Why Don’t We Use Customer Data to Help Customers?

By | July 28, 2015

I recently went to the dentist and while this is typically a less-than-pleasant experience, this trip was made more so because I had to discuss a billing issue. It seems that my dentist recently changed their billing arrangements and is switching to a new billing services provider. While I would normally not give this a second thought, I received two sets of bills for the same procedure. One I had paid, the other was threatening me if I didn’t pay. So here’s my question. My dentist notified me of my upcoming appointment using 4 different methods – post, email, text message and phone call – to ensure that I was in the chair generating revenue at the right time. Why then couldn’t they have notified me that they were changing billing arrangements and if I receive a bill from the old biller I should contact <insert name> at <insert number>?

We’ve been talking about big data and business intelligence and analytics for a long time. Indeed, I’ve written about it numerous times and the angle always seems to be increasing revenue and saving money. Yet the dentist made me realize that we need to use this power for good sometimes, not just revenue generation. Maybe instead of sending a coupon for a discount on coffee, tell me how to access free WiFi in the area. Instead of making me scroll through maps looking for gas stations and requesting pricing or finding an app to launch while I’m speeding down the highway, maybe when I say “I need a gas station” tell me that at Exit 123 there are two gas stations, name them and tell me the price. Siri is supposed to do that, but I haven’t had much luck making it work.

This sort of change in approach is minor. All the data exists and can easily be harnessed to help customers tackle daily tasks rather than constantly trying to sell them something. We’re all consumers and we’ve all got ideas about what kinds of apps, shortcuts, and features would be useful. Why not build some of them and make them available exclusively to your customers? Those little things would mean a lot more to customers than the locations of 4G/LTE cell sites and gigabit data plans that none of us understand anyway.

As consumers, when we agree to receive unsolicited contacts we tend to believe those contacts will somehow benefit us, yet they don’t seem to. Service providers and their advertising partners are looking at this backwards. Using customer data to be proactive and taking the customer’s view saves money because I’m not on the phone trying to figure out what’s wrong with my bill. That approach also generates revenue because I’m in the coffee shop for free WiFi and I’ll buy something whether I have a coupon or not. At a minimum it makes me appreciate my service provider a little more and given that communication service providers are regularly at the bottom of customer experience rankings, it couldn’t hurt.