Long-term success in business has always been about relationships; specifically, the relationships you have with your customers. That means having a clear understanding of who they are. Without that, you don’t have much of a relationship to build from. That’s why it’s so important to get an aggregated, single view of your customer including their contact detail and preferences.
The value of a single view of a customer is fairly well known. The single view often underpins a 360-degree view of the customer fully exposing the business relationship across the enterprise. With the 360-degree view, the entire customer journey operates more efficiently and often more effectively. It is as close to nirvana as you can get in the business world.
But while a consistent, unified customer view is beneficial it can also be a difficult, time consuming process. Within any company a customer often has several definitions based on use case and department. Each use case can have siloed terminologies, methodologies, and processes built around that customer definition. The individual business entity is usually the starting point of the customer definition. Identifying, deduping, and managing updates to each business entity can be painstaking. In addition, there is often an imperative to show immediate and regular incremental value in order to remain a priority and ensure continued funding.
Assuming you follow the typical master data best practices to get to a single view of a business entity, creating a single view beyond identifying the individual business entities is often where the customized work begins and the real value is found. A customer is either a standalone business entity or an aggregation of business entities.
The aggregated customer may be a member of a corporate family which is found by applying the legal view to all entities in the corporate family. It should provide the upwards and downwards linkage to each family member.
The aggregated customer could also be members of a franchise or a consortium. It could be minority owned businesses or any combination of any of these including and often inclusively of the legal view. Identifying and maintaining these hierarchies is often best left to a specialist in the referential data business as the expense and stewardship to maintain these views is cost prohibitive at the individual company level. The third party provides updates on a periodic basis and should be included as part of the master data hierarchy. It is best practice to choose a family member within the corporate family to serve as the aggregation point for other entity members. It also enables a stable foundation for which all other customized hierarchical customer views can originate.
Once hierarchies are applied to the business entities, decisions can be made to aggregate up or down a family tree to reduce or broaden access to the customer. For example, marketing may feel that engaging contacts at the business entity level is too broad and difficult to maintain. They may choose to aggregate to the highest ranking entity within a country or to the entity where the domain is maintained. The marketing definition of a customer may be customized but easily defined within the third party provision.
Maintaining customized views beyond those provided by a third party are most often manually maintained and based on custom views that meet a specific business requirement. For example, a customized sales view may be required because a sales rep needs to combine several businesses within a territory to provide specialized pricing. These views should be maintained by the business unit and updated as needed. They would typically not be included as part of the master data but maintained in the business unit’s data warehouse or other repository.
Once the single view of a customer is created based on the needs of the various business units, additional firmographic information can be applied and analytics can be performed. The results of the customer analytics will provide strategic insights and enable smarter decision making.