastiness. Missing a serve, he whacked his knee with the racket, clenched his teeth, and with a low, guttural moan glared into the ground. As oblivious as he could be to this primal scene, his opponent volleyed serenely from the other side of the net. He may have let a few go by on purpose, hoping his chum would regain his composure with a few small victories. Alas, there were few.

Whether the game is tennis, golf or some other "leisure" sport, when things go wrong, we can easily become our own worst enemies--to the point of public embarrassment. So it is, too, with customer service, the topic of our cover story. Just as no one really wants to hit a tennis ball out of bounds or a golf ball into a garbage can, it's doubtful that good businesses try to produce bad customer service. With blogs and other social media rampant, companies can't count on controlling the message and blowing off customers who have bad experiences. Instead, if they deal with problems poorly, their agony will reverberate across the Internet.

Executive editor Penny Crosman details how companies are employing predictive analytics to understand patterns in customer retention and defection. By knowing more about such behavior, organizations can avoid customer relationships that don't make sense and focus on those that do. Coupled with an agile IT infrastructure, business managers can anticipate problems and adjust business rules and processes to get ahead of changing service demand. Predictive analytics enable companies to reorient employee behavior through customer-lifetime value metrics, which focus performance on overall customer value instead of individual and sometimes rival products. Decision-makers use these metrics to determine the optimal mix of services, products and sales touch points.

What data riches can deliver, however, mishandling and theft can take away. People forced into the painstaking process of recovering their credit are unlikely to be as patient as the foul-mouthed tennis player's partner I observed. Customer data integration and master data management (MDM), the subject of our feature by Jill Dyché and Evan Levy, are important beyond improving data quality and delivering the single truth for business intelligence. In many cases, MDM helps companies get a handle on their exposure to data fraud and security problems. Customers expect good data stewards to be vigilant in protecting their identity and personal information.

For all their potential value, too many data stores remain trapped in proprietary silos and unavailable to decision makers--and yet, all too exposed when it comes to thieves and fraudsters. As you pursue insight, don't forget that sloppy data management won't amuse the people who generated the data in the first place. Customers don't want excuses. They want service.

David Stodder is the Editorial Director and Editor in Chief of Intelligent Enterprise. Write to him at [email protected].

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