Your Customer Database And The Roaches In It

Arturo F Munoz Open QuoteMake your customers unhappy in the physical world, they will tell 6 friends. Make them unhappy in the Internet, they will tell 6,000. -- Jeff Bezos


After Laying Down The Foundation

Now let me share insights on how to know your customers through a sound customer database system which, to create, first required the formation of both a corporate vision and a foundational blueprint. How do you start building upon this foundation?

When it comes to discussions about information systems, I'm fond of using analogies. They can drive the point home better than any technical jargon. I will use an analogy to begin our dialogue about the next step in the creation of a customer database system.


Designing A Dwelling For The Customer

If a customer database is like an edifice where you will house a representation of every one of your customers, then you need to ask yourself what form this structure must take to allow a comfortable stay to each customer.

Customer DatabaseTalk about your customers as being merely profiles or dossiers, and you've built them a prison house. Talk about them as being partners and associates, and you’ve built them an office complex. Talk about them as being relatives and friends, and you've built them a parlor in your home.

Where do you want your customers to dwell? More importantly, where do you think they’d like to reside while they come to depend on your services?

Too many companies assume that building a database system is nothing more than collecting names in spreadsheets and taking data extracts from their multiple transactional systems to merge them into a single file that, having been purged of duplicate names and finally overlaid with demographic data from outside the company, will be ready to guide the organization on how to improve relationships with its customers.

This fallacious belief is the result of thinking that data has some innate, Gnostic quality. "Data speaks for itself," goes the maxim. But this is a falsehood.

"Facts per se can neither prove nor refute anything. Everything is decided by the interpretation and explanation of the facts, by the ideas and the theories," counters Ludwig von Mises. And he couldn’t be more correct.

When you begin with the false assumption that your transactional systems, such as your sales, billing, tech support or shipping systems, contain the definition of your customers, then you’ve stepped into your first land mine. Boom!

Yes, you will eventually visit several systems where your customers transact with you, and you will extract data from these systems to begin the process of piecing together a multi-dimensional snapshot of your customers. But data consolidation is not the first step in building a customer database.


Is My Customer Animal, Vegetable Or Mineral?

One of the first decisive steps that starts you on your way to a successful customer database system design effort is to resolve the character of the relationship that you plan to realize with your customer.

What do you want your customer to be to you and what do you want to be to your customer?

The following illustrates the point.

I worked for a company that was in dire need of understanding and interacting with its customers. The company was staid and diffident and under pressure to become hip and brassy, especially as it attempted to organize around a new product distribution model demanding better knowledge of resellers and partners. Basically it wanted to change clothes and throw a new party for its clients. "Come on down, folks! Get to know us again. We're different now!"

The marketing team there put a ton of effort modifying its look and feel. Branding radically changed. Copy was audacious. Colors were bold. Messaging was striking. But at a deeper level, the team could never decide whether the customers should be treated as colleagues or as accessories to someone else in the market.

So, this business could never decide who should come to the party, where should the guests sit, what might they want to eat, what music they might enjoy listening to, what games they might wish to play. In essence, the company changed its clothes but kept the party as dull as ever, because it did not know its customers.

Customer Database SystemDid the company have a customer database? Absolutely. The company stored its customer data in the same way it treated the customer. What they did was to lured them in with flashy antics, then left them stuck somewhere in the system.

It built a roach motel because it treated its customers like a pest.

Strong words? You bet. I’m putting myself in the customers' shoes, which is the only way to decide whether you've built the right system where to host information about them.

This precedes knowing whether the information you have about who they are and what they do is "clean" or not. What does that entail? Find out by going here.



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