Monday, September 22, 2008

Are There Business Advantages to Poor Data Management?

I have long held the belief, perhaps even religion, that companies who do a good job governing and managing their data will be blessed with so many advantages over those who don’t. This weekend, as I was walking through the garden, the serpent tempted me with an apple. Might there actually be some business advantage in poorly managing your data?

The experience started when I noticed a bubble on the sidewall of my tire. Just a small bubble, but since I was planning on a trip down and back on the lonely Massachusetts Turnpike (Mass Pike) on a Sunday night, I decided to get it checked out. No need to risk a blow-out.

I remembered that I had purchased one of those “road hazard replacement” policies. I called the nearest location of a chain of stores that covers New England. Good news. The manager assured me that I didn’t need my paperwork and that the record would be in the database.

Of course, when I arrived at the tire center, no record of my purchase or my policy could be found. Since I didn’t bring the printed receipt, the tire center manager gave me a couple of options: 1) Drive down the Mass Pike with the bubbly tire and come back again on Monday when they could “access the database in the main office”; or 2) Drive home, find paperwork, come back to store... Hmm. Not sure where it was. 3) Buy a new tire at full price.

I opted to buy a new tire and attempt to claim a refund from the corporate office later when I found my receipts. The jury is still out on the success of that strategy.

However, this got me thinking. Could the inability for the stores to maintain more that 18 months of records actually be a business advantage? How many customers lose the paperwork, or even forget about their road hazard policies and just pay the replacement price? How much additional revenue was this shortcoming actually generating each year? What additional revenue would be possible if the database only stored 12 months of transactions?

Finding fault in the one truth - data management is good - did hurt. However, I realized that advantages of the poor data infrastructure design at the tire chain is very short-sighted. True, it actually may lower pay-outs on the road hazard policies short-term, but eventually, this poor customer database implementation has to catch up to them in decreased customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth badwill. There are so many tire stores here competing for the same buck, eventually, the poor service will cause most good customers to move on.

If you're buying tires soon in New England and want to know what tire chain it was, e-mail me and I'll tell. But before I tell you all, I'm going to hold out hope for justice... and hope that our foundation beliefs are still intact.


Anonymous said...

Don't be discouraged, Steve. There are definitely times when it pays to have a poor database, especially when you have to refund or pay back the customer at a later date. Eventually, it will all catch up with the company, tho. People tend to remember the experience when they get scammed.

Steve Sarsfield said...

Update: My letter to the offending company got a response and I now have a refund check in hand. Good customer service, despite the poor data management.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own and don't necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer. The material written here is copyright (c) 2010 by Steve Sarsfield. To request permission to reuse, please e-mail me.