When customer relationship management (CRM) burst onto the scene 30 years ago, the concept of “Customer 360” was born. Back then, the idea of seeing all of a customer’s data in one place was nirvana. Businesses were sold on the idea that, for example, a sales person on their way to a client meeting would know if there’d just been a major service escalation for that customer. Enlightenment was at hand.
Fast-forward to today, and most companies have a 180-degree view of the customer, at best. Although many have made efforts to weave a single view of the customer from disparate data sources such as sales, marketing, customer service and field service, many continue to come up short. While Customer 360 is within reach, it takes more technology know-how and executive buy-in than most businesses can muster.
More Than a One-Time Victory
How did we fall short? A major factor is that while many companies view Customer 360 as a one-time victory, customer data isn’t static. Because data is always changing, achieving a full and accurate view of the customer is a dynamic, ever-expanding endeavor. We recently spoke to a VP in charge of omnichannel customer experiences, which he defined as the call center and chatbot – leaving out the organization’s retail stores, website, mobile app, social media and third-party data.
Another reason is that data is still siloed at many companies. Different teams handle the call center data vs. the website data vs. the retail store and chatbot data. The primary charter of each team is to serve itself. A cross-functional leader such as a chief data officer is crucial to break down silos and ensure disparate customer data points are woven into a unified view.
Data silos also tend to create fiefdoms, in which data leaders dig virtual “moats” around their data. We see many clients raise the drawbridge rather than try to convince peers to share their data across the enterprise. The result is a gravitational pull toward the status quo. Eliminating fiefdoms starts with a companywide Customer 360 mandate from the C-suite and leadership from the top.
How to Get the Big Picture
Here are some real-world steps companies can take to move closer to the goal of a unified view of the customer:
- Start with data modernization. Most companies have started updating their technology infrastructure to handle the volume, variety and velocity of today’s data. By implementing cloud-based platforms, for example, they’re not only decreasing data storage costs but also realizing faster time to market, pumping out new products with greater frequency and using the attendant data to generate more accurate customer views. With a modern data infrastructure, organizations can also create the foundation needed to apply artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to their customer data to obtain insights needed for personalization and next-best actions.
- Focus on creating an accurate customer journey. Despite all the talk about customer journeys, many companies haven’t yet mapped out the full set of touchpoints encountered throughout customer interactions and transactions. Among those that have, it’s common for stakeholders to disagree on how customers make their way through the touchpoints of products and services. Others maintain an idealized view of the customer journey, focusing on what they’d like customers to do in a buying scenario rather than what they really are doing. It’s important to document what’s really happening – the good, the bad and the ugly – not only through the web site or call center but also as the journey winds through multiple channels.
- Explore, experiment and enact. As your organization’s Customer 360 view starts to take shape, consider the “art of the possible.” Brainstorm the revenue-generating use cases that will yield the highest ROI, such as cross-sell/upsell for certain customer segments or a hyper-personalized next-best action/offer. For example, to maintain its market position, an over-the-top (OTT) platform sought to deliver targeted promotions and advertising to its sport-loving subscribers. Our team built a digital marketing platform that lets the media company send promotions that best fit subscribers’ interests. The client has reportedly experienced a jump in conversions and a significant drop in subscribers who turned off the auto-renewal button.
- Close the data-collection gap. Many organizations still have significant gaps in capturing and tracking customer data. For example, many businesses remain unable to track online customers who are on the website but not signed in. The use of near- and real-time analytics to collect customer experience data is a rising trend, however, among companies with positive revenue growth, according to Gartner. The research and advisory organization found that 43% of product managers at growth companies use analytics to collect and analyze customer perception and sentiment data, compared with just 22% of product managers at nongrowth companies.
As we’ve seen in the COVID pandemic, customer behavior is only growing more complex and multi-faceted. To develop a 360-view of customers, businesses need to update their data infrastructure, flesh out their customer journeys and close the gaps in their data collection. By doing so, they can keep up with the changes of today and remain nimble in the face of the changes yet to come.
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