Businesses are getting better at collecting customer data at each stage of their journey. But many still struggle to share the data across departmental silos and platforms to a) analyze it to extract actionable insights out of it, b) use the insights for designing new product/ services, and c) transform customer experiences. The few that have successfully optimized the use of customer data, have outperformed their peers by 85 percent in sales growth and 25 percent in gross margin (source: gallup.com).
This is a huge opportunity for tech firms that are in the business of managing their client’s customer data (like Salesforce). Just last week Microsoft, SAP and Adobe announced their partnership with the new Open Data Initiative. They plan to create a single data model for customer data to make it portable across platforms i.e. democratize customer data for everyone within the enterprise.
The types of customer data
CRM data helps businesses manage their interactions with current as well as potential customers and is typically gathered at upstream (awareness, purchase) stages of the journey. Examples of this type of data are customer and prospect contact information, accounts, leads, sales opportunities etc. A business looking to build a 360 view of it customers usually starts with the CRM data as the foundation, although that trend is changing quickly. The primary consumers of this data are the Marketing, Sales & Services organizations.
Customer profile is the foundation of any CX data repository. This information is useful across multiple organizations – from product & service design to customer success and renewals. Collected at multiple touch points along the journey (with the customer’s consent) the data points in this category can vary widely. The challenge businesses face is around consolidating all persona information into one repository. Fragmented details on customer profile/ personas make it difficult to use them effectively to address customer needs and deliver personalized experiences. Businesses should design the customer profile repository to a) link it to all touch points along the customer’s journey, b) make it easy to access across the organization, c) support robust version control, and d) be secure and tamper proof. When married with other forms of customer data (like behavior & preferences,VoC, loyalty etc.) it can yield valuable insights for the businesses.
The persona information, a subset of the customer profile data, is a vital input for the design process. It answers the “Who are we designing the product/ service experience for?” question. Without having a clear idea of the target customers and their needs, CX or service designers can’t design the optimal experience. There is no such thing as one size fits all in CX.
As customers interact with various touch-points along their journey, they leave behind a myriad of useful insights in the form of a) behavior & preferences, b) (products & services) usage pattern, and c) digital traces that can help businesses get a better understanding of their journey and the experiences at each stage. When these data points are collected and analyzed in a concerted effort across the journey, it maximizes the business impact. But unfortunately in most cases they are often collected in isolated packets, by parts of the organization that aren’t well connected. Therein lies the challenge.
Customer feedback or VoC is probably the most underutilized type of customer data. It is usually gathered by conducting surveys, mostly because they are convenient and cost effective. Other feedback gathering methods like focus groups, field/ ethnographic studies, journey mapping sessions, usability studies, and user research are also used, more infrequently though. Very few businesses have mastered the art of using VoC data in conjunction with other (above mentioned) customer data to extract actionable insights and use them as the basis for making strategic decisions. When done correctly, this exercise can help businesses in not only understanding the specific details about the experience, emotions, and effort at various stages of the journey but also deriving critical insights to drive key business decisions.
Finally one more category of customer data, that is still largely untapped, is the unstructured customer data gathered by front-line employees. During the course of their interactions with customers, front-line (sales, service, support) folks are privy to nuggets of customer data that is rarely collected through any of the formal channels. A few examples of this type of data are specific transactional data from a previous interaction, information about the customer’s environment, or useful intelligence about a competitor product or service used by the customer. Very few businesses have a formal way of gathering, let alone analyzing data from this vital source.
By no means have I covered all types of customer data that businesses could gather and analyze. But these are some obvious data points that businesses could start with – add them to their customer 360 repository and democratize them for everyone in the organization. Customer 360 is not just about CRM data from marketing, sales, and service departments anymore. A truly 360 view of the customer should include more.