Guest Post by Shep Hyken
Untitled-design-760x760The big data conversation in business today is hard to miss. You can’t go far without running into it. Big data, as a definition, is a collection of data that’s difficult to process due to its size and complexity. Most commonly the big data conversation is all about extracting trends from massive amounts of customer data. While the collection of data is broad, based on a large amount of information and customer feedback, these companies can filter through it to understand general customer behavior and trends.

Is Bigger Better?

Blue Goldfish co-author Evan Carroll has challenged the conventional wisdom that, “bigger, so the establishment believes, is better.” He believes that many companies embrace a different concept of big data, a trend called little data.
Little data is a collection of information on individuals or smaller groups of customers. Rather than using data to spot a trend, companies leverage the data to deliver a personalized customer experience. These little things that leverage technology, data, and analytics are what authors Stan Phelps and Evan Carroll call a Blue Goldfish. For example, the manager at a restaurant knows a specific customer’s favorite table. Or a car rental company that knows a particular customer likes a four­door, mid­size car. The data or information the company has acquired about the customer is specific and is used to enhance the individual experience.
Kimpton Hotels is a chain of luxury boutique hotels that understands the power of little data. They focus on the individual guest versus their customers en masse. Any company can make business decisions based on general feedback and trends. However, successful companies recognize customers are not numbers nor anonymous segments. Those successful companies zero in on individual customer needs, preferences, likes and dislikes and attempt to give the customer an experience that is exactly what he or she wants.
What’s the payoff? According to Retailwire, Kimpton Hotels has some of the highest satisfaction rates in their industry. They earn repeat business with the highest loyalty and emotional attachment of any hotel chain in the United States. They are successful because they know who they are as a brand and who they want as a customer. Because of big data, they know the typical guest who stays at their hotels. And, once the guest is there, they have a system that takes advantage of little data and allows employees to individualize the guest’s experience.

From Trends to Personalized Insights

Big data gives you trends to make major decisions. Little data gives you information to keep your best customers coming back. It’s that simple. The question is really about whether or not a company is willing to invest in technology and analysis to recognize customer preferences and are then willing to train employees to deliver an experience based on this information. Turning insights into actions on an individual level.
Another way of saying this: Many voices, or big data, may say the same thing and spot a trend. A few voices, or little data, may say something different and spot an opportunity. The best companies take advantage of both, doing the little things that enhance relationships, responsiveness, and readiness. They create Blue Goldfish that drive both profits and prophets.

The Challenge

Do you continue focusing on big data trends or choose to be better and focus on little data insights? You’ll soon realize that bigger isn’t better—better is better.
Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE ( is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling business author of The Amazement Revolution.
Editor’s Note: This post was adapted from Shep’s foreword to Blue Goldfish.