Customer 360

Customer 360 Real Talk: 7 Questions to ask

There’s lots of buzz around the idea of a 360 degree view of the customer. And with good reason — the better you can clearly identify who is buying from you at an individual level, the better you can serve their needs. That’s a win for both your business and your valuable customers. 

Recognizing this, a lot of tech vendors are now offering customer 360 services. While it’s great that this comprehensive approach to serving your customer is becoming the standard, not all customer 360s are created equal. Not everything claiming to offer customer 360 is even actually able to deliver!

If you’re ready to take the step to get your customer data in shape so you can really make it sing, what do you need to consider?

First a definition, so we’re all talking about the same thing:

360 degree view of the customer, a.k.a. customer 360, a.k.a. unified customer view, a.k.a. single customer view.
Noun.
An aggregation of all cross-channel data on each customer, updated regularly, available how and when needed, that allows companies to provide their customers with a unified and relevant experience across all channels and all interactions. 

So, now that we’re on the same page as to what a customer 360 is, here are some useful questions to ask when considering vendors:

  1. Does the tech you’re looking at incorporate all the data you need?

    There’s complete 360 and there’s kinda-sorta 360, which depends on how much data the platform actually uses. If you want to truly understand your customer, make sure that what you’re getting covers all the bases:

    Personally Identifiable Information (PII): email addresses, current home address, first name, last name, former last names, phone number, birthdate

    Transactions: all online and offline purchases, both historical and recent

    Preferences: preferred channels, interaction frequency, opt-in settings

    Clickstream: where, how, and when a customer interacts with your site and mobile apps

    Geographic: where customers live, shop, and travel

    Social: handles, interactions, likes, shares

    3rd Party Data: demographic, occupational, lifestyle, and buying intent

    Custom Attributes: attributes derived through data modeling techniques, including propensity to buy, predicted lifetime value, customer and engagement scoring, etc.
  2.  

  3. What is the time to value?

    Will this tech start producing for you in weeks? Months? A year? More? This question has a few sub-questions that contribute to the answer. For starters, it’s worth considering how quickly the tech can integrate your data, as this can vary considerably.

    Try to get a sense of what kind of internal resources are needed to get things up and running — will you be doing the majority of the heavy lifting, or does the vendor have a streamlined process that eases the burden? For example, can it bring in raw data, or is your team stuck extracting, transforming, and loading data into a rigid database?

    Are there quick wins along the way, even before the full capabilities are realized? What have other customers gone through? Make sure there is a track record of speed to value, not just claims.
  4. Does it play well with other tech?

    Whatever you buy should be flexible enough to work with your existing systems, even older systems that can be harder to get data from. The last thing you want to do is rip out and replace everything you already have set up.

    Some of the customer 360 offerings out there have a bias toward specific integrations, often ones available from the same vendor selling the 360. Others are picky about what sorts of data sources they can draw from, and may not accept input from legacy point of sale data systems or mobile apps. You want a customer 360 platform that is like an enlightened yoga master: super flexible and accepting of all.
  5. Can it handle scale?

    Most 360 software has limitations in the number of records it can process. If you have a business with a niche market, that may be fine for you. But if you’re aiming big, you don’t want to run up against a wall for how many customers your tech can handle.

    This can mean the difference between being able to handle 50 million records versus 1 trillion records. (For some perspective: 50 million seconds is around 550 days. 1 trillion seconds is 31,709 years. Big difference.)
  6. Does it fall apart as soon as something changes?

    Your customer 360 isn’t a static, one time project that, once complete, lasts into perpetuity basking in its own perfection. It’s a living, evolving entity that has to incorporate ever changing and expanding data and customer identities. It has to flex as marketers learn and want to add new customer attributes and experiment with new ways of using customer 360 insights. Key question to ask: what and how long does it take to fully incorporate a new data source, even from niche or legacy sources? (Hint: answer should be a couple days or weeks.)
  7. Are you getting a real thought partner?

    A 360 is great, but what are you trying to do with it? Try to assess how focused the vendor will be on helping you solve your business problems. Do they talk about speeds, feeds, and features, or do they talk about how to accomplish your key goals? You want a partner who can help you reimagine what’s possible, and then give you a realistic plan to execute it.
  8. Are you convinced that the vendor’s top priority is helping you solve what’s most important to you?

    Related to the above point, it’s not only critical that the 360 platform can technically do exactly what you need it to, but also that the vendor is accomodating on that question. See how granular they get: if they’re willing to work with you on just the things that matters most to your business — and their tech is adaptable enough to do that — that’s a good sign. If the focus is on getting you set up with a whole suite of apps, or if the tech can only help when you’re hooked up to a related ecosystem, it may not be the most efficient and goal-oriented partnership.

There’s a lot to consider, but it’s worth it to push hard on these questions, because if you get it right it’ll be like rocket fuel for your business. 

Check this out for more info on what makes a great customer 360 view.

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