Software // Information Management
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11/30/2009
12:34 PM
Seth Grimes
Seth Grimes
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The Myth of 360 Degree Views

We've all encountered the promise of 360-degree customer views, marketing-speak that asserts that BI solution X, CRM solution Y, or Sales Force Automation solution Z considers customer information from all angles. Yet I've never seen the "360-degree" claim fulfilled. Here's my take on 360-degree views and how they can finally becoming reality...

We've all encountered the promise of 360-degree customer views, marketing-speak that asserts that BI solution X, Customer Relationship management (CRM) solution Y, or Sales Force Automation (SFA) solution Z considers customer information from all angles with the implication that (everyone else's) non-360-degree solutions are inferior. Yet I've never seen the "360-degree" claim fulfilled. Some element is always missing. I can't think of a single solution that considers all pertinent customer information --

  • Information from every customer touch point
  • Past behaviors, current interactions, and likely future actions
  • Information from sources that have only recently come on-line, and
  • Larger market views that contextualize information about individuals
-- that is, not one or two, but all of these. Here's my own take on 360-degree views and how they can finally becoming reality.What are the claims? Here's one example: "Agents can work efficiently from anywhere in the world with 360-degree views into customer interactions and real-time business intelligence."

This example, one of many, cuts the 360-degree problem down to size: it neglects non-contact-center Web-site interactions and it ignores predictive capabilities. There are many customer touch-points: point-of-sale, whether direct in-store, by phone, or on-line or indirect via a sales channel; support, whether in-person, on-line, or via a contact center. And people and businesses are prospects before they become customers and in unfortunate cases they progress from customers to ex-customers. Call this the customer life cycle. A true 360-degree view would encompass customer acquisition by integrating all relevant sales, marketing, and customer support data and it would look at both a customer's history and the customer's current interactions with your company. Further, it would also harness predictive modeling to warn of customer-loss risk (and also to surface cross-sell and up-sell opportunities).

Time/scope is an important axis in any 360-degree interaction model.

But if all you're considering is customer/prospect interactions, you're likely still not getting a 360-degree picture. CRM/SFA solutions typically focus on transactional information, often neglecting a) enterprise feedback, whether directly solicited via surveys or acquired from warranty or insurance claims and the like, and b) information generated and propagated via blogs, forums, and other social media. Fields such as brand and reputation management and customer-experience management have thrived due to their attention to these channels. Need I point out that text-analytics capabilities are key to enterprise-feedback and media analysis? Further, the ability to customize customer treatment in response to the customer's location is becoming an essential BI/CRM/SFA element. Summing up these points --

True 360-degree views must encompass enterprise feedback and social media and location intelligence.

Media of all forms constitute a rich source of market information, by which I mean an aggregate view of customer and prospect and influencer experiences and opinions. A solution that doesn't consider the larger market -- that is, information beyond campaign response rates and the like -- lacks an adequate frame of reference. It does not provide the context necessary for optimal decision making, a complete 360-degree view of customer.

True 360-degree views contextualize customer interactions within a larger market framework.

Before concluding, I'll add a note of caution. Not every bit of information that can be collected or acquired should be provided in every context. Compliance, competitive concerns, and confidentiality come into play. Any system that claims 360-degree views should be capable of limiting itself to providing a partial picture, based on need-to-know and usage policies, withholding information when required.

Data and privacy protections must be built into any true 360-degree system.

Every solution I've encountered that claims 360-degree customer views falls short in some significant way. I'd welcome hearing about a system that doesn't although I doubt I will learn of any, any time soon. Until I do, I'll continue to see 360-degree views as aspiration rather than reality.We've all encountered the promise of 360-degree customer views, marketing-speak that asserts that BI solution X, CRM solution Y, or Sales Force Automation solution Z considers customer information from all angles. Yet I've never seen the "360-degree" claim fulfilled. Here's my take on 360-degree views and how they can finally becoming reality...

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