Is big data another buzzword that’s here today and forgotten about tomorrow? For many businesses, including small business organisations, that isn’t the case because they’re using big data – data collected from a variety of sources characterised by the ‘3 Vs’; volume, velocity and variety – for a number of business applications, including driving investments in CRM; Customer Relationship Management.

What Is Big Data?

Big data is the information that businesses collect from a variety of online and offline sources, for instance websites and mobile apps, customer surveys and social media, customer transactions and computer logs. Whilst many are of the mind that the ‘big’ in big data refers exclusively to the its size, i.e. the ‘volume’ of the amount of data collected, it’s worth noting that ‘big’ also refers to its potential when managed astutely.

What Is CRM?

CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is a system, usually in the form of software programs, which empowers businesses to manage their relationships with their customer base by providing them with a centralised location to store customer information to make it easier to manage, analyse and utilise.

CRM offers businesses a number of benefits, including:

  • A better understanding of their customer base that aids decision making.
  • Improved customer service standards that enhance customer loyalty.
  • Reduced customer acquisition and marketing costs.
  • Streamlined business processes that enhance revenue.

To enjoy the benefits of CRM, businesses need to invest in CRM software suited to their particular business needs because that’s where the connection between big data and CRM lies – in the ability of businesses to extract value from big data when it’s integrated into a CRM system.

Big Data & CRM

Chris Diener, the senior VP of analytics for AbsolutData, spoke to InformationWeek about big data and the potential it offers in the field of CRM. Diener identified three opportunities pertaining to CRM that are often overlooked by business organisations.

  • Real-time analytics: The velocity of big data, i.e. the increased speed in which businesses collect big data, presents an opportunity for them to engage in real-time analytics and “connect with customers more immediately.” Diener identifies three potential reasons why businesses might be missing opportunities here; a lack of expertise or skills, a lack of technology, or poor management.
  • Interaction cultivation: Whilst big data and CRM tends to focus upon social media more than any other area, most of the focus is placed upon listening to customers and identifying areas in which improvements can be made. This is a positive trend; however, Diener advocates also using big data and CRM to cultivate greater interaction between businesses and their customers, something many businesses are failing to do.
  • Partnering with CRM staff: Once again, Diener advocates taking a more assertive stance with big data to proactively design strategies that facilitate greater interaction between businesses and their customer base – for instance creating a YouTube channel if one doesn’t exist – rather than simply reacting to social media posts and other social media sources of information.

Maximise ROI

When integrated and utilised correctly big data can drive your businesses investments in CRM sky high; however, to maximise your ROI it’s also important to understand the importance of ‘little data’ and utilise your CRM effectively so as to provide ‘actionable data’, i.e. essential data that aids decision making.

Says the CEO of SugarCRM Larry Augustin, “By cutting through the noise and making Little Data out of Big Data, smaller businesses can level the playing field and compete with their larger counterparts in an increasingly competitive global market.”