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the struggle to achieve a single view of the customer

Why is achieving a single view of the customer so difficult?

Contact center Nirvana could be described as knowing anything and everything about the customer, in order to serve them effectively and efficiently. A pity achieving this is so hard.

There is no doubt that the growth in digital channels is driving companies to try and develop a single view of the customer across these channels – which include telephone, online, SMS and social media. This is because consumers today are comfortable utilizing any number of channels and this demand is driving the need to provide multi-channel customer service. However, delivering a complete customer experience is now next to impossible without having a single view of these customers.

Obtaining a single picture of their customers entails, amongst others, connecting the dots between their email address, mobile number, physical address and social media. If this is done correctly, all the different channels will be able to work together to provide a complete picture of the client, enabling companies to deliver the most thorough customer experience possible. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done.

In this two-part blog, we will look firstly at the difficulties faced by organizations as they seek to achieve a single view of their customers, followed by ways that they can actually go about achieving this.

It is interesting to note that the vast majority of contact center agents understand just how important it is for businesses to obtain a single view of the customer. The problem is that while most realize the importance, very few are actually able to easily track their customers across multiple channels, as doing so usually requires them to utilize multiple systems to achieve this.

This means that despite the importance of the single view of the customer, most agents are unable to achieve a seamless customer experience across these various channels. This, of course, is troubling for companies, as customers today expect exactly this type of experience, meaning that an inability to provide it leaves the company at best short on customer service excellence, and at worst losing customers to churn.

So, the question is: What is preventing organizations from developing a single view of the customer?

One of the biggest reasons why the single customer view is a challenge relates back to the fact that most organizations have different databases related to the different channels they provide. Because each of these channels is a different point of entry, it is not hard to see how duplicate accounts can end up being created for a single customer. Therefore, unless the multiple channels through which the consumers interact can be consolidated into a single database, obtaining a complete view becomes almost impossible.

The other major challenge can be put down to human error. Different channels usually mean different people are entering the data into the system, which can lead to inconsistencies, such as making use of different abbreviations.

In addition, a lot of current customer relationship management (CRM) platforms require an exact match to duplicate. So where one agent has input a name like ‘Joe Jones,' a second one inputting ‘Joseph Jones’ instead will be required to duplicate an entry, as the system does not use fuzzy matching technology to determine that both, in fact, are related to the same client.

So it should be clear then that inconsistent data that is spread across an enterprise makes the goal of achieving a single view of the customer extremely difficult. The other issue with data is that there is simply too much of it today. It is not referred to ‘big data’ for nothing, and many businesses – while realizing the importance of using such data to improve customer service – are simply struggling to identify the required information that will be needed to positively impact on customer value.

Another major challenge faced in the quest for a single customer view is that of siloed departments. For the contact center to obtain a complete picture of the consumer, they will also need access to information obtained by the marketing and sales departments, amongst others. Even within the center itself, often each channel is controlled by a separate team, and unless the information gathered by each of these teams is consistently shared with the others, the single view will be little more than a dream.

As with the failure to link different departments or teams, so the inability to link different technologies also creates difficulties. Since different teams are using different technologies to communicate with the customer, joining them in a way that the transition of both the customer and the customer’s relevant information is seamless remains a challenge.

The siloed nature of business units, coupled with the inability to link different technologies, has a huge impact on the delivery of a true single view of the customer, is due to the fact that such a view encompasses not only the service department but also others that touch the customer, like marketing and sales. And siloed departments create a ‘blurring’ effect when customer interactions occur across multiple channels or departments. When such blurring occurs, vital information can be lost or miscommunicated, leading to a situation where the likelihood is higher that your business is falling down on its customer service increases.

Therefore, the first step towards achieving the desired single view should be to remove the possibility of blur occurring, by implementing a mission control that can provide consistency to multichannel customer experiences. And the best place for such a mission control is the contact center which, while certainly far from perfect, clearly has the most experience in handling both multiple technology channels and customer data.

Ultimately, companies seeking to develop a single view of the customer will need to implement a new operating model that considers all operational elements, including channels, holistically. This new model will need to align all components - from process and sourcing to analytics, metrics, skills, technology, assets, channels, governance and culture – around the objective of achieving a unified view of the customer experience.

We will discuss ways of achieving this in the next blog, but for now, remember that obtaining a holistic view of your customer will enable you to reap many rewards, such as improved customer advocacy, increased revenue, and better profitability.

[About the author]Dylon headshot Dylon Mills is the Director of Marketing Content Strategy & Development at Jacada. As such, Dylon’s main responsibilities are to strategize, create and deliver content for Jacada’s product portfolio that align with the global Go-To-Market strategy, corporate positioning, and marketing campaigns. Dylon’s prior work experience includes Product Management at one of the top Fortune 500 Technology companies, Symantec Corporation. Outside of work, Dylon enjoys problem-solving and any project that includes building/tinkering with tools. Dylon holds a BS Consumer Economics from the University of Georgia.

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