What Is a 360 Degree View of the Customer and What Should You Do with It?

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Companies of all stripes have been talking about the “360 degree view of the customer” for several years. But what does the 360 degree view really mean, and why is it so important for businesses to achieve it?

Well, as you will no doubt remember from your math lessons at school, a perfect circle is divided into 360 degrees, so if we were to complete one full 360 degree rotation with a pencil and a piece of paper, we would naturally be looking at one complete circle around. In the physical world, we can stand up (or – even more fun – stay seated on our swiveling office chair) and do a complete 360 degree turn to see all around us with ourselves at the center of the circle. And this is what is meant by a 360 degree view – i.e. the ability the see everything around you with no blind spots.

When you apply this to your customers, a 360 degree view is quite simply a complete full-circle view of who they are, and, importantly, every angle of their relationship with your organization.

What Makes Up a 360 Degree View of the Customer?

In a nutshell, every single interaction a customer has ever had with your company. Every email, every call, every web chat, every transaction, everything they’ve told you during the sales cycle, every eBook they’ve downloaded, blog post they’ve read, tweet they’ve shared, event they’ve attended, piece of feedback they’ve left, customer service call they’ve made.

And that’s not all. The full unified view of the customer also includes personal and demographic information about who they are – age, gender, salary, job title, education, location, etc. Particularly when targeting B2B customers, a 360 degree view will also include firmographic information about the business they work for, including who has the buying power, what technologies the business uses, the industry or sub-industry it resides in, etc., etc., etc.

Put simply,  the 360 degree view is the end-to-end picture of a customer, as well as his/her journey and experience with the company.

(Image source: ibmbigdatahub.com)

What Are the Benefits of Gaining the 360 Degree View of the Customer?

In today’s economy where customer experience is everything, the importance of gaining a complete unified view of the customer cannot be overstated. Understanding customers from top to bottom, back to front, and inside to out enables organizations to anticipate their wants and needs, and thereby improve all marketing efforts, all sales communications, and all customer service engagements. It helps with predicting potential demand, upselling and cross-selling, increasing loyalty, retention and satisfaction, and with designing personalized customer journeys that enhance the whole customer experience. What’s more, building a 360 degree view of the customer also helps reduce costs – the more intelligence an organization has about its customers, the more targeted campaigns can be, and the less money is wasted developing and executing campaigns that never perform.

The complete view also gives organizations insights into the past, present and future relationship with the customer. Looking into the past, you can see precisely how they’ve interacted with your products and services before, including campaign activity, recent product views, purchase history, and interaction history across all channels. When dealing with the present, the full 360 degree view enables marketers, sales people and customer service representatives to understand precisely who they’re engaging with whenever a customer reaches out, regardless of the channel used. It enables employees to see precisely what’s going on with the customer account, where they are in the sales cycle, or if there’s a pending issue that the representative needs to be aware of. And by understanding the past and present of customers, the organization can then utilize the intelligence to map out future relationships – what content they’re most interested in, what pain points need to be addressed, and what upsell and cross-sell opportunities there may be.

Gaining the Complete 360 Degree View

A fundamental element of the 360 degree view of the customer is, of course, data. We’ve said before that data is the new gold rush for businesses, and once again it is absolutely essential for organizations trying to create a unified customer view. Importantly, the 360 degree view means being able to view and analyze all of the data you have about a customer in one central location. And this isn’t easy. With so much data being generated from and collected for each of your customers, putting it all together in one place is a challenge in and of itself – let alone turning that data into actionable insights that can be used to personalize customer journeys and enhance the customer experience.

Nonetheless, this is the task at hand. So, first – how should companies go about collecting customer data in the first place?

Well, to aggregate enough information to complete the full-circle view, companies should start by making full use of their operational systems – from customer relationship management (CRM) systems through to enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, accounting and logistics packages, and more besides. All departments must have real-time access to all relevant information that resides in these systems, and all employees must keep each system up-to-date at all times. For instance, if a customer interacts with a call center and expresses dissatisfaction, there is data here that must be collected and stored for all other personnel to access.

Similarly, both existing customers and prospects leave footprints every time they interact with the business. Whether this is through an email they’ve sent, a product they’ve returned, a product page they’ve viewed, or an instant chat they’ve been a part of, it all leaves a data trail that contributes to the 360 degree view.

All internal data about the customer must be collated. This includes transaction information, customer service details, information from customer surveys, and overall customer satisfaction scores. In addition, external data must be collected. Tools for this include social media listening tools (such as Mention, Hootsuite, and Keyhole, for instance) that allow brands to easily find out what individual customers are saying about them across social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and the larger web.

The next phase is to aggregate that data in one place. This, of course, is perhaps the biggest challenge of them all. As you will be collecting data from multiple locations – social listening, CRM systems, ERP systems, etc. – combining it all into a single, unified view that can be accessed at all times by those that need it is no easy task. Essentially, what you will be looking to perform is a data integration project. There are many challenges to this – see our previous post ‘3 Biggest Challenges for Data Integration’ – but the purpose is to feed as much specific information about each customer into all customer interactions.

A good example would be in the contact center when a customer first calls in and provides their name to the customer service representative. Typing in the name, the representative should be able to pull up the 360 degree view of the customer – a rich picture of the caller, giving the representative an instant snapshot regarding the background of the caller and call.

This snapshot should ideally include:

  • Identity: name, gender, age, location
  • Current activity: pending and recently-completed orders
  • History: purchase history, campaign engagement history, previous complaints, returns, etc.
  • Value: how much they’ve previously spent, which products or services they’re associated with, etc.
  • Flags: churn propensity, upsell/cross-sell opportunity, complaint record, frequency of contact, mood/issue of previous interaction
  • Action: the expected actions the customer is likely to take based on who they are and the fact that they are calling now

This all leads to a highly personalized call – and the 360 degree view is also invaluable when it comes to driving personalization efforts outside of the call center, too. With all past engagement insights readily available – which customers are visiting your website, what they’re looking at, what emails they’re reading, and what content they’re downloading – both your marketing and sales teams are presented with key information that can help them tailor their messaging to individuals and improve the customer experience across all touchpoints. This data can also be mined for intent signals, and if the organization can apply predictive analytics models, it becomes possible to forecast each customer’s likelihood to make a purchase, potential upsell and cross-sell effectiveness, and propensity to churn. With this information, marketing and sales are presented with invaluable information on what the next best steps are to take with each customer.

Final Thoughts

When customers voice concerns or complaints, organizations need to know about them and take steps to improve. When they sing a company’s praises, the company needs to learn from it and apply the lesson to other areas of the business. Customers want to feel appreciated as individuals, and so companies need to know what they need to do to personalize the experience for every one of them. They also need to know exactly how each customer prefers to interact with the brand, and on what channel. When a customer calls in or sends an email, customer service representatives need to know precisely who’s calling, their history, and what actions may need to be taken. And sales and marketing teams need to know who to target with their campaigns and messages, and how to tailor them to prevent churn, increase sales, and above all, keep all contacts as loyal customers.

This all requires nothing short of a 360 degree view. It requires a commitment to collecting customer data, utilizing the necessary tools and technology to amalgamate, integrate and analyze it, and with it to start mining the insights that enable the building of customer experiences that will keep your organization ahead of the competition.

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William Goddard

William Goddard is the founder and Chief Motivator at IT Chronicles. His passion for anything remotely associated with IT and the value it delivers to the business through people and technology is almost like a sickness. He gets it! And wants the world to understand the value of being a technology focused business in a technological world.

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