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PHOTO: The Tire Zoo

I was listening to a presentation by the former head of enterprise architecture at a major bank when he said something that surprised me. He described his work as being in large part about managing customer journeys.

When I asked about this, he asked in return, "How do you think marketing does their work around eliminating issues around customer journey?" He went on to describe the role of business architecture, information architecture and application architecture in customer journey mapping and optimization.

Business architecture matters because it defines and explains the relationships between customer business processes. And information and application architecture matter because they define the major types of information and the applications that process customer data. Clearly, this kind of systems thinking is essential to defining holistic customer journeys — or in the language of marketing, the friction points between customer facing systems and data that flows between them. Thinking this way raises questions like why customers need to interface with applications separately and why they have to enter data multiple times when interacting with these separate applications — two big sources of customer journey friction.

Where Does Data Impact the Customer Journey?

Data limits the quality of the customer journey at three major points: a company’s sales, marketing and service processes. According to economist Theodore Levitt, any sales and marketing processes should focus on the following: “the role of marketing is creating and keeping the customer.” To create or obtain new customers, organizations must simplify the processes to become a customer, regardless of the customer channel chosen. In practice this means integrating customer facing systems, so customers enter information only once. Data also comes into play in retaining and expanding customer relationships, when accurate data is needed to cross sell and upsell existing customers what they do not already own. Customer service also relies on having centralized access to customer data to make the experience efficient and effective.

Related Article: How Information Architecture Improves Customer Experience

Do Data Processes Limit or Optimize the Customer Journey?

According to Invesp, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer. So if marketers shift just some of the dollars spent on new customer acquisition to retention, they can grow their business with their existing customers through relevant offers. But for most organizations — 72% according to MIT-CISR research, this is difficult to achieve because their customer data is either siloed or fragilely connected. When data is siloed, systems fail to recognize when an existing customer evaluates a different product. This poses a particular issue for organizations with an operating model of diversification. For example, if I am an insurer and an existing customer asks for a quote on a new product from a different business line, are they recognized as an existing customer or are they asked to reenter data the company already has?

Additionally, when creating offers for customers, do you ensure those offers are relevant for them? Or are you offering customers things they already bought from you? My card issuer used to infuriate me by sending me offers for its card, one I've had since finishing graduate school. Fortunately, it has gotten much smarter in the last few years and only sends offers now for a card upgrade.

In terms of the support layer, how many vendors know everything a customer has purchased and its current state? When I was at HP, my desk was not too far from the people who serviced the IT management software products. I would regularly hear the service reps having to blow off steam after a call. When I asked about the issue, they explained that every time a customer called, they had to ask the customer a series of questions to determine what they own, how it is configured, what it was connected to, and how their software was implemented. After 45 minutes of answering questions, customers would get frustrated because they were paying for support and yet they would have to start from scratch each time they spoke with a rep. At the time, the company did not have a living record of what the customer had purchased and what version they were on. Clearly, it is essential to connect data to create better service experiences.

Related Article: How Thick Data Helps You Build Emotional Connections With Customers

What Do We Need to Fix?

In the above use cases, we need ready to use data. In creating meaningful offers, marketers need to integrate data from different customer data sources, but they also need to be able to fix customer data issues. Customer data issues come in many of forms. Business users and data scientists need to be able to discover the data the organization already has and enrich it with other data sources. With this, they need to integrate this data into a data lake for analysis. At this point, they need to be able to put together a single view of customer. The technical term for this is master data management.

With this master view integrating customer transaction data, it is possible to apply a predictive model to transactional data and derive relevant offers for existing customers. For example Nordstrom linked purchase data to its supply chain data, which allowed it to develop personalized and relevant offers of available items for customers. In other words, it can predict what customers want that it has.

Once purchases have been made, businesses need to integrate everything they know about the customer, including purchase data, into an accessible customer data lake. To make this work, organizations need the ability to integrate customer records and purchases into a single view. For many organizations, each business unit has its own separate customer record, which makes it difficult to properly service customers.

In the past, organizations were required to assemble a set of best of breed point products into a data platform. This no longer works because it takes too long and is too difficult to maintain. For this reason, analysts are discussing the notion of vendors providing customers an overarching data fabric — think of it as an end-to-end set of data capabilities.

Related Article: What Can You Do With a Customer Data Platform?

Parting Words

I shouldn't have been surprised that enterprise architects are actively involved in helping marketing organizations manage customer journeys. These are the people who can see where applications and data do not work or connect well. This includes where data needs enrichment, refinement and mastering. The time is now to fix any data issues that limit customer experience. Otherwise, digital disruptors will gain the upper hand because they are good at data.