There're Dollars in That Data!

If you're not yet ready for Big Data, how about tapping into the gold mine of customer data from Office 365, SharePoint, and other online productivity tools? Here’s how. By Carolyn Heinze

Question: Do you really know what your customers are up to? Especially the companies signed up for self-service offerings, which risk being out of sight, and therefore out of mind? Buried in your Office 365, SharePoint, and other online productivity suite offerings is a gold mine of administrative data, providing significant opportunity to boost sales and strengthen relations with your clientele.

Ro Kolakowski would know. As founder of 6th Street Consulting, a technology and managed services provider based in Redondo Beach, Calif., he oversees the servicing of about 100 customers. When discussing how studying administrative data pays off, one case stands out in his mind: One of his clients purchased a simple Office 365 package for five seats to start. Not long after, the company added an additional 10. Soon after that, the client was up to 90 seats.

Upon viewing this data, 6th Street contacted its customer to inquire as to how the rapidly growing firm was handling its Microsoft Office licensing. Ninety seats at $500 a head is a large capital investment … would they consider renting Microsoft Office as part of their Office 365 setup (for which they were currently paying $8 a month) at $12 a month? The answer was yes--and the company bought additional services to boot, increasing its subscription rate to $20 a month and 6th Street's commission at the same time. Not only that, Kolakowski notes that it started a dialogue about the other productivity offerings the client is interested in, and how 6th Street can help to roll them out strategically.

While this particular customer was happy that 6th Street called when it did (“They told us that they were growing so rapidly that they didn't have time to think through this,” Kolakowski explains), using administrative data can help to open an intelligent dialogue with customers that may be a harder sell.

Kolakowski refers to this category of clients as “drive-by purchasers,” where they procure a service and then go away, because they already have an internal IT team and feel they don't require any help, or because they don't think they can afford to contract out additional IT services. “When you talk to those clients, initially you have to get over that hump, but this data gives us at least a little bit of insight to start the conversation.”

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Kolakowski admits that mining this type of data was not always his firm's strength when it came to its self-service customers. “They'd show up on our dashboard because they were an active client, but we weren't talking to them on a daily basis,” he explains, unlike the regular contact the firm has with clients that have MSP contracts. All the same, how could it be that 6th Street didn't notice how fast its client was growing until it got up to 90 seats? “Because we didn't have a regimented process in place where we would go through and compare the marginal differences to see the changes that were going on.”

As one might imagine, this is no longer the case. Mining administrative data through its cloud-based product offerings is now a regular part of 6th Street's conversation during sales meetings, just like analyzing the leads that come in through its website, or via its direct mail campaigns. What's more, Kolakowski notes, it only takes about an hour a month - a small investment for a potentially big payoff. “There is no rocket science behind it; there is no special program that we use,” he says. “If you review them every month, you get to know your customers pretty well.”

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