How to achieve a single customer view

A single customer view (also referred to sometimes as a 360 customer view) is the practice of collecting all requisite information across separate sources and aggregating it into one single, comprehensive record for each of your contacts. This practice enables organisations to use data to effect superior decision-making, empower sales or fundraising teams, and improve their ROI.

To have a single customer view means to have all the information you possess, clean, up to date and available in one holistic view. Staff have access to all the information they may need when they need it, and the organisation has the power to use the past behaviour of customers (or clients, or donors!) as a predictor of their future behaviour, both in aggregate and at the level of an individual.

The reason organisations may not take advantage of constructing a single customer view is not because they don’t want a holistic understanding of their engagement—it is because it can be laborious and challenging to achieve.

Obstacles to a single customer view include:

  • dirty data, such as poor quality data or duplicated records;
  • data silos, where the same customer may have records across multiple repositories;
  • compliance, which encompasses the legal and practical considerations about authorised access and the trust customers place in organisations that hold their information

Making it work

The core principle that underpins a single customer view is to ensure you can access the one record in your database and find all of the data that can be useful to you, regardless of whether you are generating reports or responding to a time-sensitive enquiry.

There are three key data management steps that will lead you to a single customer view:

  • Assess and review
  • Cleanse and enrich
  • Maintain your database

1. Assess and review

To make sure your database reflects this principle, you need to know the purposes for which you are using your data, who uses it, and what it contains.

You may ask questions like:

  • Which staff access and use data? For what? Are there any staff or stakeholders you have not yet considered who need to access and use your data?
  • Which systems or third-party platforms is data stored in? Email marketing databases? Point of sale? Donor management?
  • What kind of data do you currently store and use across these systems? Is it aligned with your organisation’s priorities—is the information you are currently storing what you need to be storing, or do you need to make changes?

2. Cleanse and enrich

This step is about making sure that the data your organisation collects and stores actually serves you. Dirty data is worse than useless for data-driven organisation decisions. In the worst case scenario, outdated or inaccurate data can also result in organisations falling afoul of data privacy and compliance obligations.

  • Cleanse your data to avoid problems such as duplicate records or information that’s outdated, incomplete or inaccurate. Processes of data verification and validation will ensure that your data is trustworthy so you can be secure in using it.
  • Enrichment can mean processes like appending demographic or firmographic information to your existing records, which allows you to take control of your marketing more directly with accurate and powerful segmenting. It allows you to flesh out the picture you receive of any given customer, creating that complete, “perfect” single customer view.

3. Maintain

This step includes safeguarding your data so it remains useful to you over time. Unfortunately, data degrades every time a donor or client moves house, gets a new phone, changes their email address, switches jobs or experiences a change in their lifestyle or habits. Data cannot sit, untouched, in a database and remain useful, so processes need to be in place for its correct use and maintenance.

Take steps to ensure your data is as useful as it can be. This includes processes such as:

  • Adequate staff training, to make sure that the people who access, use, and perhaps also update some of your data have a complete understanding of your organisation’s priorities and their responsibilities
  • This may be through automated processes, such as changes to purchase histories when a customer buys a product, or manually, such as when someone emails to update their address.

Achieving a single customer view confers significant advantages for organisations, but the process is complex and can seem daunting and laborious. If you’d like to learn more, our data experts are available to answer your questions—contact us here.




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