Comprehensive customer profile: you have to work for it

Customer data is often hidden in your systems, to say nothing about the information your customers leave on the internet.

A comprehensive customer profile is often seen as the dream of every organization. If we have a comprehensive customer profile, we’ve reached our goal, and the revenue will follow. Unfortunately, reality proves to be a bit trickier. Obtaining a comprehensive customer profile comes in fits and starts.

  • How do you link various internal and external sources of customer data?
  • How do you maintain them and ensure the right investments?
  • More importantly: how does this lead to higher revenue?

In other words, more insight doesn’t necessarily lead to more action, and thus more revenue. Feel free to let Passionned Group’s CRM specialists advise you.

Important drivers for CRM systems

The comprehensive customer profile was, for years, the driver of many (ICT) investments in CRM systems. A lot of time and energy went into this, but the results were often meager. But a comprehensive customer profile is the basis for all CRM solutions, and should be the basis for every organization that wants to be customer-focused. There are various aspects to consider when it comes to investing in a comprehensive customer profile .

Data quality: an essential aspect

Data quality is an essential part of successfully implementing a comprehensive customer profile. Data has to be used and combined correctly in order to gain a comprehensive profile of the customer. It’s a common problem: a customer who appears in the system multiple times, because their name has been spelled just a little bit differently in the various systems. Correctly linking various customer systems is very important.

New (BI) technology

In the past, connecting various systems was a big challenge. New (BI) technology has made it much easier to link various sources and systems. It’s important for these sources to have a certain level of customer recording. In the past, a lot of systems were developed that couldn’t even store email addresses, for example.

Cashing in the “asset of customer information”

A comprehensive customer profile only works if it’s actually being used. An organization has to be customer-focused if they want to cash in on the asset that is customer information. This aspect is sometimes forgotten, and is one of the risks when implementing CRM.

Trying to achieve a comprehensive customer profile in one large project that takes years has proven unsuccessful. It’s much more effective as a dot on the horizon. Improving the organization in an iterative fashion is much more likely to be successful.

How to achieve a comprehensive customer profile?

There are various ways to reach this goal. One type is more valuable than the next. The four most important types are:

Customer profile model

  • A technical screen solution (screen scraping) that shows all the information about the customer (from various systems) on one integrated screen in the workplace. Behind the scenes, it’s technically jumping between the various systems. These systems are often capable of updating various systems simultaneously. Because of this, the employee doesn’t have to continuously enter the data in various systems.
  • Unlocking systems via an integration layer is the second form of building up and maintaining a comprehensive customer profile. This integration layer, also called the Enterprise Service Bus, is often combined with a form of workflow management. These two can ensure that data from various sources can be unlocked and mutated. For employees, specific applications are developed to present and mutate this data. The same integration can also be used to directly unlock customer information on the internet.
  • A data warehouse stores customer information built up from various sources. For this solution, a database is created regularly (daily, weekly, or monthly) containing all the relevant customer information. This can then be used by employees. This information is read-only and not mutated. The last part happens in the various source systems. This type of solution is primarily used to support the marketing process. This is also called analytical CRM.
  • The last, and by far most integrated solution, is that in which the customer information has been stored in a central CRM system/database and is mutated directly. This is also called operational CRM. In this situation, the CRM system is the central point for storage of customer information, and customer information is updated in the various software systems. This is the most commonly-used architecture solution for organizations that really want to be customer-focused.

Choosing the right architecture, one that matches the needs of the organization now and in the future, is essential to make investments future-proof. Too often, choices aren’t based on a pre-determined architecture, and investments turn out to be a dead end, and they have to start all over. Our advice is to take an enterprise architecture approach to comprehensive customer profiles.

Channel management complicates things

Customers communicate across many different channels. Things used to be simple – a customer came into the store for questions and purchases. Nowadays, customers can visit stores, use the phone, start an app, send an email, go to the website, or communicate using all kinds of social media. Customers regularly hop between various channels.

There are different ways that organizations can organize channel management. This is displayed in the image below.

channel management

  • In single-channel, the customer is served from one channel.
  • In multi-channel, the customer can choose multiple channels, but for the organization it’s a different customer every time.
  • Cross-channel connects all the channels, but the customer still experiences them as separate channels to the organization. Contact information is shared across channels, allowing for better customer service.
  • Omni-channel eliminates the differences between channels for the customer, and the organization communicates across all channels in a singular way.

Ideally, every organization would be an omni-channel organization, but that can only be achieved at a high level of investment. The organization has to grow towards this goal. Many organizations want everything, all at once, and have a different ICT solution for every channel. This makes integration of all channels very difficult.

To avoid having to make large investments in channel management that generate relatively low returns, our advice is to think very consciously about whether or not a channel has to be integrated.

One last remark about channel management: organizations try to distinguish themselves by offering more channels, or offer more service within the channel, without asking themselves whether it would lead to more revenue. Service is often seen as being free by customers. There’s an arms race ongoing to offer more channels and more service per channel, without it leading to more revenue.

For that reason, organizations should carefully consider which investments they do or don’t want to make in striving for comprehensive customer profiles. Do you really want to unlock all channels for that one profile?

Do you want to discuss this dilemma, or learn how to mount a business case for unlocking channels for a comprehensive customer profile? Drop us a line.

4 pitfalls of comprehensive customer profiles

  1. Thinking you can’t have a comprehensive customer profile if everything isn’t linked.
  2. Trying to achieve a comprehensive customer profile in one project.
  3. Not paying attention to data quality and data governance.
  4. Seeing a comprehensive customer profile as the end of the line, when it’s only the start for organizations: it has to be cashed in.

A comprehensive customer profile is never finished

The implementation of a comprehensive customer profile is often seen as a one-time activity. Unfortunately, thanks to the many developments in the field of customer interaction, the enormous growth in customer channels, and the necessity of focusing on data quality, the process of continuous improvement is a necessity. It’s the only way to keep the comprehensive customer profile up-to-date.

One-time change has become continuous change. An approach like PDCA is the ideal way for organizations to stay current, make considered investments, and innovate at the same time.

If you want your customer profile to stay up-do-date, change is the only true constant.

Do you want a comprehensive customer profile for your company?

We have over 15 years of experience in implementing CRM solutions. Using various solutions and our own unique approach, we can help you implement a comprehensive customer profile quicker, better, and more efficiently.

If you want to discuss these topics or your challenges in this area, feel free to contact us for a conversation. We’re eager to tell you more about our approach and the results you can expect.

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Daan van Beek, Managing Director


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