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Customer data integration a market opportunity, says CXP Group consultant

Technology and service providers should focus on customer data integration to help businesses improve customer satisfaction, says CXP Group consultant Nicole Dufft

Few European organisations have all the data relating to customer experience and satisfaction in a single IT system, presenting a market opportunity for suppliers, according to a digital enterprise consultant.

Research by advisory firm CXP Group shows that at least eight different business departments within companies affect customers’ experience and satisfaction. All these departments are important sources of customer data, ranging from sales, marketing and contact centres to branches, merchants, product development and IT.

However, only a third of European companies claim to have a single IT system that integrates customer data from all relevant sources, while 16% claim there is no need for such a system.

“This means 50% of companies polled do not have this capability but see a strong need to integrate customer data from various systems and sources into a single system or view of the customer,” said Nicole Dufft, vice-president of digital enterprise at CXP Group.

“If I were a technology provider or service provider I would target companies in this 50% because it is huge and there is a very strong need to address integration of this data,” she told the Consumer Identity Summit in Paris.

CXP Group research has also shown that only selected departments have access to valuable customer data, which severely limits collaboration for improved customer experience.

Most departments have access to customer contact data in only 39% of companies polled, but when it comes to contact history across all “touchpoints” this falls to 25% of respondents. All departments have access to customer profiles detailing usage and preferences in only 21% of companies.

“In this digital age, old ways of doing things no longer work”
Nicole Dufft, CXP Group

“I was somewhat surprised that only 40% of companies give all departments access to the CRM [customer relationship management] data because that data should be accessible to everyone,” said Dufft.

“There are regulatory issues, I know, but even if it is just aggregated on anonymous data to see the contact history, to see how customers move from one touchpoint to another across the company, and to see where improvements can be made,” she said.

Innovation along these lines, according to Dufft, means organisations need to provide much wider access to data about interactions with customers.

“If you want everyone in an organisation to think more about the customer, they need access to the relevant data. They need to be able to visualise that data to think about how they can improve the customer experience,” she said.

Breaking down barriers

But Dufft said the fact that customer data, systems and customer interactions tend to be in separate silos is only part of the challenge to providing positive customer experiences.

“Often what is really preventing this data from being accessible across organisations is the fact that people tend to think in silos too, because they are managed that way and their performance is measured that way.

“They think within their individual teams, whether it is the sales team, the marketing team, the customer services team or in back-end functions with the aim of meeting their own particular set of KPIs [key performance indicators], but in this digital age, old ways of doing things no longer work,” she said.

Albert Einstein recognised this phenomenon when he said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

This means, said Dufft, solving problems in the digital age often requires new ways of thinking and new ways of working together.

“The world is changing at an exponential rate, so we have to start throwing overboard old ways of thinking and adopt more holistic ways of thinking, especially when the rate of change is extremely fast,” she said.

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Dufft suggested that part of the solution to the problem might be in changing the way the performance of departments is measured by including an assessment of how they are contributing to improving customer experiences and customer satisfaction, and by how well they collaborate and share information and expertise.

“Measuring how people perform in these areas instead of just how much money they are making or how efficient they are will help to encourage them to think outside their teams about what else is happening in the company, and in this way to become more innovative and agile in terms of providing a better customer experience, which is what is required to survive in the digital age,” she said.

According to Dufft, long-term planning is an example of the type of ideas that need to be thrown overboard.

“In times of rapid change, five-year plans do not work. We have to be agile, we have to be iterative, and people need to be encouraged to think in a more customer-centric way,” she said.

In summary, Dufft said it is very important to understand that customer experience is a team sport that requires collaboration of most departments in an organisation.

“It is also important for everyone in the company to put themselves into their customers’ shoes every once in a while, and in some companies, even managers are now required to go on customer journeys to find out what it is like to be a customer of their organisations,” she said.

In most organisations there is a need to build a cross-functional, multi-disciplinary taskforce to improve customer experiences with as many high-ranking representatives of the various departments to get the support of the top management, said Dufft.

She cautioned against implementing any isolated systems, especially in the light of the all the technologies that are available.

“Make system and data integration the top priority,” she said. “And finally, foster a culture of collaboration and sharing, give people the freedom to be more innovative and agile, and do not measure them by financial KPIs only because if you can deliver a great customer experience, financial success will follow.”

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