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The customer 360 practice has been around for years under various guises. In most cases, it means aggregating customer data from different applications, cleaning it, and analyzing it to get a reasonable picture of customer contact information and some preferences. But that was yesterday.

As we settle into 2019 and set our sights on the digital future, customer 360 is expected to deliver a much bigger value to businesses.

Current Forces Shaping the 360-Degree Customer View

Customers are experimenting with all possible channels of engagement. They visit company outlets and large superstores, they browse online stores, they swipe through mobile apps, and they interact largely on social media. This behavior demands a consistent and personalized experience across all the channels that are at least equal to, if not superior, those provided by your competitors. Interestingly, the same multi-channel engagement leaves a rich digital trail that can help build a deeper view of customers, and develop a greater understanding of their wants, needs and concerns.

The biggest impact on customer 360 today comes from the recent explosion of data, from internal and external applications, from public and social media, and also from a host of third-party sources. Aggregating all this data to build an accurate 360-degree view of customers is only possible with data management tools that capture data from all systems and channels, and match, merge and enrich it to create the complete customer profile, correlated to their omnichannel interactions and transactions. You also need technologies for storing and analyzing the data, as well as machine learning and cloud-based advanced analytic systems, to constantly improve data quality.

Reliable and consolidated customer data can be the biggest asset of modern companies, but only when the hidden relationships between people, products, organizations and places can be uncovered to maximize the customer profile. The new approach utilizes graph technology to provide the missing links, generating valuable insights such as account hierarchies with product penetration, consumer households, industry influencers and customer preferences.

Analytics and machine learning, when incorporated in master data management, deliver better data quality and enable actionable recommendations for personalized customer experience, new upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and suggestions for customer engagement improvements, strategizing to increase the customer lifetime value.

Related Article: Clear These 6 Data Hurdles to Achieve a 360-Degree Customer View

How Data Privacy Regulations Impact the 360-Degree Customer View

At the same time, new privacy regulations are designed to give control of their data back to customers. Any organization pursuing the 360-degree customer view today must address this, and meet the requirements of regulations such as GDPR and CCPA. The right consent management, along with the ability to process customer data change requests and data deletion requests, is critical for compliance. 

Customer engagement not only has to be relevant but also compliant. While trying to deliver the best personalized experience to customers, modern business leaders recognize that great customer experience starts with operational excellence. When all the business teams access a single, reliable, 360-degree customer profile, with goal and role-based individual views, they get a consistent shared asset to leverage. With continuous and collaborative data curation, they are guaranteed real-time quality data, agile insights, and tailored recommendations. Added capabilities and inbuilt processes ensures better governance and security, as well as easier regulatory compliance. Businesses can meet operational challenges competently by measuring and comparing results for continuous improvement.

The modern customer 360 is about building and leveraging the consolidated, compliant 360-degree customer profile to enhance customer engagement, personalize customer experience, achieve operational excellence, and continuously improve the outcomes to drive better business growth.

Related Article: How GDPR and AI Turned a Unified Data Into a Business Imperative 

The Rush to Capture Customer 360

The rush for modern customer 360 is evident in the Open Data Initiative (ODI) launched by Adobe, Microsoft and SAP, “reimagining customer experience management (CXM) by empowering companies to derive more value from their data and deliver world-class customer experiences in real-time.” Salesforce followed this announcement soon after by releasing its Customer 360 to unify the customer experience using "a complete, up-to-date, contextually relevant profile of the customer."

Oracle announced its own Customer 360, as “a unique approach to managing customer data that enables organizations to deliver an experience that is timely, relevant, and consistent across known and unknown interactions.” All these initiatives have a common theme: uniting data from disparate sources and utilizing the power of AI and ML to deliver real-time customer insights to all teams. 

While these are good steps — as any effort to get data out of silos is a smart move, and benefits the entire ecosystem — it’s also important to remember these initiatives are not radically different from similar ones in the past. The challenge remains that even the most sophisticated CRM applications can’t create a true customer 360 view, because they weren't designed to. CRM apps are typically developed on traditional relational data models, which are not suited to be a single source of truth for customer data across all enterprise applications. They’re unable to capture complex real-world relationships. On the other hand, traditional master data management (MDM) solutions do not deliver this either, leaving out essential requirements such as interactions and relationships.

Data reconciliation of stand-alone customer profiles is insufficient to form a complete understanding of customers. You must incorporate the customer’s relationship with other entities such as products, stores, locations and households. Enterprises requiring a true customer 360 solution must unlock the value of data relationships inside their operating models, and that means relating customers, households, stores, locations, products, parts, suppliers and more. Add to that the need to address compliance requirements, and make sure that profile data drives effective actions in operational systems by providing relevant insights and intelligent recommendations. Customer 360 must meet these demands.

2019 is sharply focused on customer 360, signifying a greater initiative to unlock the potential of customer data by powerful data management and next-gen analytics, to deliver a top tier customer experience and boost the business topline. The key is finding the right tools to solve the Customer 360 puzzle.