Great CX Relies on Clean, Robust Data—and Master Data Management Can Deliver It

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Let’s face it: Now more than ever, customers are in control. With an abundance of choices, channels, and regulatory compliance initiatives designed to protect personal data, consumers hold tremendous power in their ability to shape an organization as they strive to create a meaningful customer experience (CX). In fact, by 2020, CX will overtake product and price as the most important competitive differentiator, according to a recent report by customer experience consulting firm Walker Information. Achieving success in the “age of the customer” is now dictated by an organization’s ability to transform the customer experience and is now considered a top priority.

At the end of the day, CX is about understanding the customer’s perceptions and related feelings that result from interacting with an organization—at any level through any channel—and then designing and reacting to those customer interactions to exceed expectations. To meet this challenge, many companies are applying sophisticated marketing programs to better answer who, what, when, where, and why customers are engaging with their brand. In an effort to deliver meaningful content that will resonate with their audience at the right stage of their engagement, organizations are now applying data-driven marketing tactics to positively influence behavior. But, as the name suggests, “data-driven” marketing strategies are only effective when the data itself is trusted, available, and in context.

Applying Technology to Help Battle Customer Defection

The data-driven economy is fueling the importance of the customer experience and is making its presence known to organizations as demonstrated through continued investment in customer-centric initiatives and programs. Data has undoubtedly become the most valuable asset for companies, as 96 percent of CMOs think that making data-informed decisions is crucial to their company’s performance, according to an Association of National Advertisers and McKinsey & Co. survey.

The challenge with data-driven marketing is that practitioners must have the ability to leverage customer information to generate results and deliver the optimal customer experience. This is because true marketing insights and strategies can only occur when founded on the analysis of customer data. Today it’s all about processes, analysis, and technology—choosing target markets through segmentation and understanding methods of influence on the consumer behavior.

However, unmanaged data from social, mobile, and Big Data sources is creating a complex behemoth that can actually erode customer and brand loyalty as opposed to improving it. To combat this, many organizations are applying master data management (MDM) technology to optimize customer, product, partner, and location data and establish a point of reference to better understand its context. MDM enables marketers to leverage both structured and unstructured data to support their 360-degree customer view programs by eliminating duplicate, inaccurate, incomplete, and out-of-date master data. More importantly, this single version of the truth helps marketers to connect buyer personas to each unique stage of the customer journey and provide relevant content at each touchpoint/medium.

This is particularly important because according to Gartner, the ability to create, maintain, and draw on a single, trusted, shareable version of customer master data is increasingly seen by commercial and non-commercial organizations as essential to support business processes and business decision making. The firm also reiterated the challenges when it said organizations and vendors originally thought that CRM, ERP, or industry application systems would solve the problem of inconsistent master data spreading across multiple systems. However, those systems were not designed for that task, and there are often multiple CRM and ERP systems within an enterprise.

In contrast, MDM creates and governs a complete view of the customer master data from across the enterprise landscape and provides organizations with information that is maintained and used in many different business processes/systems. This data typically describes the customer (or party), the party’s relation to other parties, and their related contact information. Many MDM systems also take the role of a central authority of this data and provides governance and stewardship capabilities, so the entire organization can achieve a trusted single version of the truth that links to the identities of these records in the surrounding systems. 

Today, master data management is at the heart of a customer 360 strategy, as it provides all kinds of information about the customer so that once created it can be connected to other non-master data types, such as transaction data, interaction data, observational data, IoT data and big data. Without MDM, the overall effectiveness of campaigns and initiatives are severely impacted both from a cost and efficiency perspective as marketers are faced with a number of challenges, including:

  • Lack of understanding of the customer due to multiple versions of the truth, which prohibits marketers from delivering a one-to-one personalized experience and keeping up with the growing number of regulatory compliance mandates, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This is because data tends to be duplicated, inaccurate, incomplete, and out of date due to multiple source systems.
  • Inability to identify the customer in their entirety as customer data can be in conflict (i.e., Robert Jones vs. Bob Jones vs. Rob Jones), which prevents marketers from performing segmentation and analysis, as they are unable to truly understand the customer.
  • Misinterpretation of relationships and interactions between customers (e.g., understanding households in the context of their customers), which limits a marketer’s ability to deliver targeted multichannel campaigns at speed.

In the Trenches: How Mason Companies Is Achieving a Successful 360-Degree Customer View

Unlike other data management solutions, MDM solutions allow marketers to easily link customer records to other data domains—such as product and location information—to create memorable experiences for customers. For example, internet and direct mail catalog retailer Mason Companies is leveraging MDM to drive its customer 360 strategy by providing a central system of record for customer data (e.g., identifiers, descriptors, and groupings) to ensure a single “golden record” of consistent customer information across nine distinct Mason Companies brands.

By feeding data into the MDM solution from multiple websites, Mason Companies is providing a synchronized and holistic view of its customers, which improves customer service, enables customer segmentation for analysis in support of marketing campaigns, and delivers insight to reward customer loyalty in conjunction with the online experience. Managing both customer and product data on its MDM platform has allowed Mason Companies to further eliminate information silos that had occurred across the company and to segment intelligently, enabling it to, for example, carry out targeted marketing campaigns based on buying patterns. Lastly, it has allowed them to discover, create, and manage relationships in and across each data domain to ensure the company drives maximum value out of all its data across the enterprise—now and into the future.

We are in the age of the customer. More than ever, customers are king, so creating or optimizing a customer experience is your competitive battleground, and organizations that don’t adjust are being left behind. As marketers, we hold a tremendous role in helping disrupt our business by applying strategies that influence buyers at every stage of their customer journey. To stay ahead of the competition and achieve customer loyalty, organizations must create a comprehensive 360-degree view of the customer to truly understand their needs and meet expectations at every stage of engagement.

Jignesh Patel is director of product strategy for customer MDM at Stibo Systems.

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