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OK. The good news is that companies have more data than ever about their customers. So, at least theoretically, it should be easier than ever to meet customer expectations and anticipate their needs. Indeed, aligning the business around the customer is at the top of every customer experience executive’s agenda. You just can’t do that without the data.

The bad news is, however, that despite all the data that companies are continuously collecting, there remain a number of hurdles that get in the way of fulfilling the customer experience executive’s dream (not to mention the customer’s wishes).

Figure 1. Top Hurdles in Customer Data Management

hurdles to customer data management

As you can see, when it comes to managing customer data in a way that benefits both the business and the customers, our respondents told us that the sheer quantity of data sources and data storage systems represents the greatest challenge they face.

Why is this a challenge? Because getting data from different sources can mean working with different data types, which poses challenges when you start trying to analyze it. And keeping data in different systems means that the people who need the data to do their jobs might miss something (for example, a sales person calling in the afternoon might not know that a particular customer just spoke with customer service that morning).

While the other issues in this chart are more strategic in nature, the challenge posed when dealing with disparate data sources and systems is, in many ways, an operational problem. Unfortunately, it’s an operational problem that actually makes the strategic problems more complicated. How, I ask, can you develop a strategy if you can’t get at the data needed to devise it?

Get It Together

Not surprisingly, when we look at the progress companies have made over the years as their customer experience programs have matured, we see that they have made the greatest strides in addressing this particular data issue.

Figure 2: What Companies Are Doing to Improve Customer Experience Management

smarter about CEM2

Just a few years ago, fewer than a third of all companies surveyed had created a unified view of customer data. Today, that number stands at just below one half.

The importance of such a unified, accessible view cannot be underestimated. It is the only way that you will be able to make the most of customer data that you are so assiduously accumulating. Without it, it’s not just that you don’t have the whole picture or that you don’t have an accurate picture. Frankly, you don’t have a picture at all.

Just the Beginning

As important as creating this unified view is, we need to remember that it is just the beginning.

Nevertheless, without this beginning you won’t get anywhere. You won’t be able to track what customers are doing and how their preferences and behaviors are changing. You won’t be able to figure out what is and what isn’t working, so you won’t be able to create strategies to move the business forward.

What’s worse, you won’t really know your customer and you therefore run the constant risk of frustrating them, confusing them, and driving them away.

If you want to find out how the Best-in-Class are dealing with these issues and leveraging technology to corral and operationalize customer data, please read this free report, Getting Ahead in Customer Analytics:Which Technologies Do You Need to Succeed?

Image Source (Creative Commons): Daniel Oines.

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