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Q&A: How to improve the customer experience through better data quality and management

At the heart of many customer satisfaction issues is often poor data quality and management.  By building core data architecture and data management fundamentals that incorporate data quality, organizations can help improve the customer experience and support digital transformation efforts.  This topic explores how customers will have a better and more satisfying experience with an organization that has their correct information and history, knows their preferences, past transactions and more, while maintaining the right level of privacy at the same time.

Hello and welcome! Thanks for joining us today! My name is Sean Coombs, and I’m a marketing manager here at Experian Data Quality. I lead strategic content marketing and thought leadership programs for Experian’s data quality and management business.

I am very excited today because we have a great discussion for you today, and we’re also going to share some key findings from a unique study that we just wrapped up. The topic for today’s webinar is “Improving the customer experience through data quality and management.” During today’s live Q&A webcast, we will be tackling some of the most frequent questions we get, as well as some questions from the audience, so please feel free to submit your ideas as they come up using the Q&A box on your screen.

With that, let’s meet our expert panellist for today!

As I said, my name is Sean Coombs and I’m the head of thought leadership here at Experian.

With me, I have Donna Burbank. Donna is a recognized industry expert in information management with over 20 years of experience in data strategy, information management, data modeling, metadata management, and enterprise architecture. She is currently the Managing Director at Global Data Strategy, an international information management consulting company that specializes in the alignment of business drivers with data-centric technology.

Thanks for joining me today, Donna!

Now, to put a frame around today’s conversation, I think we all can agree that at the heart of many customer satisfaction issues is often poor data quality and management. [GIVE EXAMPLES] By building core data architecture and data management fundamentals that incorporate data quality, organizations can help improve the customer experience and support digital transformation efforts.

Our discussion today will explore how customers will have a better and more satisfying experience with an organization that has their correct information and history, knows their preferences, past transactions and so on.

Now, before we jump into today’s session, I wanted to give you a brief background on some of the data that we’ll be sharing today. We produced this study in July 2018 to understand digital transformation progress, challenges, and priorities within U.S. organizations – specifically as it relates to their customer experience efforts. The survey focused on 501 employees at U.S. organizations with visibility and knowledge over digital transformation plans, and how data and analytics are affecting that effort. Survey respondents were from organizations of more than 250 employees and represented an array of industries, such as information technology, business services, finance and insurance, retail, telecommunications, public sector, education, and healthcare. You can see a complete breakdown of the survey population in terms of department and seniority on this slide.

What’s really relevant to our businesses today, is that nearly all the organizations we surveyed (90%) say that embracing digital transformation is critical to their ability to provide an excellent customer experience. As our customers are becoming more mobile and their needs are changing, it’s really imperative for our brands to keep up with new technology, like the Cloud and mobile-optimized ecosystems, if we’re going to continue to meet their needs.

It shouldn’t really be all that surprising, then, that when it comes to bringing customer experience into the modern era, business leaders are really looking to their data for the answers. According to our research, nearly all businesses today (99%) use data to improve the digital customer experience in one way or another. Whether that data is provided by your customers, is collected as a byproduct of transactions, or is acquired from a third party, most businesses today realize that they’re sitting on a trove of valuable information. Yet– many don’t adequately know how to tap into it.

The statistic that really stood out to me from this study is this last one here: “91% of organizations want to provide the best customer experience in their markets.” And that’s what we’re really going to focus on during today’s expert panel. We’re going to talk about how you can leverage your data, and most importantly TRUST your data, to turbocharge your customer experience initiatives.

What’s really relevant to our businesses today, is that nearly all the organizations we surveyed (90%) say that embracing digital transformation is critical to their ability to provide an excellent customer experience. As our customers are becoming more mobile and their needs are changing, it’s really imperative for our brands to keep up with new technology, like the Cloud and mobile-optimized ecosystems, if we’re going to continue to meet their needs.

It shouldn’t really be all that surprising, then, that when it comes to bringing customer experience into the modern era, business leaders are really looking to their data for the answers. According to our research, nearly all businesses today (99%) use data to improve the digital customer experience in one way or another. Whether that data is provided by your customers, is collected as a byproduct of transactions, or is acquired from a third party, most businesses today realize that they’re sitting on a trove of valuable information. Yet– many don’t adequately know how to tap into it.

