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A Data-Centric Approach Will Lead To Customer Centricity

This article was originally posted on BigData-Startups.  

A few years ago, with the rise of social media, many organisations thought that social media was the Holy Grail in marketing. Social media would solve all problems and customers would become the centre of each organisation. While social media has absolutely enabled customers to interact easier, better, faster and more-often with organisations and it has enabled organisations to know more about their customers, it has not resulted in truly customer-centric organisations. For that, one important aspect was missing: the capability of combining and analysing all data that was created during those interactions and linking it with other data within organisations.

In today’s changing, fast-moving world the customer has become more demanding then ever before. According to a presentation by Ram Kumar, CIO IAG, during the Data Quality Conference in Melbourne, Australia, the customer expects companies to be socially, conscious, and good global citizens. The customer expects to have unlimited access to information regarding  products and/or services and sometimes they know more than your sales staff. Customers expect companies to be available for them 24/7 via their preferred channel and they expect to receive seamless integrations across the entire value chain. These are a lot of expectations and require a different approach by organisations.

Fortunately, the Big Data era that we have entered will help create a truly singular view of the customer, regardless of the touch points used, that can meet those expectations. From now on, organisations have no excuse to not put the customer at the centre of all decisions and to be relevant in every medium where they connect with that customer 1:1. Such a customer-centric organisation should build an operating model around a deep understanding of its customers, what they value, and the contribution, or the customer life-time-value, that each customer makes to the profitability of the organisation.

However, this is not so easy to achieve, as it would require business processes to recognize different customer segments across the entire organisation. Often still, every department has a different view of who the customer is. This should be prevented at all times. For data-driven, information-centric organisations no department should ‘own’ the customer, or the data, and all should have the same view of who the customer is. This will ensure better customer interactions across all channels and departments.


A customer-centric approach also requires delivering a seamless and positive customer experience at every touch point of the customer life cycle. It requires the maintenance of an active, 24/7 dialogue with  customers across all brands. Nestlé has clearly understood this as they monitor all of there 2,000 brands in real-time across the globe.

A data-centric approach, instead of a process centric / product centric / channel centric / service centric approach will eventually result in customer centricity across the entire organisation, but it requires a culture that places the customers at the heart of decision-making processes. Such an alignment and integration of data, technology, processes and people should therefore become the main focuses of companies that want to create truly 360-degrees views and segments of their customers.

Research by the CMO Council in collaboration with SAS has shown that 40% of marketers and 51% of IT employees view Big Data as critical to their abilities to develop and execute customer-centric programs. However, 52% of marketers and 45% of IT professionals said that having data in silos across their organisations makes it difficult to really achieve customer-centricity. So therefore, as long as there is no truly data-centric approach within your organisation, true customer-centricity is difficult to achieve.

Creating one customer view across the organisation and understanding what data impacts the customer experience will help build a customer-centric company. As the integration of different business data normally would involve different stakeholders across the organisation, the mere act of integration would be a catalyst for further cross-organizational discussions about customers.

Combining data from social networks, the blogosphere, (online) surveys, click behaviour, sales data, sensor data, public data and open data can help create detailed personas and micro segments to better know and target customers and thus improve conversions and increase sales. Data is the lifeblood of an organisation and the future of truly unique 1:1 customer experiences lies in data centricity.

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