Do you use data to gain insight into how you can give value to your customers? Today’s guest is Dondi Scumaci, an international speaker, author, and mentoring thought leader whose coaching and facilitating expertise allows her to guide international problem-solving groups. In this episode, Dondi discusses with Ben Baker how data can be used to know your customers’ needs and provide the solution, make targeted email campaigns for maximum response rate, and create genuine, authentic connections. If you’re the one tasked with gathering data, you’ll learn how best you can arrange your report in a way that’s most useful and relevant to your audience. Join in the conversation to learn more!
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How You Can Use Data To Give Value With Dondi Scumaci
I have another special guest for you. We’re going to talk to Dondi Scumaci and talk about data to insight to action. What are we doing with our data? Dondi, welcome to the show. I’ve been excited about this conversation. We had a great conversation and I can’t wait to bring this thing to everybody.
Thank you so much for having me. We do have great conversations. We can figure out the whole world if you gave us an hour. We could probably solve all the problems of the world. It’s a pleasure to be here. This is an interesting topic. I think we can do something powerful with this topic or get people thinking a little differently about data, how they use it, what it’s for and how they move it around.
I couldn’t agree with you more. First of all, I want to give a shout–out to Dan Dugger because he is the one who brought us together. I want to give you a couple of minutes to talk about who you are, where you come from and what do you do just so we have a greater idea of why you and I are having this conversation about data, to begin.
Thank you so much for that too. Dan is a great friend and he networks around well. He does the networking thing the way it’s supposed to be done. Where real connections are made and people can draw value from that and contribute value to that. Dan, thank you very much. I would echo Ben’s thoughts on the introduction there. I appreciate it. When I had a real job a long time ago, I was a banker and I was in the sales side of the house. I loved selling. I was then managing the salesforce for a couple of banks, one in the Seattle area and one in the Midwest. I was in charge of the customer experience. I was probably taking my career two steps at a time.
I loved my job. I had great mentors. That’s an important part of my story that provided some wonderful opportunities to do things, go bigger and grow. Eventually, when I reached that executive suite, I wasn’t as happy as I would be. I thought I would be much more satisfied when I had achieved that status or that title. I realized that I was now too far from the people. I was dealing with acquisitions and mergers and legal things and I wasn’t with the people. I went out on my own. I became a consultant, which is just code for the unemployed and I loved it. That then lead to authoring a few books and developing some mentoring tool kits. My passion is mentoring. I think it’s because I received such powerful mentoring. It made a huge difference in my life that it became a niche or a passion of mine. I’m an author, writer, speaker, and sometimes partnering podcaster.Use the data to make the connection, not to push your own offer. Click To Tweet
The banking industry is fascinating. Most people don’t realize the inner workings of a bank. What it takes to be successful as a small to midsize bank within the region. To grow to being a larger bank and the amount of different moving pieces that it takes to be able to do it. People say, “They take the money and give money.“ There’s way more into that. The exorbitant amount of data they have at their fingertips is what can either make them a successful organization or break them as an organization.
I hadn’t even made the connection until now. How old were you when you made that connection to this topic that we’re discussing and the whole banking? It was today old. I was right this second old. It was the idea that we had lots of information about our clients. We would gather a lot of information about our customers, but we didn’t do a very good job of using that information to grow their wealth or protect them or make relevant offers. One of my first projects was how we could take the information we have and build some abilities to move that data around and examine that data in a different way. Come up with some viable offers that were relevant and customized to our clients. Could we get great salespeople to pick up the phone and say, “I found a way to save you thousands of dollars. I have found a way to make your savings account or your work harder for you. When would be a good time to talk about that?“
It wasn’t me pushing a product anymore. I took the data that I had already from my customers and said, “I have found something that might be interesting to you. When can we talk about that?“ That was different than saying, “I’d like to show you my car loan and my mortgage loan.“ It was, “I’d like to show you how you can save time, make money or increase your wealth or save money.“ That became the value that Bob Burg always talks about. It’s that the value that you drive. That’s one of the underpinnings of the conversation we’re having here because data should be used to help us drive more value to the people we serve if we use it well.
