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What You Can Learn from Netflix About Big Data & Customer Engagement


The Team at CallMiner

April 25, 2017

The Capital Building
The Capital Building

Netflix is a master at showing how big data can work as a tool to create strong customer engagement and improve customer satisfaction – the next time you choose a new TV series, see the recommendations this streaming service offers based on your previous choices. This company – with its oceans of information about when people watch and how frequently they pause and what types of films they consume – has managed to find the useful gems and has become a powerhouse that engages with customers. How? By working with smart data, not just big data.

Answer big questions with smart data

While it may be tempting to brush off its success as the result of deep pockets, it’s also worth noting that the analysts behind the curtain at these companies are likely approaching their pools of data differently than most. In a recent report, McKinsey reminded business leaders that you gather big data to solve a problem. In order to do that, leaders first need to know what the problem is. That usually comes in the form of a question. For Netflix, that question was very specific: What types of genres do our customers like to watch? The query was important to Tom Yellin, VP of Product Innovation – so important that Netflix identified over 76,000 movie genres for their members. This question also related to the larger business objective of creating in-house content.

There are many lessons contact center professionals can take from Netflix. Firstly, Yellin, a top executive, utilized the data to answer his questions. It’s critical that leaders involve themselves with big data, the McKinsey report noted, because they can highlight concerns for the business and work to solve problems based on the data. By starting with a specific question, Yellin and the Netflix team were able to make the data work for them. They narrowed their focus and cut out extraneous information.

This is an example of smart data. As Bernard Marr, a big data expert, wrote in Forbes, smart data needs to trump big data. This way, the data gathered can address exact questions and keeps focus tight on solving the problem at hand.

McKinsey’s report also argued that you have to embrace the messiness of soft data – and identify where you’re estimating and calculating, not simply reviewing cold facts. For instance Netflix had big data analytics about the existing shows their customers loved. When producers decided to create House of Cards, it was a calculation executives made that audiences would like it based on their previous selections. It was another gut feeling when executives doubled down on it, signing on for two seasons of House of Cards before the pilot – and its related viewing metrics – aired. It was a bet that clearly paid off.

Netflix’s decisions around its content also show the rewards of doing big data right. It has developed a strong brand not only a streaming service but as a house that creates enticing original content – because the company knows what customers want. Netflix kept its audience engaged because it worked to understand them.

How can your contact center apply this Netflix way of thinking to better engage with customers? Before gathering data, have a set of questions that you need to answer – and most importantly, show how those answers contribute to the business. Like Yellin and his team, you’ll be able to keep a narrow focus when you dive into the data you’ve gathered.

Want to learn more about how to increase your customer engagement? Check out the latest whitepaper to learn more about how you can use big data to drive customer engagement, and let us know: How is your company leveraging smart data?


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