What are 360-degree customer views?

A 360-degree view provides a complete, holistic view of a business entity. Most commonly, organizations focus on 360-degree views of a customer. But, 360-degree views can also be products, locations, assets, employees, or projects.

A 360-degree customer view is essentially a collection of intrinsic customer data—usually in a master data management system. Typical master data includes a legal name and address, parent and ultimate parent (if a subsidiary), industry classification, and account contacts. This data is often combined with data from transactional systems, like information from a CRM, contact, or lead. The combination of data from all these applications creates a 360-degree view.

With 360-degree customer views, an organization can track all interactions a customer has with the business and create personalized experiences by analyzing that data. It can also be used to better meet the needs of customers. All data about the customer, contact details, purchasing history, interactions with online customer services, product browsing, and social media interaction patterns can be tracked and included in a 360-degree view.

360-degree views are all collated from the myriad of touch points a customer has with any brand online. From movements on a website, to responses to marketing materials, and even influencer campaigns and customer service interactions—all of this comes together for a holistic view of the consumer.

In order to retain customers, brands must be customer-centric. 360-degree views of customers are crucial to delivering the experiences that customers want.

How can you achieve 360-degree views of customers?

All of this data can help organizations understand the needs of customers in a better way—from priorities to preferences. This gives businesses the power to address a customer’s current and future requirements. Achieving a 360-degree view requires a multi-department approach along with the support of enterprise software.

360-degree views begin with creating customer-facing teams and tracking both structured and unstructured data. Every department plays a role in capturing relevant data, analyzing it, and working together to respond to data—with the ultimate goal to create comprehensive business strategies.

How can 360-degree views be used?

There are a range of benefits for such holistic, deep views of a customer:

Consistent customer information for smarter decisions

A 360-degree view of the customer equips service agents with all the customer information they need. Any agent attending to a customer will be able to quickly find information to answer any questions or fix any potential problems for the customer seamlessly.

All-encompassing 360-degree views ensure that employees access customer information from a single source. All information stored is in a single location, ensuring that data is consistent across all channels.

Single source point for better cross departmental pitching

360-degree customer data ensures better cross-department communication and collaboration.

For example, in an interaction with a customer, a service agent may find a chance to upsell or cross-sell, which they pass on to the account manager in marketing. A sales rep then goes to make the big pitch. Since the rep knows all the issues the customer has raised, they can customize the pitch easier. Additionally, strategic campaigns can be built based on this consolidated view of the customer.

For example, stalled or cold leads can receive email campaigns and display ads that target their needs based on earlier interactions (before a sales team even connects with them). Based on reactions to these campaigns, sales can customize future pitches.

Robust predictive analysis

With 360-degree views, organizations know their customers transaction history and are able to understand next best actions. With accurate customer data, forecasts are streamlined and predictive analytics are more accurate. This puts sales reps in better positions to anticipate customer needs and ensures services can adapt to customer needs seamlessly. Strategies can then be changed based on outcomes, minimizing any potential negative customer experiences.

Engaging customers meaningfully

For example, if an insurance company has a 360-degree view of its customers, it will know if a particular family is expecting a child. Offering products that are attuned to the family’s new needs—education and health for example—would show the customer that the organization can anticipate needs and provide the right services. Many customers expect this type of omniscience from providers, but this can only come from centralized data.

But centralizing customer data can be challenging

The benefits from centralizing data are clear, but achieving a single data source can be difficult. Here is a look at the possible challenges an organization will face when centralizing data and what they can do to overcome these challenges:

Duplicate data in a system

Consolidating brings multiple data systems together. But many times, there are duplicates within a single system, leading to messy consolidated systems.

The solution is to first remove duplicates in individual systems. If this slows down a project, bring in the non-duplicates and schedule all flagged duplicates for a later removal. Automated programs can achieve this.

Matching like records

When consolidating several data sets, match records with similar ones across multiple systems. This is not an easy task because there is usually no common identifier across data systems.

One way to go about it is to begin the search with an email address. With an advanced matching system, implement dedupe keys (categories to prevent data duplication) based on other data such as names, company, and addresses.

Conflicting data

Once data is matched across systems, there might be conflicting information. Manual checking is not a possibility due to the sheer size of the task, but there are two approaches that can help. The first is “system of record”—systems are prioritized to determine which one would rank on top for a specific kind of data. For example, when it comes to sales-related data, the CRM system would rank first.

The second is the “most recently updated” approach. Choose the system that has been recently updated. For example, if there is an address conflict for a customer, the most recently updated one is selected.

Inconsistent data formats

Merging data systems usually presents inconsistent formatting—different input formats for addresses, dates, and names. This can cause several problems when consolidating data.

First put in place a fixed data format. Then apply this new format to all the data in originating systems. Once there is consistency in all fields in the originating system, consolidate it all together.

Related objects

Data does not exist in isolation. It is connected to several other data fields. All these relationships have to remain intact when consolidating so related information is kept together.

Have fixed definitions and keys for all carry over information in the centralized system. After this, importing data and filling in necessary blanks is simple.

Data is evolving

As data is consolidated, there are many updates and changes made to it. The longer the process of centralization takes, the more data may be out of sync. Create a process where there is a constant automated way to extract, clean, and combine data across systems. This works better than one time clean-ups and ensures data is up-to-date.

Using the 360-degree approach to enhance business growth

In the broad spectrum of enterprise software, 360-degree views are applied to a specific business aspect: the customer. With well-rounded information on the customer, businesses can strategize better. But each business looks at the data collected differently. While some will examine customer relationships with master data elements, others will look at historical customer transactions, and a third would perhaps examine social media interactions. Such blended views from a single collection of data offers a wide range of viewpoints that can be analyzed in many ways for a multitude of benefits.

360-degree views are not limited to customer-related data alone. The same software and concept can be applied to accounts, assets, legal entities, locations, materials, supply chains, and just about any business aspect. The 360-degree approach can strengthen business frameworks and help businesses grow. Here is what a 360-degree approach can do for a business or organization:

Contextualizing industry information

For any business to grow, it needs a panoramic view of its macro-environment. This helps the business excel ahead of the competition. Companies need to be on top of major economic indicators like the country’s GDP and inflation, unemployment rates, and current interest rates. Analyzing these data points and assessing their impact helps the business forecast future trends. Placing them in context with industry information from secondary sources gives a business a good platform to work from.

In-depth industry analyses

Every business needs to study growth trends and forecast its own trajectory. To do this, businesses can study growth trends, analyze market shares of competitors, and review product performance. 360-degree views, when applied to these data inputs, can amplify those analyses.

Competitor profiling

Reviewing the performance of peers in the industry goes a long way in helping a business change its strategy. Here are some related key requirements for businesses:

  • In-depth product performance analysis
  • Peers strategy analysis
  • Benchmark evaluation in operations, supply chain, and financial performance
  • Identifying areas of improvement based on industry best practices

Improved customer experiences

The customer is always going to be central to a business structure and businesses that put customers first continue to thrive. The ability to analyze customer behavior patterns across channels can take marketing and customer service to the next level. With a centralized data source, customer portfolios can be studied based on their distribution across key industries and regions, giving businesses added insight.

With all of these actionable insights, businesses can grow sharper marketing strategies and be able to handle questions associated with:

  • Market expansion
  • Sales strategies
  • Loyalty and retention programs

360-degree views ensure businesses are on the top of marketing, customer retention, and sales. These comprehensive views are integral to promoting business growth by retaining customers and ensuring best service practices. This helps a business plan for long-term sustainability and expansion.

To build an accurate, consolidated set of information on customers, organizations need a robust customer relationship management system so that employees can access, use, and benefit from the customer information. All the consolidated data can help employees assist customers with the right products and services related to customer needs.

A 360-degree view approach can grow the business from within by using data to enhance strategic objectives. The same model, when applied to any aspect of a business, can give businesses a clear view of obstacles, a way to address them, and the ability to forecast long-term.

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