It’s interesting because people look at data and say, “Data is gold. We have to collect as much data as humanly possible.” As I tell people, data is just one to zeros. That’s all data is. It’s inputs and outputs. It’s how we interpret the data. The information that we’re able to garner out of it and mine out of it makes the data interesting. I spent 25 years in direct mail and I used to work for the casino industry. I remember signing the nondisclosure agreement and sitting in somebody’s data room. All of a sudden, I sit down in front of the computer and I’m looking through their datasets and I start to drool. “They’re like, “What’s going on?“
It says, “You have no idea what you have here.“ It says, “No.“ I say, “How long have you guys had players‘ cards on these people?“ “I don’t know. About 6, 7 years now.” “What have you been doing with this information?” “I don’t know. We’ve been storing the information.” They knew when you came down, who you came down with, what games you played, how long you played those games, how much you won, how much you lost, your birthday, your anniversary, whether you were married or weren‘t married. They had all these sorts of information on it. We took this information and created direct mail campaigns that were specifically aimed variably to the individual level of the person. We were getting 45% response rates. If you’re getting 3% to 4% in direct mail, you’re a hero.
That’s because you touch the value. You use the data to make the connection, not to push your own offer. There’s value in that connectivity where people feel that the offer is relevant to them.
As I tell people, we need to listen to people, understand them and allow them to engage. That’s the trick with most organizations because they have to care about their customers and care about the customers is not just taking every piece of data in the world, throwing it into a hard drive and ignoring it. You need to sit there and say, “I have all this information. How do I gain insights out of this? That is going to allow my customers to make better decisions utilizing my services that makes their life better.“
The insight comes from the questions that we ask about the data. It’s not how much of this data we can collect, store, grow and hoard. It’s almost like data hoarding. You very intuitively, just asked a question. How can I use this data and this information to create value for the people that I serve? How can I make their lives better with this data? It’s the kinds of questions that we ask that will drive those insights. Those insights compress us into some actions or encourage our customers to take some actions as well.
Let’s go back to when you were in the banking industry because that’s an interesting thing and we can then start moving forward through your current customers, etc. You do the things where you were sitting there going, “We’re no longer interested in selling you a mortgage.“ We’re still interested in doing the thing but what you were doing is you are giving them insights that allowed them to be able to see why your particular mortgage was more valuable to them than your competitors, etc. How did you go about enabling your sales teams, marketing teams and all the teams you worked with to take this information and communicate it in such a way because that’s the non-traditional thing for a bank? A bank says, “Here’s a mortgage. Here’s a rate take it or leave it.“ How did you shift the mindset to get people to understand what the data was telling them and how to communicate it effectively?
It’s a very discerning question because that’s the big piece in the middle. It wasn’t just, “We’re going to look at data differently.“ It was, “How do we shift the mindset?“ When I was in banking, bankers were order takers. You come in and tell us what you want. You want to cash a check, apply for a loan or a money order. I started on the teller line right out of school. I was on the teller line. I can wire money for you, give you a traveler’s check or cashier’s checks. We were order takers. You tell us what you want and we’ll make that happen to the best of our ability.
We wanted to be relationship managers and true relationship managers, not just tossing that title around. We wanted to behave like that. Making the shift from order takers to relationship managers, advocates was a big shift in mindset. There were a lot of bankers that didn’t want to do that. I had conversations with bankers who said, “I didn’t sign up for that. I’m not going to be a telemarketer and a salesperson.“ They saw sales as being something that was not virtuous. My whole philosophy was, “What if we don’t do this for our customers?“ Our customers are paying too much for their credit. They are taking too long to become debt-free. They aren’t making enough on their investments. At what point does that become our responsibility?
How did we get there? We did probably a lot of weeding through human resources that were not interested in that new gig. I was charged in Seattle with building a relationship team that was one of the finest projects of my life. The technology was world-class. The people were amazing. Their contact ratios and conversion ratios were over the top. They became award-winning. The executives would come and sit and listen to the conversations that they were having. Part of it was the disciplines, being prepared for objections in a new way, acknowledging those objections and giving good solid responses with data and keeping that conversation moving.Great mentors provide wonderful opportunities for you to do things right, to go bigger, and to grow. Click To Tweet
We called it the pivot and being well-trained and highly disciplined in terms of how are you going to make contact with this customer. That’s another hiding place for data. In a telemarketing concept, you could say, “I dialed 100 people, but I only got ahold of ten. Where are you dialing them? When are you dialing them?” How can you increase that contact ratio? With the contact ratio, how can you even get better at the conversion so you can have more contacts or you can get better at doing something with your contacts that you have. There’s data on the management side of it as well. How are we doing? What are the skills that we need to build so that our people can maximize those customer contacts in those opportunities?
