What I do in data - Richard Dixon, knowledge management director, Black Sun

Q: What did you do before Black Sun?

I was head of CRM at O2. My role was to manage the 13 million pre-pay and pay monthly customers (consumers and businesses), to reduce churn and grow revenues. During my time there we were able to merge the customer and billing data, profile and understand the customers, and use this data to create the first loyalty programme in mobile. We then used this data to drive the communications across all our touch-points, including the various call centres, the web, direct mail and text messaging.

Q: Does having a client background help you in your current role?

Definitely. I think it helps to have an understanding of how companies work: the day-to-day pressures, budgetary cuts, changes in priorities, staff changes and so on. You can also provide a good 'reality check' for some of the more creative ideas.

Q: What did you do yesterday?

In the morning I completed work on a segmentation model proposal for a client, that will hopefully help it to improve the retention rates of its customers, and increase its product cross-sales. In the afternoon I was analysing another client's data, which will help us formulate a loyalty proposition and communications strategy to retain its existing customer base.

Q: What's the biggest data-related issue for clients?

That's a tough one, but I have noticed - across almost all the companies I have encountered - that none have a full single customer view, and very few use data to drive their communications strategy.

Q: What advice do you give them?

Creating a quality database, and using it to drive your marketing activity, takes time and requires significant attention to detail, but is hugely rewarding. I would counter against 'big bang' developments, as in my experience they end up taking longer, costing more and have a higher risk of failure. Better to prioritise your needs, establish your platform, and then grow the data from different sources over time according to your priority. Start using the data as soon as you can because you will gain valuable learning and payback straight away.

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