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Dashboards for Customer-Facing BI
User-friendly visuals provide customers with a way to manage all their data.
Posted May 8, 2008
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The key objective for every CRM system is to view a holistic profile of each customer -- one that provides information to manifest positive customer relationships. Specifically, with the ability to collect customer information from many different divisions of a business, CRM systems allow employees throughout various units to access complete customer data and therefore serve these customers more effectively. However, providing this complete data can often result in information overload. Dashboard technology offers a cost-effective solution to this problem, presenting this information in a visually rich and easily understandable view, which in turn allows users to manage and use the data quickly and effectively.

The use case for dashboard technology for CRM doesn't stop there. Adding even more value to this array of customer data, many forward-thinking companies use dashboards to take CRM one step further -- extending beyond the internal use of dashboards to customer-facing systems and services. These companies provide customers with a secure login to access their personal information; using dashboard technology, these customers can create reports; view real-time, personalized dashboard presentations; run analytics; and set up exception alerting. This "customer-facing" business intelligence (BI) allows companies to leverage the information they already collect for internal purposes and quickly and easily present it to customers, ultimately enhancing the customer experience.

For example, a credit-card company collects data across various expense categories and over different time periods. The company can provide its customers with this information, but the information's of little use to them without a dashboard. This abundance of data is overwhelming and complex to understand; user-friendly dashboards provide customers with a tool to manage all of the data. With a secure login, a customer can access personal data; create reports, view real-time transaction graphs, or run analytics -- all of which reveal different aspects of the customer's transactions. Through using these functionalities, customers can understand their data quickly and easily, and answer questions such as "Where am I spending the most money? Which months am I spending the most money?"

Additionally, dashboard technology provides customers with the ability to create real-time alerts through business-activity monitoring capabilities. More specifically, a customer can determine certain metrics that he does not want to or cannot exceed. When the data nears that metric, an alert will be sent either via phone or the Internet. For example, if a customer has a $5,000 credit limit and has set up alerts to be sent when charges reach $4,000, an alert is sent as the balance nears that level. In this way, forward-thinking credit-card companies (those that currently offer this customer-facing BI) provide their customers with a quick and easy way to view their information, as well as the capability to monitor their transactions through alerts.

Another use of this customer-facing BI pertains to companies that provide results-driven services to their clients. With dashboard technology, these companies can showcase the results of their services and offer complete visibility to their clients. For example, a public-relations agency, which tracks industry awareness of its clients as one of its metrics of success, can use dashboards to show clients the coverage they've earned. Furthermore, clients can drill-down into that information and determine the specific nature of the coverage, such as the tone (positive, negative, neutral) and the type (feature, mention, etc.). As a result, clients of these companies can quickly and easily understand the impact of their marketing and public-awareness campaigns.

As customer-centric philosophies of companies are gaining more prominence, dashboard technology will be imperative for high customer retention and satisfaction. Companies that are currently using dashboard technology in this way are differentiating themselves from competitors, as customers are attracted by the ability to understand important data quickly and easily.


About the Author
Shadan Malik is the president and CEO of iDashboards, a Troy, Mich.-based company providing business intelligence (BI) dashboard software. As an expert in the field of enterprise dashboards for BI, Malik authored the first book on dashboard best practices, Enterprise Dashboards: Design and Best Practices (Wiley, 2005).


Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

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