Negotiating the single-track journey

Marketers face many challenges in using single customer view data. Key experts discuss the issues and their experiences in a Roundtable sponsored by Sas.


The panel (from l-r above)

Ruth Mortimer, chair
Geoff Bull, head of digital Riverford Organic
Clare Burke, senior brand manager, Fox’s Biscuits
Professor Moira Clark, professor of strategic marketing, Henley Business School
Trudi Ilter, relationship manager, Tesco Bank
Owen Jenkinson, head of marketing, Freeview
Simon Kaffel, head of data & analysis, Zurich
Julia Legge, UK marketing director, Bibby Financial Services
David Oliver, head of marketing Ecotricity
Dr. Charles Randall, solutions marketing manager, SAS UK
Doug Strachan, UK head of marketing and planning, Bank of Ireland
Nick Turner, partner CRM practice, Deloitte
Jon Waring, head of customer data & analytics, Aviva

Marketing Week (MW): Which part of a business should ‘own’ the single customer view (SCV)?

Doug Strachan (DS): Marketing should facilitate it because there’s a difference between an operational customer view and a marketing customer view. That’s because of the way we gather the information. As it’s technology-based, people get confused as to whether it should be IT or operations, but in my view the marketing team should own it.

Jon Waring (JW): We need different views for different purposes. If you’re using customer data for a call centre, then that’s not the marketing function any more – so the ownership of data becomes more complicated.

Charles Randall (CR): Our customer care database sits within our financial information department, so it’s not purely for marketing purposes. It was originally to help with the management of customer support and education. Now it’s morphed into something more useful to us.

Julia Legge (JL): The data we have is very operational because it’s gathered while we’re looking after our clients. We have a lot of data about them as individuals yet most of it is not recorded but in people’s minds – their personalities, for example. It should be owned by marketing but we have a fragmented data structure and it needs to be fit for purpose.

Simon Kaffel (SK): The clue is in the name – it’s a view. The data, systems and architecture that support it are handled by IT and if something goes wrong, the first people to speak to are the IT team. Everyone is going to want different levels of data as well – a finance view or a marketing view, for example.

Moira Clark (MC): You do need a single customer view across all touchpoints. We’re all familiar with occasions when a finance department has negatively affected relationships because of inappropriate communications.

MW: How do you tackle the challenge of maintaining the single customer view over time?

Nick Turner (NT): It’s not monolithic. It’s about integrating and continually having other data sets coming in. You need to have a flexible infrastructure for this.

Trudi Ilter (TI): The other moveable element is the history of the customer relationship. Customers change and grow as their life stages change. The view needs to be capturing that, not be stagnant.

David Oliver (DO): Until two years ago, we had a single energy product. We’ve since launched others and have realised that we don’t know much about the crossover between these brands. We’re looking to implement something that doesn’t constrain us as a business, get in the way of progress or the way we talk to customers. Marrying the needs of IT and marketing caused problems but we’ve resolved them.

MW: What if you can’t always control the inflow of customer data?

Owen Jenkinson (OJ): Arguably, the Freeview business doesn’t have any customers [as it is a collection of free-to-air TV services]. Freeview is a brand so if we did have a single customer view, it would sit within marketing. Our challenge is that we don’t know when people churn in and out of our platform. We know the triggers, but we’d love to know more about when [they do this].

Clare Burke (CB): At the moment, we’re reliant on retailers and the data we can either purchase or get from them. Data we can capture ourselves, such as our Facebook fan base, matches the profile of the core Facebook user rather than Fox’s core fan base overall.

Because different consumers eat biscuits for different reasons and at different stages in life, we need to know more about what is happening in store and for that we have to rely on the retailer.

Geoff Bull (GB): Our consumers have two touchpoints with us. They shop with us directly on the website, then they’ll also deal with the local delivery team on the doorstep. Being a transactional business, we’ve got a lot of data on what people have bought and so a single customer view works well. The challenge for us is getting the local distribution teams to use and manage that information.

MW: What are the internal barriers to forming a single customer view?

CR: Many businesses have struggled in having a clear purpose for the single customer view. I’ve seen companies spending significant budgets on maintaining a huge single customer view data project and they have no clear idea why.