The statistic that really stood out to me from this study is this last one here: “91% of organizations want to provide the best customer experience in their markets.” And that’s what we’re really going to focus on during today’s expert panel. We’re going to talk about how you can leverage your data, and most importantly TRUST your data, to turbocharge your customer experience initiatives.

Now, not surprising, when we asked businesses what their drivers are for digital transformation, customer experience was the #1 driver.

Now, the chart you see here breaks down the drivers I just mentioned. As businesses have to become more savvy when it comes to their digital experience, we’re seeing customer experience cited as the top objective by more than three-quarters of businesses today (76%).

In fact, it’s significantly ahead of many other initiatives like product innovation (56%), decision-making (51%), and competitive advantage (50%). What I like about this chart, in particular, is it really shows just how important having a good customer experience is to a lot of businesses today. Without a healthy customer relationship, things like innovation or automation won’t really help you to succeed.

Now, as we all know, implementing customer experience initiatives can be extremely challenging…

In fact, 97 percent of businesses say they have challenges in delivering an excellent customer experience.

So with the first question in our panel today, we’re going to dive into some of these challenges.

The question is: What are the biggest challenges in delivering an excellent customer experience?

Right now, I’m going to cover off on what the survey says, and then I’ll pass it over to Donna for her expert perspective.

This chart shows the top challenges most businesses face when it comes to their digital customer experience.

As you can see, many organizations (39%) say they lack the customer insight and data required to provide excellent customer experiences.

  • We often see there’s a gap between the IT folks who manage the data and the business users who need to access the data for analytics. Often it can take days and sometimes weeks for a report to reach the business. That’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing the rise of self-service analytics capabilities crop up throughout the market.
  • While a lack of data is certainly an issue, we believe a lack of visibility and integrations between existing data sets is compounding this issue. For instance not being able to tie together records from disparate systems is starting to cause issues when it comes to creating a single customer view. In fact, more than a third of organizations say the customer experience is siloed across many channels, which can make it difficult to manage. That's why organizations should bring together their customer data from all channels and areas of the business into a single source of truth.

Another 38 percent of businesses simply do not have the time, or other priorities take precedence. With so much riding on customer experience nowadays, a lack of priority should never be allowed to get in the way. You should take a page from industry leaders in customer experience and create dedicated customer success or advocacy teams that can drive the strategy forward and measure progress.

Lastly, the ways in which customers want to interact changes too frequently to provide a consistent and scalable experience for 32 percent of businesses.

As most of us marketers can attest, using data to improve customer experience is both an art and a science. It requires a deep understanding of our customers’ behaviors and preferences, and it also requires a certain finesse to deliver truly human experiences.

According to our research, almost all organizations today (98%) say that they routinely use data to improve their customer experience. How do they do it? Well, more than half of organizations (54%) say that they analyze customer transactional data (so things like shopping cart behavior—like the categories of products purchased, the time of day, the location, etc. to better predict and facilitate future behaviors). In addition, more than half (51%) say they collect survey data to improve their experiences. Most of the time, these surveys can be served up in real-time to collect instantaneous feedback. Almost half of the businesses we surveyed use social media (49%) to gain insight on their customer experience.

The area that stood out to me as being pretty advanced when it comes to CX initiatives is this fourth bar, “Assessing behavior across digital properties to identify patterns and trends.” Today, there is not shortage of digital marketing applications promising greater insight into customer behavior, and we’re beginning to see organization rally taking advantage of that. According to this study, 43% of businesses say that they’re tracking behavior and patterns across digital properties (so thinks like the web and sometime even mobile) to understand what’s resonating (or not) with their customers.

Lastly, we see that businesses use their data to build buyers’ personas, and many of them supplement their data with information from third parties to really gain a fuller picture of their consumers. Sometimes this might mean appending data to fill-in the gaps where a phone number or address is missing. Or it can mean enriching the data with consumer attributes (things like demographics or propensity to purchase certain products). I think it’s pretty neat to see more than a third of businesses today are looking to do more with their data by leveraging third-party sources.

While the responsibility for customer experience traditionally fell under the purview of the CEO, we are starting to see that it is now something many might argue should be the responsibility of Marketing or Operations. According to those we surveyed, half of organizations today (50%) still say that the CEO has the largest influence over customer experience efforts; however, roles like the chief operations officer and chief marketing officer are gaining significant traction.

