We live in the information age. Information is required to perform our roles in life properly. However, the flow of information has steadily grown into a tsunami of information. Many customers struggle to stay afloat in this sea of information. You should take this into account when working with customers.
Obesity is a medical condition where an excess of body fat has accumulated to that extent that it may have an adverse impact on health, leading to a reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problem [see wikipedia for more information].
Similarly, we can see an overload of information as information obesity. Little is yet known about the consequences of information obesity. However, when asked, people recognize the enormous and endless flow of information as overwhelming.
Obesity is caused by an excessive intake. With the common obesity, that is the intake of food. With information obesity, that is the intake of information.
With food, there is bad food and good food. Although both types will lead to obesity when the intake is excessive, bad food will accelerate the negative consequences. Can we similarly distinct good and bad information?
That may be difficult. There has been little research to what is good or bad information. What comes first to mind regarding bad information is outdated or incomplete information that comes from untrusted sources. Bad information likely leads to more stress than good information. But in either case, excessive intake of information is likely to have adverse consequences.
Information obesity may lead to fatigue, stress, concentration problems, ADHD and indeciveness. It may well be that a longer exposure to an excessive intake of information may lead to more serious consequences like burn-out and depression.
The ultimate consequences of information obesity is yet unknown.
Three types of information
We can distinguish three types of information:
- need to know, this is information which you need for your roles in life, being either personal or at work.
- nice to know, all information that has got your interest, such as hobbies.
- not to know, is the rest (which is by far the biggest chunk of the information pie)
The problem is in the “not to know” area. Firstly, this area is inmensly huge and beyond comprehension (and growing!). Secondly and probably more importantly, you do not know what is in this area which really is need to know information. You do not know what you do not know about what you should know. And this is frustrating and will make people uncertain and undecisive.
Information obesity impacts customer experience
Information obesity will impact customer experience negatively. Today’s customers are confused. They have so much information at their disposal that they cannot make clear decisions anymore. Customers need help. As a vendor, you need to help the customer collecting, classifying and processing the information that he has got and need to buy the right solution (product and/or service). Do not give him more information about your organization, products and sevices. The harder you push information, the more it confuses the customer and the larger the likelyhood that he will turn to a source that he trusts instead. Your strategy should be to become a trusted advisor to your customer. That implies that you have a strategy to avoid information obesity yourself.
One of the key skills for preventing information obesity is collecting, classifying and processing meta information instead of the information itself. Meta information is information about where to find information. Instead of collecting and processing all articles about -say- leadership that you stumble upon, it is far more effective to collect places (such as links, forums, BLOGs) where you can find everything about the topic leadership. This has got three great advantages:
- the amount of information you need to collect, classify, process and store is much smaller
- the information is always up to date at the time you need it, which otherwise may happen if you store indivual links to websites where websites may change
- it is easy to expand a topic in order to answer a question which you cannot think of now, you may find that when searching in the right places instead of following individual links.
In today’s information age, it is crucial to have a information strategy in place. Doing so enables you to help customers buy the right solution.