Break down barriers to create a single source of customer intelligence

The executives' challenge is creating a single view of customer engagement

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When companies fail to meet customer expectations — which happens all too often — insufficient access to customer data is usually to blame.

Only 13 percent of 680 executives who responded to a recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey had a single source of customer intelligence capable of integrating everything—such as social data, support calls, and sales and service partners involved—into a single view. But don’t take that low number to mean lack of interest in a single source solution—58 percent of respondents were either actively developing a solution to the problem (30 percent) or evaluating an alternative (28 percent). Many of these executives believe that creating a single view of customer engagement is one of the biggest challenges they face, and they’re turning to IT and outside experts for help.

New tools, new challenges

The challenge to creating a single source solution isn’t the data itself; it’s where the data lives and how it’s processed. From mobile devices to legacy databases, and web storefronts, there’s no shortage of integration challenges. Finding the talent to create digitized connections can be difficult when new products bloom daily.

“The proliferation of new technologies means that it’s becoming harder and harder to access expertise in these platforms, and there is often significant competition in the market for staff and even vendor resources to assist,” the chief customer officer of a major institutional investment and benefits provider said. “Forming partnerships with vendors and consultants has been our initial strategy to deal with the skills shortage, with a strategy to grow more internal talent over time.”

His view is more common than you might think. As the digital skills gap continues to widen, it has become a key problem for executives that want to enable a single view of the customer.

Start by consolidating data

Customer experience leaders are breaking through barriers by leveraging two important strategies. First, they’re using newer databases that serve as “data warehouses,” combining and commingling both structured (i.e., numbers) and unstructured (i.e., text, images) information. This allows a smorgasbord of customer experience data that had been siloed in different systems to live in one place.

Several different silos of information are seen as critical to integrate into the single view. CRM systems, customer satisfaction surveys, social media tools, feedback from sales and retail staff, email or SMS, and transactions data are all crucial sources of customer experience data that must be aligned to create a single view.

“Before [we integrated customer data], it was difficult to even realize the smallest changes to the customer experience. Now it’s much easier and faster to do,” says a customer experience leader with a global financial services company.

Analyze the data

Consolidating customer data in a centralized warehouse provides a much-needed starting point for understanding the various stages of the customer journey. But for maximum impact, customer experience leaders are turning to analysis tools to dig deeper and search data for context, connections, and ultimately, the meaning behind the choices customers make when interacting with companies.

Which analysis tools are companies using? While the tools may vary, the broad consensus is that a dashboard system capable of receiving and processing a wide variety of inputs and expressing gathered insights visually is essential. Some leaders are already executing this with CRM delivered as a service coupled with marketing automation software and built-in analytics. “Figuring out how to best stitch together expanding sources of customer data is itself becoming a competitive advantage,” the CCO of an institutional investment and benefits company said.

Transforming your company to deliver superior customer experiences takes time, experience, and insight to yield the greatest long-term benefit. While there are many steps involved in delivering a better customer experience, it all starts with creating a system that ensures every employee across every function has a single source of truth to guide the development of the customer journey.

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