Show Me The Data: When Did You Last Talk To Your Customers?

Some customer data systems have wonderful table structures listing accounts and the contacts that make them up: items, orders taken, and orders shipped. The wonderful table missing from some elaborate, enterprise resource planning systems is the one that will tell the company how many times they have contacted their customers since those customers’ first purchases.

How can you determine the total return on your marketing efforts if you can’t track how many mailings, phone calls, e-mails, and sales calls you have used to reach a prospect or a customer?

Corporate budgets can reinforce the decentralization of customer contact record keeping. Separate e-commerce and e-mail budgets from direct mail and catalog budgets work against consolidating these data. So does the construction of separate databases of e-commerce activity, e-mail activity, and catalog circulation. Each department or corporate silo fends off alliances and projects that might merge their data with others’ data because such efforts could result in a merging of funds, leading to loss of control.

Data warehouse and CRM projects can bridge the gaps between departments and databases. A firm can pull together all views of a customer with the goal of serving the customer better through all channels. This effort can provide a large competitive advantage over companies stuck with decentralized data and departmental fiefdoms.

There are big obstacles to growing from separate files to a single view of a customer. Linking shipping, e-mail, mailing, billing and selling addresses and their attached delivery, sales, item and contact information and history requires ingenuity and persistence to accomplish. The political and financial strategies needed have sunk grand integration projects or forced compromises in the design and execution that have made the final systems useless.

What is your return on all of your customer contacts? When did you last talk to your customers? If you don’t know, can you create the table or system from your data that will tell you? The payoff for successfully integrating your customer data is survival for your customers, as well as for the marketing programs, prospecting and retention plans, sales programs and yourself, your colleagues and your company.

Bill Singleton, president of Algonquin, IL-based consultancy Singleton Marketing, writes “Show Me the Data” for the LIST & DATA STRATEGIES e-newsletter.

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