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Editorial

Creating an Agile Customer Data Strategy

4 minute read
Greg Kihlstrom avatar
There are three components of an agile customer data strategy that will ensure you are set up for success both now and into the future.

We are continually reminded of how quickly the world, our customers, and our way of doing business evolves and changes. Your customer data strategy is a critical part of your organization’s short- and long-term success. Because of this, it is important that you create it in such a way that is able to account for current and future challenges and opportunities, as well as external and internal dependencies.

In this article, we’re going to discuss three components of an agile customer data strategy that will ensure you are set up for success both now and into the future.

Creating a Holistic Customer Data Strategy

As good as a single department or team’s customer data strategy may be, the strength of any approach relies on coordination and insights that fall across arbitrary organizational reporting lines and divisions.

Sales, marketing, customer service and technical support, as well as many others depending on your unique organization, should all be considered when creating a customer data strategy. This organization-wide approach can seem daunting at first, but it is the only way you can truly understand, adapt to and provide the type of customer experience that consumers increasingly demand.

A holistic approach to your customer data strategy means that everyone in the organization is reading from the same playbook, allowing for easier coordination of responses to challenges and opportunities and ultimately, increased speed of transformation.

Related Article: Why Data Governance Is a Shared Responsibility

An Open Data Strategy

As we just explored, customer data spans different teams, platforms and stages within the customer journey. Finding a single place to organize all of this data can be challenging for even small companies, but enterprise organizations quickly run into sometimes monumental hurdles when rethinking their data strategies. A single, closed loop off-the-shelf system that ingests and incorporates data across all channels and stages in the customer lifecycle can be good because integrations are easy. But most organizations need the ability to integrate internal and/or third-party data sources that are continually evolving and often need to be swapped out quickly.

There are upsides and downsides to trying to rely on a single (or a small set) of third-party off-the-shelf systems. The upside is flexibility and lack of dependence on large, often monolithic platforms that, despite having APIs for integration, can sometimes leave you wanting more in terms of their connectivity with other critical systems. The downside of a more open data strategy is the cost of upkeep, ongoing development, and technical debt that internal systems can often incur. You will need to work across your teams to determine what the best approach will be and do a cost-benefit analysis that will be specific to your organization.

While many out of the box solutions provide everything an organization needs to solve their data challenges both now and into the future, you should consider whether you need a more open strategy that incorporates a more holistic view.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: How Much Customer Data Should You Collect? Sometimes Less Is More

Making It Future-Proof

There are countless considerations that a customer data strategy needs to incorporate and plan for, and I have no doubt that more will continue to appear in the months ahead. Planning for the retirement of third-party cookies, the increasing quantity and variety of privacy regulations around the world, and consumers’  continued demands for more personalized and tailored experiences are just a few of the considerations.

Once  you’ve defined your customer data strategy, it is time to ensure you have a plan in place to ensure it is able to be optimized over time. I prefer an agile approach, whether it is formal agile principles (e.g. using the scrum framework) or some variation, though your organization may have its own way of doing things. Regardless of the exact approach, iterating and optimizing is essential because just as your customers continue to evolve, so does your data strategy.

Making your customer data strategy future-proof certainly doesn’t mean being able to predict the future, but putting in place a system that is able to react to internal and external changes and dependencies should be the goal. This means it will be agile enough to help you manage challenges and capitalize on opportunities as they arise.

Your customer data strategy is critical to the short- and long-term success of your organization. It drives the sales, marketing, delivery and customer service teams, and can make the difference between success and failure in the ongoing battle waged over providing the best possible customer experience. An agile strategy will ensure you are able to adapt to the changing needs of your customers, the evolving data and privacy regulations across the locations you serve, as well as being able to adapt to the latest technology trends and requirements.

Related Article: TRUE: Marketers Should Have Seen This Coming

About the author

Greg Kihlstrom

Greg is a best-selling author, speaker, and entrepreneur. He has worked with some of the world’s leading organizations on customer experience, employee experience, and digital transformation initiatives, both before and after selling his award-winning digital experience agency in 2017.