For years, businesses have been chasing the goal of creating a single source for all customer data. By having everything in one place, businesses can create more in-depth profiles of their customers and offer more personalized experiences, which should lead to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Yet few businesses have been able to pull it off. Just 20 percent of businesses say they have a single view of customers, according to a survey by market research firm Econsultancy.
Why so few? In a word: complexity.
Data is scattered across all channels where businesses interact with customers –whether it’s a call center, mobile app, or social media. Most of those channels have their own technology systems for managing data, which makes integrating it all a challenge. Indeed, analyst firm Forrester found that businesses have customer data spread across an average of 15 different systems. And most channels have their own people, processes, and leadership for working with customers, making cross-channel cooperation difficult.
The result is incomplete information about customers across different channels. For businesses, this means poorly targeted marketing campaigns and process gaps and breakdowns as customers move from one channel to the next.
Meanwhile, customers have been spoiled by digital-native companies like Uber that offer seamless, personalized experiences in the moment, and they are applying those expectations to every company they interact with. For example, if customers switch from a mobile app to the website to the call center, 91 percent say they want to be able to pick up where they left off in each channel.
Yet creating a single view of customers and bridging disconnected channels does not happen overnight. Beyond overcoming significant technology hurdles, it requires breaking down proverbial silos and getting leaders of each of those silos – and their people – to cooperate and rethink organizational structures and processes.
Take Control of the Customer Journey
The best way for businesses to start smashing these silos is to become more aggressive about designing the customer journey.
Today, most companies take a passive approach to design. They use whiteboards and sticky notes to map out typical paths that customers take along the journey. They may also develop profiles, or personas, of their different customers while researching how those personas discover and purchase products and services. Using that information, companies then try to match internal processes to the different journeys that customers take.
However, customers are becoming too unpredictable for that approach. Approximately 75 percent of the journey occurs beyond the reach of the business.
Even when customers do engage with brands, they drop in and out of the journey as they continue to research on the Web, seek opinions from peers on social media, and talk with family and friends. All of these factors make following the journey difficult for companies, exposing potholes in their processes.
Instead of trying to follow customers along the journey, companies should be actively shaping those journeys. Instead of passively waiting for customers to show up in different channels, companies should anticipate what customers will need at every step of the journey and proactively create moments of interaction – including those that customers aren’t aware they need.
For example, according an article for Harvard Business Review, Sungevity, a solar panel supplier, sends its prospects a URL where they can see a Google Earth image of their house with solar panels superimposed on the roof. While on the page, prospects can click through to a custom report that shows how Sungevity calculated the savings they will receive from switching to solar.
Sungevity’s tightly scripted customer journey anticipates what customers will want and need along the way and leaves no gaps that could cause them to drop out of the process or seek other providers. The journey is simply too easy and convenient for customers to want to leave.
Though having a single view of the customer and omnichannel integration are important goals, they will become table stakes over time. Designing customer journeys that make customers never want to leave is the kind of advantage that few competitors can duplicate.
Want more strategies that win customer loyalty? See Making Customer Relationships Stick.
Christopher Koch is the editorial director of the SAP Center for Business Insight.