friendly discussion in a conference room

Data Talks, Episode 15: Getting the Most from Your Data Partner

Open and honest sharing is key

Host: George L'Heureux, Principal Consultant, Data Strategy
Guest: Cecilia Petit, Principal Consultant, Data Strategy

Every customer of a business has a different experience and a different story to tell. This applies whether we’re talking about our favorite coffee shops or our data providers. But why?

Often it comes down to how much you’re willing to share with the business. If you just order a coffee and don’t tell your barrister that you prefer a dark roast, you’re likely to be disappointed in your purchase. Similarly, if you hold back on sharing your specific needs with your data provider, you’re likely not going to receive all of the value that your provider is capable of delivering.

Cecilia Petit knows this first hand. Now a Principal Consultant, Data Strategy, at Dun & Bradstreet, like many of the experts on our Data Advisory Team, Cecilia was once a Dun & Bradstreet customer. It wasn’t until after she joined Dun & Bradstreet that she realized how much she had missed out. She could have received even more value from her partnership.

In this candid Data Talks episode, Cecilia shares the behaviors that prevent customers from achieving maximum value and what they can do to improve the relationship with their data providers.

 

Read full transcript

George L’Heureux:
Hello everyone. This is Data Talks presented by Dun & Bradstreet. I'm your host, George L'Heureux. I'm a principal consultant for data strategy in the advisory services team here at D&B. In advisory services, our team is dedicated to helping our clients maximize the value of their relationship with Dun & Bradstreet, through expert advice and consultation. And on Data Talks, I chat every episode with one of the expert advisors at Dun & Bradstreet about a topic that can help consumers of our data and services to get more value. Today's guest expert is Cecilia Petit. Cecilia, like me, is a principal consultant for data strategy. Cecilia, how long have you been with Dun & Bradstreet?

Cecilia Petit:
Hi, George. It's coming up on six years, actually two weeks from now. Pretty unbelievable. Wow.

George L’Heureux:
Tell me a little bit about how you view this role that we share.

Cecilia Petit:
Yeah, so, I think of it as DAS first. So as you said, in your introduction in data advisory, we help our clients get value from their investment in D&B data and tools. And as principal consultants, we get to really amplify that mission by helping spotlight the team's expertise through thought leadership pieces and bring some of our own experience to help clients solve for their use cases in direct engagements.

George L’Heureux:
I think one of the really interesting things I've learned about our team is that we've got folks who have been here for decades. They've got decades of experience at Dun & Bradstreet, but we've also got team members who once were customers for a long time, and that includes you. I've found that it really provides an interesting perspective on how this partner relationship works best. I had hoped we could maybe explore that a little bit. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience when you were a customer of Dun & Bradstreet?

Cecilia Petit:
Yeah, right. Yeah. So much tenure on the team. So for context, when I was a customer, I was leading a marketing analytics team. So we had analysts, modelers, developers, well, one developer and the D&B data was a key ingredient to demand propensity models that fed everything from ROI estimates on large capital investments, to territory planning, to prioritizing leads. So my experience, this is going to be the most boring answer ever, but it was great. Everybody was really good to work with. The relationship manager was efficient. The market inside consultant, shout out to Nancy Hemperly, always took our call. She was always helpful, knowledgeable. So, really not much of a story here because it's not until I joined that I started to realize from talking with other former customers and working with my own clients every day, that I could have gotten a lot more from the relationship with D&B.

George L’Heureux:
Why do you say that? What do you think it was that was maybe keeping you from getting as much as you could have from your relationship with Dun & Bradstreet?

Cecilia Petit:
So there were a couple factors, but what I've seen is that, in talking with some of our colleagues, that they got a lot more attention. They got workshops, they got one-on-one help on their use cases. And I didn't see that type of help. I was only seeing the data specific or the tool specific help. So now I'm seeing that there's a lot more.

George L’Heureux:
Why do you think there was that difference between what you were seeing and you see now that was really available to a lot of our customers?

Cecilia Petit:
I think a lot of it has to do with how much information I shared or didn't share. A lot of our customers, I see this, the ones who give us more information, ask more questions, they get more information back and they get better at leveraging the products. So it's kind of a case of the squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? And I remember the first time I asked the customer "So what are you trying to do with this?" And I wasn't planning on asking that question because if I had, I probably would've censored it because I don't think I would've answered it when I was a customer, but I was just trying to get my mind in the right space so that I could solve the right problem. So I thought they weren't going to answer, because like I said, I wouldn't have, but then the craziest thing happened: they actually answered. And I think because they got it, they got what I didn't get, that the more I understand, the more relevant the advice that I can give them.

George L’Heureux:
It's really interesting. So now having had that experience inside the company, do you look back and think, well, if I had shared more, when I was a customer, I would've had an even better experience than the one that I already had that I thought was really good.

