It is an unfortunate fact of life that many information technology systems, whether customer-facing or back-office, were designed on what is sometimes called a vertical basis.
That can be a serious problem for an organisation, unless CRM (customer relationship management) systems and techniques are implemented to deal with it.
Why is that a problem?
Historically, information technology systems were designed to reflect organisational hierarchies. As these were essentially vertical silos, such as Accounts, Shipping, Customer Service, Procurement and so on, systems were designed to support those functional requirements.
The net result is that information relating to an individual customer, may be scattered across a range of systems that have little in common with each other in terms of design objectives. That information is also typically used fundamentally differently by the owning organisational silos.
This means it is sometimes difficult or even impossible to obtain a single horizontal customer view cut across the organisation as a whole. Those organisations that have one customer with multiple customer numbers are a good illustration of the problems that can arise.
That is sometimes a critical inhibitor to optimal product development, behavioural analysis, cross marketing and customer retention activities. Typically these functions are horizontal in an organisation and not vertical – so they will need integrated data in order to support their objectives.
Modern approaches to data management
Today, enlightened organisations design their processes and supporting systems on a matrix rather than vertical silo basis.
CRM systems and techniques are instrumental in helping to make that happen, for example, by having a single integrated repository of information relating to a customer.
CRM achieves a single customer view, primarily through two things:
- Making sure that all interactions with the customer, through whatever channels, conform to a single integrated process relating to data storage and eventual use;
- Being able to integrate information coming in through new customer-facing processes and systems, with that held about the same customer on existing possibly vertical legacy systems (e.g. back office).
The benefits of this to the organisation are potentially staggering.
Not only does it avoid embarrassing and potentially highly-damaging errors in terms of customer engagement but it also provides a fundamental platform for things such as productivity improvements, product development, cross-selling, customer retention and in some cases, customer or market disengagement where things are no longer profitable or viable. What are your insights on customer data management?
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