SK: Equally, you have to make sure you have the right sort of information in the first place. Having worked in Argentina, I was struck how everyone has to use their identity card to buy anything, from a bus pass to a financial services product. The customer data within the company I worked with wasn’t particularly detailed but being able to merge it easily with the digital ID data was a joy.

MC: Our research project on SCVs with SAS showed that one of the biggest barriers is a shortage of skills available to analyse the data.

DS: I agree on the point about skills but it’s also about tenacity. Over time, management teams change. The single customer view is a multi-year project and the challenge is maintaining the common purpose.

NT: I don’t think of this as a project but as an evolutionary journey. You may need to insert a platform from a technology perspective but it’s building the capability across the organisation that’s the key element.

MW: How do consumers react to the idea of a single customer view?

TI: We have a passionate British belief that we don’t want to be one person somewhere on a database. In European countries, consumers are used to being categorised by their ID. Even working as part of the Tesco group, it’s very difficult for me to access a deep level of detail in the Clubcard data. It’s well protected and I would need to have an extremely good reason to use it.

MC: Customers are actually asking for it, particularly in the financial services arena because there is a level of frustration. They have been loyal customers for 20 years and hold multiple products, yet each department has no knowledge of the other.

MW: Often, many brands or departments need to share the same data. How does this work?

JW: The question about the ownership of data is an interesting one for us. We have different relationships with brokers and third parties, each of whom impose different sanctions on us as to how we can use the data to communicate with customers. When you build the view, you have to be able to identify which customers can and can’t be used for marketing.

TI: That’s particularly pertinent when you’re looking at comparison sites where the aggregator feels that it owns the relationship with the customer. The customer is stuck in the middle between the brand and aggregator. In renewing an insurance policy for example, they can be bombarded with communications from the branded supplier and comparison site. It’s interesting to think of the single customer view from the customer’s perspective and the effect that we all have as businesses on their lives.

MC: From our examination of corporate cultures, there is also the issue that many companies are arranged around product silos rather than the customer – especially in financial services.

TI: In the past few weeks, when a customer goes through an insurance quotation [online] they can use their Clubcard to pull through some basic information. It’s taken a long time to decide whether or not to do this. It also comes back to the mindset of the customer providing the information in the first place. When they took out their Clubcard, did they provide the correct details?

OJ: In our focus groups with competitors’ customers, hyper-targeting causes a lot of stress among pay-TV customers. We also get many queries from customers about things Freeview doesn’t control – channel reception and so forth. So the customer’s view of who owns their relationship is a massive challenge.

TI: When you’ve got joint ventures with multiple parties, it’s more difficult in terms of data ownership. From a financial products point of view, that may mean engaging a body such as the Financial Services Authority to say ‘we need to find a different way of operating’.

MW: With multiple challenges in developing a single customer view, how do you get buy-in at senior level?

TI: Being able to substantiate the difference it is going to make to the bottom line is critical for senior buy-in. But it’s extremely difficult to justify something as challenging as a single customer view that will affect many different levels across the business. That’s difficult to prove and there’s no example of anyone who has completed such a thing.

DS: There are those leaders who get it and then there’s everyone else. Some of the second group you can convince with logic but if that leadership changes, support for it will begin to waver.

SK: If you can attribute the tangible results to the use of data, then you’re laughing. But it’s vital to have the people who are skilled in using that data and who can demonstrate that link.

DS: It’s also getting finance on board and making them understand that this isn’t just some ‘thing’ you’ve created but that it is generating real business benefits.

JW: You can’t just rely on leaps of faith. No one is willing to tell you the benefits that they have gleaned from a single customer view – it is very difficult to separate out what might have happened naturally in the business anyway and predicting what might happen. And yet it’s about creating a justifiable business case.

MC: Our research identified four key areas to achieve buy-in. Financially oriented companies focus on the justification while others are reviewing antiquated operational systems which then make the case for refreshing everything, including the single customer view, at the same time. There are also companies doing this simply because the competition is. The final driver is because the customer demands it. They notice the lack of consistency and want to enjoy the benefits of the SCV.

JL: It’s interesting that as marketers we should be customer-centric, yet we all talk about the single customer view from the point of view of our business. We forget about the customer because we’re focusing on the day-to-day operational needs.