Cecilia Petit:
We will never know. Right? But yeah. I mean, it, it stands to reason. So we, most likely we could have gotten more information, more guidance, more best practices. Yeah.

George L’Heureux:
It's interesting. Now that you're on the other side and you're asking these questions, do you find that there's a mix of customers, so who are eager and willing to share about their use cases or what their goals are and others who might have been more like what you expected yourself would've been, who are more reticent or slow to share that type of information.

Cecilia Petit:
Yeah. You know, it's funny, I hadn't really thought about that until you just asked this particular question, but maybe it's, some of it might be cultural, right? Some functions tend to be a little bit more open and engaging and some functions are paid to be careful, right? Finance people are paid to be careful. And I think about my own kind of corporate upbringing and R&D, we were taught not to share any of the fun, new stuff we're working on until the patent application’s filed. So it's just kind of ingrained in us not to share with people outside. So that's probably, that was one of my biases. And if I think about it, there's probably a pattern there that there might be functions are that are more likely to share, and functions that are less likely to share. Now I'll have to go back and take some data.

George L’Heureux:
Well, we'll talk about that. Maybe in a follow up, if I can convince you to come back on this show sometime. When you think about what customers could share with us, you kind of mentioned use cases. Is that, do you think that that's the most important thing that our customers could share with us, really, in order to maximize optimize their relationship with Dun & Bradstreet?

Cecilia Petit:
Definitely. I thought you might ask me what the biggest thing was, and that would be the easiest, quickest, most obvious answer for me, because even if all we're doing is orienting the customer around, say a data layout, right? The most basic thing we could do. If we know what they care about, then we can point to a group of data elements that might be particularly helpful, or an indicator that's relevant. And not that we'd ever do this, but sometimes data element names, aren't quite what they sound like. So if you didn't know it exists and what it's called, you wouldn't necessarily find it.

George L’Heureux:
Let's talk a little bit about maybe examples now that you're on the inside, that you've seen. We know the value of sharing use cases with the advisors on our team. Can you maybe look back at your career the last six years and think about a time when there's been a customer who hasn't done that? What's that experience been like it? How has it shaped the way that you've been able to help them or interact with them?

Cecilia Petit:
So obviously when they're not sharing, it's hard to really make progress, but I just had one, a couple weeks ago where they did share. And I thought that the way that that conversation shifted due to that sharing was interesting. And it just, it made it easy when it could have been, I could have given the wrong, not the wrong answer, but at least the wrong direction, the wrong advice. So this was a bank who was using our UCC data. So they came and said, "Hey, your UCC file is missing some data." So UCC is Uniform Commercial Code. And it's basically court records that show assets that are used as collateral for loans. So there's information about the borrower, the lender and the collateral itself. So it turns out that what this customers thought was missing was the secured party D-U-N-S. So that's the D-U-N-S number of the lender.

Cecilia Petit:
And most of our customers in that space use that data for underwriting models. So they're trying to understand if somebody's overextended or if there's already a lien on a particular asset. But, I also knew that some of them use it for marketing. So it's maybe a little bit counterintuitive, but once you hear it's kind of obvious, so they might be cross-selling an offer for refinancing a loan. So if they have a current customer that has a loan with another lender, they could offer to refinance that loan. There are also banks who go after their competitors. If the competitors are closing branches, or if they had some reputational damage lately, or if they just went through an M and A, so they target the specific banks. So that's why they need the secured party D-U-N-S number. And it turns out that in this scenario, that's what they were doing.

Cecilia Petit:
This was a competitive campaign. So they needed the secure party D-U-N-S so that they could group all the lenders together, so that they could tailor the messaging. So the problem with these missing D-U-N-S, or the reason that there were some missing D-U-N-S, is that when the risk, the primary use cases for risk, like it's traditional for this particular data set, we had to be very careful and we are very cautious with the kind of matches that we accept. But now that we know that it was marketing, there's no credit risk, almost no reputational risk and very little spend risk, even. So we could really safely accept lower confidence matches. So we reran the matches, got 50% more secured party D-U-N-S, which means that they now got 50% more leads. And we couldn't have done any of that if we didn't know their use case.

George L’Heureux:
You can really see the difference that it could make when you know the use case versus not having had it shared with you. So I guess I'll ask you, you kind of alluded to this, that it might be cultural, it might just kind of have been the business world in which you came up, but can you think back and are you able to articulate, what are the reasons that you, as a customer of Dun & Bradstreet, might not have shared your use cases all the time?

Cecilia Petit:
Yeah, I think the most conscious reason was kind of a practical one, and this is going to sound really blunt, but I was afraid that if the rep knew that we were making decisions on $40 million capital investments, she'd raise our prices. So at the time, I kind of only saw downside to divulging that information.

