Achieving a Single Customer View

Marketers have been talking about the desire to operate a single customer view for years, if not decades, in order to create a three dimensional picture of the customer. But, if our conversations with marketing leaders are anything to go by, very few have achieved this utopian state.

In the era of ‘Big Data’, customers are interacting with companies through disparate sources. From clicks to tweets, businesses are struggling to assess what information is necessary and useful and turn the data into valuable insight. Lack of alignment in traditional company structures mean that customers can appear on the databases of several departments – sales, service, finance, etc – all unaware of each other’s interactions with the customer. In turn, this makes it incredibly challenging for businesses to effectively deliver the right customer service needed to retain valuable customers and grow their accounts through cross-selling of services.

We ask the top industry experts their advice for achieving the Single Customer View…


Commit to the challenge and keep sight of your goals

Get executive buy-in and evangelise the benefits of single customer view so it cascades down throughout the organisation.

My second tip would be to Invest in outcomes. If you can’t see the goal then everything looks like an obstacle. Keep sight of the goal and the rewards it will yield. 


Make Data Quality a priority

Data management is the foundation of business. There’s no point in working towards a single customer view if your databases are founded on ageing databases, out of date records and incomplete data capture. According to Gartner, without adequate resources to focus on data quality an organisation’s CRM efforts will not be successful. Clean up your existing records using data cleansing software, and use address validation technology to ensure any data captured is validated at the source of entry. The effects of poor data penetrate the business quickly and deeply.


Include External Reference Data

Merging all internal data referring to the same real world entity into a so-called golden record is a basic way of supporting a single customer view. However, there are much more to gain by also including external reference data that tell you more about that real world entity and makes it possible for you to learn when something happens to that entity.


Timing is everything

The key to leveraging a single customer view is timeliness. There is no point in having joined up customer data if you can’t act on it quickly. The velocity of information flowing through our systems is increasing as we tap into new streams of data, and in order to capitalise on this intelligence we need to address two issues. Firstly, we need to take advantage of SaaS computing power. By moving into the cloud, businesses can take advantage of massively increased processing power and better connectivity between applications. Secondly, we need to place the intelligence applications directly into the hands of the front-line departments – empowering customer service teams with timely and relevant insight.

By truly democratising the applications and the data across business teams we can look to see beyond the technology and focus on great customer experience.


Give contact centres the ability to customise their agent desktops

No two contact centres are the same, so it’s important to give customer service teams the opportunity to fine tune the agent desktop to meet their specific needs. Having a single customer view is fine, but what if that view needs to change to reflect different sales campaigns or marketing promotions? That’s why you need to be able to create and customise your own ‘smart’ agent desktop views – ideally without difficult configuring by the IT team. The best solutions here are the ones that even non-specialist staff can take advantage of – using a simple, drag and drop, fully configurable ‘no coding’ model.


Implement a business model

Even though the Single Customer View is a more recently coined term, its long-term validity is undeniable, i.e. organizations will always strive for accomplishing a complete, exact, current view of the information related to each party they are in business with. Being an invariant for the business, the Single Customer View cannot be found by analyzing an ever-changing technical environment, but only by deriving an implementation-independent conceptual business (data) model from all value-related customer transactions (e.g. acquisition, sales, claims, retention). Such a business data model will then especially serve as the road map for the senior management to steer the organization from disparate data sources to an integrated customer-centric view.


Create a Master Data Hub

Achieving Single Customer View requires creation of MDM architecture where all the enterprise applications have streamlined access to master data. This can be accomplished by creating a master data hub (MDM hub) which centrally manages your core customer information. The interactions with MDM hub can take different forms and the key considerations for this design include – creating a scalable application tier, well tuned data persistent layer which can provide rapid response time, flexible interface layer which adapts to the changes to the data model and application tier. Master data is critical asset and needs to be secured from unauthorised access via solid security layer. Ensure that the system is made available 24/7 to key applications such as customer service, web and real time analytical applications to take full advantage of Single Customer View you have provisioned.

With a single customer view in place, the customer is given much more confidence that the company is organised and trustworthy. They will have to deal with only one contact-centre agent regardless of their request. All of which provides a superior customer service to your most important asset of all, the customers.

  • Alexis Zamkow

    Excellent concepts presented, might I add the inclusion of creating the opportunity to engage and “ask permission” from your customers, to confirm their identity, enable a unique personal identifier, link portfolios and or holdings. Once the consent-based relationship has been achieved, then provide them with a value proposition and business process to encourage proactive updating of their channel preferences and contact methods (by device: mobile, online etc).

  • How does this relate to privacy and security?

    Suppose Anne is a customer with two companies, #1 doesn’t use a Single Customer View, but #2 does.

    When Anne phones customer support at #1 with a question, there’s no particular security issue because the help desk knows very little about her. Even if the caller is not Anne, but somebody else, they can’t leak any significant information. So they can answer her question immediately – assuming they know the answer.

    But when Anne phones customer support at #2 with a question, there’s a big security issue, as the help desk knows a lot of information about her. If the caller was not Anne, but someone else skilled in wheedling information out of others, they could learn a lot about her. So she has to remember a password and a memorable address and the company “takes her through security” before she can get her question answered.

    Does this mean that companies who use a single customer view are forced to be somewhat more annoying to deal with?