happy customer
Companies often fall in the trap of thinking the last touchpoint can make or break the customer experience PHOTO: lydia harper

The biggest factor impacting the customer experience isn't the front-line employees or the last touch customer-facing applications — it's the operational systems buried a few layers down in the enterprise architecture.  

Companies often misinterpret customer experience to mean the experience at the last touchpoint. They train customer service and sales people to be customer-centric, create the best online and mobile UI and invest in social engagement and listening. 

However, all these investments are futile if the underlying operations are not equipped to support the customer journey. Provisioning reliable data to operational systems is crucial for their efficiency. 

Let’s take a look at how you can enable exceptional customer experiences by ensuring reliable data for the underlying operational applications and channels.

The Sum is Greater than the Parts

Supporting an omnichannel journey requires that each channel can identify the customer and is aware of the complete information across channels. In most cases, one channel has additional or different information about the customer than the other. 

When channels are connected and share the information, they build a fuller picture of the client. In this case, the sum of individual parts is much greater than the total.

Take, for example, the customer who has a loyalty card and shops frequently at a store. The same person is now browsing the merchant’s online store. Even though the merchant is capturing the device and browsing data, it’s not able to connect the activities occurring through different channels. 

Meanwhile, the corporate marketing group continues sending irrelevant email offers to the customer based on what they have purchased from the store in the past without understanding what they’ve searched for online. And there could be a good reason for that — the customer may be browsing anonymously.

What happens if this customer purchases an item online? Now that you have identified the anonymous browser to be a regular customer from the store, can you bring all the past anonymous browsing data and make it a part of the consumer profile? 

If you successfully bring all this data together, you can send much more relevant and timely offers to the customer.

Aggregating all customer information to build an accurate and consolidated 360-degree view is only possible when you have a modern data management platform that can connect to all systems and channels, capture the information, match it against one customer, then merge the data to build the correct picture.

Single Source of Truth Across Systems

Once you consolidate the customer information across functional groups and channels, make sure all systems and analytics get the information from this single source of truth. This applies to the product data as well. All operational systems should have access to a single reliable source for product information. 

Once all operational systems — CRM, marketing automation, service, support, order management, billing and shipping — pull customer and product information from the same reliable source, you can rest assured all processes and analytics will have consistent information. Once the information is shared, systems can perform efficiently to deliver a consistent experience across departments.

Define and Map Reference Data

When you need multiple systems to manage a process such as order-to-cash, these systems may have their own definition of some non-volatile, slow moving master data. Countries, state codes, SIC codes or chart of accounts are examples of this, also called reference data. 

Map these incorrectly and the transactions may fail. If your ordering system lists "US" as country and "CA" as state, but the shipping system needs picklist values of "United States" and “California” or another version, it can cause data corruption or invalid transactions. 

Mismatched and unmapped data causes inefficient processes, rework and compliance risks if the tax codes or discounts are not correctly applied. Managing, versioning and synchronizing such reference data across systems plays a key role in operational efficiency and resulting customer experience.

Continuous and Collaborative Data Curation

The volume and variety of data will only continue to increase with the passing of time. New data sources, new channels and new business models will emerge. 

With modern data management platform and governance processes, you will continuously enrich the data and maintain the desired data quality. 

The current distributed work environment requires collaborative capabilities for tasks like data change requests or discussion threads. Collaboration capabilities ensure that users working with operational and data-driven applications have access to reliable data at all times, and if they need additional information or if a data attribute needs to be corrected, they can initiate the request from within their operational applications.

Great customer experience is a result of operational excellence. Companies that view customer experience as their competitive advantage take a holistic view of their operations, processes and data that drive those operations. Organizations must ensure a reliable single source of customer, account and product data to achieve operational excellence.