What I’m learning is a very big shift in leadership, in purpose and culture because there are many organizations out there that are order takers. They are commodities. Because they’re doing exactly what the customer asks and no more, no less, what they are is they are not differentiating themselves in any way, shape or form. Going from being a commodity to a brand worth loving is a culture shift, purpose shift, but it’s also a leadership shift because you need to have an organization that believes that use of data to be able to educate clients. To make better decisions for your customer experience teams to be able to serve your clients better. It has to be there.
Ultimately, it came down to that belief. Do we believe that it is our job as bankers to inform our customers and help our customers save money, make money or create wealth? Is that our job or is our job to be the order taker? There were some people that didn’t want that challenge, but I will tell you that it was fun to watch the organizations that I worked to navigate and transform themselves. It was beliefs, leadership, philosophy, culture, and then skillsets. A whole new set of skills had to be created and it was fun. The data drove all of that. What do we know about our customers and how are we using that information? How could we be smarter about that? How can we drive more value with our data for the customer? That was the ultimate question. How can we create more value for our customers with the data that we already have?
That takes us to a different level of how you take that data that you have and realize the effect that you’re having by using the data correctly. How do you take that internal data set that says, “We used to be here, this is the line in the sand that we had before we became a true partner to our clients. This is where we are now and how we’ve gone from there and use those data sets and interpret them as a rallying point for people to sit there and say, ‘Look at how more successful, how more engaged our employees are, how more creative are people, how more empowered our people are because of the data that we’ve been able to use to make them better and help the clients.’” It’s not using the data externally, but it’s using data internally as well. That’s where a lot of organizations are failing is they’re not able to take that data and communicate what that data is doing to help achieve goals and where the vision is moving forward. How that data is going to help everybody within the organization do what they need to do in order to be able to help us achieve our vision.
What you said is so powerful to me because it’s the story that we tell. I wish I could credit the author and I’m not going to be able to because I’m pulling this out of the top of my head from what you said. I love the whole idea of storytelling. I love people who tell stories and tell them well.
You‘re in my wheelhouse and speaking in my language.
It’s an art form to be able to do that. The storytelling author said something like, “The problem is that with most organizations, they are good at pushing the data around, but nobody knows how to tell the story.” What you talked about the insight or story that the data is telling. I remember even back reaching the banker days that the results were so tangible for me when I was a salesperson in a private banking situation. I could tell you how many customers I talked to every single day, how much money I saved them and their credit. I could tell you how much money I made for them in the market and about their gains. I loved doing that numbers game.
By the end of the month, if you were to sit in front of me, I could tell you, “My customers are going to be out of debt 3,000 years sooner.” The numbers were crazy big and exhilarating and fun, but the data then became my motivator. It became how I motivated and managed myself. The story that we tell, those become the insights. How do we take that data? Tell that story and share those milestones that we’ve reached based on the navigating this brave new world of creating value or partnering with our customers differently. You’re right. We leave that opportunity on the table way too many times.
The data point is we grew our sales 30%. That’s the data point. You could look at that objectively and say “From this date to this date, we increased our sales 30%.“ Nobody cares. The question is, what were the challenges that you faced? What were the opportunities? What did you overcome? What does growing your sales do for the company? How is it helping you achieve your objectives? What does this mean to the individual people within the company? How does this help our clients achieve their particular goals? Why does that make them more loyal clients in order to be able to get them to come back and bring their friends with you to our organization? It’s that brand story that’s built on data. We started the company in 1947. Instead of saying you started the company in 1947, you are now saying, “We‘re a 75-year-old company.“ Many years ago, we started this company with the thought process of whatever.
Thinking about we’re coming up on our anniversary and these are the things that we’ve been able to do. We grew from this one–room schoolhouse in Alabama to this 180,000 square foot place, Downtown New York City. These are the type of clients that we serve. This is how we help them. This is why we serve people. This is the success that we’ve been able to give them. If your people inside your organization understand its brand story of where you were, where you are and where you’re going. How you got there, why they belong and why they matter, they can turn around and use those data points in that story to be able to go out there and build brand champions outside the organization and bring those larger customers along. Not only is there a story, but there’s data that goes with it that allows that story to be able to say, “Intangible terms, this is what the success was.” It’s the combination of those things. The data and the story come with the data that allows it to be created into insights that creates actions.
