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Breaking free from the data silos that shackle customer experience

In the business of delivering better customer service it is well known that a silo-driven approach to the main touch points of sales, marketing and service is counterproductive.  Over the last few months, having spoken to many online retailers for a new project,   I have seen a parallel in the world of delivering a better customer experience – or more precisely understanding the experience you have delivered so you can make it better. 

Most online retailers collect their customer data in silos.  They have reams of data off the web site, they get feedback from their third party delivery companies on fulfilment and they get customer satisfaction data off their post-event forms or emails.  All useful in their own ways but they don’t give a picture of the individual customer’s journey or experience. If you don’t measure it you can’t understand it and so you are going to struggle to improve it. 

What about those silos?  I have seen web site managers flicking through reams (yes, it was usually printed off) of paper.  But one of the big problems with this very detailed web data is it tells you what visitors have done but you have to infer information about why they’ve done it.  With post-event satisfaction surveys you tend to get data from either end of the happiness spectrum. Whereas the majority of customers are usually either slightly happy or slightly unhappy and tend not to respond. But unless you understand this single biggest group you are never going to move them up the happiness scale. 

Also ask yourself why you are collecting information and what are you going to do with it.  Satisfaction ratings are a top level measurement of past performance but they don’t tell you what is driving performance – it’s  a bit like trying to reorganise the defensive line of a football team at half time in a game based on their final league position last season.  

Because this customer data is collected and stored in solos it is coming from three different groups of customers so it is inconsistent.  This means it is impossible to link together to get a picture of the customer experience or journey across multichannel interactions. (There is another point here about measuring and so treating customers as individuals and not as socio-demographic groups but that’s for another blog.)

The best way to break down these silos is to follow individual customers as they experience the different channels.  As you do you’ll find many will have largely good journeys and you can identify what they qualify as a good experience and so you can deliver it more often and a few will highlight where problems occurred so you can address them. 

And don’t forget to ask the three key questions that will allow you to understand the outcomes of the customer experience: how satisfied were you?  Would you repurchase from this site? Would you recommend this site to friends or colleagues?  Armed with intelligence you can target your improvement programmes.

It will also give you an idea of the weighting of how serious an issue it is for a customer i.e. is a call centre issue more significant than a web site navigation one in driving poor recommendation levels.    You will gain insight into the “why” customers do things as well as what they have done. 

Use this actionable intelligence to feedback into development and you will improve your performance for the silent majority.