New technologies have made it possible for data to be available everywhere. This is good news for businesses because determining patterns in customer behavior is now easier than ever.
Social media engagement statistics, site traffic volume, online reviews and ratings – these are just some of the digital sources of data that businesses can use to understand what their customers want.
But there’s a downside to getting access to such huge amounts of data. It can be difficult to collect everything then select only the relevant bits especially when there are multiple sources on different platforms to sort through.
After all, data in its raw form is not useful; only when it is analyzed and presented as information in a given context does it become meaningful.
Businesses serious about using data to determine customer behavior for strategic growth need to consider investing in tools used for data organization. When there’s too much data to handle, simplification is the first step to avoid being overwhelmed.
Photo Credit: Luke Jones
Fortunately, these tools are easily available, and there’s a good chance that you’re already using them now:
- Spreadsheets: MS Excel, Google Sheets, Numbers for iOS and OpenOffice Calc are just a few programs for storing and analyzing data on virtual spreadsheets.
These programs have built-in functions that let you input, group, view, and extract data according to your business’s needs. They make recordkeeping more efficient and accurate especially when compared to traditional paper-based systems.
- Email clients: People use email clients primarily for sending messages over a network, but correspondences can be saved and archived for later review or analysis.
In terms of technology, email is already one of the those old-fashioned tools hailing back from the ‘90s, but it’s still an effective means of tracking complaints, suggestions, and other forms of feedback from customers and other stakeholders.
- Task-specific applications: Depending on the type of data you want to organize, dedicated software apps designed for a particular purpose can help you go beyond spreadsheets and email clients.
For example, if you want to keep track of data from your meetings, a digital meeting solution is what you need. If you want to collate customer contact details, consider investing in contact management software.
If you want to receive input from your customers about a product or service, you’ll most likely get the data through a survey application.
But even with these digital tools in your arsenal, organizing data can still be a challenging task, so here are some practical tips you can follow to further simplify the process:
- Know what you need: Before sorting through data, decide on what you should look for to help you identify where you can find them. With so much data available, you must have a clear target to filter out what’s not relevant; otherwise, you may end up knee deep in data that has nothing to do with the purpose you have in mind.
- Create a list of priorities: Most of the time, you’ll need more than one kind of data to extract the information you want. But what do you need the most? What is the most important for your purpose? Rank them accordingly, then start with the data on top of your priority list and work your way downwards.
- Use proper labels: Provide documents with descriptive names so that you’ll know what they contain without having to open them. This saves more time than you realize.
Also, follow a naming convention for folders and files when you’re working with multiple documents. Such practice will make it easier to locate sub-groups when you’re looking for a particular piece of data.
- Get rid of what you don’t need: Clutter, whether physical or virtual, gets in the way of effective data organization. Keep your desk – as well as your file repositories on your desktop, laptop, and mobile device – clear of unnecessary stuff. Don’t be a hoarder!
- Learn to maximize your data organization tools: Spreadsheets, email clients, and software apps have many features that you can use to make managing data easier.
Excel, for one, has powerful pivot tables for extracting significant information from a large data set.
Fortunately, the Internet is a great resource for unlocking the potential of various tools, so you can improve your knowledge through self-help.
Still want more? Reputable software service providers often offer training on how to use their applications. Don’t hesitate to ask for training sessions and materials especially when you (or your organization) are paying for the service.
It may be tempting to ignore data when it starts to get overwhelming, but businesses that fail to realize the advantages it brings will miss out on a lot of opportunities for strategic growth.
So think of data as your best friend. Welcome it and embrace it, because it isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
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