NT: The easiest sell in any business case is compliance. But equally the growth in data is a nice platform to stand on. In the past two years, we have created more data than in the past 100. There are on average four megabytes of data created for every consumer every day around the world. The average multichannel shopper is twice as valuable as an in-store one.

TI: You can justify it using examples of when an SCV is important, such as when a customer phones a bank after his father dies. Holding six different products, the son would have to call six different departments to give the same information on six separate occasions. If that bank held a single customer view and the customer journey involved speaking to one person, the son would have had a more positive experience and ultimately, would have been more likely to become a customer himself.

JW: It’s a complete leap of faith that if you give customers a great experience, many of them will still stay with you. This is where it gets complex – the business case still drives it.

OJ: You have to be able to analyse and quantify reasons for why people have left a brand, showing that they did so because they are dissatisfied, and then turn that on its head: why are people staying?

MW: How easy is it to develop an SCV without external help?

SK: External help is useful. It goes back to what you’ve got in-house, understanding how the business operates and what the consumer wants. You have to join the right things together.

JL: You have to have the right internal capabilities to manage such projects – and be careful when using third parties. Internal advocates of the process are important. Our strategy has been to implement a bigger internal team to appraise what we do in a better way.

CR: One of our clients had a clear focus on what it was trying to achieve. The internal team was skilled and called on us to provide coaching. It took them longer to implement in the end but they knew they had something saner as a result.

CB: It’s not necessarily something we’re aspiring to, but I know there is value in us working closely with our retailers and accessing their data. But it’s what you’re willing to pay to access that. We need to have a vision of what we could unlock by accessing this data.

DO: It’s been an interesting process for us because it’s early days. It’s brought our marketing, customer services and billing

teams closer together. By using an internal team, we have to understand what’s going on down the corridor and this is the first time that’s happened. Perhaps this is due to the size and nature of our business.

JW: There is a benefit to using external companies but no one knows your data like you do. External agencies are useful for facilitation and getting you to tease out and structure your process in the right way. But the knowledge and information is already in your organisation. You just need to access the skills to figure it out.

MW: Is there a demand within the business to begin integrating social media in single customer views?

JW: We’re not sure what the value of this is, only that there is something valuable in it. From a service perspective, there is benefit in using Twitter feeds to respond to customers but integrating that with the rest of your data brings out all sorts of data protection issues. But social does provide a host of attitudinal and behavioural data.

CR: Social media can be looked at from two data source perspectives. First, as a market research tool to discover customers’ attitudes and second is the customer care side of things. Companies can use it to monitor the effectiveness of their social media campaigns rather than using it for a CRM purpose.

NT: I’ve seen great applications of this in business to business environments where there is a multi-year lifecycle to buying a product. Social is fantastic where the customer is trying to find out more about the product or finding out about competitors. It’s an interesting way of gluing together marketing and sales.

MW: Do customers expect companies to collect their social data?

OJ: There’s an issue of immediacy with social media in that it’s something to action right now. If you call a contact centre, you might expect someone to go back into your legacy data and pull out previous transactions.

JL: Companies are driving customers down this path. If you try to complain through proper channels, nothing happens. If you take to Twitter, the response is immediate. Customers expect companies to look at what they are saying about them.

DS: Woe betide any company that isn’t monitoring and immediately acting on that but there’s not always a link for that same customer between their private conversation with the brand and a public one on social media.

CR: I expect customer awareness of areas like the cookie warnings we see at the moment may start happening in the social sphere in the future.

MW: Is anyone getting the implementation of the single customer view right?

GB: Google is doing some great stuff, actively integrating its accounts across products. Over the past six months, the user experience has changed so you can flip between them.

SK: Are companies getting it right from a data and technology perspective or a customer service one? First Direct bank, for example, has so many advocates because of its great customer service but I’ve no idea what its systems are like. But it doesn’t matter as it’s all about the customer.

MC: This is why the culture and climate part of our research has been so important. Interestingly, business-to-business fell down in IT but was well formed in culture and marketing.

CB: I’ve seen an example of QVC using the power of customer recommendation to generate sales uplift. Customers rated purchases that were then fed back to buyers who took that data to producers as to what did and didn’t work. Through the line everyone was looking at the data and could attribute sales uplifts to products.

MC: There isn’t a single company that’s good at everything. There are areas of improvement that everyone can make and it’s a long journey to the single customer view.



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