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Customer database management tips for the customer-centric company

Find out what steps to take before establishing customer database management tactics in this expert tip. Learn how to uncover customer needs and wants.

My organization is looking for a way to leverage the large amount of customer data we have stored in our database to gain insight into our customers' true needs and wants. Without any current data integration practices established, how would you suggest we get started?
Step away from that customer database! That's right. Your question mentioned your company's database in the first sentence, and data integration in the second. I'm glad the word "customer" was in there too otherwise I'd have given up on you by now. But you know something? I like you. Because at the end of the day I get that this is really about your customers in the long-term. So I think we can be friends.

So, friend to friend, here's what I suggest: go talk to your marketing department. Ask them what they think your...

customers' needs and wants really are. When they answer you, ask them whether they know that for sure or whether they're guessing. The second answer will tell you whether marketing is operating off of gut-feel, or whether their knowledge about customers is fact-based. Then ask them what they need to know for sure. For instance, do they need to know an individual customer's product mix across lines of business? What about campaign response rates and retention rates within and across customer segments?

What I'm recommending here is that you start with a business organization that needs to be data-driven. And since you want to be a customer-focused organization, marketing is a good place to start. You could also start with sales or finance, two other organizations that need data and usually suffer from its absence (or inaccuracy). Begin with whoever will admit that the house is on fire.

The outcome of this will be a list of business questions that need to be answered. From there, you can identify the business processes and deconstruct the data to understand the right tactics for moving forward. Then, and only then, should you turn your head toward your customer database.

This was last published in March 2009

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