A different way to achieve a single view of the customer


There was an article in May of this year on MyCustomer.com that talked about the single view of the customer and how it is 20-year old idea but one that had still not really arrived yet.

The article went on to quote some data from Experian , a UK data company, who had found that whilst 72% of businesses they had spoken to understood the importance and advantages of a single view of the customer, only 16% of businesses said that they had one in place. They also found that the main barrier to achieving a single view of the customer was “a lack of resource to implement a solution”.

But, is it just that? Is it just about a lack of resources? For 20 years?

Customer experience strategist, Donna Peeples, in an interview on Business 2 Community offers an alternative view and believes that one of the issues stopping many firms and executives from achieving a single view of the customer is that “There is nothing sexy about these administrative systems”.

But there is more, Econsultancy in their own research finds others obstacles to achieving a single customer view that include:

  • The difficulty in estimating the cost or budget required to implement single view of the customer initiative;
  • The difficulty of predicating how long it would take to implement it; and
  • Achieving management buy-in (This is presumably connected to the first two).

However, the challenges don’t stop there. In an interview that I had with James McGourlay of OpenText, he added the following challenges into the mix:

  • The state of technology i.e. legacy systems and their compatibility;
  • Different departments are not working together to address this problem; and
  • The work itself is such a large undertaking.

What a complicated picture and what a big problem. No wonder not many forms have solved this in the last 20 years.

James, however, goes on to suggest that there is a danger that the current situation may persist as some firms are now getting distracted by the possibilities of big data. The problem with that thinking is that it ignores or underplays the fundamental benefits of having a single view of the customer and how it can enhance a firm’s ability to deliver better customer service.

This view is supported by Econsultancy’s research which also found that firms that had achieved their own single view said that the top three benefits they had achieved were:

  1. A better ability to target and optimise for specific customers;
  2. Improved customer service; and
  3. A better ability to segment customers.

But, despite these benefits still only a small number of firms seem to have achieved the single view.

Given that this idea has been around for 20 years now, does there not have to be a better, or different, way of achieving a single view of the customer?

If we review some of the challenges again what jumps out is that none of them are external barriers and none of them come from the customer. Most of them, if not all of them, are all internally focused.

Is that the problem? Perhaps.

Some companies are taking a different path and James told me a story of one such firm that has turned the traditional approach (i.e. overcome the internal challenges) on it’s head . That firm is DNB Bank group in Norway and, in particular, their car financing arm who have 300,000 vehicles that they are financing on the road at any one time.

What happened was that they were interested in helping their customers better manage their vehicle fleets and the associated costs that go with them as a way of enhancing their customer experience. As a result, they developed a system to do exactly that. In doing so they ended up achieving their own single view of the customer.

What’s great about DNB Bank’s approach is that they have missed out all of the internal challenges completely and turned their focus onto their customer and onto delivering value and better service to them. In doing so, a single view of the customer has been delivered by focusing on their customer and designing and delivering a customer value and service initiative.




This post was originally published on my Forbes.com column.
Photo Credit: mahalie via Compfight cc

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