“Well we want a single customer view, a single version of the truth about our customer transactions and activities… blah blah”  One of the first things that many people say to me when asked why they are implementing or at least attempting to change their customer systems infrastructure.  Typically you’ll find this opinion when you have multiple transaction channels and the related challenges around data management and interaction recording.  The thing is they don’t really want a single customer view.  They don’t really want all of the information on a given customer piled up in a mass of words and numbers on one page do they?.   Now my argument sounds a little flippant.  But the point is that the phrase single customer view is a false one.  It does not always describe the true intention of what people are really trying to achieve.

The real challenge around multi-channel, multi source customer transactions and records is one of complexity in the data curation process; the routes between data creation and consumption are many and varied.  At the basic level it lets me know that Mrs Smith on the web is the same as Mrs Smith who just came through to the call centre.  At a more sophisticated level it means knowing what information about Mrs Smith that we gathered from the web or mobile channel should be made available to the contact centre, where it should be visible and the decisions an agent should need to make when faced with that information (and vice versa).  Likewise, what data from other channels is shared and made available in other places.  So when I hear the phrase single customer view I always mentally translate it to “the right information in the right place at the right time”.   A single customer view doesn’t always mean all the customer data in one place. In any organisation of significant size data on your customers will be located in a number of different systems (and of course with duplications, inconsistencies, silos etc etc).  The methods of sharing this data, making it accurate and consistent are too long and varied for the purposes of this post. But the point is what are…

The business implications of such fuzziness

So you hear someone saying one thing and I read it as something else.  Rest assured that other people in any team will be doing the same thing.  For a finance function SCV (for sake of brevity) is more likely to mean making sure that all that data squirreled away on marketing’s databases is the same as the data in the finance system.  From marketing’s perspective it might mean we want every single possible data point on a customer in our data warehouse so that we can analyze the heck out of it. The Customer Service Director, the Sales Director.   Same phrase, many different meanings.  So in the same way that everyone understands CRM differently they also understand the concept of the SCV differently.  From an implementation perspective clarity is critical; almost that without it failure is assured.  Throwaway phrases used in generating requirements can introduce very dangerous ambiguities in the development of business requirements.  There are consultants out there that train people to identify and pick up on these ambiguities so that more clarity and shared understanding can be injected in to the business improvement process.  I would suggest that when working on your programme you spend a significant amount of time being absolutely clear on what all your internal and external phrases really truly mean.  These phrases need to transform into objectives and/or visions.  Simple descriptions of what your data programme is attempting to achieve.  Is it operational effectiveness to enhance customer experience (reduction of data errors for front end transactions)?  Is it there to create an advanced analytics capability to allow for improved product development or business strategy?  Is it there to support decisioning for back room or front line staff?  Perhaps all of them or perhaps a focus on one or two.  Just be absolutely clear what the programme or activities are there to do.

Such clarity will be massively helpful when chunking up changing into sprints or work packages.   If you don’t get your terminology clear, imagine the look on your internal customers faces when you say “look guys, a single customer view!” and there in front of them is a huge field of text in the smallest font possible.  Let the management decisions flow!