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Is your organisation ready for a Single Customer View?

By Lee Witherell • 14 June 2016

Over the past decade, advances in technology have enabled marketers to communicate with their customers via a multitude of new channels. The massive growth in digital has seen web, SMS and social media join traditional direct marketing tools such as direct mail, email and telephone.

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Developing and building a meaningful conversation with customers using all the channels at our disposal gives marketers the potential to bring unprecedented depth, engagement and value to brand and consumer interactions – if used correctly.

Whilst many companies are now using some if not all of these channels, many have fallen into the trap of creating multiple channel silos rather than truly integrated multi-channel communications. The difference may seem insignificant but, in practical terms, the two approaches are worlds apart.

Multiple channels/ multiple messages?

A multiple channel strategy simply uses all the methods available to contact customers, but not in a consistently joined-up manner. There is little or no consideration given to delivering the consumer a consistent view of the brand. This is particularly true when the consumer’s interaction is with various functions of the same organisation e.g. marketing, customer service or after-sales service.

And from the company’s perspective, the same issue emerges; many brands are unable to quickly access a single view of the customer - i.e. what products they hold, what the last communication with the company was and what the next touch point is likely to be or should be.

This problem has been particularly pronounced in financial services where customers are likely to hold more than one product with one company. With banks, for example, one individual may have current and savings accounts, mortgages and loans. Historically, these products have been heavily siloed so communication is rarely integrated between them; a problem exacerbated as the number of channels and frequency of communication increases. In practical terms, this might mean a customer receives two items of mail on the same day relating to both their mortgage and their debit card, not to mention exhaustive and impersonal terms and conditions, pertaining to their multiple product holdings.

Is ‘multi-channel’ the answer?

Multi-channel suggests to me that businesses are communicating with their clients through one,
or several different methods. The difference with using multiple channels is that there is an amount of joining together of the brand’s approach and messaging. However, this is not without it’s issues.
Even where companies have developed a single customer view and implemented marketing automation software to drive multi-channel communications, they are often constrained by a legacy of organisational, departmental and system divisions – these can become significant barriers to affecting meaningful change. Plus, this seems all a little inward focussed.

The customer is now in control, not you

So, let’s turn our attention back to the customer, and we see that we still need to sharpen the communication tool. After all, they (the customer) are now in charge - and a ‘multi-channel’ approach feels very operational.
We’re in the ‘age of the customer’ (having passed through the ages of manufacturing, distribution and information). What this means to marketers is that customers are dictating the pace and brands, should they listen correctly, are being told how they should be communicating with them.

And it’s because customers have much more information at hand through a multitude of sources, that multi-channel needs further defining - which is where omni-channel comes in.

A true omni-channel approach considers the communication experience much more through the eyes of the customer - a broader insight and understanding of touch-points and knowing that the customers’ journey with you may start and end in very different channels entirely.

It’s true that the technology, the delivery platform, are important - however an omni-channel view places the focus on understanding how customers will behave, and what their needs may be.

Delivering a true omni-channel communications strategy should result in companies integrating different product areas and using a single platform which enables them to get a broader view the information available to them. However, and importantly, it’s from there that they are better enabled to analyse, understand, predict and then deliver meaningful communications via the appropriate channel, at the right time - and enabling a better brand experience.

But, how do you make this a practical reality for the majority of businesses?

Using the single customer view (SCV) to drive communications enables marketing, product and transactional messages to be properly and seamlessly synchronised. Only through the use of an effective SCV can companies fully operationalise their customer segmentations and extract maximum value from the numerous channels open to them, whilst also preventing brands from unwittingly bombarding their customers with inconsistent and ill-timed communications that are viewed as irrelevant and not engaging.

Companies must therefore be sufficiently joined-up in their internal structures in order to exploit the benefits of the SCV. The insight delivered by central picture of customer behaviour will be wasted if that information is not used consistently across all departments to enhance the customer journey.

As a consumer, when we communicate with a company we want to be assured that they recognise us, understand us, value us.

But don’t be mistaken in thinking a SCV is the only way to this communication nirvana. It’s not, however, it is the necessary starting point.

A SCV is a facilitator, an enabler. It puts you much further on the journey of seeing your customers as individuals - but you then must apply this knowledge to create insight, define what to say, how to say it and when to say it too.

The single customer view provides the marketer with key information to use at every customer touch-point; enabling them to deliver personalised, relevant and engaging customer experiences. Ultimately this results in more engaged customers, higher sales and greater shareholder value.

So, will a utopian future for marketers see the entire business organised around customer needs rather than products or channels? With the single customer view at the heart of the organisation, that future is starting to look a little closer.

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