Working in customer-centric industries gives people an ultra-strong bond, and it leads to some pretty interesting conversations. When Monica and I meet up, we often compare notes about current and past experiences. During our most recent chat, we both mentioned how true Gartner’s prediction has become that customer experience is the new battlefield.

To win the battle, companies must have a 360-degree view of their customers. Striving for that total view of the customer is not a new pursuit, and one reason the struggle continues is the changing landscape. When Monica was a frequent flyer marketer at a national airline in the 1990s, the airline’s view of customers was limited to program members and was based on location, status and partners used. To manage these relationships, the airline relied on little more than the frequent flyer number, name, address, city pairs, tier level and mileage totals.

Fast forward to 2017, and frequent flyer programs are 37 years old. Sometimes disappointing members, the programs remain more tactical than strategic in nature. But, the changes that have occurred across the industry and in its customer base mean the industry must elevate how customer relationships are managed. Without adopting more customer-centric benefits, the airlines are in danger of losing member loyalty, and they become an easy target for a disrupter. Could something like bitcoin for a loyalty program point exchange be the catalyst the industry needs?

Banking has already experienced disruption, driven by newer mobile banking options. The industry has seen an influx of “unbanked” customers who have never had a traditional bank account, joined by traditional banking customers adding mobile and online services. With so much riding on the success of these new products, banks have a lot to lose if they can’t provide an optimal customer experience. These new customers, many of whom are millennials, internationals and tech-savvy, and who do not visit the bank branch or interact with bankers, have extremely high expectations, and first impressions count.

Almost every industry has experienced a digital disruption (or is about to). Companies have more comprehensive information about their customers—and the amount is growing daily thanks to social media, online activity tracking, and smartphones. But more information doesn’t always produce the trusted data that’s needed to be meet customer expectations.

Here’s why a 360-degree customer view remains elusive:

  • Today’s world is more complex, both fragmented and interconnected. Most of us interact on our smartphones, tablets, and laptops with brands through email, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat), e-commerce sites and corporate websites, in person, through call centers, via snail mail, and through channel or delivery partners. Between Monica and me, we have no fewer than 11 email accounts and just as many Internet-connected devices. The data that just the two of us creates across all of these channels and interactions is pretty hefty, and it should be aligned for a 360-degree customer view.
  • Departmental approaches reinforce siloed processes. Small, group-based efforts to understand customer data are contributing to the problem—not helping. Tactical imperatives can’t scale enough to support enterprise-wide strategies. Like trying to stop an itch by scratching it, the multiple applications and organizational structures that exist within a company make the problem worse. Each produces its own version of the truth and contributes to overall data sprawl. If implemented as a departmental, tactical program and not as part of a strategic enterprise-wide initiative, a 360-degree customer view will have little success.
  • Marketing, sales, and customer service teams struggle to keep pace. The answers you need today aren’t the ones you will need tomorrow. System flexibility becomes an imperative. Data that fuels 360-degree customer views—that is, the basic data about the customer, their preferences, the products they own or services they use, who they do business with, their households, businesses and networks—should be connected in a central hub flexible enough to keep pace with and inform future needs.

Changing Cultures, Changing Experiences

How do you ensure your strategies don’t become an assembly of disconnected tactics? The most successful customer-ready companies build customer-centric strategies that are embraced at the highest level. While led by the chief executive officer, the customer experience may be owned by the chief customer officer, chief data officer, or chief marketing officer, but customer interactions become everyone’s responsibility. Accordingly, everyone is provided with the right tools fueled by trusted customer information, leading to better-informed customer decisions and great customer experiences.

A neutral, third-party partner is often much more successful at initiating this type of companywide, top-down approach. What we’ve seen at Trianz is that bringing a consultant on for these efforts helps identify where the data is stranded and helps to instill new cultural attitudes that promote a customer-centric, data-centered company. By working closely with the chief data officer, chief customer officer or the CMO, Trianz takes an end-to-end view of master data management from both a technology and cultural perspective. We also have the advantage of introducing learnings and best practices gained from working with companies across multiple industries. What we’ve found every time is that this approach builds successful, customer-centric companies that improve their business by providing outstanding customer experiences.

Getting to a 360-degree customer view is not only about choosing a good service provider. Services go hand in hand with best-performing master data management (MDM) imperatives. Trianz is working with Informatica, the market’s leading provider of modular, end-to-end MDM imperatives, to deliver exceptional customer experiences through data.

Trianz and Informatica will continue to beat the drum of “Great customer experiences start with great data.” We can’t say this enough, and we have support for this belief in the book, Customer Data Strategies. As part of the always-popular “Dummies” series by Wiley, this book is the definitive guide to learning how to manage your customer data so that it becomes a strategic asset.

Sustaining a 360-degree view of customers is a journey, and every business needs the right combination of service expertise and advanced MDM imperatives to get you started and keep you going for the long haul.

AuthorsPrasanna RajagopalanMonica Mullen