When it Comes to Data, Small is the New Big

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As kids, we’re taught that superheroes work hard to keep their communities safe with their special powers. Captain America has super strength and courage; Spider-Man is smart and agile; and Thor has a mighty hammer. All of these superheroes defeat villains five times their size, proving that size isn’t a reliable indicator of power. Just as these superheroes use their powers for good instead of evil, great businesses need to exercise their own superpowers to provide customers with superhuman levels of service. That’s where knowledge comes into play. Industry buzz suggests that the only data worth having is the big kind, but that’s a fallacy. Sometimes, it’s the small, nuanced data that can save the day.

Powering up: Why data collection is important

Customer data is a commonly unrecognized superpower. Companies that provide software as a service (SaaS) are especially likely to have massive amounts of uncategorized, unmanaged customer data, creating a well of potential that largely goes unused. This data, when analyzed properly, can provide companies with unlimited opportunities to improve product functionality, increase customer satisfaction and stimulate business growth.

SaaS companies can use harvested customer data to analyze what is and is not working within the services they provide. Such information can help troubleshoot flaws, highlight coveted product features or reveal hidden opportunities, such as the optimum time to upgrade a freemium user to a paid user.

Small data in practice

At Insightly, it was a big challenge to capture and synthesize all of our growing customer information in a useful way. At most, we were able to categorize customers based on company size or industry, and further segment those by general use cases, such as contact management, project management and so forth. Beyond that, we didn’t have a lot of insight into their specific needs and challenges, which features of our tool were most helpful or caused the most frustration, or what triggered a customer to upgrade or quit our tool. Our organizations is hyper-focused on the customer experience, but we were hampered by lack if insight into our user base. As we continued to grow, it became clear that we needed to capture and mine this data to ensure we were delivering the customer experience we promised.

We invested in several data analytics tools and an experienced data scientist to establish a sustainable framework that would serve our data analysis needs throughout the organization. For example, the marketing department is most interested in acquisition data to help identify the campaigns that generate the best ROI. The product development team focuses on the features customers are using, what is underused or what results in a lot of service calls to help inform the product roadmap.

What we’ve found is that big data is good because it identifies important trends. But, quantitative data can never tell the whole story. We conduct customer interviews to gain very deep knowledge about how and why they use our product. This small data reflects the people behind the numbers and reveals far more about what it takes to deliver a successful product than quantitative data alone.

Using small data insights like that, you can identify areas for improvement, product changes and best practices, and even shed light on the optimum moment in the customer lifecycle when a specific action from your team will result in an upsell or lead to a happier customer. Now, that is powerful.

Knowledge is power

Big or small, data provides the knowledge businesses need to provide better products, streamline operations and reduce inefficiencies. All companies can benefit from big data trends that help identify market opportunities and product development, but for those seeking to elevate their customer experience from “good” to “super,” they should focus on uncovering powerful small data. In doing so, they’ll become business superheroes.

Anthony Smith is the CEO of Insightly, a San Francisco-based SaaS CRM application.


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