One Ring to Rule Them All

Master DataI recently spent some time in Russia talking with a number of major Communications Service Providers (CSPs).  I explained the concept of master data to both IT teams and people from the Business.  I often heard the phrase ‘I already know what that is’ and ‘we do that already’.  However, by the end of my presentations it was often clear that it was only partly understood and no, the capability was not already in place.  To explain master data I often use the concept of mastering customer data as this is an easy area to explain and easier to illustrate how this can improve the areas of customer care, customer experience and marketing.  Often we have direct experience from our own CSP that shows they do not master the data in the customer domain.  For example, I get marketing for broadband and TV services from a major CSP in the UK but I have their services already they just happen to be in my wife’s name.  When I call customer services I get treated like I spend £10 a month with my CSP instead of over £200 a month because it is in reference to a prepay account and not my main account.  If I want to cancel services from a multi-play provider sometimes I get transferred between departments or have to call different numbers.

There are many reasons for these experiences. Sometimes there may be multiple brands or sub-brands which often leads to multiple CRM systems.  Different segments are often managed in different CRM systems e.g. one for corporate customers, one for prepay and one for consumer contracts.  Many CSPs try to address this problem by migrating to a single CRM system.  This does help to solve part of the problem as you can connect customer data together using various points of connection.  Many CSPs believe they can create the 360o view of the customer by using the capabilities that reside within the CRM system and to some extent you can improve your visibility of the customer, their products and purchases, etc.  Every CRM vendor advertises the fact that their solution provides a 360o view of the customer as they capture data from all customer touch points whether they are online, via a call centre, in a shop or on social media.  However, it is only for a single customer and Master Data is about much more than that.  Perhaps we should call it the 720o view of the customer or the ‘connected customer view’?

Master Data for customer could be considered to have 3 levels. Firstly, there is the basic view of data variations that may show customers as two or three entities.  For example, Mr M Hiseman, Mark Hiseman, Mr Mark Hiseman.  These 3 entries could quite conceivably create 3 separate records in 3 separate databases and not be viewed as duplicate or related records, even though they all pertain to me as a single customer.  Imagine the name is John Smith and this gets a whole lot more complicated.  The second level is about the account information and related data e.g. households or business relationships.  If you’re selling home services such as TV, Broadband or connected home capabilities in the world of IoT then a household view is more relevant than an individual view.  I’d love to know how much marketing dollars are wasted because they don’t use household data.  The third level is about interactions and transactions such as Social Media, historical purchases and usage.

Across all of these levels of data one must also consider the quality of the data.  It’s great to have detailed customer profiles but they are not much use if the data is invalid or inaccurate.  Important elements like physical address affect deliveries, service call-outs, billing and credit references.  Email addresses are often the email address of the shop where the purchase was made or addresses are simply made up.  Many CRM systems are able to make connections within the data but the level of connection is often based on exact matches or uses a customer identifier that is unique e.g. phone number to bring data together.  If this was enough why do we all have examples of our CSPs not engaging us correctly?  My CSP does a good job for each individual account I have but has no concept of my household or my total spend across multiple accounts and products. If they did they would understand that I have no TV services with them.  Perhaps offering a household plan would capture additional users from the next generation who could go on to be the high value customers of the future.

Gartner believes Master Data Management is fundamental to the success of CRM and the impact of ignoring it could reduce revenue by as much as 25%.  It’s not just CRM that needs this view of the customer either as there are many other systems across the eco-system that rely on this data. This includes systems such as the Data Warehouse, the customer experience management system, analytics systems, big data platforms, assurance solutions, order fulfillment systems, service support systems, online platforms, retail systems, billing, etc.  The potential list of systems that use this data is long which means many integration points.  Now to create these holistic customer profiles also requires numerous data sources, many of which are already mentioned but you can add unstructured social media data to that list.  This means the CRM system has to manage a significant list of two-way communications between many different systems and maintain these profiles in real-time as well as taking updates and providing updates to the rest of the eco-system.  Imagine what that might look like with multiple CRM systems?  What happens when you want to change your CRM system?  Even before you examine the challenges of match, merge and de-duplication, as well as the numerous required integration points, it is clear to see that the CRM system is not the right place to master data.  However, it is definitely a significant contributor and recipient of such valued data.

What is required is a central source that maintains the data and ensures it is clean, connected and secure.  A source that can easily add new data sources when required or feed new systems as technology evolves and systems change.  Essentially, what is needed is a single version of the truth or in other words one ring to rule them all….