Sometimes what happens is we fall in love with our numbers, with our data and we can push it around. We can move our data around in the different reports that we use. It’s interesting to me. I love the story about this young woman who had joined an organization and she had all these reports that she was charged with making sure that they were emailed out. As she and I were talking, she said, “I feel like that’s all I do. I never hear back from anybody. I never heard any questions about the data. I didn’t realize my job was going to be sending these reports all over the large company.“
I said, “What are people doing with the data?“ She said, “I have no idea. I’m just serving the data like a short-order cook.“ I said, “Are you willing to try something a little risky? Let’s get it ready. We queue it up to send this massively important report that everybody is waiting for every single month. Your huge priority in your job.“ By the way, there were some problems with the data collection so she would have to go in and do a lot of checking, correcting, massaging and making sure that the data was accurate.Tell your story, share the milestones you've reached based on how you navigated this brave new world of creating value. Click To Tweet
Probably also pulling it from seventeen different sources manually.
She said, “It’s my whole job and I hate it. It’s a soul–draining task.“ When I asked her, “What are people doing with the report?” “I had no idea.” I said, “What would happen if we got it ready?” We get it all queued up and we don’t hit send. I said, “I dare you don’t send it. I want to hear how many people request it. When they request it, I want you to maximize that moment. I want you to say, “Tell me how you’re using the report and which pieces of it are easiest for you or most important or relevant to you? What parts of the report might be more cumbersome or less user-friendly and how do you share this information?“
Not one person contacted her for that report. She never did it again. She was spending about 35% of her time on this super important report. When she first started, there was someone who was retiring and said, “This report is so important. Everybody waits for this report.” Guess who had created that report? The person who was retiring and saw that as being something that everybody needed and wanted. Nobody had ever given this individual feedback that we don’t care about. We don’t need it and we’re not using it.
That is such a wonderful story because how many times have we asked the people asking us for information, what do you need? How am I going to make this report so it dashboards in such a way that it’s going to allow you to make the decisions you need to make in an easy format. Let’s face it. Sales need information quickly and dirty. CEO needs things quick and dirty. The CFO, not so much but wants to see the numbers. The engineer wants to see the numbers, but different people want to see the different things in a report. Some people want the 50,000–foot view and want to get into the weeds. You need to be able to sit there and say, “How do I make this data relevant to people so they get the insights that they need to be able to do their job and create the actions they need?”
We were talking about heat maps on sales territories. Being able to do a heat map on sales territories where a sales manager can sit there and say, “I know exactly where this guy’s doing. I know where their dollars are coming from. I know all the things that are going on. I know that they’re not going to make their budget this month because I know they are doing this and this.“ “They’ve got green lights across the entire. I don’t have to worry about them.“ That way, you can focus your time and energy, helping the people you need to help instead of sitting there bugging the people that don’t need you in your life because they’re working too hard and they don’t want to fill out another report.
How do you take that data and be able to dashboard and create it in such a way that it’s relevant to the users that are doing it? Instead of creating this enormous report that is chockfull of information that 99% of the people that get this are going to throw it in the round file because it’s complex and cumbersome to go through. They just don’t care about 90% of it. We need as organizations to ask the groups that we’re creating these reports for, “How are you going to use the data?“
You also mentioned the complexity. When we try to make a report, be all things to all people. That’s when it starts to be overly complex because we’re trying to make it do too many things where we can narrow that down. Maybe there are different versions of it or different ways of pulling the information and generating different reports that have relevance and value for different audiences. All of a sudden, that complexity creep can be managed a little bit. As we went from, “How do we use the data that we have to serve our clients better?“ You’re asking the same question internally and I love that. How can we use this data, this report and what our internal customers need, want and desire? How are they using it?
It reminds me of a young intern working for an important person inside a big company, a global organization. She would be tasked with pulling this information. Her boss would say, “I need to get some numbers around this region or this territory or this the sector.” She would run off. She would create those reports or she would build something. That was her gift. She was able to do that. She loved doing that. She was energized by that. I was at for a little while mentoring her on the side and I said, “Tell me, how is your boss using that report?” She said, “I’m not sure.” “Who is the audience? How will she be sharing that information? How could you make that easier for her? What anomalies or insights? When you’re pulling it together, what questions are you asking yourself? What does this mean and why is it showing up there? Are you asking yourself questions about that data?“
She said, “I’m not. I’m just building a report.“ I’m like, “Exactly, you’re an order taker. If you want to deliver data, continue doing that. If you want to drive insight and then translate that action or help your boss take action, then you’re going to need to ask her a few questions.“ She did. She asked, “How are you using this information? Who will you be sharing this information with? When I’m pulling this together, what questions will you be asking yourself about this data? What does it mean to us as an organization?” She said in 30 minutes, “I had a completely different understanding of that report and that ask and that assignment than I had ever had before. I was able to configure something that hit the mark.“
I asked her for some feedback and she was able even to give me some more feedback on here’s, how we could make that even sharper and even more to the target. Now, she wasn’t just delivering our report. She was delivering insights. On the side, there were a few questions I had, “I thought you might want to take a look at these line items. They seemed a little different to me.” She was now partnering with her boss differently. It brings me full circle. You had said that the data can be used to partner differently with our customers. The data can be used internally to partner differently with our internal customers and our colleagues. Our business partners as well if we’re smart about it.
