Ante Up: The New Table Stakes for Customer Data

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In “The Strength of Weak Signals” Harrysson, Metayer and Sarrazin highlight the importance of being attuned to “weak signals” for staying ahead in the marketplace. However, the importance of listening for weak signals is hardly a new phenomenon, and it is wrong to frame it as something requiring an “initiative,” “task force” or other expression de rigueur of the executive project.

Is this because it’s not important? Of course not.

Digital and social media have led to an explosion of freely available noise from prospects and customers. Some of which contains important signals. Few successful entrepreneurs and innovative companies have disrupted markets and sustained advantages by acting on the obvious. The bottom line is that listening to prospects and customers through digital channels is simply table stakes for competitiveness at this point.

Not responding to a prospect’s question or a customer’s complaint over Twitter is like not answering your company phone. Failing to mine product feedback about your company and competitors in discussion boards is akin to only doing part of your job. Organizations should not make these efforts projects because they should be baked into the fabric of the company culture.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Apple CEO Tim Cook make their email addresses public and respond to customers. WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton, shortly after becoming rich beyond their wildest dreams, spent a week responding to customer support emails so they could better brainstorm things to fix.

Acting on a signal from Instagram about a #totalfail should be no different than acting on a help desk email.

By acting I don’t mean simply resolving the issue. I mean exploring the issue and ascertaining whether there are larger implications, just as great companies like Amazon, Apple and WhatsApp do, across the frequent touch points they have with customers, at all levels, every day.

On a daily basis Sailthru generates millions of proprietary data points about the interests and behaviors of our client’s users. This is a breadcrumb trail to competitive advantage. Having access to and actioning on this data to develop proprietary insights to improve the consumer experience and out innovate the competition should not be an initiative or a special project. It has to be how an entire organization is wired.

The table stakes have gone up.

Ben Sesser is Director of Strategy at Sailthru. Follow @sailthru for industry news and compelling commentary. Follow Ben at @bsesser for related news, content and perspectives.