The Three Things Your Company Can Do Today to Deliver a Standout Customer Experience
In 2016, the chief technology officer (CTO) of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) began looking at how employees in the organization shared data internally. He noticed a problem immediately. Data on exploited children and data on missing children were stored in separate databases, and the business units that owned each data set didn’t share information.
Since some children likely fell into both categories, separating the data in this way prevented the organization from helping as many children as possible. The CTO worked with both divisions to design a new system throughout the enterprise to integrate the two data sets. Now, every department has a holistic picture of all the children NCMEC seeks to help.
The new system will “allow our analysts to add value, provide that information to law enforcement a heck of a lot more efficiently, and hopefully save more kids,” says Gavin Portnoy, vice president of strategic advancements and partnerships at NCMEC.
The data silos NCMEC faced are common in nearly every industry. It’s a principle of marketing that you need to get the right message to the right person at the right time. But to achieve this, the right business units also must have access to the right data when they need it.
Organizational silos must come down to share data across business units. Employees will be the most innovative and deliver the best ideas only when they have all the relevant data at their fingertips.
Here are three best practices to break these silos and to maximize your data for insights that level up your customer experience:
1. Develop a clear data sharing strategy
Most organizations have a strategic vision, but in many cases, how companies share and organize data across the business doesn’t help them execute their vision.
“Consolidated data drives insight,” says Vishal Sarkar, global lead for digital sales and service at Avanade, a leading provider of innovative digital and cloud services, business solutions, and design-led experiences. “Wisdom drives action, which then drives customer experience. So, bringing together disparate systems, which have in the past been separate silos, allows us to do so many things to drive customer experience.”
Organizations must have a shared data plan — one that ensures data is accessible across all departments and is tailored to the specific needs of various roles within the organization. A shared data plan is the foundation for everyone within the company to work in a unified way toward the same goals.
2. Create a complete data source
Innovation happens when employees have all the data they need to be creative.
Companies that break down silos and make relevant data accessible to employees will push them to reach their creative potential.
“The days of centralized command are fading away, and that’s a good thing,” says Nick Patience, co-founder and research vice president of 451 Research. “There are a lot of opportunities to bring people along and to listen to what they want to do and the ways they want to use technology.”
Good ideas often come from employees who work most closely with the data, not necessarily from the top down or from the right department. Nick gives the example of a restaurant chain where the company’s data scientists — as opposed to the marketing department — made great suggestions about how to improve the company’s smartphone app.
“They decided what actually could be done based on the customer data that was coming in and they made specific changes to the application, which then brought improved customer loyalty and improved sales,” he says. “It’s one of those examples where the ideas can come from anywhere, but those closest to the data can influence the way a company does its marketing and does its sales.”
3. Embrace partnerships
Strategic partners can help your company integrate its data and adopt best practices.
Partnerships are “mandatory” in today’s business world, says Dan Veitch of Aetna International. “I don’t think any company can be an island anymore. The worlds of siloed behavior are eroding.”
Partnerships can help to unify your data into one solution, a vital part of digital transformation efforts.
“We’re rolling out all cloud-based technologies that make it seamless for us to work from your productivity tool directly into your customer management tool, into your sales tool, and into marketing platforms,” Vishal says. “If we implement the solution, nobody can say from the outside that there are multiple solutions. It is one seamless solution.”
Partnerships and integrations can extend your company’s capabilities and make it more nimble. The Adobe and Microsoft partnership, which unites data, content, and processes in a seamless solution, is just one example of how companies are empowered to deliver exceptional customer experiences any time and across all touchpoints. Another is the Open Data Initiative, an alliance between Adobe, Microsoft, and SAP designed to help companies achieve a complete real-time view of their customers. These partnerships showcase how you can bring together disparate tools and platforms and integrate them into a unified system.
The path forward
Digital transformation requires real leadership, which starts with knowing what you don’t know and getting help to fill in these gaps.
“The advice I would give to other leaders who are looking at change is be humble, ask for assistance,” Gavin says. “Don’t be afraid to look in the mirror and say, ‘these are the parts of my organization or my team that I want to fix.’ And don’t be afraid to ask for external help. Often you think you know best, but the reality is you don’t.”
Effectively using data takes much more than merely installing new technology. It takes an entirely new vision of how to share and integrate data across the enterprise. Sometimes you can tackle these efforts internally, but in other instances you may need a strategic partner to execute your vision. Organizational silos never lead to business transformation, so implement a shared data plan to put information to better use across your business and to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
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