Following on from last week’s post I mentioned the 360 degree customer view, and it’s a concept I wanted to explore I a bit more detail in this post.

As means of illustration I will use a worked hypothetical example of a company that manufactures a widget-making machine, which it sells directly to widget manufacturers.

So, if we follow through a sales cycle, a lead might be received when a prospective customer fills out an enquiry form on the company’s website.

The marketing manager receives the details of the lead, and inputs it into the spreadsheet they use to track incoming leads.

If the enquirer has indicated that they’re happy to receive further communications, their details are also added to the marketing communications app that the marketing team use to send monthly newsletters and offers.

The marketing manager then passes the email on to the sales manager who reviews the lead and assigns it to a salesperson.

The salesperson emails the prospective customer to arrange an initial call to qualify the opportunity. Having qualified the opportunity, they add the details of the prospective customer to the CRM system and schedule a meeting in the calendaring system to discuss their requirement in more detail.

The sales meeting goes well, and the prospective customer asks for a sales proposal. The Salesperson creates the proposal in Word and saves it to the company’s shared folders on the server.

The customer decides to go ahead with the quote, and fills out and returns the company’s order form, which is then saved in the shared folders.

The order is input into the company’s ERP system, and the machine is built for the customer.

The delivery and installation of the new machine and associated activities such as site surveys, arranging delivery, and scheduling an engineer to commission the new machine is managed through a spreadsheet.

When the installation is complete, the engineering team advise the finance team and they raise the invoice.

As the machine has an associated support contract, the details of the new client are added to the software application the support team use to log and track customer issues and arrange engineer’s visits.

So, in my very simple worked example we now have data in nine different systems:

  • Company website
  • Marketing’s lead tracking spreadsheet
  • Email marketing app
  • Email/Calendar
  • CRM system
  • Shared folders
  • ERP system
  • Delivery management spreadsheet
  • Support application

If we suppose, as is often the case in the real world, that none of these systems are integrated, customer data becomes highly fragmented and siloed.

If I wanted to fully understand the entirety of our relationship and interactions with a customer, I can’t easily do it because that data is spread across multiple systems, most of which I don’t have immediate access to.

The clearly has implications from a customer experience standpoint. Routine enquiries, such as ‘when is my machine being delivered?’ or ‘can you tell me more about that offer that you emailed me about last week?’ can’t easily be answered without reference to the owner of that particular data source.

In addition, disconnected systems are prone to failures that have additional customer experience ramifications: we receive the lead but the allocated salesperson forgets to follow it up; the salesperson leaves and we can’t find the sales proposal; we get the sales order but forget to update the engineering team so they don’t plan the installation; the engineer doesn’t report back the customer’s request for a quote for an enhanced support contract; sales don’t tell support the main customer contact has changed; sales are unaware as they go to make a major sales pitch that the client’s existing machine has been down for a week.

From a productivity perspective, having to input the same data in multiple systems and documents is unnecessarily time-consuming, and prone to human error. Trying to get up to speed about a given situation results in disruptive, all-company ‘does anyone know about…..’ emails.

Maintaining the accuracy of data across multiple disconnected systems is also both laborious and likely to result in disparities between different systems: the CRM system says they’re a customer, but, according to the support system, they replaced the machine six months ago; the address in the ERP system is different to the support system; the main contact’s phone number in the support system is different to the CRM system.

Management reports are difficult to compile and lack immediacy and insight, and, as I covered last week, the data that marketing require to generate high pay back targeted mailings isn’t available.

The salespeople don’t have the information they need to maximise customer retention and growth, and the reliance on spreadsheets means the company is prone to data loss, for example, when the operations manager incorrectly sorts and saves the delivery management spreadsheet, or the lead tracking spreadsheet is lost when the marketing manager’s laptop is stolen.

And when we also add on the need to comply with GDPR legislation, it becomes very apparent that the situation portrayed in my worked example has wide range of inherent potential issues.

Which wouldn’t be a problem if I was describing some sort of outlier situation, but what I’ve set out is in reality a surprisingly common scenario, and, for the sake of some semblance of brevity, is a simplification is the system landscape of even the smallest, straightforward company.

The good news is that these issues can often be quickly addressed. By rationalising systems and improving the integration between them, it’s possible to create a 360 degree view of the customer that negates the issues above.

As way of illustration, in our example the nine systems could be reduced to four integrated platforms:

The website is integrated so that leads are passed directly into the CRM system removing the need to maintain the separate marketing spreadsheet. The CRM system is integrated with the email/calendaring platform so that interactions are visible in both systems. Key documents such as proposals and contracts are stored in the CRM system rather than shared folders.

The email marketing platform is integrated so that campaign data is written back to the CRM system. The processes around the delivery of a new machine are managed in the CRM system replacing the delivery management spreadsheet. The CRM system is integrated with the ERP system so that information about customers and their installed machinery is now visible, and CRM’s case management capabilities replace the existing support application which improves visibility of customer support issues.

This revised technology landscape delivers what is often described as a 360 degree customer view that overcomes the issue of disconnected data silos and improves the customer experience, generates operational efficiencies, helps the company maintain regulatory compliance, increases sales and marketing effectiveness, and facilitates growth.

Given it’s also something that can be achieved relatively easily and cost effectively, it’s perhaps surprising more focus isn’t given to the rationalisation and integration of organisational systems and processes. I imagine this is because a lot of organisations have yet to appreciate how much damage a siloed approach may be doing.

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