Is Big Data playing a big role in your small business? It is for many small business owners. As noted in “2015 small business tech predictions,” the use of some form of business intelligence software continues to climb among small businesses to help make key strategic decisions in operations, financial forecasting, staffing and marketing. Managing customer relationships is another area where big data is giving small businesses a boost because it can help improve customer satisfaction and retention. Whether the interactions with customers are over the phone, online or in your office or retail establishment, customer data analysis can help you provide a more satisfying experience.

For starters, Big Data can help you deliver a more personalized experience since it tells you key information about customers. By collecting and analyzing data, including personal data such as name, occupation and location; user preferences; purchase history and online behavior, you can begin to provide your customers with experiences tailored to their specific needs or interests. Personalization can include acknowledging a customer by name – even at retail check out – making suggestions for other offerings when a customer places an order  based on purchasing history or offering special in-store promotions for items researched online.

You can use Big Data to improve existing products and services or create new ones to better meet the needs of customers and prospects. Gaining insights into what customers want may drive you to collaborate with other small business owners to better compete with larger players in your market or even nationally.

Companies also are using Big Data to improve their customer service interactions. As an example, using Big Data can help your customer service reps better solve a customer issue. Since they have the data right in front of them, reps can more quickly resolve the problem whether the complaint or concern comes in over the phone, via email or in a tweet.

Harnessing available customer data

Today’s buyers are online searching and engaging with your company through your website, social media sites and online reviews anywhere and anytime over mobile devices as well as desktop systems. The result is that you before investing in new analytical tools, take advantage of the vast amount of data currently available to your small business – much of it free – indicating what customers and prospects like and their buying habits.

Social Media

If you have a page on Facebook, you have access to Page Insights.  It tells you about your followers and how much they value your content by virtue of liking, commenting and sharing it. You also can find out who has unsubscribed from your page. Use the data from Facebook Page Insights to find out how followers respond to content about your products, a special offer or some other announcement that impacts your small business.

You can mine Twitter for trends and to find out what buyers are saying about your offerings and your customer service. The data also can tell you what messages are resonating with your customers and prospects.

Web Analytics

Web analytics can tell you where web visitors are coming from and what activities they perform once they get to your site. Compare results over time to understand the effectiveness of your online marketing campaigns, mobile apps and social media activity to allocate resources to better engage with current customers and prospects. Free analytical tools include Google Analytics and Bing Webmaster Tools.

CRM Systems

You already may be using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to help you manage leads, maintain up-to-date contact information and track sales and other customer interactions. All this becomes valuable data to help you identify your most profitable customers or what products are the most popular with a certain demographic. Apply the information to new product development or service enhancement efforts.

Taking steps – even small ones – with Big Data can help you understand your customers better to provide them with a more satisfying and meaningful experience so they keep coming back.