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Why killing customer data silos can win you customers

Customers care about having a great experience. To create that, sales, marketing and service departments need to combine data to provide a complete picture of the customer experience.

Your company wants customers. And customers? They want a great experience. That means getting what they want when...

they want it. Here's one secret about how you learn to do that: Have your sales, marketing and service departments tear down the walls between customer data silos.

The problem with data silos

Company departments have individual needs for customer data. The sales department might track open leads and compare them to closed sales. The marketing department might track campaign visibility and click-through rates. The service department might track call volume and average time spent on a call. These metrics can be helpful within the department that collected them, but today's competitive landscape requires combining data silos to create better relationship with customers. Valuable customer data cannot focus only on what an individual department needs; it must focus on adapting processes and technology in ways that provides better service to the customer.

Indeed, it's difficult to create metrics that give true insight if you're looking at them in isolation. Take these examples: A sales team's lead-to-close ratio is too high, but that's because more leads are coming in than the team can handle. Service calls may appear to have too long an average call time, but only because agents are upselling. These kinds of metrics need to change to accommodate a more comprehensive view of performance, but one metric remains a constant across all business units: the customer.

When departments share data, companies can track a customer's full experience across all business units.

By eliminating data silos and viewing departmental data more interactively, companies can gain new visibility into the customer experience.

  • Combining service and sales data can show customer satisfaction levels.
  • Combining sales and marketing data can demonstrate the consistency and effectiveness of messages to customers.
  • Combining marketing and service data can show whether you're delivering what you offer.

When departments share data, companies can track a customer's complete experience across all business units, sometimes known as a customer journey. Let's say a customer calls into your service department upset that his claim was denied. The customer says the salesperson that sold him the extended warranty said it was "bumper to bumper" coverage. With shared departmental data, the service team can pull up the contract that customer was sold and find the salesperson who sold it to him, along with any other contracts that were sold by the same salesperson.

If a majority of the salesperson's customers have been dissatisfied, chances are that salesperson has been misrepresenting the product. In turn, the sales team can contact the salesperson to rectify the situation with training or revoke that salesperson's ability to generate future quotes. Marketing can step in and send emails to customers who haven't submitted claims yet to encourage them to review their coverage details, thus lowering the possibility of having more dissatisfied customers when calling into the service department.

Technology for customer visibility

This kind of customer visibility is crucial when scaling a business. Before newer technology platforms enabled data sharing, businesses relied on intuition and their business practices to identify dissatisfied customers. This made building relationships with customers and proactively correcting issues very challenging while scaling. Today, data integrity is increasingly becoming a company differentiator and will only become more so. Of course, sharing data is only useful if the data is good.

If one department has incorrect, duplicate or outdated information, other departments will take action on that data and will be far less effective or even damage the customer experience. For example, marketing might send campaign e-mails to the wrong groups, service might try to upsell when a customer already has the highest offering and sales might waste time on bad leads. Each department must have an effective way of retaining data integrity, whether that involves making such effectiveness a component of employees' yearly reviews or creating incentives for 100% completions. The data being used needs to be good.

Newer technologies are making clean data easier to capture. Vendors are helping to improve data integrity by allowing extensive automation and customization within their platforms. Such systems help streamline employees' administrative tasks by automating critical, yet easily identifiable, data input. Something as simple as creating a template for request forms can guarantee higher completion rates. This is why customizing a CRM system to your business model and internal business processes is necessary for achieving the accuracy and usage rates to have all silos working in harmony. Without doing the necessary customization, you run the risk of human error, data incongruence and process resistance.

Customers have strong voices on the Web and are becoming less forgiving when they've been mistreated by a company. Yet, those same people can become your company's top promoters and sing your praises on social media. Smart companies know this, and smart companies use their power to create a good experience for their potential customers. One way they do this is to reject data silos and the concept of each department within a company using customer data for only its own purposes. Instead, they ensure departments are pooling data to help give current and potential customers the best experiences possible.

Next Steps

The importance of good customer data management

Stave off bad customer experience with customer journey maps

Quizzle uses contextual data for tailored customer experience

This was last published in December 2015

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