The Similarities between Toilet Paper, Technology & Data - Steve Parker, Jr.

By Steve Parker Jr. Media Biz Bloggers Archives

A friend of mine recently posted on his Facebook update: "You can tell if a business really cares about its customers & employees by the quality of toilet paper they have in their bathroom."

I saw his post and thought to myself, "Yep, it's true and that premise can also be applied to the likes of customer service and data management." I know we have all thought something similar about toilet paper, on a weekend trip to The Home Depot right after that pit stop at Starbucks, or in the Waffle House on a Sunday morning after a long Saturday night, or in the doctor's office or car dealership as we wait on a repair. Yes, we have all had personal experiences with Sand Paper Road.

The same applies to the use of data and technology in how we service customers in our businesses. The current economy, one in which data is available on every conceivable customer touch point, is a bit disturbing when you see how many companies choose to ignore the things that can provide the customer with a better experience and also serve the business with better data and results.

So what do toilet paper, data and technology all have in common? I'll give you a few examples.

1. Website Analytics Tools – many businesses underserve themselves and their customers by relying on inferior website analytics. I've always said, and I'll say it again, Google Analytics is a great product for my father's liquor store but not so much for an e-commerce site with 100 or 1000+ SKU's. Nor is it appropriate for a large multi-system hospital network, a franchise based system or a billion-dollar brand.

More appropriate would be tools such as Omniture Site-Catalyst (now Adobe Site-Catalyst) or Coremetrics. Using an inferior analytics tool is the equivalent of the Sand Paper Road of toilet paper. It's really simple actually. Many businesses don't use more advanced analytics because of the initial and ongoing costs (the typical response is, "Google Analytics is free"); that is a short-sighted approach, and more importantly these businesses do not realize how much that small savings is actually costing them in lost revenue, lost opportunity and lost improvement in operational efficiency every day forward.

2. Search Marketing – there are two basic parts to search marketing, paid and natural (or organic / SEO), but I'll just focus on the paid for purposes of this example.

Paid Search Marketing – this is another area where many businesses undervalue or underserve themselves and their customers with cheap toilet paper methods. Paid search is 100% demand-driven. That's a beautiful thing for any marketer or business. A consumer is searching for widgets and you sell widgets – why would you not want to be there to close that sale? If a consumer walked into Wal-Mart to buy a candle and you sold candles, would you not want to be on the shelf? Sure you would! In fact, you'd want to be front and center on the shelf – actually about eye height and just right of the center since most people will see you clearly and most are right-handed and tend to reach that way. Search is a way to capture current demand in the marketplace – capture all of it. In addition, if you have a limited marketing budget why wouldn't you spend money in search first? Your competitors with deeper wallets are helping create the demand – all you have to do is catch it. "Clean up" would be an appropriate metaphor here.

However, there is a two-ply to this paid search element and that is the landing page. Your potential customer just clicked on your ad and you send them to a home page? Why? If they searched for Widget X with a Blue top, why wouldn't you give them a page for Widget X with a Blue top? If they walked in your place of business, would you direct them to the exit? No, so why would you do this online with all the data and availability of technology that allows for that immediate need.

3. Twitter (Social) Communication – here is another area where data at hand is a great benefit yet not all companies deliver. Seems everyone has a "Twitter" strategy or lack thereof, actually. In an earlier blog post, Question Nothing: 3 Examples of How to be Average, I noted that technology does not in fact necessarily make a business better, but can make more visible just how bad a business is at serving customers. I cited an example of Expedia in that article, but there are many very similar stories of customer service failures on Twitter.

The largest failure for which many companies are guilty however, is the lack of planning a solid strategy, calendar and communication method when using social tools (see: Social Insights White Paper – A Smarter Approach to Social Strategy). In the white paper linked above you will find a 5 Phase Process for Managing Social, and most companies begin at Phase 4 – Deploy Tactics. This causes issues in managing the information (data) you get from customers effectively and also in servicing those customers properly as well as yourself internally as a business. This leads to operational failure.

The overall message here folks is this: by not measuring properly, you cannot provide properly. It's just that simple.

At the end of the day, we'd all be happier customers and business leaders if we were serviced well and served ourselves well. Many times all it takes is the TP – the soft kind of course.

Steve Parker, Jr. is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Levelwing, a digital advertising agency that provides data-driven marketing solutions. Steve can be reached at sparker@levelwing.com.

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