Exclusive Features

A Position of Power

A Position of Power

Data management expert explains how the proper collection and use of customer data can give distributors a competitive advantage.


It’s widely said that “data is king,” and even 19th-century fictional private detective Sherlock Holmes confirmed that “it’s a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”

Used and acted on properly, data can truly help businesses ‘own’ the customer. Following, tED magazine tapped expert Denise Keating, CEO of DeKalb, IL-based data management provider DATAgility (www.datagility.com), for insights on the value of good data to a company, how to avoid customer data-related privacy/ethical issues, and what kind of data to collect to support sales growth and promote a more positive and personalized customer experience.


tED magazine: Please discuss the importance of customer data to a company and what it can enable a company to do (if used properly).

Keating: Being successful in business today means going beyond simply selling products and services – there should also be a strong emphasis on fostering and maintaining beneficial relationships with your customers. Through use of the technology available today, there are more opportunities than ever to learn about your customers’ behaviors and needs, gain insights on how to engage with them based on their preferences, and get a firmer understanding of their day-to-day operations to enable better business decisions.

tED magazine: Given that companies possess so much customer data today, how can/should they use it to their advantage to make sure customer needs are met?

Keating: Collecting the data is just one piece of the puzzle; creating actionable insights from the data is what puts you in a position to truly understand your customers and serve them in a more personalized and precise way. For that reason, there has to be a strategy and purpose behind your data collection — collecting too much information isn’t just overwhelming, but wasteful if it’s never analyzed. Therefore, it’s important to review the various sources of customer data – e.g., a website or CMS (content management system), social media, surveys, a CRM (customer relationship management) system, and/or your ERP or purchase ordering system — and determine the type of data you’ll collect. For example, if you survey your customers, be decisive with the questions you ask and determine beforehand specifically how the information gained from the survey will allow you to take action to improve your processes or customer relationships.

tED magazine: In light of growing concerns over customer privacy issues and cyberattacks, how can/should firms use customer data without making customers uncomfortable that the company has all this data?

Keating: Being transparent about data collection is key to building trust. Disclosing why you’re collecting the data and what your plan is for safeguarding that information is imperative for maintaining your customer’s confidence. Secure systems to store the data, safety measures to back-up and recover the data, and training to ensure that your staff members know how to utilize and protect the data should be a part of your overall data management strategy. We’ve all heard too many situations in the news lately where data has been collected without the customer’s knowledge (such as on Facebook, Uber, and Amazon, just to name a few big ones), a practice which isn’t only unethical but harmful to a company’s overall reputation and profits.

tED magazine: How can firms can work with or build their customer data into a lifelong valuable resource?

Keating: The trend in data management is to provide more relevant and personalized content to better serve the customer. Analyzing customer purchase history is a great resource for companies, as they can then offer up personalized content and promotions based on the products their customers currently purchase. This analysis may include looking at the frequency of purchases, how orders are placed, and even the timing of when purchases are made to create marketing campaigns that are directed towards the customer at the time when they’re most likely to take advantage of special promotions or value-added services.

In addition, DATAgility works closely with distributors through NAED’s ‘X-Check Expansion’ program, which is all about product relationship data. Related products often remind buyers that they need additional products to complete the job. Upsell opportunities present themselves when additional product options (good, better, best, or similar products) are offered without the buyer having to do additional product searches. Accessories and replacement products are great add-on sales opportunities at the point of sale. All of these product relationships can be identified and linked in an e-commerce platform to increase sales.

tED magazine: Are there any final tips you can share with electrical distributors regarding the way they should approach customer data for maximum success?

Keating: Distributors should evaluate and invest in the current technologies available to collect, store, track, and analyze customer data. Having a centralized customer database allows for a more accurate view of your customer and a greater awareness of the range of interactions you have with that customer, from sales to customer service and all other touchpoints your customers have with your company. This holistic view allows you to identify sales opportunities, offer quicker resolutions to customer issues, create more personalized and effective marketing campaigns, and improve the overall user experience, which will lead to stronger and longer-term relationships. Overall, treating your data as an asset puts you in a position of power to make insightful decisions that will give your firm a competitive advantage.


Tagged with ,
Susan Bloomis a 25-year veteran of the lighting and electrical products industry.Reach her at susan.bloom.chester@gmail.com.

Comment on the story

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *