Closing the Customer Visibility Circle

Whether driven by lack of product differentiation, customer demand for better service, or simply the need to improve the prospect/customer experience, companies are seeking to better understand their customers in order to more effectively acquire and retain business.

Yet recent Aberdeen research shows less than a third (31 percent) of all companies have real-time visibility into all related processes, from customer quote to cash receipt.

A true 360-degree view of the customer, however, is a win-win situation for all parties involved: Buyers benefit from better service and efficiency, and sellers derive improved loyalty and, inevitably, more repeat business from established customers.

This Aberdeen benchmark report, scheduled for publication in March 2010, will explore how Best-in-Class companies improve customer satisfaction and retention without losing sight of customer profitability, by integrating multiple sources of data to complete the full circle of visibility.

The Whole Story

Outstanding customer service can represent a vital way to stand out from the crowd, to win and keep more business, and just perhaps “build a better mousetrap” as global competition from international (including low-cost) sources makes it more difficult for companies to differentiate themselves in terms of product or price. In order to improve the customer’s impression of the company or product, however, we need to turn the tables and first examine how the enterprise views the customer. The proliferation of data repositories for customer-related data often makes this seemingly simple task anything but easy.

A “360-degree view of the customer” has become a common phrase used by customer relationship management (CRM) vendors. Indeed, these solutions can provide much of the account information (contacts, conversations, contracts and communications) needed to understand customer attributes and to track and manage interactions between provider and customer. For the transactional, fiscal audit trail, however, enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions that form the operational system of record within the business often provide the missing link to complete the view.

ERP and CRM solutions are becoming more closely intertwined in order to satisfy the growing informational needs of an increasing number of constituents within the provider organization, from marketing, sales and service; to the design and delivery of products and services; to finance, administration and senior management. Throw in some business intelligence and customer analytics, and now you have a genuine, complete 360-degree customer view.

Key Benefits

From the end user’s perspective, the key benefits of providing a complete view of the customer include the opportunity to increase share of customer wallets, and share of market, resulting in

  • increased new customer acquisition,
  • expanded ability to up-sell or cross-sell to existing customers,
  • improved customer satisfaction, and
  • reduced operational (internal) inefficiencies in servicing or selling to the customer.

The research will answer questions such as

  • How would you characterize your organization’s typical “share of the customer’s wallet?”
  • What are the top two strategic actions your organization is taking to achieve a 360-degree view of the customer?
  • How many different data sources do you typically access in responding to an inquiry from or about a customer?

Aberdeen’s hypothesis is that to achieve a high degree of flexibility and customer responsiveness, companies must blend a combination of strategic actions and new technologies to

  • integrate multiple sources of data into a single view,
  • define processes for identifying “at risk” customers, and
  • notify sales/support managers in advance of potential problems in delivering service or product.

Aberdeen’s pending research in March 2010, “Providing a 360-Degree View of the Customer: Better Service — Higher Sales,” will examine, in more depth, how top-performing organizations achieve success by providing a complete view of the customer including the opportunity to increase share of customer wallets and share of market.

Peter Ostrow is research director of sales effectiveness at the Aberdeen Group.

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