Vendors of customer relationship management solutions, and the companies that use those solutions, praise the advantages of having a 360-degree view of the customer. The approach is meant to provide a company with a full picture of its customers in order to enhance the customer experience, provide better customer service and support, and improve the company’s sales and marketing initiatives to better target those customers.
One problem that many companies face in using their 360-degree view stems from having focused on only one or two of these objectives. But as its name implies, a 360-degree view demands a holistic approach. In other words, you’ll have a hard time increasing sales if the customer experience is less than great, and for customers to have positive experiences, customer service must be at least satisfactory.
A 360-degree view of a customer is not a KGB file, where all customer interactions are thoroughly documented and “corrective” actions are taken when considered necessary by some “higher authority.”
Your 360-degree view initiative should go beyond gathering all the data you can about customers or prospects. When defining and applying a strategy for a 360-degree view of the customer, you need to involve your customers in order to understand their needs and the best ways for you to satisfy them.
Your view of the customer should take the customer into account. A customer who calls for support does not want a birthday card. When my landlord sent me holiday cards but failed to respond to my requests, I felt I wasn’t being taken seriously. While it’s good business sense to maintain customer relationships by personalizing and customizing your interactions, responding to your customers’ specific needs first is more important than applying industry best practices, which may not always apply.
Don’t get me wrong: best practices are always a good start, but you also need to do more than that and show customers that your efforts are driven by the will to help them. It’s this attitude—not marketing campaigns or special offers—that will eventually turn prospects into loyal customers.
Include Customers in Developing Their Profile
Ask your customers what they think is important for you to know about them. You can build customer profiles by following individuals on social media. Solicit their feedback through surveys. You don’t need to hire a private detective and you don’t need to know everything about them—just a few focused, relevant points.
Most people will gladly provide much of the information you need, as long as they see the value in doing so. You need to reassure them that the information will be used to their advantage. When they do provide information, make sure you know what they want you to do with it. (And, of course, you need to give people the option to easily opt out.)
Target Your Customers Better
Once you know what your prospects want, do not bombard all potential customers with general promotional messages—as you’re likely to lose their interest. You should target only those prospects interested in what you have to offer. As for existing customers, you should use level of satisfaction as the criterion by which to target them; an unhappy customer will be unlikely to want to buy from you, no matter how tempting your offer may be.
Create Dynamic Customer Profiles
Profiles should be based on customer needs, not on your company taxonomy. Make sure you maintain all documentation up to date, and that all parties involved in customer interactions are contributing. Further investments in technology and people may be required to keep everything up to date, as you may find that most of the information you gather changes fast.
Your business software solutions that contain customer data need to be integrated so that you can have a single version of the truth. This also simplifies data management and analysis. Finally, try to monitor your customers on social media and include your findings in their profile, along with the enterprise data.
You can build and enhance your 360-degree view of the customer by creating customer communities, developing social media initiatives, using feedback gathering processes and tools, analyzing your interactions with customers, as well as the interactions between them, and re-engineering business processes to be more flexible and responsive to customer needs, to name a few techniques.
A 360-degree view of your customers will only be as good as your interactions with them, and such an initiative will fail when it does not focus on the needs of the customer. Equally important, this initiative must also be part of a company-wide strategy to attract and keep customers.