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Small data is as important as BIG DATA

Yesterday, a client of mine visiting from Brisbane kindly took me out for lunch.  We walked into a well known restaurant in Sydney CBD.  Even though there were a few empty tables, the lady who ushered us in, asked if we had a booking (did I notice an air of condescension there?).  When we said no, she peered  into her manifest, ‘discovered’ a place and led us to the vacant table and seated us.

Soon, the wine arrived along with an assortment of bread and olives.  We placed our food order and dived deep into a conversation about how to “package”  price led advertising without diluting a brand.  After about half an hour, when the food didn’t make its appearance, my client enquired of the waiter and was told that it was on its way.

Another twenty minutes passed and still no sign of food. This time my client was visibly concerned and told the waiter that he had a flight to catch.  We were reassured that our orders have been placed on priority and should be there soon. However, what followed was a complimentary serve of bread with an apology for the delay.

Another ten or so minutes later, my client was even more anxious and informed the waiter that we had to leave.  It is then that we were told the restaurant had introduced a new menu that very morning and the kitchen was experiencing teething problems.

My client, the generous type that he is, left enough money on the table to cover the cost of the wine and the bread.  The waiter profusely apologised, insisted that we don’t pay, and offered to get sandwiches from the cafe next door (which they also owned).  There was at last an attempt at service recovery but we had to leave.

This anecdote can be a source of learning in multiple ways but I am going to dwell on just one aspect that has been receiving a lot of buzz of late.  The power of BIG data.  The value of data, whether  BIG or small is in how we use it.

Information that a new menu was introduced that day and some problems are likely was known to everyone from the kitchen to Restaurant Manager to the waiting staff and the maî·tre d’.  None of them leveraged this basic but critical piece of information to manage the customer expectation and experience.

At every critical moment of truth i.e. the welcome, the order placement, each time the guest followed up, there was an opportunity to apply this knowledge to make the guest more at ease.  Even if the customer had walked out, it would have been with the positive perception that the restaurant cared about them, valued their time and chose to be up front.

If data usage in a small, relatively simple, single location operation can be such a challenge, imagine the complexity of the information gathered both internally and externally by a large, global organisation in a dynamic market place and think about how it could be put to good use.

Marketers who succeed will be those who can read between these numbers, interpret patterns, draw insights and above all think how the learnings can be effectively applied to drive the business.  Otherwise, BIG data could just remain another four letter word: H-Y-P-E. They say as cars become more automated and  intelligent, drivers tend to be less safety conscious. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen with marketing thinking.


About Mahesh Enjeti

Mahesh Enjeti is the Managing Director, SAI Marketing Counsel and Advisor to Bubblefish Creative Brand building. He combines his rich management and marketing consulting expertise and experience to make a difference to his clients' businesses. He develops brands, nurtures them, builds them, and restores them when they are on a decline. Apart from being a marketing practitioner, consultant and educator, Mahesh is a prolific writer and presenter. See his LinkedIn profile at
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