Top Tips For A Successful Data Management Strategy

Contributed by: Sheldon Smith is a Senor Product Manager at XO Communications. XO Communications is a nationwide provider of communications services for businesses including SIP Trunk Services. Sheldon has over 15 years of experience in the technology industry. 

 

Effectively managing data is about more than securely storing and transporting information — companies need a strategy that covers data through the entire lifecycle. As noted by a recent Deloitte Center for Health Solutions study, however, this is a challenging task, and the report found that fewer than half of all companies surveyed had a “clear, integrated analytics strategy.” With big data quickly expanding in scope and gaining speed, it’s essential for businesses to draft a plan before jumping in; here are four top tips for a successful data management strategy:

Understand Value

The goal of any data strategy is to provide high-level guidelines that can be applied across departments, applications and use cases with equal facility. To accomplish this aim, companies need to first understand the value of their data. According to Souvik Choudhury of SunGard Availability Services, “all data is not created equal — and understanding the business value of data is critical for defining the storage strategy.” The same holds true for broad-spectrum policies. Companies must take the time to logically segment their data based on frequency of use, ability to replace, and potential loss impact if stolen or compromised. Once value is assigned, data strategies become a far less daunting task.

Consider Compliance

Compliance is a critical part of any data management strategy. Worth noting, however, is that the requirements to stay “in compliance” vary widely across industry verticals. While some standards, such as PCI DSS, are relevant to companies in a variety of sectors, certain standards carry more weight in one sector than another. Consider health care; HIPAA demands not only specific data handling procedures but also holds health care providers accountable if third-party vendors mishandle patient data or experience data leaks. Law firms, meanwhile, must be able to demonstrate clear data paths from creation to the current moment, and ensure that all data is discoverable in the event that a trial demands an accounting of specific communications or transactions. To form an effective data management strategy, therefore, companies must take the time to understand specific compliance requirements — better to meet or exceed the standards up front rather than risking a fine or other penalty for noncompliance.

Spend on Security

Data security is the next step in an effective management strategy. According to CIO, there are two key components to ensuring that data is protected: Securing information virtually and physically. Virtually, this means limiting employee access and using two-factor authentication for any kind of high-level movement or editing. Physically, companies need to spend on server stacks that are secure — this could take the form of cloud-based offerings, colocation providers or on-site storage, as long as servers are set apart from general foot traffic and are reliably monitored. In addition, it’s worth investing in a solid data encryption solution. This way, even if information is stolen or compromised it’s of no use to malicious actors.

Pursue Accuracy

Last but never least is the need to pursue accurate data. Your best bet here? Start small and ensure that all data collected is timely, relevant and comes from a reliable source. Once DevOps teams get used to handling this flow of accurate data, ramp up the speed and see what happens. By taking the time to ensure accuracy before going all out, it’s possible to reduce the possibility of human error and save money over the long term by avoiding unnecessary data management investments.

Want better data management? Start with value, seek compliance and security, and ensure accuracy for best results.

Connected Customers: The Value of Leveraging Big Data to Build Customer Conversations

Contributed by: Eric Eriksen

Next Caller is excited to share some information ahead of the upcoming D2C Convention in Las Vegas. At the event, Sam Espinosa and Jeff Kirchick will be speaking on the importance of using big data to increase customer response and maximize contact synchronicity.

