Alan Mitchell has written a nice piece on his Brand Republic blog about the myth of the Single Customer View. Or rather, that companies and especially their CRM teams like to believe their Single Customer View is sufficient, when in fact it’s usually myopic, narrow and lacking in any nuance or insight. It focuses on the company rather than the customer, and simply pretends that what it doesn’t know isn’t important. It uses militaristic, controlling language (acquire, recruit, lock in, own). Companies do this because it’s easier, because the world is really complicated and trying to deal with that is, you know, hard. And because they can. Because we let them.
Two examples of the inadequacies of the Single Customer View…
First, when I worked in Financial Services I loved the wealth of customer data we had. Across everything you can possibly spend money on, we knew about you. If we wanted to, we could see how far in advance you booked your holidays, how you pay for groceries, what sort of restaurants you like, how you shop on- and offline. But we never did that. Instead we focused primarily on the very narrow approach of how you managed your account: did you pay in full, how often did you pay late…
This is easy, short-termist, and ultimately of hardly any interest to the customer. As such, it doesn’t do much for ‘loyalty’ or long-term value and relationships.
Second, I love films. I review them often on my Facebook page, around 10 each month. I also rent DVDs from LOVEFilm, but only around 3-4 each month. But because I haven’t made the effort to copy my reviews and ratings over from Flixster/Facebook, LOVEFilm aren’t aware of this, and they continue to recommend films I’ve either already seen or declared I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than watch. And Amazon continues to believe my favourite genre is Charlie & Lola, as I once bought a series of DVDs as presents for my daughters and assorted friends. Have they considered looking at my LOVEFilm lists, or even asking me if they can? In the last couple of months, they could see that I’ve rented and rated all of the following at 4**** or better: Milk, Mad Men (Season 1), Do The Right Thing, I’ve Loved You So Long, and Man on Wire.
To be fair to LOVEFilm, they at least let me create multiple film lists, so I can choose what sort of thing to rent next (family-friendly, J-Horror etc…). ING also do this with ‘named’ savings accounts (new car fund, Christmas, Holiday etc). But neither of these seem to use this information to any great effect. And there’s very little out there that actually asks people what they want, and how their relationships with individual brands and companies could be improved by sharing and learning about my preferences across different brands.
Last example: newly pregnant mums often join many different ‘Baby Clubs’ to get advice, support and free stuff. Each one will then send them a series of emails about their pregnancy, mostly containing the same sort of information (“your baby is the size of a grapefruit”, “your baby can hear your voice”). And each brand will think they are creating a meaningful relationship through their chain of emails.
Urgent Bulletin for (virtually) all marketers: most people spend 99.6% of their time NOT thinking about your products.
The current implementation of CRM in most instances makes all sorts of assumptions, based on what I am able to tell you, which is in itself controlled by what you think is important enough to ask me. Have you ever thought that I might want you to treat me differently?
Supplemental Bulletin: most of your products can be easily and instantly substituted for a functionally similar alternative. Don’t forget this for a moment. What are you going to do to be different?
Phew. And by means of light relief, a short moment of joy from the aforementioned Lola Summer and her Best Friend Lotta.