Big data excites Clickfox Founder and CEO Marco Pacelli. “All the answers are in the data,” he said over SiliconAngle.tv (see the video interview here) from the 2011 Strata, Making Data Work Conference, and that will revolutionize the products and services businesses deliver and how they deliver them. The volume of data on user preferences, on what customers like and dislike, is huge and growing exponentially. The Web has evolved into a gigantic, worldwide open market in which anyone can access anything, any piece of information, any service, any kind of entertainment, any other person.
Developments like mobile computing are only driving more data into the system. Thanks in part to the advent of smartphones and tablet computers, “today productivity in offices is going down,” he says. “Office workers spend as much as 50% of their work time communicating.” In the process they reveal a great deal about their preferences and desires.
That data, he says, holds all the answers that businesses need about their customers, new market opportunities, optimal ways to design their businesses. “Executives are tired of making the wrong decisions. Somewhere in all that data is the business case engine, the answers to what I need to do to drive my company to where my shareholders want me to go.”
Analyzing those huge streams of data, finding the important answers, is the cutting edge challenge IT faces, but that challenge is being met, and Clickfox is one of the leading companies developing the methods and technologies to analyze huge volumes of data in near real-time to revolutionize how businesses approach their customers.
The impact of that is huge. “Five years ago Sprint was publicly recognized for its gigantic customer issues,” Pacelli says. “In 2010 it got a Best in Class from Gartner in customer care.” How did it turn its situation around? “They took a 360-degree view of the experiences customers were having and spent five years pulling the right information from their data” using advanced technology from Clickfox built on the Greenplum big-data database technology.
The question is not “what question to ask” the data, he says but rather “which answer you want to retrieve from the data. So we are a data answer engine rather than a data query engine.”
The big financial companies such as Chase and Citibank have data on every customer in the country – on what services they use, how they use those services, when and why they talk to customer service or a bank officer, etc. “The question is how do they leverage that information to make their company better, make customers and shareholders happier, and get better results.” That is why they are all Clickfox clients.
Doing that is a challenge. A few years ago it took more than 24 hours for Clickfox to load a day's customer interaction data from a large cellular carrier. Then Clickfox moved to the Greenplum database and reduced that time to less than an hour. But that is still too slow for Pacelli, and that is only organizing and loading the data, analysis to find the right answers adds to that time.
He envisions a day when all of this happens in near real time with high levels of automation so that the data can impact customer experiences as they are happening rather than changing the company's services after the fact. “If you are traveling from A to B, I am going to change your path before you get to a place that might be dangerous. Maybe I will answer your question before you ask it or change the next step you are about to take because I know you won't enjoy that next step.”
The ideal service that his clients want to give to thousands of customers is what they might get at a favorite restaurant. “When you walk in the door, your favorite table is already ready for you. Your favorite drink is already on the table when you get to it. The owner knows you and what you like and makes sure you always have a good experience.”
Now, he says, think about a Citibank-sized company providing that level of service not just to a few special customers but to every customer because that customer's needs, concerns, and preferences are already known through analysis of their past actions and of the patterns into which they fit. That is the kind of revolution Clickfox is designed to create.