Customer Information Management

Breaking down those silos

Don’t let data silos irritate customers — or you risk losing them

The words “data silo” are thrown around so much in technology circles, it’s easy to lose sight of what this term represents: a fracturing of the customer experience.

“Every time you offer a customer the opportunity to engage with you in a new channel, you run the risk of irritating that customer if he encounters a data silo,” says Andy Reid, part of the global product marketing team at Pitney Bowes. “If a bank’s mobile app has a different password than the online app the customer uses, that might be indicative of an organizational data silo.”

Disjointed experiences

When marketers talk about getting a 360-degree view of the customer, they’re really trying to break down data silos and create a “golden record” out of the disparate sources of (possibly conflicting) customer information that may exist within a company. This isn’t a new problem for many, but it’s becoming an even more nettlesome issue for companies as the different types of touch points a company has with customers continues to multiply.

“Now that we interact through mobile devices, online portals, social media and other new channels, it’s even more important to create a frictionless experience for the customer,” says Jeff Goldberg, global product marketing leader at Pitney Bowes. “As the world continues to change and businesses feel a greater need to be perceived differently as products and services frequently become commoditized, Pitney Bowes is helping customers leverage all of their data assets to understand unique customer needs and differentiate themselves,” he says.

Today, much of the effort to reduce friction and break down silos involves merging structured data (easily handled information like customer records) and unstructured data (like social media posts), which most traditional database systems cannot handle as easily.

The Internet of Things — connected devices and sensors that are adding even more torrents of data — is regarded by many as yet another category of data. Managing and deriving insight out of this enormous data pool is receiving a lot more attention these days.

Personalizing interactions

One tactic companies are employing to break down silos is using data federation in conjunction with customer knowledge graphs — two technologies that can integrate critical business data from different departments, as well as from sources outside the company, like social media. This complex data can be modeled in an easy-to-understand visual way, according to elements such as the customer’s location, purchasing power or feelings about a particular brand.

A unified view of the customer can solve many of the problems that arise in a data-siloed world. Using knowledge graphs, anyone at a company can easily visualize customer information and connect the dots to see the total relationship the company has with a specific customer.

For example, a salesperson can walk into an appointment with a key customer and be peppered with unexpected complaints about late deliveries. Customer knowledge graphs can let the salesperson know which of the company products the customer already owns — as well as alert him or her that the customer logged into a help portal to complain of a shipping delay. Then the salesperson would not only know about the calls the customer made to customer service, but he or she can also be ready with answers.

“Customers want a consistent experience and personal experience,” Reid says. “But you can’t be consistent and personal if you don’t know who you’re dealing with because your customer records are scattered in discrete chunks all over the organization.”

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