What Kind of Support Do You Need From Your Data Provider?

Finding a happy medium between software and service

There is a persistent dilemma in the data industry between data buyers and providers. Namely, what is the right amount of service to accompany data and identity solutions? How much is too much?

Data and identity providers are starkly polarized in this regard, and marketers are left with two imperfect options. On the one hand, you have super savvy SaaS companies who don’t answer your calls or resolve your problems, or on the other hand you have old data companies who answer your calls but aren’t savvy enough to proactively help. Marketers need the happy medium between savvy technology and proactive, hands-on human support, not the polar extremes they must choose from today.

The two extremes

SaaS focused data and identity companies can’t provide the needed service even if they wanted to because they don’t know how. They have smart, talented software engineers—not data experts or marketing experts. Unsurprisingly, these companies are often inherently allergic to providing costly human-based service, preferring instead to let the software perform that role. The result? Innovative software that doesn’t do what the salesperson promised it would.

This has been the experience of many marketers following the adoption of a CDP tool. The economic realities of these SaaS companies is understandable, but from the clients and agency’s standpoint, the underlying need to get value from the data is unmet.

On the other hand, there are the legacy data providers who have optimized for their own legacy economics. The data is most profitable when it can be dumped in a client’s lap with no advice on how to use it, manipulate it, manage it or measure its impact.

The result of this is a service model that finds the client calling the provider with specific asks instead of the provider proactively advising the client. Getting the support you need, and extending your data solution to where it’s most needed, often involves astronomical incremental cost. Just as with the SaaS data companies, the client’s need is often unaddressed and the value of the data provided is called into question.

Both of these extremes miss the mark. Clients need a level of service that represents a middle ground between the extremes. They need providers who know how data works in their business, who hear without being told, who see without being shown and who know without being asked.

Clients need a partner that can help them see through the successful application of the data, without hand-wringing over incremental service costs. In short, clients need more than just the data but less than the overwrought service models of the analog past.

Finding the middle ground

It’s time for clients and agencies to demand a new ideal from data providers at both extremes. The conditions for this new service ideal are ripening as the economy cools and leaves less appetite for spending on data and related technology. The software and the data are not the problem—it’s the lack of a service model that’s based on knowledge, proactiveness, persistence and relentlessness in the pursuit of the client’s objectives.

In data-driven marketing and advertising, we must add to this an underlying knowledge of how data works in the client’s business process. The path to this ideal is difficult if not impossible for entrenched players. The needed change will be stymied by the economic realities of the current business model extremes. So, a new model is required. I predict that model will emerge and become the new standard in 2020 and beyond.

The impetus for the change—for the forging of a new service ideal around data—will come from the brands themselves. No longer can these companies be content with either having to make data work all on their own or incurring outsized fees from companies that apply human rigor to making it work for them. There’s no reason that today’s brands shouldn’t demand the best of both worlds. It’s in this middle ground that all players will win.

As CEO, Rick Erwin drives the strategy, growth and profitability for ALC’s industry-leading data and identity products and services. With over two decades in the data-driven marketing industry, Rick is a leading voice in the field of omnichannel marketing and an outspoken advocate for the value of data in the global economy.