Single View versus the 360′ view

This is a short post as I’m often asked what the difference is between the two views.
A single view is about an aggregation of data designed to ensure that many internal systems are kept in alignment. The benefit to the customer being that they only need maintain their customer details with the organization once. Years ago, I had arranged to visit a CRM vendor to discuss CRM partnerships. I rang the Alliance Manager and made an appointment with her. The day before the meeting, I thought I should research their offering so I went onto their website. I had to register for an online demo. About 5 minutes into the demo, my phone rang.

” Hello, it’s Jason here from XYZ software Inc (for those about to Google this company, that is a made up name!)…I notice you have just logged on to our demo. Do you have any questions?”

I was not that impressed. I mean, it was just a Telesales guy trying to sell to me wasn’t it? He had my details from the registration form. I told him that I was just researching their latest release.

“Oh, I guess that’s in preparation for your meeting with Sandra tomorrow?”

I was blown away. That was my first experience of a Single View and it had me at Single.
A 360 degree view is an aggregation of data to provide an all round view of that customers interactions and transactions with your organization. It is supported by a Single View but the difference is that it enables great potential for upwelling, cross selling and providing superior customer service. A good example is that of a citizen contacting their local council. They may wish to check up on their rates bill, report a pothole and see what has happened to their planning application. This information may reside in three different systems but the citizen doesn’t care. He sees it as “dealing with my Council” and expects the answer to his enquiries at your fingertips. Technically, there are several ways to achieve this view but there must be an identifier common to all systems to ensure that the information being accessed really does relate to that particular citizen.
There is no doubt that both of these concepts are closely related and are not always easy to achieve. Poor data quality has scuppered many well intended attempts to create these views. Nevertheless, the value can be enormous and well worth doing properly.

What is a Customer?

Confusion about CRM terminology is exacerbated by confusion over what constitutes a “customer”. Why?

It appears that many businesses are getting confused about the meaning of the word “customer”.

Recently, I travelled on a train and was a “guest” whilst in a hospital I was referred to as a Customer, not a patient.


Surely a Customer is one of these two definitions (from the Oxford Dictionary):

  • a person who buys goods or services from a shop or business:
  • [with adjective] a person of a specified kind with whom one has to deal:

I have observed government departments struggle with this. One example was at a UK Farming Payment Agency paying Agricultural grants and rebates to farmers.
Farmer Giles may be a client with whom the Agency are dealing but he is an applicant (a customer?) yet if Farmer Giles wife called the Agency regarding his affairs, she cannot be a client but an agent of the client? She wasn’t the client but she is not the customer either? And what of those buying something? Neither- both are applying for something and receiving something in return. However, the Agency decided to call them all “customers”. Clear cut?
Not exactly, see my original discussion on the complexities of the Pharmaceutical Industry. CRM software is often based on the premise that a customer has a financial relationship with you. In fact, the customer database tables often were those from financial applications. The trouble now is that customer databases are full of other non trading entities. It is therefore becoming an important “up front” question for organisations to ask “Who and what is a Customer to US?”

The variety of answers across the world explains why CRM means so many different things to different people. I explained my point of view in a previous post.

For those who may be sceptical about this argument, here is a question for you:

Who are the customers for organisations such as:

1. Political Parties

2. Tourism Agencies

3. Car Manufacturers

OK, now ask yourself whether the definition of a customer holds true across all of those examples. This is why each organisation must form its own view of what a customer is.

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.

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.

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