Perhaps in a hint of irony, my Facebook timeline fed me an interesting article from Techonomy titled “How Data Is Failing Marketers,” by Brooks Bell. In the article, Bell examines how in the 1990s the promise of the Internet led many marketing and business leaders to predict that our web habits would provide data that would produce an intensely personalized web experience in the future.

This personalization was predicted to provide business leaders and marketers much more insight on their customers and the ability to create unique, one-to-one customer relationships. This was in contrast to the traditional mass marketing and advertising approach that dominated the 20th century.

The bestselling book “The One to One Future,” by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, seemed to cement this vision. Personalization has become the standard sales pitch that marketing agencies and services continue to take to the bank.

Bell, in the article, says this vision has led many companies to forgo building long-term, tangible relationships with customers in lieu of focusing solely on the numbers. The hard work of building real customer relationships “has been overtaken by an epidemic of ‘short-termism,’” she said.

In other words, the data is being used not to gain better insights and build customer connections, but to show incremental improvements on a spread sheet. According to Bell:

“The dark side of data is assuming that everything can be measured and, as a result, only noticing what can easily be quantified. This approach is holding us back from achieving the true potential of big data.”

…which is sustainable growth over the long term, built through a foundation of in-depth customer knowledge gained from partnerships.

After spending time with Corepoint Health customers earlier this month at our annual user conference, it was refreshing to see these “old school” long-term partnerships up close. Being in marketing, I don’t get to spend the same amount of time with customers as our account and services team members do, who spend hours or even weeks working alongside customers to find solutions to interfacing challenges.

But what was clear is that we have customers willing to share their challenges, their wishes, and their requirements with us – and they do so frequently. They do so because they know we’ll listen, we’ll work until we find the solution, and we’ll look for ways to improve our product in ways that can help other customers dealing with a similar problem.

Often, a partnership doesn’t require a shiny new product feature, but simply requires time. Jeremy Goslin, interface analyst at East Alabama Medical Center, told me the following during filming for a customer case study video that we will release after the first of the year:

“Because we’re a hospital, we can’t close at lunch to upgrade our interface engine or other application. So whether it’s four o’clock in the morning or five o’clock in the morning, there was always a support rep prompt and on time, calling us and ready to help. They actually beat me to work several times, ready to do the patch, and ready to assist with the upgrade.”

We use all resources available to help us improve our processes and product, and that includes tracking data with an analytical approach. I asked Sonal Patel, our VP of Customer Support, how she knows what data to listen to when working with customers. The most important data point is difficult to track in a spreadsheet:

“Building relationships starts with caring. Our team members truly care about the success of our customers’ use of Corepoint Integration Engine. Our goal is to listen and to follow up on what our customers tell us, from solving an integration challenge to adding a product enhancement.

Our customers tell us they share information with us because we do exactly that – we care, we listen, and we follow up. Customers even share personal stories, such as vacation highlights and family news – and we gladly follow up on that information, too.”

So I’ll remain skeptical the next time someone I’ve never met tells me, in one way or another, I know what you need. Really? How so?

Perhaps, what we need to remember when dealing with customer data is that the purpose of any company is to solve the need of a person. Lose sight of that and we’ve probably fallen trap to “short-termism” and left with nothing but counting website clicks and likes instead of actual customers.

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