First (IT) Step in Better Customer Service? Integration

Loraine Lawson

My husband recently bought a new planner, "filled with hope and promise for the New Year," he shared on the phone. I understood completely. Along with our passion for office supplies and geek movies, we share a love of planners. Last year, I bought four-I guess I needed a lot of fresh starts.


I bought my planner in August, and I'm pretty happy with it, so there hasn't been a lot of reason to get excited about 2010 yet. Then, I read a list of CRM predictions on TechTarget, including this gem from William Band, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research:


"Customer service moves back into the spotlight."


Dare I dream?


Apparently, businesses have miraculously made the logic leap that says if customers are your source of income, then keeping them happy might be a smashing idea. I don't know why they're just figuring this out-maybe it's the economy, maybe it's their new BI capabilities, maybe an angel told them-but apparently, they've figured it out, because they're bugging Forrester for answers:


"We see a rising number of inquiries from clients about how to improve their customer service capabilities. How does customer service affect the bottom line? The higher the customer experience index, regardless of the industry, the more customers buy and the more loyal they are... With customers now requiring more real-time support, it's essential to keep pace with their expectations and to respond to them in new ways."


Hallelujah and pass the bubbly!


Given the renewed interest in customer service, IT pros and regular readers of this blog can probably predict what else Band is predicting for 2010: a continued push for customer data integration.


"The volume of inquiries that Forrester receives about customer data integration (CDI) continues to increase," Band tells TechTarget. "Customer management professionals tell us that poor data management is one of the biggest barriers to getting value from their CRM systems."


The problem? Finding the "right approach" to managing customer data, Band says. Apparently, CRM solutions just aren't cutting it when it comes to knocking down silos to integrate data, and BI-which can pull data together and deliver a more complete picture of the customer-stinks at keeping the data clean and updated, according to Band.


As Gartner analyst Andrew White recently pointed out, it's just a bad idea to expect applications to clean your data.


When you see the problems companies are experience with customer data, you can see why customer data integration solutions are so enticing. CDI falls under the operational master data management umbrella, along with Product Information Management.


As it turns out, better data quality, particularly when it comes to master data, may also be good for your bottom line in other ways, according to a recent piece published on Information Management.


So will we see a corresponding rise in interest in MDM? There are already predictions afoot that 2010 will be the year for MDM, and it's even been written about in Forbes-although, briefly, and only as it relates to customer data.


My Magic 8 Ball is stuck on "Ask again later," but I think I may speak for many others when I say that better customer service would make an excellent New Year's resolution for many businesses and government agencies. In fact, to quote George Harrison in A Hard Day's Night, "By all means, I'd be quite prepared for that eventuality."

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