How to Use Data to Improve Your Business

Customer data & analytics may have the answers you need.

It’s no secret that the more you know, the more you can do. Whatever you want to know about your company – from customer retention to customer service – big data may have the answers you need to help grow your business and achieve your dreams.

“Predictive analytics means you collect enough data to tell you something remarkable about your business, and that’s going to be a difference maker,” says John Kelly, managing director and leader of the Predictive Analytics Division at Berkeley Research Group.

Before you dive into stats, trends and data analysis, decide what information your company needs.

“A great place to start is to figure out what the one, two or three insights are that your business can potentially utilize to drive the business forward,” says Daniel Newman, founder and president of BroadSuite Consulting.

Not sure about the next steps to take? Here are some great ways to uncover the types of customer intelligence that can boost your business.

Look at the social data. You’ve always had your customers’ account histories, but now you can pull data from the social Web and searches online. “This makes it easy to find patterns related to the payment history and purchase history,” says Newman. For example, look at the rise of one product and the falloff of another to gain insight into a client’s decision to discontinue a service. This can help you decide whether your sales force put more effort into the best-seller, or if you should bundle it with new products and services.

Look at the payment history. “Predicting which customers pay on time versus those who pay more slowly allows a business to put the right resources into efficient billing and collection efforts,” says Newman. “For a small business, that can make all the difference because it’s all about cash flow.” Incorporating a cost-effective accounting system can help expedite payments and save on third-party collection companies.

Look at customer retention. “A business owner can lose customers by not listening,” says Newman. “By using social or analytics data, you can get a sentiment online regarding your brand and product.” Customers talk about the product, the customer service, the logo, the pricing and the company values in forums, reviews, social networks and more. “How you respond is the difference between who stays and who leaves,” Newman says. “And the person who stays can also be a referral for new business, which is great for growth.”

Look at the supply chain. If you’re a parts manufacturer, for example, you can use data to explain your customers’ buying habits. Companies often buy certain equipment and manufacturing tools on a schedule. Say your manufacturing is up by 30, 40 or 50 percent. Using data analytics, you might be able to say to a supplier, “We’re purchasing up to 50 percent more of this widget. Can we get better pricing?” The cost savings is now reflected in the company’s growth. “One challenge in big data is hiring ‘real’ data scientists – people who teach code, statistics, and mathematics,” says Kelly.

Consider soliciting help from a student or instructor by asking, “I’ve got an idea I need to apply data to for my business — would you help me fulfill it?”

“The data has really been there all along,” says Newman. “Now, we have the tools to help us isolate the information faster.”

By tapping and analyzing big data, businesses of all sizes – including yours – can reach new heights.

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Related Topics: Business Growth , Finance