Want long-term customers? Small data makes a big difference in any industry.

 In Customer Acquisition and Retention, Customer Experience

iStock_000034945830SmallIt is imperative to have skilled people on the front lines. However, they can’t be effective without training, knowledge about the products they are selling and latitude to make decisions on the spot. People armed with the right information can make the difference between a so-so customer experience and a great one, while building a relationship that will last. A recent retail experience is the perfect case study for building loyalty and earning long-term customers. It also establishes that having the right data makes a huge difference. Forget big data, small data is more meaningful.

I hate shopping. On the rare occasion that I go, there has to be a great bargain for me to even consider buying something. Recently, a couple of hours in a retail clothing store may have changed my perspective. The sales person engaged me from the moment I walked in, dragging my feet and looking like a deer caught in the headlights. She asked if I needed help—clearly I did. I replied that I was terrible at shopping and had no idea what I was looking for. She skillfully asked more questions, gathering critical data such as; where I work, that I was going on a business trip, the location of the trip, my clothing size and a few other personal preferences. From there, she filled a dressing room with everything hung in an order that minimized the number of times I had to change (i.e. tops, bottoms and jackets that all coordinated). I purchased almost everything. To top it off, I received a discount (without having to sign up for a credit card or rewards program), free expedited shipping to my home of an item they didn’t have in my size and a hand written thank you card in the mail a few days later.

Why was this sale so successful? First, she knew her products inside and out. Second, she knew what her customer wanted (even when I didn’t know). Third, she listened and gathered the right data to do her job well and finally, the end sales process was frictionless with a personal touch. Not only was this first sale a success, but the company earned a customer for life.

Any industry can excel by implementing these basic practices. With an increasing focus in the financial industry on big data, it is worth noting that the most powerful customer interactions can come from data that is readily available—or that you already have. You just need to recognize which pieces are important and incorporate those into your business strategies. This comes from training customer service representatives to ask the right questions during account opening and other customer interactions, mining the wealth of data you house about your customers, and feeding it back to those on the front lines. If your customer facing employees are empowered to make decisions quickly, that match what your customers really care about, that will certainly earn loyalty.

I can’t say that I enjoy banking much more than shopping, but if it was as seamless as this retail experience I just might come to like it too.

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