Three Words That Tell Me Your Customer Data Platform Is a Failure

Account number, please.” Three simple words tell me I am about to have a less-than-optimal customer experience.

It’s an all too familiar scenario: I call up a company, and the phone system asks me to punch in my account number to verify who I am. And then every time I get passed on to another step in the process, I am asked again to give my account number and verify my name.

Derailed by data silos

It’s an obvious tell that the company I’m calling has its customer data siloed in systems that don’t talk to each other. Once I punch my account number into a supposedly automated system, that data, and the customer profile associated with it, should travel with me on every subsequent interaction, no matter who is handling my call at the moment or which department that person works in.

Isn’t that the promise that customer data platforms (CDP) are supposed to deliver? After all, CDP technology is designed to provide a persistent, unified customer database to other systems across the enterprise. But is that really what’s happening? Too often, companies see CDPs solely as marketing tools, and as a consequence keep them siloed within specific marketing-driven operational functions. These companies use CDPs to drive marketing campaigns, not to improve the customer experience.

Look at your company the way customers do

When marketers talk about the omnichannel experience, they are usually referring to the various channels through which they deliver their messages: websites, social media, email, etc. It’s an inside-out viewpoint built around a broadcast model. They are failing to look at their company the way their customers do — as a single entity.

When customers engage with you, they don’t do so because they are anxious to consume your latest marketing message, they do so because they want a question answered. They don’t want to passively consume, they want to engage in some sort of conversational relationship that will provide value and help them.

More to the point, they don’t care which functional group or department the information they need comes from. They don’t know your business-unit structure or your operational hierarchy. To them, your company is a single entity, and every interaction with that entity is a reflection of your brand experience.

Asking a customer to supply the same information, again and again, is a bad brand experience.

If your CDP acts solely as a siloed enabler of marketing campaigns and doesn’t improve the customer experience, then it is failing.

The Man from P.O.S.T. – "The Where to Prioitize a Technology Decision Affair"

Despite the fact that for over half of my career technology companies have (and continue to) pay my mortgage – I have always been a long standing, and increasing vocal, proponent of the idea that in deciding on any business process change or innovation the technology must come last.

A topic I devote a whole chapter to in the upcoming THE CONTENT POOL book (end of shameless plug).

At the 2011 LavaCon conference I even ended up getting a quick round of applause during the conference closing panel discussion for the statement that audience members should stop talking about tools and start talking about business need. A sign that I thought that we were making some headway.

Then yesterday I was invited on a conference call for a project that has been ticking over for nearly three years now and is not making any apparent progress. The reason quickly became apparent as conversation quickly got into the weeds about the features / functions and development efforts needed around three alternative technology options.

When I asked the basic question of what was the project’s high level business objective, no-one could actually articulate it. Was this a project for the customer communication,, or was it a project to prove that something could be done using existing technology? Again, no clear response.

Over lunch afterwards, a friend reminded me of the acronym POST developed by the Forrester’s consulting group. P.O.S.T.

Forrester’s created the P.O.S.T. approach as part of developing a corporate social network strategy – but I believe it applies equally as well to the world of content strategy (Of which social network content should be a part anyway).

P. = People
O. = Objectives
S. = Strategy
T. = Technology

Seems obvious doesn’t it. Start with those who have a need, figure out the things you need to do to fill that need, develop a strategy to do it, and then think about the tools you can use to do it.

You should be thinking along the lines of “We need to decrease the time it takes to get our content changes into the hands of our customers,” not “We need to install Wizgadget3.0.”

Or as my lunch companion neatly summed it up –

If you put the “T” first, all your are left with is a P.O.S.