The customer experience, or CX, is one of the hottest topics in business, especially among marketing practitioners. Behavior and demographic data define who the customer is and how they have interacted with the organization. Clearly, a connection exists between how a company collects, manages, and uses customer data and the way customers evaluate their customer experiences.
One of the biggest challenges for companies attempting to improve CX comes when they attempt to merge customer data from multiple sources across the enterprise. A sophisticated matching process must compare differences in postal addresses, names, and other information. The software evaluates a customer data record and decides if it should combine it with another. Do this wrong and you’ll mix data from two individuals, creating an embarrassing and costly situation twice as hard to correct as it was to create.
What is the “Customer Experience?”
Customer experience is the interaction between an organization and a customer. Customers form opinions and base their long term buying behavior on these interactions. Customer experience was once the domain of only “direct” contact between customer and company. A phone call with a short wait time and an immediate resolution to a problem is one example. Today CX encompasses many “indirect” interactions including postal mail, e-mail, texts, website activity, and small parcel shipments.
Why the Customer Experience Matters
A customer’s interpretation of how your brand or organization values them can make or break a purchasing decision. Does your company use information about past customer interactions to direct future engagements? Do you recognize loyalty? Customers in the digital marketplace can afford to be demanding. A less than stellar customer experience could damage your brand, but superior CX creates a competitive advantage. Three benefits of a superior customer experience include:
- Higher engagement and conversion rates
- Better brand perception and loyalty
- Success in renewal, cross-sell, and up sell efforts
Show You Care
Customer experience excellence is often achieved at the margins where seemingly “little things” can make a large and lasting impression on the customer, both positively and negatively. Bad data creeping into customer interactions can tarnish your brand and degrade CX. Here are three examples.
- Using the wrong gender in a salutation — While you may encounter unisex names, “Mr. Mary Smith” is probably wrong most of the time. As you work to distinguish genders in your customer base, your gender identification software should assign a confidence score, indicating the probability of its gender assignment in each case. Avoid assigning gender ID’s to a customer record with a low confidence score.
- Postal address inaccuracies — Not only does this look bad when printed, it delays or stops mail and parcel delivery, effecting CX. If you send a letter or a package to “123 Peachtree, Atlanta, GA” it won’t get there. There are 71 streets in Atlanta with variants of “Peachtree” in their name. A complete address includes a directional and/or designator such as ST, AVE, BLVD, S, NW, and so on. Good postal address standardization software will always flag addresses missing details the USPS requires for accurate delivery so you can correct them before mailing or shipping.
- Sending duplicate mail — Duplicate mail remains one of the most visible problems in postal and email communication. It irritates customers, organizations waste resources fixing it, and marketing is hindered. Customers view non-profits sending duplicate donation requests as wasteful and the resulting impression of poor management and can affect contributions. Common customer data duplication problems occur when customer names differ, depending on the data source. General merge/purge software may not realize that Robert Jones, Bob Jones, and R.T. Jones are one and the same — especially if their mailing addresses are different because Mr. Jones moves frequently.
How Data Degrades
Customer data degrades at a rate of 2% a month. If you do nothing to keep current, a year from now what you think you know about a quarter of your customers will be wrong. Over 40 million Americans move each year. Neglecting to use a move update method such as National Change of Address (NCOA) will result in volumes of undelivered mail. The Postal Service also realigns ZIP Codes as population shifts, so sometimes addresses change even if customers do not move.
Other data quality issues include name changes, incarceration, nursing home moves and customers who have passed away. The latter is of special concern for others in a household continuing to receive postal and email for a deceased family member. Use suppression lists to purge unwanted customer data from your files.
Single 360 Customer View
Software tools help you accumulate, review, update, and de-duplicate data from all sources so you can merge them and create a single customer record. This 360° view of the customer consolidates marketing and communication efforts, lowering costs and decreasing customer irritation. By performing continuous data quality measures, customer information remains current and your company can present each customer with relevant offers. Each piece of new data increases marketing intelligence. The more a company knows their customers, the better the experience — but only if the data is correct.
Gartner estimates that inferior data can cost firms $9.7 million per year. The damage encompasses more than money alone. Bad data and the poor customer experience that results from it creates a tarnished reputation and missed opportunities. The starting point for any CX initiative should be a comprehensive data quality assessment and remediation. An investment in software tools and services that keeps customer data current and customer experience positive is a smart move.
Data Quality Tools
General purpose database tools are usually inadequate for this kind of work. Companies that are serious about CX rely on specialized tools like Firstlogic’s ACE®, Match/Consolidate®, DataRight IQ®, and Mover IQ® to update, standardize, and combine data, forming a 360° view of each customer.
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