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Unstructured Data

With increasing level of competition amongst banks to retain and gain new customers, the financial industry needs to find new ways of ensuring it understand its customers. Gaining insight from incomplete data may be dangerous and lead to the wrong business decisions; it is far better if your insights are based on complete and accurate knowledge.  With this completeness of accurate data in mind, Simon Smith, CEO at Granger Smith Consulting, explains how bringing together structured and unstructured data could provide that all important ‘edge’ over the competition.

Unstructured Data

Unstructured Data

With EU Legislation in place banks and financial institutions are already stringently analysing their existing data to ensure it is accurate, complete and appropriate. There is a wealth of unstructured data available which complements existing data and when combined together, can add context behind the analysis.

BI systems have traditionally focused upon structured data, for example, internal systems which could comprise of Excel spreadsheets and internal data bases. By relying purely on a quantitative technique it could be argued that a business is lacking that ever so important voice. In the same respect qualitative results alone could lack that all important statistical resilience.

However, it is possible to bring in data from other sources. There is semi- structured data, in essence this is data which is structured to a degree but not designed for the purpose required. For example, you may receive data from a third party where it is formatted the way they wanted or needed it. Whilst this may be useful to you, it may need some degree of modification in order to make it usable, a good illustration of semi-structured data would be email and XML.

The last source of data which needs to be explored is unstructured data, the best illustration of this is social media and this is where being able to harness this data and combine it with structured data can really help triangulate data into a complete picture. Others forms could include scanned text, webpages and PDF extracts.

Twitter, Facebook, rolling news sites and other forms of unstructured data can all help financial institutions gain an understanding of  their customers. With Social Media, the greatest benefit is the instant feedback the enterprise receives, but this is only of use if it is responded to. Think of the news lately where people complain about companies and their products or services on Twitter are getting responses from the companies in question within hours or even minutes. Gone are the days of lengthy telephone calls to a bank and waiting days if not weeks for a response. We live in an age of digital society and customers expect to have answers within hours and complaints are no longer reserved for national papers or kept within the privacy between the individual and the bank. It is out there for everyone to see and so is the response.

Simon Smith

Simon Smith

With the pace at which social media expands and changes, trying to keep up with what is being said about your company and how these comments are affecting your business can be a time consuming and often fruitless task. By the time you have filtered out the noise and found what you are looking for, things have changed, customers have moved on and the news you are searching for is out of date and in some cases irrelevant.

The illustration above demonstrates how simple it is to integrate structured and unstructured parts of the data and you will see the outcome is a potential increase in sales. There are several other benefits which will happen as a result, such as increased brand awareness, word of mouth publicity – one of the highest forms of recommendation – and an increased perception of your company’s goodwill. Actions which show that an enterprise is doing more, or is perceived to be doing more, than its competitors is of utmost importance, particularly given the current difficult economic climate and fierce competition over customers.
In order to bring together this data you need a system which is more specific than search and broader than feeds. Our partner Squirro, a leading context intelligence product and search technology, has the ability to scan multiple sources from the internet channels and social media, databases and internal systems to find the most relevant information on your topic of interest and update it continually. The unstructured data is then fed back into the internal system and provides a contextualised picture of the data and understand the patterns and trends currently going on in the financial sector.

An example of this is the recent launch of the UK Current Account Switch Service, making it simpler and easier to change banks, there is now even more emphasis placed on providing a high level of customer service. It was reported by The Independent Commission on Banking stated that in the UK, the average customer only changes their current accounts once every 26 years. With switching becoming quicker, the days of the passive consumer are numbered and banks need to be able to monitor and track their customer’s opinions in order to keep competitive whilst attracting and retaining their clients.

Bringing together structured and unstructured data is becoming a key tool to identifying trends, within the finance sector. It can help establish what customers want from their bank, do they want a more usable online experience? Do they want to know about ethical responsibility or are they after clear transparency of their charges?”

With this in mind, the banks and other financial institutions, need to look at their future customers, we have an upcoming generation who are growing up as a mobile phone, social media savvy generation. These are the future customers and they will expect their conversations and transactions with the bank to be mobile and social. Being able to instantly bring together structured and unstructured data is a powerful tool and one which this industry could benefit from.

The author, Simon Smith, founded Granger Smith Consulting, a global business intelligence consultancy firm, in 2009. He has developed and directed international Business Intelligence projects in a range of sectors including financial services, retail and manufacturing. Simon is an acknowledged specialist in Data management, Data Governance, Business Intelligence Strategy and has managed the successful implementation of global projects and business initiatives.

Granger Smith Consulting partners with clients from financial services, public and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities and address their most critical challenges to transform their enterprises.

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