Put Analytics Into Action

When asked about analytics, I’m surprised to find so many people think it’s a backroom concern. Does a developer working on code really need to worry about customer conversions and daily online sales numbers? Should an art director know about traffic goals and results?

In a word, yes.

To make the point, I’d like to tell a story that has nothing to do with e-business. Over the past two months, I spent the better part of my time traveling to conferences: eMetrics in Santa Barbara, CA, and London; eTail Philadelphia; even the World Shoe Association Conference in Las Vegas.

Everywhere I went, I stayed at hotels, some good, some not so good. At one, I noticed (by leaning over the counter in my ever-present curiosity) that employees were using a scorecard containing current information organized into categories. This information included arrivals, departures, VIPs (I wasn’t on that list), people in charge, number of clean and dirty rooms, who to call for maintenance issues, and so on.

Every day, this scorecard went to every hotel employee, from bellhop to hotel manager. At a glance, employees could obtain not only the information relevant to them but also an overview of everything going on in the hotel.

Some observations about this method:

  • It’s cheap and easy to change. The hotel delivers the scorecards on a single sheet of 8.5in. x 11in. paper, printed in house.

  • It’s consistent. The format never changes. Everyone knows exactly where to find the information she needs.
  • It’s integrated. The scorecard gives everyone in the organization an overview of what’s going on at the hotel as a whole.

I tracked which hotels used scorecards and which didn’t. After a while, it was easy to tell. Hotels that use data this way tend to present a more consistent brand and a better experience for their guests.

Hotels are very old-line businesses. Finding them deploying data in this fashion was surprising. What’s even more surprising is how few e-businesses, with all their resources, do anything similar. Every interaction can have a lasting effect on customers and, if you’re smart, a lasting impression on your organization. Putting relevant data into the hands of the people in the field (e.g., your sales team, your customer support team, etc.) is imperative to closing the loop and giving everyone in your organization an integrated point of view.

How do you do this? That’s a big question. In future columns, I’ll explore ways to make analytics relevant to your organization. What kinds of numbers matter and why? What should you be looking for? And how can you improve your organization from top to bottom using analytics?

Meanwhile, I’d like to hear how your organization is using — or not using — analytics to drive its initiatives. I’ll use your stories and other real-world examples to explain how to improve efficiency and drive return on investment (ROI) in your organization.

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