Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Polls Were Wrong...The Underbelly of Big Data

Presidential Polls...All Wrong...I Was Right
Two years ago I made a two bets.  The first was that Donald Trump would be the Republican Presidential nominee.  Winning the Presidency was the second.  Each was for $40.  

As the campaign progressed the margin narrowed and with missteps on the part of the Democratic candidate, possible Hatch Act transgressions by the FBI Director and rising enthusiasm of the disenfranchised right (and Sanders misguiding the youth) and Mr. Trump won, not carrying the popular vote but winning the electoral vote which is what really counts.

It was about 10:30 PM on NOV 8th that all the talking heads and pollsters must have simultaneously watched the red light go on and thought "everything we've analyzed and said is wrong."

One aspect of Big Data is the marketing and merchandising side.  No one reads much any more, including Donald Trump, but we're addicted to smart phones, tablets, 140 character Tweets and a perpetual stream of visual and sound bites (bytes).    It's regarded as truth by many despite the fact that the major news carriers are more about advertising dollars than journalistic responsibility.

My forecast was based on no data, simply a gut feel.  As Andy Warhol  said "In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes."  It appears that I've had my fifteen minutes although it's been in two or three minute segments.

Your Online Smart-Ass Social Media Legacy & Big Data
During the Republican debates Ted Cruz had to defend the allegation that his father was a conspirator of Lee Harvey Oswald based upon a fuzzy photograph taken in Cuba.  A photograph, almost sixty years old may have played a part in Mr. Cruz's failure to be the nominee.  Minimally it's now become a topic.   Some people, having seen it in the debate or the regurgitated media/internet blasts will not certainly regard it as truth.

With the progression of the Obama Presidency it appears that American's willingness to identify themselves  with slanderous, derogatory and offensive commentary seemed to escalate.  Often I'm amused when people talk about their Facebook pages and state that they can say whatever they want on 'their Facebook page.'  Now if Facebook was a public utility or a government entity, perhaps like the library system that might be the case but it's not.  Facebook is a corporation.  When you open an account there, or on Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterest, etc., you are agreeing to the corporations end-user license agreement (EULA) which almost always says that you have given them all rights to use your postings, data, contacts, profile information, etc.

So down the road when your child applies to college or for a job the first research that will be done will be to look up their current social media profile.  As big data progresses big data will be re-packaged and sold to other companies that mine this data to provide analytics on what you might buy, where you might live, your political inclinations and your suitability for whatever.

If you repeatedly posted that President Obama was born in Kenya or some more disparaging comment your kids or your children's children might lose out because you were a birther or you were a political contributor to the wrong party or you bought a lot of odd things online or from a particular retailer.  It's possible that you, too, might have to defend yourself as Ted Cruz did.  On the other hand you have the opportunity to leave a good online legacy.

Broken Systems...Broken Truck

Broken Systems...Loss of Customer Focus/Fees...Wells Fargo...
The Wells Fargo CEO is going to forego $41,000,000 in stock options.  Under his direction employees opened false accounts for customers to meet their sales goals. They fire 1% of their employees every years.  Jack Welsh, the over-rated former CEO of GE, encouraged the replacement of 1/3 of GE's employees every year.  Some of the Wells Fargo employees fired for being 'honest' are moving for a class action suit.  I wish them well.

Recently we changed the credit card processing service for our small business.  We were working one day a month just for that cost (from Wells Fargo).  After changing credit card processors our costs dropped in half.  When I called Wells Fargo to terminate that service they asked "why did you change?"  When I said 'cost,' they followed with "did you ask for an account review to see if we could lower costs?"  

In this increasingly software-driven world it would have been simple to index or change our fees to the competition, lower it because we were a good client, or just remain competitive.  

It seems that large companies get on this income stream of regular customers.  I'm sure 90% of us don't shop prices on things we should.  

More Broken Systems...Wells Fargo/Customer Service...
Yesterday I logged on to transfer money from Wells Fargo for a 100 year old relative to pay a few of her bills.  Wells Fargo recently updated their web sites.  They're very mobile friendly now but certainly not a functional improvement.  I was unable to access the account.  After an hour on the phone with three people I could not understand they said they'd call back.  When they did I had my phone on speaker so I could talk and type at the same time.  There were some background conversations going on and the Wells Fargo person said they could not continue talking with me if I was on a speaker phone.  "You asked me to log in and stay on the phone.  How would you suggest I do that?"  "I cannot speak if you are on speakerphone."  It was at that point that I decided I am closing my relative's Wells Fargo account.  I was able to finally see the account and said "This problem only started after the new web site deployment.  Was that part of the problem?"  "Sir, if you can see the account now you may make your transaction."  "You did not answer my question!"  "Sir, if you can see the account now you may make your transaction."  Long pause.  "Sir, can Wells Fargo do anything else for you today."  Duh, not likely. Click.

Broken Systems...MetLife/Underwriting/Claims/Customer Portal/Customer Service...
Our personal insurance on cars, property, dwellings, etc., was through MetLife for more than two decades.  It's possible that our only claim history was for a couple of windshields.  A few years ago hail damaged all the roofs in our neighborhood.  As the houses around me received nice new roofs I had to take MetLife to a mediation process which cost $500...and they denied the claim even though they acknowledged hail damage on a vehicle parked ten feet from the roof.

I shopped insurance and ended up with Liberty Mutual.  The cost is at least 1/3 less, they have a fantastic online presence (MetLife was in the internet dark ages) and the employees are considerate, helpful and a pleasure, focused on what's good for me, the customer.

After a couple of decades, probably $100,000+ in premiums with MetLife and the same agent, I switched.  There was a small refund from MetLife.  No one from MetLife or the agency followed up or asked why I'd left.

A 'Broken Arrow' Opportunity...
There was a time that I was critical of companies that focused on low prices all the time.  There is an issue with their employees making a living wage but the reality is that wages are being challenged in all types of organizations.  The low-price providers might be primarily focused on profits but they do focus on customer options and services, as well.  In my lean process improvement days I used to start each Kaizen with a discussion on waste (the biggest being a loss of a customer) and the 'CEO' focus.  'C' the customer comes first.  'E' the employee comes second.  'O' the owner comes last.  In my examples today the 'O' people, like the Wells Fargo CEO, did come in last, but not last enough.  We'd also have to consider 'O' to be Wall Street, to which most public companies are beholding.

The Wells Fargo CEO appears uninformed under review.  We seem to be moving in a direction where the C-level people make big bucks and are not customer focused, workers are struggling to stay employed at a living wage and 'systems' are replacing decent customer management.