The Art of Analytics

Science has revealed numerous facts about attraction and love. Certain neurotransmitters called monoamines, for instance, play a heavy role in attraction. And we now know that smell could be as important as looks when we fancy someone.

Yet, is this what we actually experience when in love?

Of course not.  The excitement of “being in love” comes from the sense-and-respond activity of knowing another person. Science can trace the chemical communications going on, but it is our holistic awareness of another that colors our personal experience. It is why we call an eloquent admirer a “Romeo” not an “Einstein.”

This may seem an odd introduction to data analytics, but the new courtship for most organizations is just that: an attraction to data analytics. For some managers this attraction is experienced as personal infatuation – an analytical curiosity that they are compelled to pursue and know. For others, it is an arranged relationship where senior leadership has mandated a 20% increase in performance, and data analytics, albeit not a first love, may in fact be the correct partner.

In either case, the new courtship presents significant challenges. Expectations are high for the value data analytics can bring; there is a heightened sense of immediacy with big data; and senior level disengagement – “I don’t want to build it, outsource it or care for it. I want to buy it.” – is at an all-time high. Essentially, managers across industries and roles are being asked to fall in love, get married with data analytics, and have 12 healthy, economically productive children in a matter of, well, now.

But we shouldn’t be too quick to fault senior management and the companies they represent. Their fancy is to replicate their existing 1-1 customer relationship with an equation so they can scale it. It’s not that they are incapable of true love, they just need more of it than you or I. Thus, data analytics, ripe with the promise of 1-1 marketing and sales equations, becomes the new infatuation. And like any good relationship, the art of moving from lust to attraction to loyalty is done through not just listening, but through careful response as well.

If the science of analytics is the insight, then the art of analytics is the response.

We use scientific methods to sense customer willingness, urgency, wants, and truthfulness, but the relational integrity we have with our customer comes through the vision of who our customer is and the desire we have to serve them. Marketing automation technologies and scoring algorithms, for example, provide the ability to listen for customer engagement and respond appropriately. However, when the vision of the customer becomes that of an email list, then cold hard science takes center stage – the customer is auto-engaged with each innocuous online click – and the romance, and ultimately the attraction, is compromised.

Therefore, real customer romance will come from how business managers, not data scientists, artfully respond to data. And despite the challenges, any critical thinker with a passion for the customer can be a Romeo or Juliet. Just as there is the making of music in a pause, so there will be the making of analytics in the non-scientific activities of data science. Activities that include:

  • properly setting a vision for the customer,
  • educating sales, marketing and product personnel on key relationship insights,
  • and making sure data science results are reliable and valid.

The role of the analytic manager is to listen to their customer data and respond eloquently across the organization. This will always be more art than science. And in the sterile world of the internet-of-things, robotics and automation, it will be these managers – who can accept the science while holding to a holistic vision of their customer – who will differentiate themselves and their companies in the marketplace.

Technology and data analytics give us the chance to sense who are customer is with ever increasing intimacy. Knowing how to artfully respond to such insight, like top performing front-line sales and customer service managers have done for decades, will be how we communicate our intentions, establish trust, and grow business in the new digital economy.

Some say love is all science. This may be. But the customer, like any object of affection, prefers a Romeo not an Einstein to persuade them so.