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Less Big Brother, More Big Mother
April 26, 2016 News

Less Big Brother, More Big Mother: Three Ways to Use Big Data to Enhance Customer Experience

The combination of Big Data and Customer Experience faces an ongoing challenge. How can you leverage Big Data in a way that’s to less creepy and more nurturing? It’s the difference between being Big Brother and Big Mother. Let’s look at both:

Big Brother is a fictional character and symbol in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The book was published in 1949. By 1989, it had been translated into 65 languages, which was more than any other English novel at the time. In the book, Big Brother is the leader of Oceania, a totalitarian state wherein the ruling Party wields total power “for its own sake” over the inhabitants. Big Brother is all about control, using tools [technology, data and analytics] to suppress.


Enter Big Mother. According to Merriam Webster, here are a few definitions of mother:

1:  a female parent,

2: a source or origin, as in necessity is the mother of invention, and

3: maternal tenderness or affection

Big Mother is all about number three on the list. Using technology, data, and analytics to nurture the customers we serve. Doing it in a way that shows you care in order to deepen the bond.


The Three R’s:

According to a study of over 300 case studies in the book Blue Goldfish, there are three ways to use technology, data and analytics the right way of Big Mother. They are the three R’s of Relationship, Responsiveness, and Readiness. Here are examples of each:


  1. Relationship – Relationship is about customizing the experience so it is specific to your customer. From one to many to one to one by personalizing your offering. We talk about personalization today like it is something new, but business has always been personal. Going back 125 years ago, you knew the person who made everything you consumed. In the world where individual artisans or merchants owned their own shops, personal touches were commonplace.

Case Study: Stitch Fix — Stitch Fix is a subscription-based service that sends a monthly selection of five items to each customer’s door. A combination of sophisticated algorithms and personal touches from stylists helps Stitch Fix create a monthly delivery to meet each client’s budget, taste and lifestyle. Once each month’s “fix” arrives, customers keep what they like and send back what they don’t. There’s no obligation to keep any or all items, although there is a discount should a customer choose to keep all five items. The return process offers a way for Stitch Fix to learn what customers like and take this into account for future shipments.

Stitch Fix brings together an unusual blend of art and science to deliver one-on-one personalization at scale. When asked about its personalization efforts, Stitch Fix COO Julie Bornstein told NRF, “Personalization and big data are buzzwords that everyone talks about, but it’s very hard to operationalize these concepts. At Stitch Fix, we are able to deliver a ‘fix’ of five items that have been selected to fit each individual client’s budget, taste, and lifestyle. It is personalization at a whole different level, and it’s very exciting. In some ways, it’s the combination of big and small data that is enabling us.”

Using small data is at the heart of personalization. Many companies are great at identifying big-data trends across their customer base. Magic happens, however, when you use those trends to see little-data behaviors in one customer as an indicator and respond accordingly.


  1. Responsiveness – In our on-demand world, customers expect companies to respond to their needs quickly. Consumers no longer judge you in comparison to your direct competition, they are holding you up to the bar set during their latest experience.

Case Study: Amazon Mayday Button — Amazon continuously raising the bar in customer experience. In 2013, the company released its Mayday button for the Kindle Fire HDx tablet. The single-click support solution allows tablet owners to access an Amazon customer service representative via webcam. Within 15 seconds, an Amazon representative shows up on-screen to solve problems in a responsive fashion with a simple touch of a button.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says, it’s “actually very similar to having someone standing next to you.” In addition to the live video, Mayday call reps can draw lines and shapes on the user’s screen in order to provide visual instruction, telling the user which buttons to press or which menu to open. They can even control the tablet directly if the owner has enabled the feature.

Providing tech support isn’t an easy proposition for both the company and the customer. The Mayday system helps both parties. Customers get better customer service while Amazon reduces the costly number of unnecessary phone calls. It’s convenient too. Mayday is online 24 hours a day, every day of the year, with a live representative available at any time. The feature has been a huge hit with consumers. Among tablet owners, 75% of customer service interactions now come via the button. Amazon has now extended the service to its Fire phone.

Why did this work so well? It’s because Amazon is responding to its customers at the exact time of need. It’s leveraging technology to cure little problems before they become big thorny ones. The average time it takes for the representative to pop up on the screen is now just under ten seconds.


  1. Readiness – Readiness is about reducing effort and maintaining a consistent experience across all of your channels. If you can eliminate friction, your almost guaranteed to increase revenues.

Case Study: Starbucks – When you’re a staple of quick service like Starbucks, time is money. Waiting for customers to find payment methods can make the difference between a reasonable line and one that causes customers to turn the other way and leave.

Apple Pay often gets the headlines about mobile payments. However, Starbucks helped to bring the concept mainstream beforehand. The giant chain of coffee joints accounted for up to 90% of the $1.6 billion spent in U.S. stores using a smartphone in 2013. By the start of 2015, Starbucks had more than 13 million mobile users in the U.S. Those customers were making seven million mobile transactions a week. Not only has mobile payments taken off for Starbucks, but they have also helped to boost its My Starbucks Rewards program, making it easier to track purchases.

Are you ready to go from creepy to nurturing? How are you using the Three R’s to create both profits and prophets?

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