Archive for September 2017

Let's make the pie BIGGER! How to increase customer satisfaction and increase revenues with your data

Last week I gave a presentation on how Big Data and data from the IoT can help businesses improve customer satisfaction levels throughout each part of the customer life cycle. Today’s customer, no matter the industry, expects to have a positive and personal experience with companies even before there is a formal relationship. After they become a customer or register on a website, they expect a higher level of personalization and engagement and to be rewarded for their loyalty. Throughout the presentation (which can be viewed on our YouTube channel), there were three themes that were repeated multiple times no matter the life cycle stage or industry example.

The first theme was to collect as much information about the customer and her preferences as quickly as possible. This is especially important before you have an official relationship with a customer. Well, you might ask, how can you collect information about a customer if you don’t know their buying preferences or even know who the customer is because they haven’t registered with your company? Each smartphone and computer is equip with a unique machine id. When you implement a Big Data or IoT solution it’s critical to record the machine id with either the potential customer’s pathways around physical store or browsing history on a website. Also, its critical to record as much information as possible. Don’t stop with just what pages a customer visited on your site. Record how much time a customer spent on a specific page (a longer visit probably means they’re reading the description and interested in that product or service), how far did they scroll down the page (you’ll know what they read and where they stopped), and if they scrolled through the product pictures. All of this information can then be used to make personalized recommendations if the customer returns to the website in the future from the same device. Also, if a customer does eventually register from the same device in the future, the information you collected about them in the past can be added to her new account.

The next thing you’ll want to include in a solution is to ensure that all interactions are made in real-time while the customer is in the store or on the website. This serves two purposes – first it makes the customer feel like they are getting personalized service, they’re becoming aware of products that they might not know about and that the company cares about their satisfaction levels. However, it also gives the company a chance to either up-sell or cross sell the customer --- thus in the words of one of my favorite marketing professors, making the pie bigger for everyone. If the interaction happens after the customer leaves the store, the chances of that customer returning to the store for that additional item or to take advantage of the promotion are much lower. Real-time responses are also very important not only while a customer is browsing through a store or website but also if a negative experience happens to the customer. This is especially important with the popularity of social media. It’s too easy for a dissatisfied customer to go to Twitter or Facebook and post a negative message about your company. You want to be immediately aware of the disservice and correct it before a customer has a chance to go to one of these outlets and post about their negative experience. A real-time message or correction from the company can prevent this whereas if the company waits even an hour or two the dissatisfied customer can post online and the damage to the company with that customer and all of the customer’s followers is already done.

Finally, there needs to be a balance of personalization with a respect for an individual’s privacy. Over the past month two of my neighbors have told me of how their Facebook account knew a little too much about them. In one case, a neighbor mentioned to his wife while he had his phone out that they should look into getting a Dyson --- there were no internet searches or visits to Dyson.com, just a mention to his wife about getting a Dyson. The next day there was a Dyson ad on his Facebook account. He was immediately “creeped out” by the fact that somehow his conversation had been processed by his phone and was then reflected in a Facebook ad. He immediately deleted Facebook from his phone. As a company, you need to remember that people want personalized yet not intrusive recommendations. It’s a tough balance at times, but it’s critical to the success of your Big Data or IoT solution.

By keeping these three takeaways in mind your solution will help nurture and maintain customer relationships.

Entrigna provides consulting services to help evaluate your system and its Real-Time Expert System platform is the only solution platform on the market that incorporates all of the major big data related algorithms in one seamless solution. We specialize in healthcare and retail solutions, but our technology let’s clients, no matter the industry, start small and then add-on or change their solution as their business needs grow and change. For more information on Entrigna’s consulting services or RTES platform visit our website at Entrigna.com or e-mail us at info@entrigna.com

Yes, I meant to say prescriptive

I arrived a few minutes early to a presentation on IoT Security a few weeks ago and introduced myself to the man sitting next to me. He asked what the company I worked for did and I responded “We’re a real-time prescriptive analytics company.” He looked at me and asked “prescriptive?” I get this quite often --- most people think I’m mispronouncing predictive. Don’t get me wrong, we can do predictive analytics, but prescriptive is our specialty and the way of the future! When people correct me, I have to explain that no, I really meant to say prescriptive. This of course is followed more often than not with a blank stare as I explain the differences between predictive and prescriptive. To most people the difference in those few letters doesn’t mean much. However, in reality there is a huge difference!

