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PHOTO: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The pandemic has pushed companies to conduct more business online and invest in digital touchpoints that create a positive consumer experience.

With the creation of expanded digital touchpoints like video, consumers have generated volumes of data that can be used for strategic insight.

This means businesses should strive to move from "data-aware" to "data-mature," and figure out ways to use their first-party data to generate actionable insights, improve decision making and enhance customer experience.

However, as Greg van den Heuvel, Precisely general manager, CES, pointed out, organizations don’t always have the data infrastructure in place to glean valuable insights from that data to make confident business decisions.

He added that many organizations are re-evaluating their legacy systems that hold them back from achieving CX goals based on consumer feedback.

“Additionally,” said van den Heuvel, “organizations are beginning to understand that consumers will use a multitude of connected digital touchpoints within one interaction to get and convey the information they need to. Consumers’ behaviors during the pandemic will last long after the pandemic and it’s important for organizations to keep up with these patterns.”

Customer Data Integration

Data integration occurs when a variety of data sources are blended into a single database, offering users of that database efficient access to the information they need. Customer data integration provides organizations with a clear and holistic view of behaviors and patterns.

Knowing the end consumer through data insights is critical to effectively communicating with consumers in a personalized and interactive manner.

“While collecting significant amounts of data might not be much of a challenge in the modern world, properly integrating that data remains difficult,” van den Heuvel said. “The good news is that according to recent research, the vast majority of CX leaders say they have, or they plan to invest in, data integration, data integrity or data enrichment technologies.”

He added that businesses must have a framework that allows siloed data to talk to each other.

“Whether it’s data that’s stored in multiple clouds, or transactions that are made through a mainframe, it’s important that a business can bring all the data together into a single database to have a clear and holistic view of behaviors and patterns,” he said.

Koushik Pal, chief data scientist at Lynk, said that beyond the holistic view, what is more important is to figure out how to organize and use data properly, because only then does it enable better information sharing among different units.

“It helps the sales team to understand customers better and focus on cross-selling and upselling opportunities,” said Pal. “It helps the CS team to better understand the customer journey and provide better customer service.”

Further, it helps the marketing team define strategies for revenue generation and build a better experience and it helps data and operations teams maintain data quality and real-time data collection and enrichment.

“There are a lot of reasons why it makes sense for businesses to invest in CDI,” Pal said.

Related Article: How to Prepare Data for Ingestion and Integration

The Importance of Data Enrichment

Data enrichment provides a layer of understanding and gives a company’s own data context within the real world — and a good data integrity strategy has enrichment built in as a pillar.

“Beyond a company’s own data, adding trusted third-party data increases the value of data exponentially,” van den Heuvel said. “Third-party data provides context to a data set and allows businesses to derive smarter, more informed insights.”

For example, when it comes to a retail store, while location data can share that there’s parking available, third-party data can reveal that despite having available spaces, the location is in an area where most people walk versus drive, so a parking lot is not necessary and likely a poor use of space.

Wendy Batchelder, senior vice president of global data governance and chief data officer of trust with Salesforce, said data enrichment allows companies to improve the quality of their data without requiring perfect data entry.

“Because controls at data input, while important, can slow down critical processes such as sales,” explained Batchelder, “leveraging enrichment to soften data input requirements can allow ‘lower quality’ data in the ecosystem, but delivered with intention.”

She noted that deploying third-party data enrichment services is an easy way to drive increased data quality without slowing key processes, for example using master data management (MDM) capabilities to improve contact and customer data to drive higher quality customer experiences.

“I’ve had the opportunity to implement customer master data platforms at large-scale enterprises,” she said, “which led to big uplifts in data quality, resulting in larger contact lists, lower bounce rates and higher customer response rates.”

Related Article: 4 Types of Customer Data and How to Use Them

Ensuring Data Integrity

Data integrity refers to data having accuracy, consistency and context, allowing organizations to make confident business decisions based on data they can trust.

“For many organizations, data lives in silos, is stale, unstandardized, full of duplicates, incomplete or lacking the insights required to make it fit for purpose,” van den Heuvel said. “By investing in the four key pillars of data integrity — enterprise-wise integration, data governance and quality, location intelligence and data enrichment — business leaders can establish a clear framework for building trust in their data.”

From his perspective, the businesses that will excel over the next few years are the ones that invest in getting their data right to yield higher returns on every business decision made.

Jodi Alperstein, vice president and general manager of Twilio Segment, pointed out that many businesses find investing in data quality improves trust in their data, reduces time spent by engineering and business teams navigating and validating data and ultimately allows a business to grow faster.

“I like to use the term ‘data etiquette,’ because it's about more than just following local laws,” said Alperstein. “For me, data etiquette means collecting and using data in a way that is ethical and respectful.”

She added that companies need to be thoughtful about the difference between the data they want and the data they need, and then only use the latter to build winning customer engagement.

For organizations looking to begin their investment in customer data integration, enrichment and integrity, a key first step is to think about all your sources of customer data, all the places your business wants to activate on customer data and all the teams that need access to consistent, reliable data to do their jobs, said Alperstein.

“From there,” she explained, “it’s actually very easy to start using a CDP, many of which have free and low-cost plans. Companies of any size can power their customer engagement with good, clean data.”