George L’Heureux:
I think that there are probably a lot of folks out there, data professionals, who can relate to that concern. I mean, I'll say in my time here at Dun & Bradstreet, that's not what I observed. I see our team and the teams that we work with, that they're really focused on trying to find the right solution that'll address the client needs, like what you were talking about a moment ago with finding the right way to use those UCC records. Not just trying to find ways to kind of boost the price up.

Cecilia Petit:
Right. Yeah. And I agree with you. I think in, in six years, I've never heard of sales teams just talk about raising prices. Just like you said, they try to find new ways to bring value to their clients. That's really how they think about it. So they think about new data assets that could help, maybe updated tools or services and support. So they're really looking to understand the real problems. And then they get all of us together to try to come up with solutions.

George L’Heureux:
So your concern was around price. What are some other reasons that you've seen customers, now that you're on the inside, shy away from sharing more information with us, giving us those use cases, giving us that additional background information?

Cecilia Petit:
So there's some sampling bias here, right? Generally we don't get to talk to the ones who are not asking questions but sometimes you can tell, right. You can hear it by the time they actually ask the question, they've been hitting their head against the wall and finally just kind of gave up and said, all right, I'm going to, I'm just going to see if D&B can help. Sometimes they flat out tell us. I had a customer tell me, so a few months back, that they were on their third attempt to build an MDM. So maybe they just didn't think to ask us during the first two. I think that's another scenario. They just don't think about it. But even on smaller things, if the data doesn't look right, I wonder how many times customers just feel bad asking. It looks like something's not right. You're not being mean by bringing it up. I mean, unless you're being mean about it, you're not being mean, but remember we can't fix it if we don't know that there's a problem. So don't shy away.

George L’Heureux:
I guess part of the problem might be, like you said, it's some selection bias. We, we don't know all the time when our customers aren't sharing everything that they could with us, for whatever reasons. Probably the flip side is true as well. Customers might not realize that they're missing out on potential value by not sharing that with us.

Cecilia Petit:
Yeah, exactly. I think that was, that was definitely part of what I was facing. I only saw downside. Nobody said, "Hey, if you do share, here's what we could bring to you."

George L’Heureux:
One of the other things that you and I have talked about is, we've worked in this role for a while, is making sure that the right people are in the room, that these data efforts are much more than just an IT effort or something that your DDAs are going to do. You need stakeholders in the room in order to understand and apply that framework of what the company's goals are. Have you seen a shift at all in how willing our customers are to have enough people in the room to really kind of help us understand what's going on, on their side?

Cecilia Petit:
I think we're getting better at making that case because we have some of these stories and, and we're building up that experience, but you know what, the other thing we're starting to see, especially in the MDM world, is that sometimes our primary contacts, the reason they're not sharing is not because they don't want to, it's because they might not have that insight. They might not have access to their internal clients. And so sometimes actually, what I've seen happen is that our account teams, because they're so well connected, they work with almost everybody in their organizations, right? They they'll work with the sales teams, marketing, finance, compliance, you name it right. There are so many use cases, we support that sometimes they can help bridge some of those connections or break down those silos. So that's, I think that's another way that we can be helpful. Actually had the first rep that I ever worked with at D&B, she said, we had this big meeting with a customer, it was on site. And when we walked out, she said, "Yes, I'm their best employee because I help connect everybody." I thought that was funny.

George L’Heureux:
I think it just goes to show that in this industry, as in life, there's a certain hesitancy to being willing to say, "Hey, I need some help here." But there's real value in sometimes being able to do that.

Cecilia Petit:
It takes some maturity to say, "Hey, I need help." And to be fair, we really can't expect our customers to know all 8,000, but I can't keep track anymore, data elements. It's just not realistic. And that's why we're here.

George L’Heureux:
So as we wrap up, what do you think the bottom line is here? People who are watching this or are listening to this, what's the message that you would like them to walk away from this conversation?

Cecilia Petit:
Hopefully they see that we want to be a partner. We want you to trust us with the challenges that you're facing, and know that we'll do our best to help. So don't be afraid to ask questions. We want to help, it's not just good business. We know that we're only successful if our clients are successful, but also we enjoy the challenge, I think. Right? I think you do. I definitely do. And I think there's also some satisfaction that comes from knowing that we're helping

George L’Heureux:
Well Cecilia, I really appreciate you taking some time and being willing to go in the way back machine and revisit your time as a customer to share it with everyone on this episode today.

Cecilia Petit:
Well, thanks for having me, George.

George L’Heureux:
We'll see about that. Our guest expert today has been Cecilia Petit, a principal consultant for data strategy at Dun & Bradstreet and this has been Data Talks. I hope you've enjoyed today's episode and if you have, I encourage you to share it with a friend or a colleague. Let them know about the show. If you'd like more information about some of the things that we talked about on today's episode, visit www.dnb.com or talk to your company's Dun & Bradstreet specialist today. I'm George L'Heureux. Thanks for joining us, until next time.