In theory, consolidating customer information within an organisation and using it as the basis for things such as communication and sales, should be easy.

In practice, unless you have effective customer relationship management (CRM) software, it may be anything but.

The problem: Too many channels

The days when your communication channels with a customer were restricted to letters and perhaps the odd telephone call are now long gone.

Today, your customers will typically want to interface with you via a variety of channels, including:

  • e-mail;
  • conventional letters;
  • telephones;
  • non-email texting;
  • the social media;
  • your website and its various processes; etc.

Trying to bring all of that together into one integrated vision of how you are engaging with an individual customer isn’t easy. To make matters worse, the different back-office systems sitting behind your communication channels may record information about a customer in different ways, different formats and with different objectives.

For example, the information relating to a customer on your accounts receivable system may be significantly different in orientation to that stored about the same customer on your sales system. It might also be used differently by the two departments.

The difficulties in managing a single customer view across these different channels and their supporting systems, may give rise to more problems than simply a loss of opportunity for things such as cross-selling.

For example, stories of banks that have refused a small personal loan application from an individual who happened to also be one of their largest corporate depositors, are not just apocryphal.  They really happen.

The solution: Multi-channel customer management

CRM software allows you to pull together information coming into your organisation from different sources and which is being held in different vertical departmental systems.

It provides you with a single view of the customer, which will then be used to govern all future communications with the person concerned.

The idea is to avoid organisations acting inconsistently with an individual customer and as a result, putting that customer’s income at risk.

More importantly, looking at customer communications and behaviours across a number of different channels is a fundamental prerequisite to having targeted product delivery propositions.

Although it may appear something of a cliché, it remains a fundamental truth of commercial management that if you do not take an integrated view of your customer and benefit from that, then one of your competitors will most certainly do so.