Essential Steps to Creating a Single View of Your Customer

More and more businesses are investing in the collection of customer data either through their CRM systems or via a vast array of ERP systems. Where these sound investments often fall down is when organizations fail to connect the information they collate into a single master record. A single view of a customer will allow companies to upsell and cross-sell more effectively, thus realizing a greater return on their investment.

A single view of a customer will not only produce a valuable ROI due to improved sales, but it will also sharpen customer service capabilities and marketing performance monitoring. A customer service team that is up to date on customer activity can proactively resolve issues and propose solutions, while the marketing department can track and evaluate campaign performance to become an even more valuable part of the business.

If reaching the point of having a single view of a customer seems too huge a task to imagine, never fear. The following steps will edge you nearer to that single-view nirvana:

1. Know where your customer data is. Track down your data sources. Most businesses have huge budgets for working out how to collect customer information, yet very few have actually used this bounty of information to achieve ROI. Don't make this mistake. If not all of your valuable customer data is in the system your business team accesses, and the biggest way of building revenue in your business is sales, alarm bells should ring.

2. Know what aspects of each data source will make up your master record. Knowing where your most complete and up-to-date data resides is half the battle. However, this data is often not just in one place. For example, your ERP system may be your master record for financial data, but is likely to contain very little on the everyday customer relationship. Your CRM system, on the other hand, might be your solution for everyday contact data, so it's safe to say email addresses and phone numbers from CRM are your master record. Finally, you may have an application tracking products or manufacturing IDs, so it's safe to say that this would be your master system for that information.

3. Choose the right platform. Half the battle of getting a single view of your customer will be achieved by making sure you choose the right platform to share it in. Whatever you select as your final platform, you need to consider user visibility and access and ensure that it's a system users are already accustomed to working with.

4. Synchronize data with your systems. When you choose a system, it's essential to look for a solution that is easy to configure and can adapt to changes in your data governance. Look for a solution that can be configured to synchronize updates rather than just running a scheduled dump.

5. Make sure John Smith, Jon Smith, and Jonathan Smith are under one record. One of the biggest pitfalls of any customer-centric project is duplication. Variations in names and contact details can result in duplicates slipping through routine checks. An initial profiling of sample data can help you work out patterns in duplicates.

6. Be reactive AND preventative. Data quality is an issue that businesses do not tend to tackle until it's already a problem. They fail to put best practices in place before dirty data and duplication have rendered their database useless. Look for a solution that gives you the flexibility to match your needs and which can be easily embedded into your chosen platform.

7. Make sure data is up to date and complete. In a survey by Aberdeen Group Research, it was found that "across all industries, the average amount of master data that was reported as complete is seventy-three percent." This means more than a quarter of all existing master data is incomplete or out of date. The key point here is to ensure that you've plugged as many data gaps as possible. Use a solution that can update old data and insert new information when needed, or a solution that can match your existing records with purchased lists.

8. Build a culture of ownership. Simply put, the easiest way to achieve this is for your salespeople to own their accounts and ensure they keep customer records up to date.

9. Standardize your data for better reporting. If your reports rely on a number of free text fields that have not been standardized, you may encounter issues when running a report on sales performance. By standardizing your data, you will be able to see what may have slipped through the cracks in previous reports.

10. Assign the role of data steward. Preferably, this would be someone who works regularly with the sales teams and uses the data for reporting. His or her close relationship with your sales team and their unique skill sets enables this person, along with the tool you've chosen, to act as the perfect data steward.

11. Don't use a quick fix. A one-off cleanse and de-dupe may solve your immediate problem, but it doesn't tackle the issue from the source. If the problem lies with poor data governance, ineffective use of your applications, or lack of ownership of the data, the quick fix will be a complete waste of time.

There's no doubt that a single view of a customer will add real and tangible value to a business. In the end, it is all about tweaking and testing systems that will make business better by helping get more out of customer data than one's competitors are able to do.

Dina Elsokari is a marketing manager for Informatica Cloud for the Cloud MDM solution. Previously, she worked as an account manager for Data Scout, launching the product to the EMEA market, where she also resold the Informatica Cloud Integration product. She has worked in the data management software space for more than five years.

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