Single Customer View and Data Quality

In 2019, Service Objects’ founder and CEO Geoff Grow wrote an interesting article for data organization TDWI’s Upside magazine, about the growth of what is called Single Customer View (SCV) – and how important data quality is for this.

Of course, in a post-pandemic retail environment where e-commerce has grown significantly, 2019 feels like it was two dog years ago. So in this article, we would like to take a fresh look at SCV, and why we feel it is now more important than ever.

Understanding Single Customer View

If you’ve ever purchased a cell phone, as I recently did, and the company still continued to bombard you with emails urging you to buy a phone, you understand at least part of the argument for Single Customer View.

Single Customer View (also called ‘unified’, ‘360’ or ‘360 degree’ customer view) is a holistic aggregation of data points known about a customer or contact, from their behavior and interactions with your website or app to their personal contact details.  The same customer may shop in your retail store, order products from your website, call customer care for support, use your mobile app, and interact with you via social media.

When these different customer touchpoints are stored in data silos, it can become a recipe for poor customer experience, brand damage, unnecessary marketing costs, and lost sales. And increasingly, stiff compliance penalties when a customer tries to get off your marketing list, and parts of your organization don’t get the memo. Add in the impact of a pandemic, where new channels and virtual selling options have exploded, and these issues can quickly multiply.

Bringing together these various pieces of information enables organizations to gain timely, critical, and competitive insights into their customers and better serve them.  Bringing them together into a single record is the Single Customer View.

Whatever can go wrong, will

Geoff made the case in his article that sometimes he exists as three different customers with the same company: as Geoff, Geoffrey, and even Jeff. When one contact comes in from an online transaction, another is verbal, and still another from verifying his driver’s license, multiple profiles can abound. Add in small address differences, multiple phone numbers, and new email addresses, and it is easy for differences and profiles to pile up.

You can also add in the fact that many businesses already have a business case for creating a single customer view – even if they don’t completely realize it yet. This business case may be built on factors like:

Customer experience. Your customers may now have less tolerance than ever for disjoint, duplicative sales and marketing efforts, or customer contacts that pay no attention to customer history.

Compliance. When someone opts into your marketing list, texting them may lead to a sale. Or when they get a new cell phone and their old line goes to a new person, it could lead to a $1500 fine. And consumer privacy laws are proliferating in the wake of initiatives such as Europe’s new GDPR regulation, recent state law in California, and elsewhere.

Fraud: Not validating customer and prospect data at every touchpoint can lead to higher levels of shrinkage, inventory loss, and fraudulent transactions.

ROI. Having a clean, consistent source of customer or prospect data can lead to lower costs in the form of reduced misdeliveries, duplicate mailings, customer dissatisfaction, and more.

Cross-channel marketing. Marketers reach their customers and prospects through multiple marketing channels and customers have the luxury of jumping between devices, websites and apps to interact with your business. Maintaining a consistent message and brand across channels is key to your relationship with them.

Moreover, now that more and more of your customers have gone virtual or used multiple channels in the wake of COVID, this issue has quickly become more of a competitive factor than ever. We have now entered an era where SCV is frankly no longer an option for most businesses but a necessity.

Where data quality comes in

SCV sounds good in theory to most businesses – but where the rubber meets the road is collecting and validating the data. First-party data, the information your business collects itself, is generally clean and of high quality. Data provided by your customer, prospects, and third parties can have high degrees of variance and error.

Real-time data validation services can significantly increase the quality of this data. Where a real-time comparison with an authoritative postal database would show that Geoff, Geoffrey, and Jeff are the same person, or a service that tells you who currently is registered to a phone number, or whether an email address is bogus, or there is a mismatch between a client’s IP address geographic region and the provided address.

This isn’t a do-it-yourself project, because you need access to massive, continually updated, authoritative databases to automate this process. That’s where we come in, of course: we put the power of things like the entire USPS, global lead validation, or extensive databases of known spammers right into your real-time business and CRM applications.

Of course, there is more to SCV than just data quality: it requires a fresh look at your overall data governance strategy, including ensuring accountability and ownership across different stakeholders and touchpoints. But the core of a single customer view lies in consistent and up-to-date contact data, and our data quality services can form the backbone of a consistent, automated strategy for maintaining and updating each Single Customer View.

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