retailciooutlook

Optimizing a 360-degree Customer View Begins with Vision

By Michael Wilburn, senior director, global CRM technology at Ancestry

Michael Wilburn, senior director, global CRM technology at Ancestry

What is preventing organizations from truly optimizing their 360-degree view of the customer? I’ll give you a hint - it’s not technology.   

"Disconnected teams who collect customer data tend to draw conclusions from the gains in whatever tactical metric they happen to be impacting"

Creating a viable customer view, once only a dream, has become mission critical for being competitive in the marketplace and building trust with your customers by demonstrating you know and understand their needs. The opportunities for getting one-to-one marketing right are real and if done correctly yield a wealth of knowledge that can drive innovation throughout an entire organization.   

Collecting data is the easy part, collecting the right data and driving real business value with that data is the challenge. If you’re leading with a technology-centric view, I would recommend altering the approach. While it’s true, you can’t be successful without the right technology; it also takes clear lines of responsibility, a solid business case and strong partners in your organization to be successful.   

Who owns the customer view? 

The ability to collect customer data is within reach of many teams in an organization. Testing teams, product teams, engineering, customer service and marketing are among those that can collect copious amounts of data. But when it comes to clearly defining the customer view, it gets muddy.   

Disconnected teams who collect customer data tend to draw conclusions from the gains in whatever tactical metric they happen to be impacting. These conclusions can lead to false or incomplete impressions of how a customer really looks and behaves. Opinions are formed and the belief that ‘we own the customer’ turns into a battle call instead of a call to action. If left unchecked, these conclusions can be elevated as actionable insights for the entire company. At best, this view is inefficient and at worst, it can send an entire department off the rails.    

In short, any one part of an organization can stake a claim to the ‘customer view’ without really knowing the customer. So how do you prevent this? Should the customer be owned by Technology? Product? Does it matter? Consider this; customers do not experience your product in terms of your management or organizational hierarchy. So, why should the customer experience be dictated by it?   

To make the right choice, leadership must look beyond what are often the typical choices for ownership. Those selected to own the customer view must be able to see beyond the way the company is organized and influence it accordingly. It should be those who understand and can articulate the customer journey in terms of how it provides utility for the customer.  

Build from a solid business case and vision. 

It’s obvious how any organization can be seduced by the promises of a 360-degree view of the customer. The financial and customer satisfaction projections are lofty and that promise has led many down the path of large and often fruitless technology expenditure. Goals go unmet and the result is often an organization awash in data that few can access, use or even understand. The C-suite can be left with nothing but questions about a blossoming technology budget and wondering why everyone is more confused than before.   

Why does this happen how can you prevent it? One of the culprits, corporate verticals often have very different ideas of what defines a ‘customer’. And as result have a very different ‘end’ in mind what for they are trying to build.  

Having one vision to define the purpose and desired outcome of this customer view is an imperative to success. It should be the single voice that drives prioritization across the entire enterprise. Writing a vision for your customer view is a serious exercise – one that you only get out what you put in -- and it’s also an opportunity to garner support with cross-organizational cooperation, input and buy-in.   

1. Start with the data to build your business case. Getting buy-in on the business case first will frame the vision statement; you don’t want to over promise if you have dependencies that can’t be met.   

2. Set the right tone. Too lofty and it becomes unbelievable, open to interpretation or just plain unachievable. Teams will get lost and delivery won’t match expectations. Alternatively, thinking too small leads to tactical execution, which will cause you to miss out on the true potential or fail to persuade executives that it’s worth the effort.   

3. Consider all angles. A crisp vision requires a clear sense of what inputs, efforts and outcomes are required for success. Aside from purely financial results, don’t be afraid to go deeper. Who will need access to the data? How will they use it? What is the value of the data? What’s its purpose, to drive conversion or customer satisfaction? What can be learned from it? Tough questions to answer but do your homework here and improve your chances for success.

Succeed with a tight scope and a strong partnership. 

A vision frames the job at hand, but without execution it’s merely a fantasy. A critical output of the vision process should be a clear scope definition. What needs to be done by when, and just as important, what will be excluded? While your vision can be aspirational, the scope and execution plan must be concise and tightly defined.   

When considering your first deliverable, consider making it an easy target. At the onset, your job should be to build competency and demonstrate capability. The sooner you are able to get actionable insights deployed, the stronger your position is with leadership and your stakeholders. Once you’ve demonstrated value, the other milestones will be easier to work towards.   

This journey is not any single person’s or even single team’s endeavor. It requires cooperation and collaboration on a grand scale. While people generally get the idea, the reality is harder to achieve mainly because cross-functional teams have different goals, metrics and agendas. How do you ensure your work will be done by the teams you depend on? Bring your partners along with you while you’re writing the business case and shaping the vision. Share goals and accountability. Most importantly, share the success.