When businesses approach us to help them resolve data quality problems, they’re often looking to achieve a single customer view. On paper, this sounds easy. Just pool the data, merge it, deduplicate it and you’re done – right? Well, no.
Once you start a deduplication or data merge project, you soon realise just how complex the single customer view can be. For every business, there are different ways of looking at the same customer; depending on the department, the data required to make sense of that customer will be completely different. Coming to the utopian point – the single database record – means pooling data from accounting, CRM, ERP, social media and many other sources.
So why persevere with the single customer view? Is it actually worth it? And what are the potential rewards?
Customer Data: Understanding the Challenge
The worst thing we can do is force a simplistic picture of a customer on every department. If we remove too much data to try to come up with a ‘one size fits all’ picture, we could create a customer record that helps nobody at all.
To work towards a single customer view, we need the business to come to a series of realisations about their data quality issues:
- The business must accept that poor data causes problems for them (problems being a catch-all phrase for lost revenue, inefficiency, complaints, legal action and so on).
- Managers must accept that data quality is a priority for the business and should not be set aside until next year or the year after.
- Data will have to be pooled from a variety of sources, from the CRM system to the paper invoices in the filing cabinet.
- Someone needs to be put in charge of data merging and deduplication; deciding which copy of a duplicated record is the correct one.
- Everyone should understand that the IT department is not solely responsible for maintaining the data collected by everyone else.
Single Customer View: the Reward
When the single customer view is achieved, the customer needs to stay at the heart of the business. That might mean some processes have to be changed to support a new way of working. On the plus side, a single customer view will allow you to easily highlight areas where costs can be cut, waste can be reduced, and sales teams can upsell products and services.
Studies have shown that up to 30 per cent of revenue is squandered when data quality is low. Of this 30 per cent, only 7 per cent of problems are related to IT and data storage. The remaining 23 per cent relates to operational inefficiency and pure, old-fashioned waste.
Achieving the single customer view results in each department cutting down on duplication and waste, making more informed decisions and increasing profit margins and ROI. The customer will also feel reassured that their data is being stored efficiently, securely and without need for their intervention.
Starting a data quality project need not be daunting. Focus on the 80:20 rule. Fix 20 per cent of the problems that are causing you 80 per cent of the financial impact. From there, you can build on your success, change the culture of your business and keep working towards the ideal vision of the single customer view.