Single View Of The Customer. Holy Grail or Holy Hell?

At my current client, I dared to introduce the dreaded “Single View Of The Customer” concept and promptly got shot down in flames. Two years later and we are about to start implementing it. Why did my client change its mind and will it be worth it? This blog shares some insights into these dilemmas.

I started my current assignment over 2 years ago.

I was brought into my clients Enterprise Architecture team to specialise in CRM (as a Strategist and Architect) and ensure that a new CRM project was being developed correctly and in line with corporate, rather than divisional needs.

My first question was: “What is the strategy driving the project?” There wasn’t one. “OK”, I said “Then what are they trying to achieve?”. The response I got is typical of many projects: The Division wants a CRM tool. Many months later and we had started to define and refine an overarching strategy, vision and objectives. These led to benefits to which we could link requirements. One of those benefits was to be better able to serve customers by providing pertinent, accurate up to date information ased upon all of their interactions with the organisations. I dared to introduce the dreaded “Single View Of The Customer” concept and promptly got shot down in flames.

Apparently, other consultancies had previously advised them against this approach as they cited numerous examples of failed implementations, huge overruns and massive spends. I would have been more popular had I suggested starting a Data Cleansing project!!!

Several months later, as we finally begin the implementation, a Single View Of The Customer is now accepted as a “must-have” and essential to help the organisation achieve several of its goals and realise benefits, not just for the organisation but for the customer (yes- a CRM Program that is actually delivering benefits to the customer too- hurray!!!).

It has gone from being the Holy Hell to the Holy Grail. I intend to unravel the reasons for this and what we are hoping to achieve. A seperate blog will look at some of the implementation considerations facing clients about to embark on the journey to a Single View Of The Customer.

My client has lots of customers. They also have lots of different sources of customer data. Each source has many duplicate entries and inaccurate information. The data is not shared between different divisions and there is a prevailing culture of departmental over protectiveness of their own “customer database”. Does this sound familiar? I have come across this on so many programs that I will be surprised when I discover an organisation with a single customer database of clean and high quality data!

As always, it was necessary to take a customer perspective to start the client understanding why change was needed. In most meetings I attend, I ask people to imagine a cardboard cutout sat in one of the chairs. Her name is Cathy. She represents a Customer. Whenever we get to a point where I feel we are becoming inward looking, I say “Let’s ask Cathy”. When we discussed improving the customer experience, I explained that Cathy is frustrated because she interacts with different parts of the organisation at different times but keeps having to repeat who she is and why she is calling, which surprises her as she thought these divisions were all part of the same organisation. In other words, her expectations are not being met leading to a poor customer experience.

I am not advocating that every organisation should develop a Single View of the Customer. Traditionally, the Financial Services industry has led in such initiatives, as the cross and up selling opportunities from this internal sharing of client data was perceived to be of high value. The reality in creating such a view proved harder than most thought. This is often due to poor data stewardship and data management processes. The projects often blow out in terms of time and cost. Quality suffers when organisations either cut corners (to save time or money) or have poor processes. Survivors from these initiatives told horror stories that gave the impression that achieving the Single View of a Customer is some form of Holy Hell. There is no doubt that if these obstacles can be overcome, there are benefits to both the customer (better customer service) and provider (increased retention and customer spend).

My client is not going to develop a full “enterprise” Single View of Customer. It is going to develop the “Contact Centre” view of customer. This is an integrated view based upon the records stored in legacy systems most frequently accessed in responding to customer enquiries. As these systems represent those most accessed on behalf of customers, it was agreed to limit the scope to this. It involves four “legacy” business systems and will utilise Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) to create a single view.

This “view” will be visible within the new CRM software accessed by the Contact Centre. Rules determining Push/Pull, Read/Write and Deduplication are yet to be established but the Data Analysts are currently finalising a Customer Data Model which will use Master Data Management concepts.

One of the key benefits will be what is termed the 360 degree view. This is the ability to view information relating to the customer from a single screen. For example, one might be able to see the Interaction History, Order History, Service Request History and Campaign Responses. This enables our Contact Centre agents to become the one stop shop for all customer enquiries. This would not be possible at present because we have no single view (multiple systems, duplicate records) and therefore cannot be sure that Customer X in the Order Management system is Customer X in the Service system. Enquiry time should be reduced and accuracy increased. These benefits formed part f our business case and the non tangible benefits (such as Improved Customer Perception and Image) only serve to strengthen the rationale. However, had we attempted to attempt the whole single view, the incremental benefit would be small whilst the incremental development large. It was therefore difficult to justify. Time will tell whether this decision will prove to be the right one.

In conclusion, the Single View is not easy but it will generate benefits for many organisations, especially those looking to support a single entry customer interface, upsell, cross sell or provide a strong customer self service capability. The expression “Knowledge is Power” is true but knowledge can only come from wisdom based on accurate information. A Single View Of Customer enables an organisation to have accurate customer information, if implemented correctly. Implementation Considerations will be the topic of the next blog.

