young woman looking through a telescope
A single view of the customer isn't possible if you limit your data sources only to one line of business PHOTO: Nine Köpfer

A single customer view (SCV) is a marketing best practice that’s key for differentiated customer engagement.

With a single customer view, marketers can send relevant messages, respond rapidly and appropriately and gain the kind of ongoing customer loyalty that drives revenue growth.

We need more insights about our customers, faster, to support customer experience initiatives and to map the winding journeys our customers make. But an SCV is also a moving target: In an era of data and channel proliferation, a true SCV needs a more comprehensive data strategy than we’re used to.

An End-to-End Data Strategy

Eighty-one percent of marketers struggle to create a single view of customers, according to a 2016 survey by Experian. Adding to that struggle is a false sense of security among some marketers, whose application-centric approach to an SCV is painfully out of date.

Traditional marketing systems are designed to use an SCV, not to manage and reconcile all the data which are essential to building a true SCV. For many, 40 percent, according to CMO Council research conducted earlier this year, “customer data means a lot of spreadsheets being sent around.” 

Spreadsheets!

It’s time we stop thinking about SCV in terms of a single app, multiple spreadsheets or by functional area and instead develop an end-to-end customer data strategy that delivers trusted, governed and authoritative data. 

The best data strategy should comprehensively cover every customer touchpoint, line of business and functional area — and can assimilate new ones as they arise. Employing an up to date SCV in any marketing decision ensures the likelihood your voice and your message will be heard.

Giving Digital Data Its Due

Improving your understanding of your customers’ digital lives means extending your reach beyond marketing application data.

While marketing applications deliver a trustworthy source of contact and response information, which is essential to customer insights, the amount of value you can get from it will be limited unless it is supplemented by your customers’ digital habits.

  • Which social media does this customer use? For which interactions?
  • How did this customer last interact with your brand? And what was the content of that interaction?
  • Does this customer prefer to shop from his or her mobile device and approach customer service through chat or the call center?
  • Which of our products does this customer already own? Are returns done online?

These are just a few of the questions you need to answer to create a seamless and consistent customer experience. This is especially true of younger consumers who interact incessantly with digital channels. Last year’s overnight phenomenon of Pokémon Go remains a great reminder to marketers that if you want to capture the rapidly changing attention of today’s consumers, you’ll need detailed digital profiles to support dynamic new strategies.

a single customer view is comprised of many different data sources
A SCV brings in information from multiple sources. As such it must be dynamic enough to integrate information from new channels as they're introduced

The Big Payoff of a Single Customer View

There are many business drivers which push organizations to reinvest in SCV and provide additional support for employing a more comprehensive data goal.

  • Omnichannel — Customers want a consistent experience every time they interact with our companies, whether in person, online or from a mobile device. Delivering that experience and engaging with relevance is impossible without an ominichannel data strategy
  • Speed and agility — Pulling data together in spreadsheets might get us an SCV — eventually — but in the time it takes to do it, we’ve lost the opportunity. Having data in a single, centralized location means we can deliver an optimal response to changing conditions in real time, in the moment of greatest opportunity  
  • Mergers & acquisitions — Rapid assimilation of data can make a huge difference in the value of a merger or an acquisition. An end-to-end customer data strategy can dramatically accelerate time to value, helping to identify overlap and even risk
  • Predictive analytics — As a valuable frontier in digital marketing, predictive analytics help us to better understand what a customer’s needs are; guiding us on the next best action to take, which means greater sales conversion
  • Customer experience — Eighty-nine percent of companies say they are competing on customer experience. But great customer experiences cannot be delivered without the insights we can uncover in the data across sales, marketing, customer service, billing and even finance

Undoubtedly, marketers in a wide variety of industries feel the pressure to evolve the marketing organization. However, point solutions and other home-grown techniques to merge and manage customer data manually do not — cannot — give a true SCV, ultimately limiting the effectiveness of your outreach.

Delivering the 360 Degree View

An SCV isn’t just the best way to respond to new business drivers; it is an essential foundation for a 360 degree customer perspective in which you can make observations and conclusions about customers that have never been possible before. 

creating a 360 degree view of customer through customer data
With all of your data working together, you get a 360 degree view of the customer

When one major hotel brand reconciled poor quality and conflicting customer data, not only did this improve customer data accuracy, it helped the hotel chain aggressively overhaul customer service. 

Now, the hotel learns about customers’ interests so that its staff can go the extra mile across all properties and brands. For example, team members can give a yoga enthusiast a list of local studios and class times, stock the mini bar with their favorite beverages, or supply list of local haunts to sports fans to watch their favorite team.

A 360 degree view also lets organizations understand relationships such as who the customers’ employer is or that two customers with different last names live in the same household. It also incorporates customers’ social media activity, giving an additional lens into customer service satisfaction or opportunities to excel in customer engagement.

A Single Customer View Is Within Reach

Nearly every organization admits to having customer data challenges. However, a single customer view is not out of reach. To achieve it, avoid these four common mistakes:

  • Focusing on applications — Treat your data as your primary asset, not as an afterthought of your applications
  • Being too tactical — A focus on tactical objectives to managing your customer data will leave you with incomplete or fractured insights
  • Relying on manual processes — Using people to integrate data is too slow for today’s speed of business and customer complexity
  • Overlooking product data — Accurate, rich, searchable product data across all channels helps customers confidently find and buy what they want, when they want it

By taking a close look at your customer data management practices across the organization you can develop an SCV to empower whatever comes next for your marketing goals. And more importantly, achieving the single customer view allows you to deliver the experiences your customers expect. 

Now is the time for marketers to take control of customer data and overhaul your SCV strategy.