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LESSON - Data Quality and the Emergence of Customer Data Integration

By Tony Fisher, President and General Manager, DataFlux Corporation

Several years ago, a large manufacturingcompany lost a key distributioncenter to a fire. The fire destroyed not onlythe building, but also thousands of shipmentsdestined for a global customer base.

Naturally, the CEO of this company wanted to send a letter to customers to explain the situation and to provide a timetable of when operations would return to “business as usual.” The CEO passed the request to the vice president of customer relations, who in turn asked IT to generate a list of all customers for that particular center.

The IT staff pulled reports from its enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), billing, and supply chain management systems. What they found reveals a distressing but pervasive problem at most organizations: each list contained different, overlapping, and confusing “views” of the customer base. The end result was that this company could not create an accurate and inclusive list of the customers affected by the loss of the distribution center.

For years, enterprise applications have been promising a single view of the customer. However, the proliferation of systems has led to more confusion—at a data level—about the customer base. In fact, marketing and customer relations executives are struggling to understand even the most basic questions: Who exactly are our customers? Which customers are we trying to target? Who are our best customers? Which customers represent our best opportunities?

Uncertainty about customers’ identities can severely compromise efforts to build stronger relationships. And in today’s competitive marketplace, if customers don’t feel valued, they will take their business elsewhere. Customers are hard to acquire, but even harder to keep.

Adding Data Quality and Identity Management to the Customer Equation

Customer data integration (CDI) is an emerging method for compiling the most authentic customer information from all applications, databases, and customer touch points into one centralized data source. By bringing the best information about customers to the surface, CDI strives to deliver consistent, accurate, and reliable information—regardless of the originating application.

CDI solutions are helping companies createconsistent, accurate, and reliable data—anddeliver a truly unified view of their customersthat builds a firm foundation for sales,support, and marketing functions.

The benefit is that the data itself—not the applications—is the focus. Each business unit can view the same information about customers, which improves support and service across business functions.

Companies are now turning to CDI solutions with two added components: robust data quality capabilities and sophisticated identity logic (identity management). With these components, users can improve the quality of data while also identifying and managing the same customer sets across sources and applications.

The data quality component typically begins with an in-depth data profiling phase. The company then builds in business rules to standardize and verify addresses and other attributes, reconcile conflicting information, validate name and address information, and add demographic data to enhance the value of information.

The second component is identity logic, acrucial phase of any successful CDI effort.This determines whether customers listedin different sources are indeed the samecustomer, and intelligently integrates customer information from multiple applicationsand databases. The various recordsfor Michael William Smith, Mike Smith,and Michael W. Smith, for example, aredetermined by identity logic to indeed bethe same individual, provided other datapoints are similar. Companies can flaginformation for linking customers acrossapplications and sources, and isolate thebest data from multiple sources.

Building Lasting CustomerRelationships

CDI solutions are helping companiescreate consistent, accurate, and reliabledata—and deliver a truly unified view oftheir customers that builds a firm foundationfor sales, support, and marketingfunctions. Thanks to CDI, organizationsare developing healthier, more lastingrelationships with their customer basesand can market more intelligently—andprofitably—to these customers.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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