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CASE STUDY - Booking a Better Customer Experience

By Tina Wefer, Senior Manager, Product Marketing, Initiate Systems

One of the nation’s top bookseller brands sells more than 300 million books a year through eight million orders online and instore. On a daily basis, it handles an average of 100,000 customer service requests. Customer data is housed in five core customer systems: special orders, educators, institutions, members, and online business.


As part of a CEO directive to improve the customer experience, the company wanted to streamline and enhance its customer interactions. To facilitate this, it needed a complete customer view across more than 700 stores, its member program, and the Web site.

Previously, when a customer contacted a store, there was no visibility into his membership status or orders from other stores. Every time an order was placed, he was asked for the same contact information. This frustrated customers and often created duplicate records. If a customer gave a different e-mail address, the problem compounded, spurring conflicting or duplicate e-mails to the customer. For example, if a customer opted out of receiving special offers via e-mail with one e-mail address, the other address might continue to receive the offers.

By enabling a complete view of customer data scattered across these sources, the bookseller had a number of goals:

  • Avoid duplicate and inconsistent e-mails while reconciling customer opt-out preferences and improving privacy compliance
  • Enable real-time customer recognition by leveraging full customer views, helping associates at 700+ stores better serve customers by viewing order history and status
  • See relationships between customers, such as those living in the same household
  • Implement this customer hub without affecting existing operations

Improving the customer experience requires first recognizing and understanding customers and behavior, then leveraging that information for marketing, customer retention, and other initiatives. With a master data management (MDM) solution that matches and links records across databases, a customer’s records can be united by common demographic information. For example, William Scott’s records can be matched with those of Bill Scott when they share a common e-mail address or postal code—regardless of whether Mr. Scott has his member card in hand when he places an order. With Initiate software in place, the company will achieve a litany of initiatives, including:

  • Supporting customer recognition, more effective e-mail communication, and privacy preference management by better identifying unique customers
  • Improving the customer experience at all points of service
  • Targeting marketing efforts to recognize and reward loyal customers • Understanding customers, their records, and their history through focused customer search capabilities across the enterprise
  • Understanding customers, their records,and their history through focused customersearch capabilities across the enterprise
  • Improving the accuracy of business intelligence reporting and customer segmentation by correctly linking customer history to unique customers
  • Laying a foundation for future success and additional customer data sources

First, an Initiate JumpStart evaluated approximately 40 million customer records from three sources, identifying approximately 11 million duplicates. Each of these duplicates indicated an opportunity for a customer’s records to be linked. Having a single view greatly increases marketing abilities and offers chances to build the customer relationship. Rather than asking for the same demographic information, the bookseller can offer related items or programs.

Next, the bookseller implemented Initiate software as its enterprisewide MDM solution. With data hubs to manage both customers and households, it immediately saw real results. As associates at individual stores can see full customer views, including complete order history across the company, customer service is improving.

Moving forward, this bookseller plans to leverage its Initiate solution to add additional data sources and further streamline operations, while continuing to improve customer service. With Initiate software, this company is poised to remain on top of the bookselling heap.

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