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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Master Data Management: The Next Frontier in Managing Your Customer’s Experience

Being competitive today requires a new view of your customers and their data.

Picture this: you lease an expensive new car from your local dealer. You smile, shake hands with the salesperson, and drive off the lot. Then a few weeks later, you get an email inviting you to trade your vehicle for a new one.

For Further Reading:

Q&A: The Rapid Evolution of Master Data Management

Improve Customer Service and Intelligence with MDM and Data Virtualization

Great Machine Learning Needs Careful Data Engineering

This situation actually happened to one of my colleagues recently. Why? Because he responded to an incentive on the manufacturer’s website, then separately visited the dealer to lease the car -- and ended up in two silos of data that weren’t talking to each other.

This is just one of the reasons why analysts such as Gartner, among many others, are talking more about master data management (MDM) becoming an increasingly essential part of customer experience (CX). As the number of potential touch points between your organization and your prospects and customers continues to grow, MDM is seen as an important facet of the larger data governance movement and a growing concern at the C-level of businesses of all sizes.

Of course, looking inept in front of your customers isn’t the only reason to improve your MDM. Here are some of the reasons customers now expect your entire organization to have a 360-degree view of your relationship with them:

Consistency. A seamless experience with your organization has evolved from being a nicety to an expectation. When multiple sales reps call the same lead, or one department of your company has no idea about a customer from another department, or customers are forced to re-supply information about themselves, your brand reputation and customer retention both take a hit.

Accuracy. There are few greater CX issues than delivering what you promise to a customer, and few things damage your brand worse than missed deliveries, inaccurate records, or payments or refunds going AWOL. This is one key area where MDM and data quality intersect: making sure contact data is accurate at data entry and again throughout its useful life.

Privacy. Growing privacy regulations are a fact of life, and laws ranging from the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to the U.S. Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) have stiff penalties for unwanted marketing contact. However, here is what is even more important: most of these enforcement actions are triggered by consumer complaints, and consumers themselves are more aware and willing to complain about privacy breaches than ever before.

Market intelligence. When you make business decisions based on incomplete or flawed customer data, you miss important trends in the market. Stocking the wrong style of clothes in your store, discontinuing a favorite product line, or targeting the wrong market is every bit as much a CX issue as what happens with customer interaction.

Firms like ours (in the contact data quality business) are watching the MDM trend closely, because automation is going to become a key part of the solution. For example, we validate and normalize addresses to USPS and global standards to facilitate correct data entry, accurate merge operations, and ongoing data hygiene, as well as other services (such as lead and order validation). In the more general case, much of the heavy lifting of MDM is going to fall on the backs of cloud-based software infrastructures.

Really, however, the most important part of MDM and its impact on CX starts with your organization chart. According to a recent Forbes article, the convergence of security and information governance is fundamentally changing the way we look at managing data towards a more proactive stance at the organization level. It is becoming clearer that competitive issues surrounding the customer experience will drive these trends even further in the near future.

The argument for MDM first evolved as a result of multiple stakeholders creating disparate sources of data -- often, with a mandate for ongoing data quality that belonged to no one. Today, being competitive will clearly require a new view of your customers and their data: not only in terms of approaches such as MDM but also within the context of a broader data governance strategy. It will be a big effort for many, but the reward will be increased market share, customer retention, and profitability.

About the Author

Geoff Grow is the founder and CEO of Service Objects. Originally founded in 2001 to solve problems of inefficiency and waste through mathematical equations, Service Objects has validated and improved more than 3 billion contact records for over 2,500 clients. You can contact the author here.

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