Single View Of The Customer- Top 10 Implementation Considerations

The purpose of this article is to share some insights for organisations embarking (or considering embarking) upon the creation of a “Single View” of the Customer within their organisation. Of course, there is a lot of detail surrounding the more technical aspects that could be explored but I would rather focus upon some of the more “business focussed” aspects that the organisation can consider. These considerations will drive the overall implementation and provide specialist Analysts and Modellers with a direction upon which the model should be based.

The overarching Data Management Strategy will determine a number of Project considerations. These will include the following Strategies and Requirements:

Data Stewardship, Governance, Standards, Bible, “Sources Of Truth”, Cleansing, Deduplication, Conversion, Migration and the Data Model. These are all subjects in themselves that any Project will need to consider.

The following list of Top 10 implementation considerations is more for Business People to consider as input to the aforementioned Project Strategies. The discussions will aid Organisational maturity in this area and can provide informed perspectives in tackling, say, the Data Stewardship model.

1. What is a Customer?

What is your organisations definition of a Customer? It could be an Organisation and/or an individual Person or Team. A “Party” is a way of representing an Entity that could be an Organisation or Person. It could be classified as a Customer amongst other types. Do you sell directly and/or indirectly? What about Suppliers, Partners, Resellers, Influencers? Would you want to consider these as types of customers or a type of Party? Perhaps a Customer could also be a Supplier and/or Partner. It is worth spending time mapping these different entities to work out who is a genuine customer and how they can be represented in your data model. This can be a significant piece of work in terms of time and also relevance.

2. Which Channels do you and will you interact across?

This is of primary concern to ensure that the same customer is appropriately represented within each channel. For example, if Customer Y was to email your organisation about a product bought from the Contact Centre, would you be easily able to identify that customer? With new interaction opportunities arising through Social Media, the ways in which your organisation interacts now and in the future should be discussed and agreed. Remember: It is better to offer consistency across all channels rather than great service in one and poor service in others.

3. What is the Customer’s perspective?

Put yourself in your Customers shoes, or even better, ask them directly. If a Customer interacts with your organisation, what do they expect you to know about them? If they interacted with you via their own Customer Portal, what would they expect to be able to see, do and modify? This will give you a greater understanding of the breadth of visibility required to be developed. By breadth, I am referring to the 360 degree view, e.g Sales Orders, Invoices, Interactions, Service Requests etc. The internal perspective (that of various employees interacting with customers) will be different from the external perspective (customers interacting with your organisation), but different “views” of the same Customer, using the same customer data, can be developed to address both sets of needs. 

4. What rules and legislation affect customer data in your geography?

Each country has its own unique sets of rules and policies regarding Customer data. Before developing a “View Of The Customer”, learn about the one’s that might impact upon design including Privacy Acts, Freedom Of Information and data retention. Some may be regulatory and enforceable. Others may be best practice. Others may be guidance. Whatever you do, make sure you are fully aware of the Information Management requirements for treatment of Customer Data.

5. Who, What, Why and When?

Who in your Organisation can view/edit what information at what times and for what purpose? In answering this question, it is possible to start building up user profiles to determine rules surrounding accessibility. For example, financial data (e.g Billing information) is normally “owned” by Finance yet Sales may need to see that data whilst Marketing might not need see it at all.

6. What relationships should be tracked?

Many organisations can obtain deeper insight and subsequent value from building a “network” of relationships between customers. These relationships are reciprocal. For Example, A is a Supplier to B. B is a Customer of A. John is the Father of Mary. Mary is the Daughter of John. By determining which relationships to track and identifying the appropriate relationship types e.g “Supplier To”, higher value sales, increased marketing effectiveness and more intimate relationships can be developed. However, please ensure these relationships are developed with the 4th point (above) in mind.

7. How do you validate and authenticate?

How do you know a Customer is who they say they are and do you care? Certain interactions may require no validation at all whilst others may require validation and authentication. Whatever you do, it is always good practice to make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with you. It can be very frustrating for customers to have to create an account, have the account validated and then authenticated prior to buying a $2 item from your webstore, especially if competitors are able to offer the same products and services without the need to validate. There is value to an organisation in encouraging customers to be validated but there should be a reciprocal benefit to the customer. Make it worh their while! Offer free P&P, access to specific information or loyalty points. Just make it worth their while.

8. Who can make updates and what rules apply?

A “Single View” of the customer often utilises “Master Data Management (MDM)” principles to determine the way the view is composed. Often, the Customer Data will be “mastered” in a CRM or within a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) environment. It will be “fed” with data from other systems and this information will be consolidated and shared between the relevant systems. Rules need to be created to determine what data can be shared, who can view that data, who can modify that data and who is accountable for the integrity of that data. As an example, a Finance System might maintain a Customer Record containing Name, Phone Number, Billing Address, Bank account details and Payment Terms. The Finance department might “own” the Billing details Bank details and Payment terms. They might be happy to share the Billing address and Payment terms with Marketing and Procurement. The Sales team “owns” the  Name and Phone number and share this with all departments. They are the only people able to update those fields. This is very brief but is provided to give a context to the decisions needing to be made.

9. What are the customer roles going to be?

It is worth mapping the various ways in which a Customer interacts with your organisation. Each role defines a type of service that they are associated with. These services can be associated with addresses. For example, a customer exists in a Marketing database because they responded to an email campaign expressing interest in Solar Hot Water. The role could be “Solar User” and the address porovided could be of type “Home Address” and also “Solar” to indicate that this address might be associated with the provision of Solar Services. This can be a complex area but, initially, is worth business users determining what types of activities, related to your organisation, do customers perform?

10. The RASCI model applied to Customer Data

Who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Supporting and Informed about Customer Data? When building the single view, this model will be critical in planning, building and supporting the overall model. Different aspects of the Single View can be attributed to different people as discussed in Point 8 but there needs to be someone accountable and responsible for every single component. Without this, data quality is likely to be poor and will eventually negate the benefit that could be derived from a Single View. It is also important to determine rules for who should be informed when data changes, who can be consulted to ensure accuracy and how is data going to be supported to ensure consistency?

Of course, your organisation may not need to do all of these 10 things. They are provided to give “food for thought” and to ensure that the right questions and discussions are taking place before embarking on the journey. If anyone has any feedback or additional insights, I would welcome the discussion.

Author: Nick Davey

Evangelist, Strategist, Leader, Implementor, Author, Speaker and all round nice guy, Nick has built his entire career on improving the management of customers both from a customers perspective "looking in" and from within an organisation "looking out". You might call it Improving the Customer Experience. Many call it CRM aka Customer Relationship Management or, as Nick often says, Constantly Realigning Misconceptions. Nick reiterates that his comments are his own personal comments and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, strategy or views of any previous employer or customer.. He is delighted to be impartial and able to share ideas with open minded and collaborative professionals around the world. Outside of his passion for CRM, Nick pursues other less demanding passions and interests whilst watching as much Sport as his long suffering wife will permit.

One thought on “Single View Of The Customer- Top 10 Implementation Considerations”

  1. The one question that, I think, remains unanswered is – “does a Customer want to be the subject of a single view”, and if the answer to that is either “don’t know” or “no” in individual circumstances, how do you deal with a customer who is identified multiple times as the “same” entity (address, name, National ID Card, Medicare Card, Social Security Number, whatever). I can imagine several scenarios where a “customer” of on part of a large and complex organisation doesn’t particularly want to be associated with other parts of the same organisation, even though they do business with both parts.

    And I’m thinking that, unless used with the utmost care and attention, social media could really, really dig a hole for an organisation in these kinds of cases.

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