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The Importance of Customer Data Integration

Originally published October 27, 2005

Recently, I was reading an article about customer data integration (CDI). The article stated that by utilizing CDI we would be able to create a 360 degree view of the customer from structured data sources using demographic data. Maybe I have been around this profession too long, but is anyone else disturbed? Does anyone else see the major pitfall here?

The truth is that we are nowhere close to a 360 degree view of the customer. In fact, we hardly have a 180 degree view. Clearly, many types of customer communications are missing from the equation. Emails. Telephone calls. Letters. One can argue that communications are actually MORE important than demographics.

If you don’t believe me, consider this scenario. Mrs. Jones calls with a complaint on a Tuesday.  Although her order was delivered, it was the wrong model and broken. After calling the service number, Mrs. Jones had to wait for over 30 minutes to speak to a real person. When she finally got a real person, it was the wrong department and she was once again put on hold. Finally, she just left a message in the general mailbox.

Just how important is it that we know Mrs. Jones age and income on Friday? The truth is that age, income, spouse’s name, birth date, occupation and education are all irrelevant. In fact, Mrs. Jones will only want to discuss her mishandled order and treatment.

So people claiming to have a 360 degree view of the customer, in my opinion simply have it wrong.

Do they have it wrong because they don’t know any better? Or do they know better but don't want you to know that they do? This is the burning question. In other words, it seems to me that CDI in general has a long way to go. While some solution providers have made inroads toward a 360 degree view of the customer, it will require the integration of actionable unstructured data along with a greater level of key customer information. I look forward to watching the CDI market mature and challenge the vendors to take it to the next level.  The value that CDI offers to the enterprise is tremendous.

  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

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