Zach and I grew up in Lincoln, Vermont, a town of 900 people tucked away in the Green Mountains. At the center of this no-stoplight village is a general store. Vaneesa, the proprietor for more than three decades, greets her friends and neighbors at the counter everyday. She has grown to know each of their habits and needs and can tailor her stock and service in response. Everyone in town appreciates it.
This type of customer intimacy has long been lost as companies scaled beyond personal relationships. In an attempt to rebuild this bond, companies pile customer data — a digital representation of customers — into customer relationship management and business intelligence databases. Storing this information does little to get your business closer to understanding customer needs. Traditional data analysis falls short by aggregating behaviors and depending on the business to ask the right question. Surveying, another approach to staying in touch with customers, is hampered by customers’ imperfect knowledge of their own needs and by their limited memory of their own actions.
We discuss a way to solve this problem in an article on the Business Intelligence Network published today.