on laptop and phone
Without a central, trusted record of customer data, employees will create their own siloed solutions PHOTO: Alex Knight

If you’re like me, you live and die by your smartphone apps. 

With them, our smartphones become a remote control for our daily lives. Many of our apps fulfill immediate needs for basic information: the weather, the traffic, stock prices, restaurant menus, news stories, maybe even where the International Space Station is at any point in time. 

Whatever it is, we rely on this information to be current and accurate. We trust it, and it provides certainty for our day-to-day decision-making. 

We need the same access to reliable information when it comes to our business data. When building out our strategies, we employ sophisticated analytics to guide our high-level decisions and set our direction. 

Yet for execution of those strategies in day-to-day customer interactions, we often scrape by with fragments of unreliable data. 

Why Our Business Data Isn’t Trustworthy

Business data’s reliability problem often starts at onboarding. In the rush to get a customer into the system, misspelled names and address errors are easily introduced. 

Another problem occurs when data originates from multiple sources, creating duplicate, hard to merge records. Most of us are quite familiar with that problem: when I add data about the same person on my different devices, my contact data later synchs without merging, leaving me with multiple records for the same person — and a very sloppy address book. 

Once proliferated, such inaccuracies in the customer record are difficult to redress later. Business users learn the data is unreliable and develop manual workarounds. Eventually sales, marketing, customer service, etc. develop their own unique systems for finding reliable data, and trust only what is in their control. 

Master Data Management: A Smartphone for Business

Master data management (MDM) can bring smartphone-like data reliability and accessibility to all business stakeholders. An MDM solution keeps all critical customer data in synch and makes it easily accessible to everyone who needs it. 

If you are new to MDM, think of it like an atomic clock, constantly working behind the scenes to match, merge, de-duplicate and synchronize conflicting data and determine the best, trusted version of the truth. But rather than authenticate the time, MDM concerns itself with business-critical data such as names, addresses, emails, phone numbers, account information and other relevant customer data that’s collected to guide your decisions. A company can track and master as few as 20 or as many as 200 different customer attributes. 

Regardless of how many attributes you track, MDM resolves conflict across systems and applications. It also relates your traditional operational data to the data generated by customers in their transactions and interactions so you gain a trusted 360-degree customer profile. It even keeps an audit trail, with lineage and history on how the profile was created and where the data came from. 

4 Ways MDM Apps Build Trust in Customer Data

While MDM applications contain many under-the-hood capabilities, these four features are responsible for delivering the benefits of total customer insight at your fingertips: 

1. Centralize customer onboarding

Business typically have multiple places where a new customer record can originate. One company had 26 different apps where onboarding occurred across the company, each one with unique requirements for data fields and structure. 

How you structure a new customer record is a matter of governance. A process to enforce governance by streamlining and standardizing how new customers are added across regions, functions and business units helps eliminate duplicate, incomplete and inaccurate records.

2. Strategic management of customer information

MDM at its heart is about allowing you to connect data intelligently across systems to build better insights. For example, you can build a view of customer relationships, customers’ preferred locations and channels, the products they own and even their shopping behaviors. 

3. Visual data exploration

Customer transaction and interaction data is usually big data. Non-relational data like internet clickstreams and social media need to be connected to the trusted customer profile in a way that is useful and meaningful to business users. New capabilities in MDM allow users to explore data visually using graph relationships so they can quickly find the information to take the next best action.

4. Secure data sharing

Trusted information is of no value if it’s not used and shared. 

MDM distributes the customer information from the trusted customer profile using a publish-and-subscribe model. Business applications — such as marketing, sales force automation, customer relationship management, financial systems and customer service — subscribe to the centralized data hub, giving all of your customer-facing teams access to the same trusted information, but in the format that is most productive and familiar to them. 

360 degree view of the customer
MDM applications let business users find the trustworthy customer data they need in a self-service manner

The Engine Behind Reliable Customer Data 

Delivering customer data through a master data-fueled application can change the way marketers and other business users think about customer data across the enterprise. It puts trusted data at their fingertips, without disruption to their usual tools or workflows. 

Like a powerful smartphone app, master data-fueled applications deliver discrete data to the places it’s to become the reliable source of information in your employee's lives.