Have you ever asked your IT department to help you extract customers from a database? If so, you will have heard the explanations as to why you cannot have exactly what you want many times before. The CRM system cannot filter out exactly what you want. The process of extracting customers from customer databases is a sure sign that the company does not have an adequate customer data infrastructure. The reason is often that those who store and manage the systems have different goals than those in the sales and marketing department.

I used to work in a start-up business, and many things have surprised me since I switched to a consultancy firm with big corporate customers. I was accustomed to making decisions quickly without asking anyone and solving problems as they arose. However, the most important task of all was to prioritise speed over quality. Fail quickly. Learn fast.

When I switched to the consultancy sector, I quickly realised what had been the most important lesson. I had learned the value of using customer data properly.

Nevertheless, nothing has surprised me more than the arbitrary approach of established businesses towards customer data. Many of the customers I have had the pleasure of working with have a high upside on using customer data better, and the result will be better customer experiences and more loyal customers.

Every day that you don’t understand your customers well enough is one day nearer the abyss
Customer data is data which is generated before, during and after a customer relationship. Often, it is natural to distinguish between usage data and commercial data. Usage data is data concerning what the user has done or not done in your solution. Commercial data is other information concerning the customer and the customer relationship, such as invoices, customer service logs, CRM data, e-mail addresses, NPS scores and any other information that is gathered. Many companies also track which promotions customers come from in order to compare churn and lifetime value between promotions, and thereby attribute a precise ROI to the promotions.

For a start-up, it is vital to compare this data and ensure that it is available in the right tool for analysis, marketing automation and reporting. This must be done quickly. Preferably in real-time. Every day that you don’t understand your customers well enough is one day nearer the abyss. I think this is also a sound rule to live by for mature businesses.

Demolish the barriers between IT and marketing
The process of extracting customers from customer databases is a sure sign that the company does not have an adequate customer data infrastructure. Such symptoms are unfortunately not rare commodities in Norwegian businesses, even though platforms and technology are available which can help you compare data from web sources, apps, CRM systems and physical locations.

One of the benefits of such a platform is that it enables the marketing department to segment and personalise the communication with the end customer itself, without any involvement from the IT department. This is one of a number of things we do together with customers in order to reduce friction and increase the collaboration between marketing and IT.

Many customers struggle with technical debt because the solutions for CRM, e-mail distribution and analysis were implemented before the opportunities for automation and personalisation became widespread. Sometimes, the CRM system is hosted locally and without adequate integration interfaces.

The question you must then ask yourself is whether you need to replace all your existing systems at the same time, and whether it will cost NOK 10 million and take three years before any benefit from such a project can be realised.

It does not take years and millions to eliminate technological debt to secure better customer data
The answer to all the questions above is no. Launching a customer data platform with good integration interfaces can be done quickly and smoothly, and with a phased approach which takes account of other architecture and IT strategy.

So what are you waiting for?

About Christer

Christer Dalsbøe works as a senior consultant in technology and strategy at Knowit, and has experience as a start-up consultant, as a business developer for Timely and as a founder of the Early Stage entrepreneurship programme.

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