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7 Steps To Unify Data and Create Connected Experiences Customers Expect

Information silos and poor data quality can bedevil the delivery of topnotch customer experiences. Here's what to do about that.

Slalom is a Seattle-based consulting partner focused on strategy, technology and business transformation. In this post, Slalom’s Managing Director of Global Salesforce Capabilities Katie Dunlap, along with her colleagues, Practice Director of Salesforce Marketing Cloud Jim Clarke and Practice Area Lead of Salesforce Marketing Data and Analytics Laura Vecchio, reveal the firm’s seven steps for unifying data to create connected customer experiences.

Fifty-six percent of business leaders admit organizational silos negatively impact the quality of their customers’ and prospects’ experiences. Yet, we continually see the greatest roadblocks to a unified digital strategy are organizational silos. Information and departmental silos lead to uncoordinated channel strategies that push connected customer experiences further out of reach. 

From our experience at Slalom helping hundreds of companies design and build connected customer experiences, we’ve established a set of key considerations for companies to follow. 

Here are seven steps to finally break free from silos and create the connected experiences customers expect.

1. Establish a unified roadmap around top customer needs

The first step in any new effort is always to define the strategy: in this case, it means bringing together previously siloed channel strategies to design a single vision across marketing, advertising, commerce, and service. Doing so is a marathon — not a sprint. So, identify quick wins and organize them into a strategic timeline. This use-case driven approach is all about driving maximum impact quickly. 

Our client, Piedmont Healthcare, is a great example. To offer consistent care and experiences to patients, they began using Salesforce Health Cloud in its call center. When community anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic began to grow, so did their call volume. We quickly helped Piedmont create COVID-related call scripting and flows in Health Cloud to ensure patients received the right care. We also developed a dashboard to help them keep track of customer data, assess real-time demand for care, and better meet patients’ needs.

When you define your roadmap, account for things like team reorgs, product launches, and milestones like replacing your order management or master data management systems.

Then, organize your roadmap priorities by taking into consideration: 

  1. Top customer pain points
  2. The technology and data that are ready to use
  3. Areas where you already have shared goals around improving customer experiences across teams

For example, Amazon’s app provides live updates with the location of their delivery trucks, so people know when to expect their delivery. These updates are helpful for the consumer and deflect service call-ins, which supports efficiency.

Ensure you focus on the use cases that impact the customer directly, then expand your roadmap from there. Do not let strategy delay progress. Start small, test often, and optimize quickly to establish an efficient flow of innovation across business and technical teams.

2. Choose the kind of journey you want for your most valuable customers

All customers are important, but not all are the same — some generate more business than others. As part of your prioritization process, identify the customer segments that bring the most value to your organization, quantify why this segment is important to the business, and build customer journeys around them. 

Common segment splits we see often include: high spender, frequent shopper, or high influencer — but ultimately, these segments are unique to your business. Next, spend time understanding the journey these segments have with your brand. This exercise will reveal gaps in the customer journey and show you where you can make organizational improvements to make sure your marketing, commerce, sales, and service teams have a 360-degree view of your customer.

Map the critical points in that journey to develop your framework, then identify the corresponding employee touch points enabling the experience. Employees rely on insights to deliver the right experience, so ask them what’s working and what’s not to understand the most common pain points they deal with when engaging with these segments of customers.

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3. Align your teams around common goals

To execute your strategy and campaigns, create an agile team of various departments and channels, start with the teams who require synergy based on priority use cases.

One of our client’s top use cases was to align email marketing messages with authentic experiences on their website. To achieve this, they asked an agile marketing team to sit within the engineering organization. Team members felt like they were stepping into a new world, but it gave marketing an easier way to partner with their technical counterparts to bring to life new connected experiences across web and mobile. Together, they implemented an effective customer experience strategy.

Resist the urge to organize teams by platform and begin grouping resources by customer experience goals. You will create a collaborative environment, increase speed to market, and save costs when you break down team silos.

4. Define an omni-channel measurement model

Providing better customer experiences often requires many resources, so it’s important to show quick returns on investment by measuring performance and impact.

Align on the top KPIs across channels and audit critical touchpoints in your customer journey framework to uncover measurement gaps. Standardize naming conventions for data collection across channels, such as defining a unified data layer that uses the same names and data types, to ensure everyone understands your new marketing data model. Everyone needs to have the same understanding of the KPIs being tracked and where to go for the single source of truth about the KPI; for example, how do we define and track a conversion, an impression within each channel, what an interaction means, etcetera.

Begin collecting relevant data as soon as possible to ensure you can use measurements to determine the impact and prioritize your roadmap. As you do so, evaluate your ability to identify and socialize results quickly so you can optimize the internal process for improving the customer experience.

You should be able to demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) of each customer experience. Still, you may also use other key metrics, such as improvements in net promoter scores and customer engagement. Use the data you’ve collected to measure how easy it is for customers to do what they want and prove impact.

5. Get your data in one place

MuleSoft’s 2020 Connectivity Benchmark Report uncovered that the average enterprise uses about 900 different applications, but only 28% are connected. How can your teams come together to serve the customer cohesively when data is in dozens, or potentially even hundreds, of systems?

Data unification is an overwhelming endeavor, to say the least, so consolidate your data based on a use case–driven approach, then establish your customer data platform (CDP). Your goal is to build a golden record — a single source of truth for all your customer data — which you can achieve with the help of tools such as Salesforce Customer 360 Data Manager.

As you go, audit each data source to identify potential gaps that may cause mistrust among teams. For example, you might find that a team is keeping valuable information because it wants to get ahead of other teams. Or perhaps the tool they use to collect data is cut off from the rest of your system. Whatever the reason, isolated data can mean missed opportunities to track customer journeys.

Resolve and optimize data collection to ensure it meets the unified measurement model’s requirements and provides all the necessary information you need to prioritize use cases.

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6. Invest in the right change management to drive success that lasts

Change management is often the last thing business leaders consider, but it’s the most critical to a successful digital transformation.

Plan for time to train teams on your vision for the ideal customer experience. Demonstrate how they are instrumental in providing that ideal experience by clearly laying out your newly developed roadmaps.

Once you align teams, set up an intake process for ongoing feedback about improving the experience. Take feedback seriously and hold your business accountable so you don’t revert to a disconnected customer experience.

7. Test, analyze, and optimize continuously

Finally, use the measurements you’ve identified to track the improvements in your customer journey and use cases and use them to prove success.

Establish a pattern for delivering use cases in an MVP format, and test all aspects of the segment, content, and design, before aligning on the final implementation.

Ensure technical teams have an efficient way to bubble up results back to the business to allow for continuous improvement of the roadmap. Through this collaboration, you will establish trust in the data.

Finally, initiate quarterly business reviews to allow marketing, advertising, commerce, and service to come together and assess the program’s results and adjust the roadmap based on the outcomes you achieve.

If you’re looking for more insight on connecting silos and transforming around your customer, don’t miss The Transformation Playbook. To learn more about Slalom, visit their consulting partner listing on the AppExchange.

Katie leads the Global Salesforce C360, Cross-Cloud, Commerce, and Marketing at Slalom, where she is focused on partnering with organizations to achieve business outcomes through horizontal and industry-based solutions. Katie and her team are committed to creating solutions that drive impactful customer/partner experiences and ensure that together, they accelerate their digital transformation.

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