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Originally published 7 July 2009
Customers can make or break a business, especially in today’s tumultuous economic times. They provide the main source of revenue. So, customer relationship management becomes the key to loweredcustomer acquisition costs and improved retention. It also drives increased profitability as loyal customers increase their spending. As such, most enterprises go to great lengths to acquire andretain their customers.
Taking control of their customer data enables organizations to grow or sustain their business. Knowledge about customers is critical to these relationships. Gaining insight requires completeawareness of every interaction between a customer and the organization, enabling those who engage to maximize the customer experience and fully meet their needs.
Information from all aspects of each interaction needs to be centralized, organized and presented to appropriate staff with customer contact. It needs to be done in a timely manner and in a formatthat allows them to act effectively on a customer strategy. A business intelligence (BI) platform can consolidate data into one place, provide greater insights and allow the company to harness thatinformation to generate sales in a more cost-efficient manner.
As organizations grow, their IT systems evolve to support critical business processes. These systems could be from different vendors and implemented by different teams. And, the customer concept maynot always be implemented using the same logic. To effectively manage customer interactions, data from each system that supports customer “touch” needs to be consolidated with a commonreference. Creating a master customer index – one that maps the customer identifier from order entry, customer service and billing – needs to be common to relate the records from thedisparate systems. This provides a complete picture for customer interactions.
However, as mentioned in a previous article, most organizations today are unable to collect and harness theinformation they have to deliver real business value. Customer interactions are recorded and captured within disparate systems that span several departments and may not be integrated together. As aresult, these solutions are limited in the benefits they offer to the organization. It leaves companies with multiple records of the same customer and little insight into their purchasing patterns orpreferences. Without a centralized repository of customer information, employees cannot interact with customers in a truly meaningful way.
For example, a customer could call one department about a shipment that has not been received and discuss the delay in payment. Meanwhile, the collections department is calling the customer lookingfor the payment. Throughout this process, front-line staff does not have access to customer history and treats the issue as a first incident. This upsets the customer and can escalate into a negativesituation. Lack of communication between departments and systems can jeopardize the existing relationship. If the collections department had access to the history of all interactions with thatparticular customer, they could have offered a specialized treatment based on that history. This could curb a potentially negative experience that could lose a customer.
With an integrated approach, organizations can use BI tools to leverage customer data to improve relationships. It also can use alerting and scorecard measuring to track performance based on salestargets. This can give them the insight they need to make profitable decisions. In the previous example, the call center would know the customer’s history and interact appropriately based upontheir purchase history and loyalty. By investigating the delay of shipment and tagging the account, the call center is proactively resolving the issue to expedite payment, which helps theorganization and the customer. Accounts receivable will not call because the integrated system indicates the deficient payment is being resolved.
With business intelligence, companies can also take advantage of effective functionalities, such as market basket analysis. This uses data to improve market awareness to gain better customer andmarket insight. For example, an online banking website can use data to create a specialized profile of a particular customer in order to determine interest in any additional services. Using acombination of business intelligence and customer relationship management (CRM), the data provides a clearer understanding of customers’ preferences and purchasing trends. The company can thenuse this data to predict future trends and gain market insight.
The question is: how do organizations get started? Below are a few steps that businesses should consider:
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