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Shared expertise: The first step towards a world-class data strategy

Shared expertise is the foundation for surprising new ideas that make our users fall in love with the products we build.

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Published 25 Mar, 2020 4 minutes of reading

Do you know what your customers are actually saying about you? Many companies see the absence of negative feedback as a sign of satisfaction, but research shows that only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers ever complain. What’s worse, 91% of those unhappy customers simply leave without saying anything.  

How are we supposed to know what customers think if they don’t tell us? I want to share with you what I have learned about listening to the voices of your customers.

Research shows that only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers ever complain. What’s worse, 91% of those unhappy customers simply leave without saying anything.

A few years ago, a couple of friends and I started what is now one of the largest Data Science & AI communities in Colombia. I love the meetings we do because we get to talk about how data is actually being used and the main challenges companies face today.

After one of the meetings we were talking with one of the attendees, a guy who regularly works with some of the largest market research companies in the country. He shared a problem that we immediately recognized. 

If you are a marketer or in charge of your company’s digital channels you will likely agree that one of your main priorities is getting to know your customers in order to build relationships with them. Even with this priority in mind, he explained a central challenge companies constantly face: having access to a lot of data, and not knowing what to do with it. 

I have a personal story to illustrate this. Several years ago, I helped my parents run a coffee shop in the Canary Islands. Listening to our customers was as easy as smiling, saying hello and starting a conversation. These informal and short conversations guided our decisions, and over time we were surprised to discover that people were coming from other islands to visit our shop. 

We knew our customers well, and it helped guide our decisions, and our business thrived. 

Those were simpler times. Fast forward to today and I’m working for Modyo, a software company that helps large organizations like banks accelerate digital transformation in their channels. We are making life easier for millions of users by simplifying their digital experiences. Our user base is growing month after month and our expansion plans are more aggressive than ever. 

Now, imagine if I were to try and replicate our coffee shop strategy. Even if I somehow managed to  convince every person to talk to me for 10 minutes, my lifetime would run out without a single moment of sleep and I would have only spoken to a fraction of our users. The conversational strategy simply wouldn’t work.

a team flying together on a flying carpet 

Fortunately, there are other options. Key players and digital disruptors have found a way to adapt the conversation. For instance, Airbnb understands the need to adapt, and for this reason, they call data the voice of their customers. The new challenge is to get the same value from collected data as we would from face-to-face interactions.

I’m planning on going deeper and sharing more tips in future blog posts. But for now just focus on this one thing: diversity is important. This seemingly simple idea requires a cultural shift before even considering the technical issues.

Let’s look at a famous example. In 2011, Google had more than seventy different private policies for their products. Just one year later, they aggregated the majority of these into a new main privacy policy. This policy explains how Google collects information and how it is used by all Google products. This policy is an external reflection of an internal unification of data. Around the world, data scientists, AI engineers and business leaders were discovering that one of the greatest killers of AI is siloed data. 

Shared expertise is the breeding ground for amazing new ideas that users can fall in love with.

A common theme among the people I’ve talked to that feel unsatisfied with how they work with data is that they usually look at the data from within their own silo. Unifying data obviously increases the amount of data everyone has access to inside the organization. But what is more important is that different business units and products view clients differently. Joining different perspectives diversifies what you really know about customers. This is how you start creating shared expertise.

This is where the fun begins, breaking down silos at Google allows a smart engineer to merge data from Google Play Books with Google Music to understand what music to recommend while I am reading. In your case, a smart engineer could combine customer transactional data with a content management system of your digital channels. Now you can start serving personalized notifications that drive engagement. 

Shared expertise is the breeding ground for amazing new ideas that users can fall in love with. I say this requires a cultural shift because it’s not even about the data we have, it’s about how we work everyday. Just last week I had an open conversation with my boss and personal friend. Among other things he told me: “what you saw in the product meeting today is that we have a disparity of opinions by different streams of experience and when we put our discrepancies on the table [...] it is an open discussion that enriches our results.” What I witnessed was a group of experts sharing different perspectives that we can use to build something we can be proud of.

We are on this journey together, to build better experiences. Today my first recommendation is to take a step back from your data and break down the silos. Unify, build shared expertise, and listen to the voices of your customers. I am sure that they are going to love you for it. 

Cover photo by Tobias Fischer on Unsplash

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