Influencing Sales- the role of CRM tools (Part One).

I was reading recently an article that argued that “Salespeople have always hated CRM tools”. Having been involved in Sales prior to joining the wonderful world of CRM Consulting, I pondered this point of view and thought it would make an interesting topic for debate because IF it is true, then what can help influence the sale? Is it all about the interaction, the product/service being sold and/or other factors that a Salesperson cannot influence? If so, what role can a CRM tool play?

This is the first in a series of three blogs on this subject. The first will focus on the factors of influence in the Digital World. The Second will investigate whether CRM tools can help drive Sales and the final blog will look at why, if CRM tools help drive Sales, are Salespeople traditionally wary of them.

I was reading recently an article that argued that “Salespeople have always hated CRM tools”. Having been involved in Sales prior to joining the wonderful world of CRM Consulting, I pondered this point of view and thought it would make an interesting topic for debate because IF it is true, then what can help influence the sale? Is it all about the interaction, the product/service being sold and/or other factors that a Salesperson cannot influence? If so, what role can a CRM tool play?

This is the first in a series of three blogs on this subject. The first will focus on the factors of influence in the Digital World. The Second will investigate whether CRM tools can help drive Sales and the final blog will look at why, if CRM tools help drive Sales, are Salespeople traditionally wary of them?

Years ago, I worked in the Pharmaceutical Industry in England. I hasten to add that this was before Viagra but after Prozac! I worked for three different Pharmaceutical companies in that period but I will relate my experience directly to one particular major international organisation who are still a global leader today.

My division sold prescription medicines. We sold to Doctors (G.P’s) because Doctors prescribed medicine. We had a different team selling the same products to Hospital Doctors. Doctors were not the “buyers” though. Buyers were Pharmacists who dispensed the drugs that the Doctors prescribed. The pharmacists dispensed drugs to patients who were regarded by Pharmacists as their customers. It was illegal to advertise ethical prescription medicines to these “end users”. Pharmacists could only buy from Wholesalers who bought directly from my company. So, who influenced the sale in this complex purchasing matrix? At the time, all the focus was on G.P’s as they wrote the prescriptions which created demand.

Most Pharma companies spent an awful lot of $$$ targetting Doctors. Whilst the industry is heavily regulated, Pharma companies became well known for interpreting these regulations in creative ways. For example, I was able to organise a “medical conference” on “Sport Injury” that took place in the Corporate Hospitality box before and during a major local sporting event. The G.P’s attending had to attend the 30 minutes of discussion on Sports Injuries before enjoying 4 more hours of sport and corporate hospitality!!

However, despite the money thrown at them, Doctors regarded the Pharma Industry with a high degree of wariness (in most cases) and were (in most cases) difficult to influence. So where did their influence come from?

Of course it is different for every individual G.P but a lot of the time it came from:
1. Local policy dictated to them by an authority (or even within their own practice), who offered cash incentives to help cut prescribing costs
2. Independant research carried out by the National Institute for Clininal Effectiveness (NICE)
3. “Thought Leaders”. National subject authorities in their therapeutic field or Local Specialist Hospital Consultants who gave advice in written and verbal contact to G.P’s.
4. Financial incentives offered by some companies where Doctors could sell Drugs directly (Dispensing Doctors).
In terms of the power of influence, certain new and traditional channels made little impact: TV- irrelevant. Radio- irrelevant. Newspapers- irrelevant. Journals- some were very influential (e.g The Lancet), but WHICH journal was very critical in terms of influencing power.

Today, we have a powerful new tool: The Internet. CRM tools have existed for some time preceding the Internet boom but the Internet has enabled development in CRM tools, for example, “in the cloud”. The impact of Social Media and the increase in information being available more widely from a greater variety of sources helps decision makers research and validate decisions. Has the Internet changed the power balance in terms of influencing decision makers?

In the Pharma Industry, I don’t believe things have changed greatly, despite the Internet. The power of the written word still holds true in this industry and whilst I believe Social Media may enable greater potential for information (and disinformation), Doctors are still likely to keep on being influenced by the same channels as before. Practice or Authority based decisions, Government initiatives or discounted “deals” to Dispensing practices demonstrate that money talks!!! The difference in 2010 is just that Doctors are able to access that influential knowledge more easily. If anything, the poor old G.P is overwhelmed by information. Old traits still hold true though. People buy, primarily, from People. Relationship selling still has a role to play in the Pharma Industry but it is up to Pharma companies to use CRM tools and processes to better target the right decision makers, with the right message at the right time. In the next blog I will investigate how CRM tools can help drive Sales beyond the rhetoric of CRM Vendors. This perspective is from a Sales and CRM practicioner.