July 21, 2014
With so many new avenues to acquire data in today’s trucking industry, it is important aftermarket businesses don’t forget their best data asset— customer information.
All customer interactions offer aftermarket businesses an opportunity to acquire knowledge. From basic stock orders to rush deliveries to vehicles down on the highway, each transaction helps paint the picture of a customer’s operation and needs.
But in order to fully take advantage of customer data you have to know what it means.
According to Edward Kuo, director of sales, motor vehicles at Datalliance, there are four steps to making data useful. By successfully completing each step, you can harvest data that gives you an accurate representation of your customer base, and allows you to cater to their needs.
The first step in making data useful also is the most obvious. You should be collecting as much data as possible in your business. I mean absolutely everything.
If a customer comes in the last week of every month because he’s out of widgets, write that down. If he never buys shock absorbers during your yearly sales blitz, write that down, too.
Data is most valuable in large quantities because it allows trends to appear. Tracking everything allows you to do that. And while some data will ultimately prove unusable, it’s better to collect everything and later discover what is valuable than attempt to only record what you think you will need.
That’s how important trends go unnoticed.
I think cleaning might be the most important step in making data usable. You don’t want to try and analyze data that’s incomplete. Cleaning allows you to cut out your bad numbers for the information that truly matters.
For example, imagine a customer calls you to see if you have the clutch he needs. You aren’t sure, so you tell him you’ll check and get back to him. You find the clutch but before you can call him back, he’s dialed you again.
Should that be one customer request or two? He called twice, but both times for the same part.
This is where cleaning comes in. If you want to know how often a customer requires a rush order on a part, that interaction should go down as one call.
I think this is what most people think of when they hear the word data; a man in a dimly lit room staring at a spreadsheet and making furious calculations in a notebook.
But for the most part, data analysis has evolved from the days of notepad calculations. There is now business software available in the aftermarket that can identify customer trends in cleaned data with a single keystroke.
Finding who buys the most brake shoes during CVSA Roadcheck week doesn’t require four hours and a box of No. 2 pencils anymore. It can be done in minutes. New technology also allows for extremely narrow or broad analysis, which means an aftermarket business can identify segmented and expansive customer trends. That’s incredibly valuable when reaching the fourth step.
Correctly acquired, cleaned and analyzed data is an invaluable selling tool because it allows you to market directly to a customer’s needs.
This can be done many ways, the most obvious of which is through sales promotions. Good data allows you a window into your customers’ purchasing history.
Which means, if most of your customers buy their yearly supply of Freon in July, why not offer a discount that month to spur additional sales? They know they need it, and if you mark it down they might purchase extra.
Data presentation also can be direct. If data indicates a customer requires suspension repairs each April, tell them. And offer to stock what they need in March.
That will help your customer and your bottom line.