by Chris Martins, Product Marketing Manager, Trillium Software
The concept of a single or unified customer view has long been expressed as a key motivation for investing in CRM, both in terms of an overall CRM strategy as well as its supporting systems. Given the complexity of modern IT architectures and the different repositories of customer data throughout the typical enterprise, the idea of unifying them within a single view of the customer can be quite appealing. And, in fact, the concept of a single customer view is a key go-to-market strategy and messaging component for Trillium’s marketing of its CRM data quality initiatives. When you want to understand your customers (in terms of who they are and how they act), you’ll generally find the data that can inform that understanding is strewn throughout a variety of systems. Trillium’s data quality offerings can help normalize those different data sets and help organizations gain a unified view.
But for some organizations, it may not be looking at the issue with the right perspective. Most interpretations of a “single customer view” mean a single view of the customer for the business. That’s fine, but it’s an “inward-looking-outward” perspective, reflecting the point-of-view of the business and is focused on such business goals as improved marketing responses, better sales velocity and conversions, and reduced churn. But in the era of modern, digital business, where a lot of data about customers lies outside the domain of the enterprise (in second and third party data sources, social media, etc.), though CRM may strive for a single view, getting a comprehensive, fully-realized one is something totally different. CRM alone often cannot do that.
Perhaps businesses need to switch their perspective. What’s emerged in recent years are initiatives focusing on enhancing the “customer experience” with the business. In the context of CRM, it suggests that a business’ focus should be less on a single view of the customer for the business, and more on a single view of the business for the customer. What’s that mean?
It means that modern businesses are complex organisms comprised lots of moving parts, with many of those parts executing operations that involve matters of interest to customers. The classic applications that comprise CRM (marketing, sales, service and support) may be just a small part. There are many back office operational and administrative applications that are involved in customer-significant processes (claims processing for insurance, provisioning for telco, inventory “availability to promise” for manufacturers, shipping and logistics for retail/e-commerce - all are examples.) As we continuously evolve into a services-oriented economy, these operational applications become as much the face of the business as to the classic sales and customer services applications. This is increasingly the case as organizations seek self-service models that eliminate headcount and expect customers to fend for themselves.
Depending on their origins, design, and age, many of these operational applications were not designed in ways that easily expose what they are doing to the customer in a natural way. They often assume that they would be used by internal users who could learn their intricacies. They have arcane, non-intuitive interfaces and incompatible [with other application] data structures. But customers don’t care about the details of how things happen behind the veil of the corporation. They want to deal with the business as an entity, a single entity.
Given that, reconciling disparate origins of data and presenting a unified view of the business to customers just might be as important, if not more so, then getting a unified view of the customer. This is something that data warehouses and master data management cannot really address.
But if you’re looking to deliver a “unified view” that matters to your customers, perhaps that’s where the focus should be.