Constant connectedness has fundamentally changed the relationship between corporation and customer. Internet usage has generated more actionable data in the past decade than had been created in the previous century. Mobile internet, which has the greatest surveillance potential, increasingly drives data traffic. According to Cisco, more data passed through mobile internet devices in 2014 than passed through the entire internet in 2000. Additionally, wireless data traffic should exceed wired traffic for the first time by the end of this year. Contact with corporations is no longer one-way. In the past, corporations bombarded potential customers indiscriminately with ads, while consumers indicated their feelings solely through purchase decisions. Today, consumers can express their feelings through social media, while corporations can target their messages. Customers and corporations can have “conversations,” with consumers constantly sending data to corporations, and companies constantly modifying and personalizing their messages.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously declared that there were no second acts in American lives. Telephones and rails, cars and radios, these things brought the world together in such a way that a thousand miles could not protect people from their pasts. Today, it seems quaint that our ancestors thought the world had become small. Yes, we can now go to sleep on a plane in New York and wake up in New Delhi, but the real advance has been that acts of connection are no longer intentional. Generating information was once an active process. If you wanted someone to know something about you, you or someone who knew you had to volunteer the information. A mistake could haunt a man in large part because it was one of only a few data points associated with him. Major events made their way into documentation, but the minutiae of daily life passed without notice. To find information, a person needed to undergo a targeted search, traveling to the physical archives of the world. There is simply no way for me to know what my great-great-grandfather’s preferred brand of whiskey was.

Today, data generation is a passive process. An American’s every move is monitored through GPS embedded in devices, with multiple corporations receiving constant location updates. Every Google search and web visit is recorded not only by the website visited but by every other website a person has visited. The result is an enormous feedback loop. As there are more and more data points for every individual, there is more and more reason to search for information, thereby generating more data. Beyond knowing what my favorite whiskey is, it is now possible to determine how often I go to the store to buy it as well as whether I’ve investigated other options online.

People today are connected in a way that would have been inconceivable even a decade ago. Nielsen estimated last year that the average American adult spends multiple leisure hours a day between smartphones and the internet, to say nothing of the 64% of employees Forbes estimates use the internet for personal purposes every day. The modern American consumer spends enough of his day interacting with all-knowing social media and shopping platforms like Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter that he develops an assumption that the businesses he patronizes know everything about him. He knows that searching for one pair of boots will haunt him for a month in the form of ads for everything from shoes to country music concerts. As a society, we have normalized constant surveillance, and we expect the positive effects of that surveillance in the form of personalized customer service.

The problem is that most business is not done through Facebook, Google, or Amazon. Business is overwhelmingly done with legacy companies, which are inherently not digital natives. Marketing is still mostly done by traditional marketers, who operate on the assumption of limited data. Rather than targeting Blue Label to affluent customers who regularly consume whiskey, marketers put ads in train stations and the backs of glossy general interest magazines. Most of their efforts are seen by people who would never buy the product. We passively volunteer huge amounts of information, yet many marketers do nothing with it. We no longer feel special and privileged if a company gives us personalized service. We feel cheated if they fail to treat us as individuals, and we express our anger on social media, permanently harming the brand.

This expectation of individuality means that cross-channel inconsistency undermines the brand across all segments. The vast majority of companies fail to recognize that data provided through one source is equally valid when utilized across other media. A customer who lives on Dixie Road when he inputs data online does not live somewhere else when he calls a toll-free number. Forrester estimates that 82% of companies do not have a synchronized view of customer data.  A customer with 50 interactions through social media can make a phone call and be treated as a total unknown. To the customer, this feels like someone he knew forgot his name. In order to overcome this, a company needs an omnichannel customer management solution. Corporations must maintain a consistent, consolidated, and comprehensive customer profile that integrates phone, social profiles, address, and email. Calling should not be a radically different experience from interacting on Twitter. We have seen this repeatedly in the past year, as poor call center experiences resulted in high-profile social media disasters for companies such as Comcast and Southwest Airlines.

In the direct response space, these factors are even more important. Huge call volume means that connecting the right customers as quickly as possible can boost conversions and revenues, while high levels of online ordering mean that customers calling to ask about Internet orders have to either input long, often forgotten, numbers or go through something almost as long as the initial registration process. Throughout this whole ordeal, direct response customers also have the ability to hang up at any point, making customer service, and every second, count. Plus, no one in Direct Response has to be told how important social media has become in generating a runaway success. The Snuggie became a pop-culture phenomenon in a way that was almost impossible prior to the rise of online communities.