You’re likely familiar with the concept of having a 360 view of your customer, which involves the process of unifying data from all of the sources in your company, as well as customer touchpoints such emails, web-chats, and transactions.
There are many benefits of a 360 view of your customer – the potential for 1:1 personalized communications can be a game-changer for marketers; but unfortunately, obtaining a 360 view is one of the most challenging strategies to implement. It goes beyond empowering sales, marketing, and support teams to be more strategic; it’s the responsibility of managing and manipulating human data. So how should companies go about achieving this level of insight, and how can they overcome the potential challenges along the way?
The reality is that consumers don’t want you to have their data, but it has been proven that they respond positively when messaging is highly targeted and personalized. Simply put, the more data you have about a person, the more potential there is to create an ideal experience for them, but the more risks are involved from a security perspective. The undertaking of properly collecting information and storing it in a centralized database is often done in a CRM, or Customer Relationship Management platform. Many companies also have a separate communications platform, or Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) that integrates with their CRM or other various databases, enabling powerful 1:1 interactions. As Salesforce Partners, we’re big fans of the products that Salesforce offers to store contact data and empower users to drive sales, provide customer support, and communicate to contacts based on their interests, history, and preferences. As such, this article largely focuses on ways Salesforce can be used to enable a 360 view, but the benefits are universal across any CRM.
Why Pursue the 360 View?
Some companies set forth in wanting a single view of the user to have a more advanced communication strategy, while others need to go through the discovery process after uncovering a significant data issue. Data issues can range from finding a process that’s creating duplicates, or someone, somewhere implemented a new process without discussing it with your team and suddenly your’re getting errors, or essential data is suddenly missing from your database.
Whatever the reason, start by creating member journeys to help identify the kinds of experiences your prospects and customers are having with your company. Then work across multiple departments to design personalized, scalable communication strategies that could be implemented if you had access to 360 data. Review these goals, strategies, and the various benefits as a team, and you may find additional opportunities to utilize data, or change processes that may be causing unnecessary work and confusion between departments.
For example, with access to a wider range of data, marketers can start supporting internal departments by providing personalized, highly-targeted and timely communications at key moments in the customer experience. Better segmentation is possible when data can inform who is qualified to receive messaging, and who should be suppressed. Using logic, you can create any number of communications that are triggered only when a specific contact data point changes, making 1:1 personalized communication scalable.
Additionally, the increased access to data and learnings can enable data consolidation and visualization in the form of a dashboard – which means less time wrestling with raw data, and more time gleaning insights and sharing information with stakeholders through custom views. If analytics is one of your priorities this year, check out the article by Andrew Latzman, our VP of Data Strategy, on Data Rebirth: Better Insights through Data Visualization and Consolidation.
Achieving Human-Centric Communications
It can be challenging to get internal resources to play nice when it comes to data collection and management – in fact, it’s not uncommon to find Sales, Marketing, Customer Support, Finance and IT all storing and tracking data differently. Depending on how many sources of data and various departments involved, you’ll likely be starting off with data spaghetti. As systems get built or updated, added upon or removed, and as resources come and go, it becomes very challenging to know what data originates from where and why better processes weren’t in place. Work across departments to understand what data is being collected, how it’s being stored, what purpose it serves, and how it is being shared across the company (if at all). Including various departments in identifying ways to leverage 360 data can help facilitate sharing and create greater willingness to potentially change or update existing processes to fit into a broader strategy.
If you’re at a point where you’re already collecting data from a variety of sources and channels, and storing it correctly, congratulations. Seriously. It’s a complex, long-term strategy that takes patience and determination. There were likely a ton of roadblocks, workarounds, disappointments, and sacrifices along the way.
But if you’re not – the primary requirement (and appeal) for a 360 view of our customer and empower 1:1, human-centric personalized communications is to identify a user in each of those systems. So how can you identify that user? How can you store them somewhere that supports highly advanced segmentation and a robust, customized communications strategy?
Salesforce Marketing Cloud
While it requires a good amount of technical knowledge, one of our all-time favorite platforms for utilizing data in the most powerful, efficient and human-centric way is Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC). It offers a robust API for syncing data across various sources, as well as a pre-built Connector to Salesforce Sales and Service Cloud.
