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How data quality can help craft the single-customer view

The idea of a "single-customer view" is one that's gained a lot of traction in the marketing business in recent years. Executives have come to accept the fact that the more consumers they attract, the harder it becomes to give all of them the individualized attention they demand. But by collecting data, companies can usher in the next best thing. The more information that companies gather about each one of their past, present and future customers, the better equipped they will be to predict customers' habits and cater to their needs.

This movement must begin with data quality. According to 1to1 Media, it can often be difficult to ensure "full contact data quality" in a large database of customers - human error and outdated information are common problems seen in these data clusters, and imperfections can lead marketers to make fundamental mistakes.

Duplicate records can make for an especially tricky situation for marketers working with imperfect data sets. Even for companies willing to spend the time and money to use software solutions for improving quality, questions are still bound to arise. Say a company has records of two "different" people with very similar names, only one is named "Robert" and the other is "Bob." Their addresses are similar, only maybe one street name is spelled differently by one letter. Are these two consumers one and the same? It's difficult to tell.

Companies can improve the quality of their data by using validation software to root out potential errors. Using a standard format for dates, addresses and phone numbers will make all elements of data clusters uniform, and thus easier to sort and analyze. No strategy is guaranteed to produce 100 percent data quality, but putting more effort into that area will help move marketers' data sets toward completeness. Eventually, they will be able to better connect with their customers.

There are three major ways in which improved data quality can help marketers craft the single-customer view for which they're striving.

Stronger marketing campaigns
If companies can be confident that their contact information and customer histories on each consumer are accurate and up to date, they can use that information to improve their marketing efforts. The key word here is "targeting" - the objective is to have as narrow an approach as possible to addressing each individual customer, tailoring messages to each person that promote the products and services they'll appreciate. Without data quality, this effort is doomed, as an off-base marketing campaign based on faulty information will torpedo a consumer relationship. With improved quality, however, personalized marketing can become a reality.

Improved mailing initiatives
Marketers depend on personalized mailings to reach out to customers. That includes both email campaigns and old-fashioned snail mail. If they have accurate contact information on each consumer in their databases, they can target them all without any fear of wasting money on erroneous mailings. This is especially important where email is concerned - marketers now see email as the most efficient way to reach new and old customers, but they need to ensure data quality for that to be the case.

Enhanced customer satisfaction
Marketers can gauge consumers' satisfaction by polling them at the point of sale on their enjoyment of the customer experience. In turn, they can use this information to analyze how the process can be improved for future customers. Marketers often have a goal of improving customer loyalty by keeping longtime patrons happy, and by emphasizing data quality, they can track the happiness of their customers over time.

No large company has the resources to pay close attention to every individual customer. But by using data to craft the single-customer view, a business can have the next best thing. Data quality is vitally important in this area.