Before I joined ServiceTrade, I was part of the marketing department at a big data company. While proofreading a 29-page whitepaper about big data analytics, I burst into laughter over the phrase “salsa and chips are highly collaborative items.” No kidding? The data analyst who wrote the paper found that grocery store sales data indicated that the two products are often purchased together, and that stores might want to place them side by side. Never mind that everyone knows that one is a delicious delivery mechanism for the other.
It was interesting to work in big data analytics and learn how companies in various industries are taking advantage of customer service data. But you don’t have to work in a data company to pull three examples off the top of your head:
- Search for a flight on a travel website, and watch your inbox and web browser fill with ads for hotel and car rentals in that destination.
- The auto shop knows when you’re approaching 60,000 miles and mails a coupon for a tune up.
- The grocery store spits out a coupon for products you buy at a regular cadence, when they predict that you’re due to restock.
Smart, successful businesses are using data to strengthen their customer relationships and convert more sales by showing up when they can be insightful and helpful to their customers.
Sound familiar? If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you know that’s at the heart of what we call the Digital Wrap. The Digital Wrap is powered by data: Services that have been provided, equipment repair history, photos and audio notes that show the customer what you did and what you discovered when you were on site.
The future of the digital wrap will be powered by another type of data: Sensor data coming directly from equipment, or by its buzzy name, the Internet of Things.
Buzzword Bingo: The Internet of Things
Service contracting companies can once again stand on the shoulders of giants and learn lessons from companies in travel, automotive and retail that are figuring it out today.
The Internet of Things will eventually move into your customers’ locations, you may be seeing early signs of it today. Manufacturers are building smart equipment that will collect data that you can use to become more predictive and proactive in your service delivery. We have some time before wifi sensors are ubiquitous on HVAC, kitchen or fire suppression systems. Let’s use that time to prepare for what some are calling the fourth industrial revolution. This article from Forbes is relatable to service companies today. The author says “My concern, however, is that decision makers are too often caught in traditional, linear (and non-disruptive) thinking or too absorbed by immediate concerns to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future.” To his point, it’s time to start some forward thinking to prepare for the fourth industrial revolution that’s driven by data.
Plan for Tomorrow’s Big Data with Today’s Customer Data
Start building a net today to catch the data that you’re collecting during service delivery. And build a net that will scale up as you start collecting that Internet of Things data, too.
- Avoid IT headaches. You do not want to run a data farm, you want to run a service business. Leave storage and security concerns to companies where that’s their expertise and choose cloud-based software as a service data storage and data collection applications.
- Look for open APIs. You want one version of the truth in a single data set. The only way to achieve that is to run your front office and back office on applications that can work together, building from and enhancing a single data set. Open APIs will allow for the open flow of data across all of your business operations applications.
- Actively collect data, starting now. Even if you don’t have a structure in place that will allow you to analyze and act on your customer service data, start collecting email addresses, service history and store photos so that when you do move to an integrated service application, you’ll have useful information on hand that you can leverage on day one.
- Begin acting on your data with a Digital Wrap. The more you know about your customers, the more relevant and timely your recommendations will be before, during and after the service call. Download Billy Marshall’s new book The Digital Wrap: Get out of the truck and go online to own your customers to learn how.
The Digital Wrap is a system for using data and communication applications to convey the value of your services to your customers, be always available online for helpful service reference information, convey your expertise through educational and helpful info that will help your customers better manage their facilities.
Data Mining for Less Obvious Gems
One day in the not so distant future, you’ll find the data that shows which of your services are your “highly collaborative” chips and salsa, even if they are a less obvious pairing. Our favorite example is what ServiceTrade customer data shows us about online eQuotes. By doing three simple things, online eQuotes earn a 3x approval rate over traditional quotes.
- Turn them around within 24 hours
- Include photos of the issue
- Deliver them electronically, with an obvious approve button
The only way to know what your data can tell you is to start collecting it and learning from it. Let us know how we can help you find your way.