One of the core components of SFMC’s architecture is Data Extensions, which are able to store data similar to how you would in a SQL database. You can control what gets imported, how and when to help manage the cleanest possible version of your data. You can have many, many Data Extensions that store raw or filtered data, allowing you to manipulate, segment and personalize your communications.
Another key functionality related to Data Extensions is the Subscriber Key, which can effectively be used as a unique identifier for your customers or prospects. The Subscriber Key is an essential value stored on every Data Extension that identifies and links your individual contacts across all of your data. It’s functionality powers a clean sync as it tells systems specifically who needs to get updated, where, and to what values. In the most straightforward use of SFMC, email address might suffice as the Subscriber Key. In many cases, companies that also have Sales Cloud may use the Contact ID as the Subscriber Key in SFMC. There may be a need to create a customized Subscriber Key based on your unique data sources, goals and limitations.
Examples of Customer 360 in Action
Let’s say you sell insurance and have Salesforce Marketing Cloud. After a person moves from getting a quote to purchasing a policy, your sales team would update the record in their database to indicate the quote has been filled, as well as notify another department to begin processing the final documentation. This individual’s quote data and new policy details would sync into SFMC from separate databases and would be stored in different Data Extensions, however, they would share the same Subscriber Key. The new and updated data in SFMC should then trigger an automatic email thanking them for their purchase, but should also be used to exit them out of any communications that prompt them to purchase insurance.
Or, perhaps you’re in Higher Education and storing application status, which changes from Pending to Completed after the application is submitted. You’re able to segment and target pending applicants to notify them of the next deadline. If you are also storing the name of the program to which the prospective student starting applying to, you can create ‘if-then’ content blocks that personalize messaging, links and images associated with each program.
After being accepted, Student Services may have a separate database that also syncs with SFMC. Across all databases, the Subscriber Key would ensure a seamless experience for the new student as they receive a new email confirming their acceptance and next steps. Perhaps a parent’s email is also collected as invoicing begins. Instead of giving a parent a new Subscriber Key, it may be best that they share the same one as the student so the relationship is known throughout the database.
Always make sure you’re taking the critical step of performing data analysis to review the various Data Extensions to ensure they’re storing what you expect. Data integrity is essential, especially when populating emails with the correct information, and with as much detail as possible. People use email extensively to track and document a wide variety of potential interactions they have with businesses and often reference old emails to get important information. While this may not apply to every industry, a strong blend of marketing-related and transactional communications should work in tandem to create a truly personalized and valuable 1:1 user human experience.
A Note on PII (Personally identifiable information) Data
If you want customer data, it’s often in pursuit of creating a great user experience. Still, this puts companies and marketers in a position of needing to lead the charge to use data to create more human experiences. It also puts them in the position of needing to understand data security, risk, and liability really well.
Keep in mind, depending on whose data and how much of it is being stored, you may be managing PII (Personally identifiable information). Be sure to identify if any employees are emailing contact data to each other, or exporting it onto their local machines. Talk to your security professionals and shift priorities as needed to ensure you’re properly managing how you export, import data, and store data. To learn more, check out an article written by our VP of Cyber Security, Richard Wilford, on Data Encryption: The Last Line of Defense.
Doing a 360
In the end, as ironic as it is, the more data about a person you can capture, the better you can design an experience that respects their unique identity.
For many companies, achieving a 360 view is one of the most challenging undertakings. And, there is an increase in risk and liability associated with managing human data. There’s also the ethical aspect as you work through the efforts of achieving a single view of your customers. It’s easy to start seeing people as just data points and records on a table with simple yes or no values. It’s easy to see all of the possibilities and lose sight of what the experience looks like on the their end. With the ability to automate countless interactions based on data, it’s even more imperative to stop and map out the experience from your customer’s perspective before you add more messaging. Less can be more, especially if those few communications are highly personalized and targeted.
In the end, the best way you can serve your customers is to ask and test what works best for them. Implement surveys, talk to those who are most engaged, and dedicate time to analyzing the full-cycle of interactions to see what’s happening. Keep on the track of continuous improvement and stay focused on the human experience.