There are four key building blocks to orchestrate targeted, timely and relevant interactions across customer touchpoints through technology and power your customer relationship management (CRM) ambitions:

Data: Relevant, high quality customer data that offers a complete picture of customer interactions

Understanding: Transforming customer data into customer intelligence

Decisioning: Using customer intelligence to inform decisions and orchestrate a dialogue with the consumer across touchpoints

Execution: Taking the decision and connecting it with content optimised for that touchpoint

Of these four, data is the critical starting point to ensure you stand out from the competition. After all, data powers intelligence which makes better decisions and therefore customer dialogue possible.

Is data the new black?

The problem is that through technology, more consumer data than ever is being collected. Yet the age old problems of disparate systems managing different interactions and storing different nuggets of customer data continue to exist.

Against this challenge, research shows that consumers expect better and more consistent dialogue across the whole spectrum of their interactions, from customer services, product experience to more traditional marketing communications.

Data is essential to powering better dialogue, but there is even more of it and therefore the benefits of using it become harder to realise. This is leading to a data revival in the marketing world and the potential for increased confusion as new technology arrives on the scene promising a silver bullet to all data related challenges. New jargon has entered into the lexicon of marketing speak; “Big Data” anyone?

If you are a business that operates across multiple channels and has a range of separate systems managing customer interactions and capturing data, but want to deliver more joined up customer experiences, it’s very likely that you are considering your approaches when it comes to getting a unified view of your customer. As such, cutting through this confusion is key.

I have identified six top level data focused technology capabilities that I think must be in place in your chosen solution to enable you to power your CRM ambitions through data:

Open data integration and access

One of the first things to consider is what capabilities exist to gather data from your disparate systems and make that data available to other systems that may need to do something with it.
Data integration is about the mechanisms of moving data, the simpler and more open this is made the quicker you will be able to bring your data together and make something useful.

Flexibility in the data model

Given the wealth of interactions customers can have with your business, it’s essential to have some flexibility in the underlying data model that is constructed. This should cover the core elements such as customer profiles, transactions, products, contact/interaction history and responses. There should also be consideration of how more complex data such as social comments, survey answers and other less structured data are handled. The ability to store and track changes to key data attributes is also crucial.

Data standardisation and transformation

Given the nature of disparate systems it is quite likely these could contain variations on common data (“Product One” in one system, “Product 1” in another). The ability to standardise disparate data and transform it to provide a common, unified view, is key.

Data quality

The adage “garbage in, garbage out” is as true now as it ever was. For data to be useful for marketing it needs to be good quality. This is where data quality capabilities come into their own, the identification and validation of personally identifiable information (PII) such as name, address, phone, email is key to prevent issues that may affect your customer understanding or impact the deliverability of communications/interactions.

Data enrichment

Despite the breadth of data available to most organisations within their own four walls, it is sometimes necessary to bolster this with external data to help inform customer understanding or indeed, to prevent getting in touch with people who are uncontactable.

Identity management

Central to the premise of data driven CRM, is an understanding of the customer and their interactions. The key to this is reconciling interactions to an individual and then managing their identity. This requires matching and linking interactions using flexible rules that take into account issues such as the subtle differences in data capture (e.g. “Mr S.Jones”, “Steve Jones”, “Stephen Jones”) and potential data gaps.

While the above is not an exhaustive view of the core capabilities, it should provide a flavour of what’s needed to help you join up the dots and create a better picture of your customer. If you want a deeper discussion around any of this or even just help demystifying data related concepts, you may be encountering (Data Lakes versus Data Warehouses, Data Federation versus Data Virtualisation…etc) come and meet the team at our event in February.


By Gary Arnold, Solution Strategy Director, Occam – a St Ives Group company


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