Things that could happen when you don't know everything about your customers

The Marketing Director of a potential customer approached me asking whether we had the capacity to handle more than 10,000 customer cards. After we presented our action plan including price quotation, the Marketing Director, slightly embarrassed, called us back to inform us that the majority of the board did not see the need for this data processing. He stressed that he did not agree because he was really interested in knowing more about their customers.
Previously we had been discussing the fact that this company approached all of their customers the same way, with the same offers, regardless of age, sex, origin, previous purchases, etc. The Marketing Director did not succeed in convincing the board of the importance of analysing and using customer data and information already at hand. I still find it difficult to understand, but this company is not an exception.

Last year, I visited a company that had all of its customer cards of the last 10 years, safely stored in their attic. Besides the fact that the processing of all of this customer card data, in their eyes was just too much work, they were also convinced that they perfectly knew who their customers were by now. All of their actions and purchases had been adapted to this data.
So now these customer cards needed to be processed because they were planning on starting a newsletter campaign. Within one week we checked and entered all customer card data and built a database of all customers that over the years had been providing personal information. Name, address, city, telephone number, email, sex, date of birth. We immediately analysed all data. After this analysis, it became painfully clear that their assumptions during the past years had been totally inaccurate. The average age of their customers was not 28 years as they expected, but 45. That’s quite a difference! The Purchasing Director and Marketing director realized that due to this, their policies, campaigns and actions had to be adapted.

A friend recently received a special offer via email for baby diapers. She runs a single household and, as far as she can remember, she has never even held a baby in her arms. She has been a customer of this company for years so she wondered how it’s even possible to receive an offer so irrelevant. I order my products online and have them delivered. As far as I remember, I have never ordered milk products and still I receive a free sample of this new yogurt drink. Don’t get me wrong, I love to receive free gifts along with my groceries but considering they know just about everything about me, they should also know that I am never going to order a yogurt drink. As a matter of fact, with the data they have available, they should be perfectly able to see what type of products I do like. Now what’s really painful are the birthday cards my neighbour keeps receiving every year for her deceased husband, among others from the optician, in spite of having informed the various instances.

I am still surprised at how much information is left behind by customers at all types of organizations. They do this with a purpose. They kind of expect or hope that these organizations will recognize them, take them into account, help them with their decisions, help them save time and money, and perhaps even surprise them. A board of a company that does not realize the usefulness of processing, analysing and using existing customer data really needs to realize that in fact they are disappointing their customers and failing themselves.

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