Well, what’s the big deal in saying your software is predictive instead of prescriptive? Predictive analytics does just that --- it predicts. It predicts when something is going to go wrong. So for example, I’ve just created a smart refrigerator  – it can tell you’re going to run out of oranges on Tuesday, that the milk is expiring Monday and when a part is going to go out in the next 72 hours. However, that’s just it --- it predicts when these events are going to happen. It doesn’t solve anything. If it was a refrigerator that incorporated prescriptive analytics, it would not just predict these events, but solve them – hence the prescribing. So, my new refrigerator would re-order oranges and milk on Instacart and have them delivered and best of all it would fix the broken part or correct what was causing it to mal-function. So, all in all, a prescriptive solution prescribes remedies to a problem that is occurring or will occur. It doesn’t just predict when things are going to happen.

So, at the presentation, I was getting ready to launch into my speech, but I didn’t have a chance. As soon as I said “Yes, prescriptive,” the man smiled and said, “That’s what my group does too! Whenever I say it, people think I’m mispronouncing predictive.”  Maybe the prescriptive future will be here sooner than I thought!

Hidden revenue streams for smart cities

Today, many cities are toying with the idea of becoming a “smart city” or a city that actively does everything from monitoring traffic patterns to predicting when a street light will go out to analyzing any digital information its collecting. However, while these are nice to know items that can make life easier for inhabitants, lower emissions and can help reduce costs by improving efficiencies, many times these incremental savings are not enough to justify the large upfront cost of outfitting multiple items throughout a city with sensors. Not only are the upfront costs of sensors and their installation high, but also there is typically a resistance to change from city leaders who are nervous about changing their current processes and taking on the risk of implementing a “high tech” project. As a result of this, smart city managers and project owners need to be able to justify high expenses by having a measurable ROI and ensure that the city will also be able to generate ongoing revenue from these improvements rather than just decrease operating expenses.

One way to generate revenues is similar to what Kansas City (MO) has done. Kansas City installed kiosks throughout a city with maps and local information for restaurants, attractions, events and shopping. The kiosks have the potential to generate several streams of income while collecting important information. Initially, installation of the kiosks can be paid for or subsidized by a semi-permanent advertiser that can display an ad on the outside of the kiosk. Thus, there is little or no cost to the city to install the kiosks. As for the ongoing revenue, the city can sell advertising space on the screen to different advertisers who can run ads or offer coupons to users.  In addition to this, users can purchase tickets to attractions, events or public transportation from these kiosks. A small fee can be charged to the company selling the ticket. Next, the information collected from the kiosks, such as what attractions/restaurants/events are being searched for or how many people or cars are passing the kiosk can be sold to businesses in the area.  These different revenue streams should not only pay for the upkeep of these machines, but also generate extra income for a city.

Another way to generate income deals with using the information that people are voluntarily giving to governmental agencies online. Many people would rather complete forms online rather than go to a government building, pay for parking, wait in line and many times realize after they’ve done all of this that they’ve left an important piece of information at home. More and more cities are allowing inhabitants to do many tasks such as renew a license plate or city sticker online. People would probably even be willing to pay a small convenience fee to complete these services online. However, even without this convenience fee, if governments can turn the information they’re collecting online into usable data insights and not just a big dump of data, local municipalities could then generate streams of revenue selling these insights. Also, if they could determine what type of person is using their websites they could display targeted ads on their websites, which would generate another source of revenue.

Smart city initiatives can be extremely beneficial to inhabitants, local businesses and the environment, however, they can be expensive to implement. When a city is planning on starting a “smart city” project, they should try to think outside the box for revenue generating opportunities rather than just how much money will be saved through increased efficiencies. In a smart city, the possibilities are endless for saving money, improving the locals and tourists’ time in the city, minimizing environmental impact and also generating new streams of revenue.