It is not surprising that CDPs have rocketed to the top of many marketers’ wish lists. Marketers have a very real need to corral customer data currently residing in disconnected silos both inside and outside the organization. In an HBR survey on using real-time analytics to improve customer experience the top challenges marketers faced were legacy systems, data silos and multichannel complexities. In a Forbes Insights study on the rise of CDPs, only 1 in 5 executives surveyed considered their companies to be leaders in customer data management and only 13% believe they fully utilize customer data. These difficulties persist despite the fact that we have been trying to uniquely identify customers and consolidate first-party customer information since the late 1980s.
Marketers are not the only ones facing these challenges. Data silos and misaligned technology also make every list of issues impeding companies as they try to move toward customer-centricity across all their business lines. The sheer number of technologies in today’s martech stack, many of which create or store their own copies of customer information, is astounding. Add to that the customer-oriented data warehouses and data lakes facilitating analytics and master data management applications facilitating operational activities that we still see, and the magnitude of the problem is clear.
Even with the adoption of CDP, if we are not careful, the technology alignment problem will simply continue to grow.
While there is no silver bullet for this problem, there are steps that companies can take to ensure their technology enables customer-centricity rather than disabling it:
Develop a customer technology strategy. A strategy for customer tech is critical. Customer experience (CX) leaders should work with their IT partners to answer questions such as the following:
- What capabilities exist?
- Are they being fully leveraged?
- Where are the integration gaps?
- How many areas have their own customer data?
- How will these align or integrate with the CDP?
Once the existing data silos are understood (this includes marketing and CX technology, sales and service automation applications, web and mobile applications, and analytics), the assessment should expand to include gaps in technology, disintegrated sources of data, incomplete information, and independent applications that are not or cannot be integrated. The CX team can then use customer journey maps as prioritization tools to fill the gaps and realign the technology.
Get tough on acquisition. The vast set of shiny new tools available to the CX team can be very tempting, but if the goal is to dismantle data silos, tough decisions will have to be made. The technology strategy can help. Every potential purchase should come with a clear integration plan and budget. If the money or resources for integration are not available, the purchase should be reconsidered. Vendor solutions, including CDPs, should be closely examined for their ability to integrate with other applications. Closed applications or black box solutions should be considered only as a last resort.
Understand that there is no virtual view. Of customers, that is. The shortcut that no CX leader can afford to take is skipping the single customer view. Identity management is the top requested capability for CDPs for a good reason. It is difficult to achieve, and digital channels complicate the situation significantly. The temptation to implement multiple customer profiles is quite strong today because many large technology applications come with their own customer database. Attempting to match across these applications on the fly is difficult at best and fraught with peril at worst.
Picking a single customer master application like a CDP and doing the block and tackle integration work as applications with customer databases are added is a critical step to tearing down customer data silos. Multiple disintegrated customer databases are never the right answer, and looking to them to solve a CX problem will add to customer-centricity challenges rather than helping to resolve them.
Becoming the de facto integrator between siloed business groups will be increasingly critical for the CX leader of the future. Start planning today for what your organization will need tomorrow.