My Hertz GPS Experience Mirrors BI And Customer Insight Efforts

On my recent visit to Seattle/Redmond, I rented a car from Hertz. Since I don’t know my way around that area, I requested a car with a GPS. After a bit of a wait, I was given keys to a Toyota Matrix. It’s actually a cute little car; I hadn’t seen one before. And, thank god, there was no problem with the accelerator.

The Hertz GPS was very ironically called NeverLost. It was a clunker of a unit that had a very cumbersome interface. After some miscues, I figured out how to program it. But the experience went downhill from there.

The unit took an enormously long time to acquire a satellite. Every time I turned on my “NeverLost,” I’d have to wait about 5 minutes for the directions to start. So I was stuck in awkward spots, just waiting for some indication of where to go.

After the long wait, my “NeverLost” charted a route. Unfortunately, the software did not seem to have an updated map of the airport, because it kept leading me in a loop and couldn’t find its way out of the airport. After I made a few “unauthorized” decisions, I finally exited the airport.

The information on the “NeverLost” screen is confusing. This made it very difficult to internalize quickly while I was driving. Making matters worse, the system didn’t respond quickly enough on back-to-back turns so I ended up missing a turn on the way to my hotel that led to a 10 minute detour.

These problems were so bad that I didn’t trust the “NeverLost” going back to the airport. I got a paper map and asked for directions from the bellman.

My take: As I was thinking about my “NeverLost” experience, I realized that it was a lot like the issues that businesses face with their data in areas like business intelligence (BI) and customer insights — or just any type of market research. Companies spend a lot of money on these initiatives, in the hopes that decision-makers will make smarter, more-informed decisions.

Unfortunately, like my “NeverLost” experience, these efforts often:

  • Take too long to get data to users in the first place
  • Provide interfaces into the data that are difficult-to-use
  • Lack appropriate details required for specific decisions
  • Don’t update enough to reflect rapidly changing environments

What happens? People revert back to their old (data-light) ways of doing business.

But these efforts don’t need to let users down. Here are a few ways that BI and customer insight teams can avoid my “NeverLost” experience:

  1. Focus on the data users, not the data. Provide tools and reports that are meaningful and easily understood by the groups of people who will be using the data. Tailor it to their specific needs.
  2. Enable decisions, not just insight. Giving people information isn’t the objective, the goal is to provide insight that can affect decisions that people need to make (see my post about Contextual Insight). Use the decisions and actions they make as the core requirements for these efforts.
  3. Match the user’s rhythm, not pre-defined timetables. Insights needs to match the timing of decisions. Some things can be batched together for monthly reports, while other insights need to be provided as soon as something changes. Put the right information in the hands of the right people in the right form at the right time.

The bottom line: Corporate data (and “NeverLost”) needs a user-centric overhaul.

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