Article

Breaking down data silos

Customer expectations for personalised experiences, across all channels and touch points, is redefining the way businesses approach data management.

The long-term impact of COVID-19 across industries is still to be determined. However, it is clear that this crisis has changed customer experiences and expectations, with 89% expecting businesses to accelerate their digital initiatives and 69% expecting them to transform their products and services into new digital formats. This leaves businesses across the globe with no choice but to embark on a digital transformation journey with customer data being at the heart of any such transformation.

The long-term impact of COVID-19 across industries is still to be determined. However, it is clear that this crisis has changed customer experiences and expectations, with 89%1 expecting businesses to accelerate their digital initiatives and 69%2 expecting them to transform their products and services into new digital formats. This leaves businesses across the globe with no choice but to embark on a digital transformation journey with customer data being at the heart of any such transformation.

What are data silos?

Customer data refers to any personal, behavioural, psychological or demographic data gathered throughout the customer journey. With each touchpoint, new departments may be involved and this usually means that each is collecting the data, which is relevant to them. Therefore, across the business, problems such as duplicate entries, outdated or incorrect information, or data silos (collections of data, which are isolated to groups of people across the business) become apparent.

But what is wrong with data silos?

Data is one of the most valuable business assets. Therefore, when data is “silo-ed” within a team, it can present a number of negative impacts.

  • Limited collaboration across the business. Teams make decisions with the information they have available. When they only have access to the data available in their department, they will miss opportunities to collaborate with other teams and reach the business’ common goal.
  • Data accuracy and credibility. Data which is isolated, can quickly become outdated and present inaccurate information about customers.
  • Incorrect analysis. When data sits in different databases or excel sheets across the business, it is practically impossible to generate analysis on an enterprise level and have a 360-degree view of the customer base.
  • Bad customer experience. Customers expect the information they provide to be available across an organisation’s departments. However, 64%3 of customers still note that most of the time they have to repeat or re-explain information to different representatives across the business.

Data silos can result in a lack of transparency, efficiency and trust within the business and across customers.

How to avoid data silos?

Breaking down data silos will expose rich information and insights. However, doing this will require businesses to invest heavily in new technologies. Such technologies offer an end-to-end data platform and integration flexibility, which enable businesses to plan and outline their business needs and most importantly, define a data governance policy. Further benefits of making this investment are:

  • Enhancement of marketing efforts through the use of powerful up-to-date insights which can be used to define the go-to-market strategy, what audience to target as well as which channel to use.
  • Increase customer loyalty and experience by providing a connected experience and scope new products or services based on marketing requirements.

How does one break down data silos?

The first step to breaking down departmental silos is to identify where the data currently sits, how it is collected, and how relevant or outdated it is. Once the data has been gathered and audited, ask your teams to identify their day-to-day challenges with their existing data management system(s). The next and most crucial step is to decide which platform you will use as your single-source of truth and which systems will be integrated to it.

What is expected from your data platform?

The data platform chosen should:

  • unify and centralise the data;
  • allow users to easily update their information;
  • generate meaningful reports; and
  • provide flexibility in assigning permissions to users.

Now that the data has been centralised, the final part to breaking down departmental silos is to encourage teams to collaborate and connect. Leverage the expertise gathered from the business area to drive marketing strategy or product launches.

Wrap-up

The breakdown of data silos and use of a centralised data management platform can provide businesses with significant benefits when compared to the traditional methods of storing data.

Most importantly, giving teams an up-to-date, holistic view of the information will ensure an overall improvement to the experience they deliver.

  • Service agents reacting to a complaint will be able to quickly recognise who the customer is, what past interactions were made, what was purchased, which marketing initiatives he/she was part of and whom he/she has previously spoken to.
  • Marketers can deliver a unique and personalised experience to each customer across their journey by defining the right content on the right channel at the right time. Thus, increasing customer loyalty and retention.
  • Sales agents can use existing data to forecast trends for the next year, as well as, target prospects who have similar traits to their existing customer base.
  • Product teams can use data insights to understand which products are successful or unsuccessful within each market, where customers are reporting most issues and identify where to invest further.

Data is the backbone of any successful organisation. It allows you to understand who your customers are and what they are saying about your brand. Having the right tools to ensure you can utilise and understand your data is an important step in any digital transformation journey.

References:

  • 1,2,3 Salesforce, State of Connected Customer, 2020
  • Swetha Amaresan, Hubspot.com
  • Brillio, Breaking down Silos; the importance of creating an open data organisation

 

About the author

Natasha Attard is a Senior Consultant at Deloitte Digital, Malta.
 

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