Why the Single Customer View Is Still so Elusive

The single customer view (SCV) has become the holy grail for companies looking to get a better understanding of the people who buy their products. This is evident in the billions being spent on software stacks bent on upping the customer experience ante globally every year.

However, not due to a lack of trying, or software, most organisations still find themselves struggling to cross the digital divide to meet the customer at the door. Strangely, with all that tech and data around, one would be forgiven for thinking that Joe and Jill Consumer would be less of a mystery couple for most businesses.

But perhaps therein lies the crux of the matter; the incredible pace at which technology has evolved has resulted in many companies losing sight of the opportunities to actually transform their businesses and thereby become more customer-centric as a result.

Think about it. For every new digital touchpoint a new tool, app or plugin is usually required. SEO experts need expert SEO tools, and so do the social media gurus, the Google specialists, paid media masters, website wizards – the list goes on. The result is that the structure of the average business is still a fragmented picture. Further, any chance of integrating such a multi-layered apparatus with other customer-facing business units is a long shot at best.

This fragmentation does little for any hopes of gaining contextual views of your customer, his/her brand expectations, product experiences and ultimate reflections – and the numbers prove it. Copious amounts of research conclude that while annual spending on customer-focused software platforms has increased year on year, most companies still find tracing their customers’ DNA a very difficult task.

It’s Time for a New Approach

New digital realities dictate that businesses must actively seek out and eliminate siloes that perpetuate old ways of doing things. In the context of the SCV, when customer data is spread across individual pockets within the business and its smaller working parts, you’ll end up with a non-contextual view of both your customer and the way your organisation functions.

To this end, many seasoned marketing experts have gone back to the drawing board to retrace their steps to see where things went wrong. In 2016, David Raab, along with 11 other tech companies founded the Customer Data Platform Institute, whose main function is to address the underlying shortcomings inherent in disjointed customer platforms.

Fundamentally, Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are an operational solution to the problem companies face when keeping pace with high-velocity, high-volume customer data. CDPs have evolved from traditional CRMs and other management systems to provide a unified information repository that contains every particle of customer data.

Whether that data be first-hand (direct sales, marketing engagements, product, customer support, etc) or second-hand (lead generation, market research, surveys, web tracking, etc.), CDPs act as the central data location for everything. But what makes them truly transformative is their ability to subject this data to user-friendly (no IT-required) predictive customer analytics capabilities, while simultaneously giving every player in the equation access to the right customer data they need.

“Many companies have the elements of a relatively complete view of the customer already. But they reside in discrete pockets across the company. Just as a recipe does not come together until all the ingredients are combined, it is only when data is connected that it becomes ready to use. The CDP takes the data a company already has, combines it to create a meaningful customer profile, and makes it accessible across the organization.” ~ McKinsey

Contextual Data for a Contextual Experience

What makes CDPs so important is their potential to transform both the customer and employee experience. For example, CDPs can give support agents instant insights pertaining to an individual’s engagements with their brand, personal preferences, purchase decisions and overall sentiment.

The next time a support agent talks to that customer, the appropriate context around his/her is experience is available to the agent who can then address problems effectively, make smart up or cross-sell suggestions, preempt any queries or complaints and generally elevate their brand experience.

By making the relevant attributes for the specific engagement available in real-time and providing insights around customers within the given context, key touchpoints become more personalised, value-oriented and contextual to both parties. Further, as each engagement produces more data it is entered into the CDP database where it continues to enrich customer profiles and the various platforms that plug into it.

“Marketers and marketing technologists know that gathering and acting on unified customer information isn’t easy. In fact, just a few companies have actually achieved complete integration. The rest are battling with technology, strategy, budgets, organizations, staff skills, and other obstacles to success. But customers don’t know or care about those challenges. If you don’t meet their expectations, they’ll assume you don’t care about them and take their business to somebody else they believe will treat them better…No wonder so many marketers have made a unified customer experience their highest priority.” ~ Customer Data Platform Institute

CDPs are Essential to Transformation

Its ability to effectively democratise data is an essential part of what makes the CDP so powerful. According to Raab, the CDP is, “a marketer-managed system that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.” By extension, this includes other people, business units and stakeholders. It achieves this through powerful data and systems’ integrations with practically every existent customer-facing platform out there while giving each user of the system the ability to work with the data seamlessly.

Customer platforms may have evolved at breakneck speeds but the collective result has been a disjointed apparatus that ultimately left people scattered across separate islands, all screaming to be heard. Digital transformation speaks to this essential challenge in business; it brings people, processes and data together to work smarter by improving operational processes and by extension, the customer journey.

In the same vein, CDPs are designed to help companies transform the fragmented way data exists within the business to bring everyone into the information loop and start connecting the dots that reside within their data. By delivering a single, cohesive and contextual view of the customer, CDPs don’t only inform brands on the next big catchphrase, they allow companies to understand how their internal processes, cultures and management styles affect their customers negatively or positively, thus giving them insights to how they can transform from within to arrive at a truly customer-centric business model of which the SCV is a natural characteristic and not a fleeting illusion.

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