As I dug a little deeper into the data, however, I noticed something really interesting. While the CEO is more likely to be involved in customer experience initiatives at organizations that are fairly novice with their digital transformation efforts, companies that are strategic around digital transformation are more likely to have a chief data officer involved in their customer experience efforts. This means that data-driven roles, like the chief data officer, have much more influence over customer experience initiatives at organizations with advanced digital maturity levels.

The survey says ‘yes!’ – so if you’re not look at data governance, you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle.

And good governance is essential for customer experience, as well. As you can see here, 86% of US organizations believe the ability to govern data affects their customer experience. A majority say that without data they can trust, they cannot improve on the customer experience. The same amount say they have an obligation to use data properly around their customers – because ultimately the unethical use of data can erode customer confidence and their relationship with your brand.

What really surprised me here is that 10% of those we surveyed say that the customer experience is not dependent on trusted data – especially in light on the fact that 98% say that they routinely use data to improve their customer experience. So they’re using data, but they’re not too concerned about the trustworthiness of that data. I find that’s putting the cart before the horse a little.

Now, if you talk to any data practitioner, they’d tell you that implementing a data governance program is easier said than done—but worth it in the end. In fact, we found that 90% of organizations face challenges around governing their data assets. Here are some of the top challenges we’ve identified. Things like data silos, departmental processes, a lack of relevant tooling, and changing business processes are really putting the breaks on many programs. With that said, however, these challenges should not be significant enough to completely derail a governance strategy – however, they can delay progress or make the development more painful than it needs to me. I’d also add that these challenges are reasons in and of themselves for governing data more thoughtfully.

We saw from the research that companies really need that clear picture around what is going on with their customer. While many organizations recognize the importance of having reliable customer insight, our data shows just two-thirds of businesses today (66%) say they already have a single customer view. Frankly, I think that number is very high and is shaped a bit by an evolving view of what a single customer view is. While it used to mean a consolidated view across the business, we now see individual single customer view scenarios happening across a business. Finance may have there view, while marketing has another, etc. Therefore, we are seeing more individual business users managing their data and getting a picture to help them on there individual digital transformation or customer experience journey.

Knowing more about your customers is generally a good business practice, and having reliable customer insight is shown to support digital transformation efforts in a number of ways. You can see from the chart that organizations say that having a single customer view helps them to increase operational efficiency and improve the customer experience—a key driver we have discussed at length for digital transformation efforts.

Beyond that, having a single view of customers can help to provide more personalized service (47%) and improve marketing effectiveness (44%). Lastly, for 36 percent of organizations, a single customer view can help comply with applicable regulations, but again, that SCV can vary by department.

Culture around positive customer experiences can achieved in a number of ways. I’ve seen it where businesses gamify customer experience or incentivize employees with bonuses for having high customer sat scores. But really, your culture around customer experience really requires the right balance between your people, your data, and your technology stack. When your people understand their role in making customers satisfied, and when the data they’re working with is trustworthy, and when the technology they have at their disposal provides the right information at the right time – well, that’s transformative.

Based on our research and our interactions with customers, there are 3 real actions we can take.

First, Break down data silos

While 39% say they lack the necessary customer insight and data to drive better customer experience, we believe a lack of visibility and integration between existing data sets is compounding the issue. This isn’t just within desperate data sources, we see this across departments, across channels, etc. You really need a complete view of your customer, no matter how they are interacting with you. And certainly, there are regulations and data privacy that we need to take into account and not everyone needs every piece of data that you have. You need to take that customer into account in terms of securing data and using it responsibly. But these silos that we see often are from just poor management or integration practices, not necessarily a well thought out plan around consumer privacy concerns.

Second, operationalize the program

Customer experience is an ongoing effort and not a means to an end, but conflicting priorities and a lack of time prevent 38% of businesses from delivering excellent customer experiences. Just like any other program, you need to find an owner and you need to find someone who is going to be accountable for the results. Customer experience affects everyone across the business, so it could be a team of people, but they should all have similar metrics so they are all working towards the same goals and are held accountable in some way.

Finally, Get to know your customers

It can be hard to keep up with your customers, especially when they change so quickly. However, you need to stay ahead because you know your competition is working just as hard to win their business. You want to talk to pier groups or analysts, stay on top of the latest technology, and build audience segments to better understand your customer base. Listen to your data. Once you build trust around it, it can unlock a lot of insights.