I’ve got two questions. One that we’ll go into and the last final question that I ask everybody. The last thought comes out of this comes down to garbage–in garbage–out. It’s in the data science world, it’s true. If you don’t ask the right questions and don’t get the right information, you can’t get the right insights. I find with the Contact Relationship Management software, the CRM software that most people do, people are not asking the right questions when they’re building a CRM. Some CFO or Chief Technology Officer or whoever has been tasked to get a new CRM for the Salesforce. They go out there and find a piece of software because it was recommended by somebody else and they’re done with it.
If they go out and sit there and say, “Does this allow our people to easily enter the information into it and be able to share and garner the insights they need easily without having to go to seventeen different people to mine the data information?“ I look at salespeople walk into an organization. They get the business cards, the cell phone and their laptop. They get sent out there and nobody teaches them how to use that particular CRM. Why it’s important to enter the data this way, what that information is going to allow the organization to be able to do and how it’s going to make it easier for them to do their job if they enter the information correctly?
If you can’t tell your salespeople why they should enter the information beyond just the name, address, all the contact information about birthday, opportunities, competitive information and all that stuff. If can’t teach your salespeople how to do that properly, why they should be doing it and give them the reason that they should do it, they won’t. If not, you have no way of being able to have real information that your marketing team, your ops team, your purchasing team can use because that information is garbage coming into the system. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
There are a few themes that are running through this conversation. It comes down to the idea of the purpose behind the CRM, the data and the task. It’s what Simon Sinek always talks about Start with Why. I love his work. I would leap ahead and say, if I can start with the why that sometimes we’ll change the house, like how we approach it, how we build it, how we interact with it and how we share it. Sometimes that will even change the way and what are we trying to accomplish ultimately.
Starting with that why and being intentional with the why, the purpose behind the task. I’m not a data engineer. I’m not that girl but I will tell you that I have learned that there’s a lot of value that you can drive when you have those insights. Data is the step I have to take on the way to the insight. The insight is on the way to the action and I’m looking for action. I’ve got to go through the data and the insight to find my action. If you can connect all of that to the purpose, that’s the critical path. The last thing I’ll say about that is it’s even more important than the sales that we can drive.
The value that we can deliver to a customer, people need to sense their impact and feel their contribution. Maybe now more than ever and it’s always been important. There are a lot of employees out there in the big work wild that are working hard. I even say this a lot in some of my presentations, “Working hard on stupid things.” It’s like throwing themselves at stupid things because they don’t understand where the value lives. This whole conversation about data, insight and action is a recentering process. It’s about how do we get very focused on partnering with our customers and partnering with each other to drive extreme value.
That’s an incredible place to leave this conversation. Before you go, I have one question that I ask everybody. Whether you’re coming off of the stage, getting out of the meeting and you are getting in your car and driving away, what’s the one thing you want people to think about you when you’re not in the room?
The most important thing that I would like people to think about me when I’m not in the room is about them. It wasn’t about me at all.
That focus on customer is what’s made you successful over all these years. Dondi, thank you for being such an amazing guest. Thank you for your insights and the conversation. I have enjoyed every minute of it.
I have too. Thank you for the opportunity.
About Dondi Scumaci
Author of Designed for Success, Ready, Set…Grow, and Career Moves
Dondi Scumaci is an international speaker, author and mentoring thought leader. Her corporate career spans more than 20 years, including tenure as Vice President for two top U.S. financial institutions. In 1995, she founded an advising firm, where she currently serves as president.
Scumaci is a sought-after consultant for leadership development, professional conferences, keynote presentations and corporate mentoring strategies.
• Dondi Scumaci is a published author of three books on career development.
• She is an “in demand” international speaker and is known for her depth of subject knowledge.
• She is a Mentoring Thought Leader and guides hundreds of partnerships through a formal mentoring process annually.
• Her coaching and facilitating expertise allows her to guide international masterminding/problem-solving groups.
• She lives in San Antonio with her husband Machi. She is an avid horse lover, who’s horse, Fortunato happily rules her life after work.
Her dynamic presentations and consultations have made a proven, lasting impact on organizations across the United States, Canada, Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and Kenya.