We are in the data explosion era, and wrapping your head around all the in’s and out’s of data for smooth customer experience is nothing short of flabbergasting. Data silos are inevitable, and as painful as they can be, the ironic truth is that the customer experience equation requires allowing unique data input sources, processing and storage destinations, and output avenues. Accessibility is the name of the game. Internally and externally, a single version of the truth at the fingertips of authorized people and systems is what we all want and need.
Like all silo quandaries, what we want is easier said than done. Like all silo solutions, you are more powerful than you thought you were to create bridges that minimize painful side-effects of silos. In previous articles of this series, we cracked the nut for customer experience management of silos as follows:
- Organizational silos — 1) expand perspectives, 2) influence motivations, 3) set cadences for collaboration, 4) anticipate universality for ongoing bridging.
- Channel silos — 1) see customers’ reality, 2) see the big-picture of moving parts, 3) make omni-omni channels, 4) nurture cross-organizational collaboration.
- System silos — 1) customer experience is #1 criteria, 2) categorize technology types, 3) prioritize by following customer data, 4) learn change management techniques.
To manage customer experience for data silos, think of data in these categories:
- Customer account data
- Customer operations data
- Customer experience management data
1) Center Your Data Hub on Customers
My favorite quote about business data management is from Theresa Kushner, executive from VMware, Cisco and IBM, and co-author of the book, Managing Your Business Data: From Chaos to Confidence:
More companies are getting to the point of putting the customer at the central part of their data collection systems, and managing from outside-in. That’s when you know you’re working to optimize customer experience. — Theresa Kushner
What’s at the center of your data collection systems? Maybe financial and operational data. That inside-out architecture will make it harder for you to foster customer-focus and differentiate customer experience across the customer experience journey and life cycle. Put on your customer hat and shoes and think like they do. After all, your company exists to (and thanks to!) help your customer get ahead in his/her business. Invest in creating a common definition of the customer and a common taxonomy and data structure. Follow the advice from this series’ earlier articles about systems silos, channel silos, and organizational silos to iron-out gaps.
2) Agile-ize Your Operations Data
Operations data includes numerous sales and service interactions and transactions as well as internal characterizations (operations, manufacturing, marketing, accounting, supply chain, etc.) surrounding it all. Behemoth data processing can take on a life of its own. Keeping nimble is the winning ticket. Agile management of operations data is the way of the future, as described by Jim Gallo in the TechTarget article Applying Agile Methods to Data Warehousing Projects:
When the work associated with designing the databases and integrating the data is driven from the business side, project costs can be held to a minimum and business value can be delivered more quickly. By organizing the work into short sprint cycles, everyone can be assured that the expensive and risky part of the project— data integration and homogenization— will surely meet the business’s ever-increasing appetite for impactful and actionable information rather than suffer from misinterpreted requirements and low business adoption. — Jim Gallo
Everyone knows the pain of repeating ad nauseam their account and situation information or hearing “that information is handled by X”. Data snafus can be time-consuming, embarrassing, and costly to you and to customers. Despite super-friendly people and touch-points, data glitches can be infuriating to customers to the point of discontinuing their relationship with your company. Customer experience leaders must influence or facilitate customer-focus everywhere that data is collected, stored, processed, and accessed.
3) Synthesize Customer Experience Data
(A) Bridging Customer Feedback Silos: Another irony of customer experience management is that current mainstream practices tend to generate mountains of data silos. We typically collect data faster than our company can consume it. When I set out to create a company-wide customer satisfaction methodology in 1991 for Sonoco, I arranged a presentation to my taskforce team from Xerox, recent winner of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. I asked: “How often should we conduct customer surveys?” The answer was profound: “As often as change happens in your industry, or as often as your company can make changes from customer insights.”
In recent years affordability of asking every transactor for feedback, and micro-management of agent performance and detractors has obscured the beauty of survey sampling. And we have become deluded with our massive data sets, forgetting that there is still a large percentage of the customer base (and buying decision influencers) who are not part of a direct transaction or survey invitation in any given time period. In the company’s earnest quest to collect data, the customer experience of participating in feedback processes is sometimes the low point of their customer experience journey.
Re-think your customer feedback collection strategy. In my article How to Increase Synergy in B2B Voice of the Customer, I sketched a flow diagram showing how we can embrace in-the-moment interactions with customers to collect pertinent information that, in turn, can streamline and enrich formal feedback requests. Last week at the CXPA conference, the founder of Actovoice showed me how his app enables what I described in the first couple boxes of my flow diagram — for tangibles and non-tangibles. I’ve also talked with several practitioner companies that have created in-house apps to make it easy for execs and employees to collect in-the-moment insights from or about customers and stream that data to relevant parties. This is the way of the future in making customer feedback data agile and a better user experience.
(B) Bridging End-to-End Customer Experience Management: End-to-end visibility of customer experience management data is a new frontier for most companies. Consider bridging customer feedback with customer loyalty behavior programs’ data.
The best uses of data beyond helping customers move forward in their business are (a) to tell a story that enlightens or inspires managers to do things better tomorrow and (b) to gain insights about the ripple effects of all the moving pieces in a holistic picture.
A presentation I put together for a Market Research Association seminar in 2009 shows how the many facets of customer experience management fit together: Customer Experience Strategy: Invisible Innovations That Matter Most. Until a company can piece together data from the various components of customer experience management in its totality, data silos are obscuring value that could be created or nurtured.
(C) Bridging Customer Experience Management Metrics: Customer experience management metrics are another dimension of data that should be bridged to tell the full story of what’s going well and where help is needed. In my article Metrics for Customer Experience Management, program metrics were defined as tracking organizational adoption and accountability for customer experience progress, as well as facilitation metrics to track how the customer experience management team is empowering the company. Add these to action plan progress metrics for customer experience improvement throughout the company.
Sometimes awareness about what should be addressed is more flabbergasting than your original notion of data silos. But that can be temporary distress. Wise organization of data makes all the difference for wrapping your head around the broad scope and rapid flow of it. My article Employee Engagement in Balanced Scorecards offers some advice for manageability, actionability, empowerment, and motivation.
After all, accessibility is the name of the game, with a single version of truth at the fingertips of authorized people and systems.
Image purchased under license from Shutterstock.
Originally published as an exclusive Advisors monthly column on CustomerThink.com as Customer Experience Data Silos Demystified.