The mantra of most businesses today is “to be profitable, you must understand your customer”. Some companies do this well, and some do it badly.

Companies like Amazon have done this really well. Their ability to do highly individual marketing is because they understand their customers.
The drive to understand our customers has led to the rise, fall and increased adoption of many customer relationship management systems such as, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SAP CRM and many others.

So what are the promises that these systems give to us?

Ryan Jamieson, CTO of Karabina Solutions believes that the most prominent one is the Holy Grail of “a single view” of the customer – the ability to understand our customers by looking in one place:
* The sales and other interactions we have with them
* The complaints they have and (hopefully) the resolution to these complaints
* The marketing campaigns they have been part of
* Their lifetime value and where they are in the lifecycle with the business.
It is interesting that these promises are very hard if not impossible for a customer relationship management system to keep. This is further supported by an article that Ryan recently read called 5 Promises CRM Can’t Keep. In summary some of the areas that CRM systems struggle with are:
* It will break down your silos – primarily by aggregating data from other systems allowing for a single view of the customer for all in the business.
* You will have a 360 view of the customer – again all data will exist in the CRM system and it would be captured by sales people. Marketing can use this information and it is sufficiently comprehensive to target customers.
* Customers will be more loyal – because you have all this information, you can service your customers better, because you know more about them. However loyalty is about interaction and engaging with the customer.
* It will make the Sales Manager’s life easy – In fact it can make their lives more difficult as they have to keep pushing the sales team to update the correct information.
Looking at these challenges it is easy to see that the promise of a CRM system is about information that can be used in a decision making process, whether it be for the sales manager, the marketing department or for other purposes.
While a CRM system is critical in providing this information, it is not the only source. If the expectation is that it is the only source, then CRM is being set up for failure.
To truly get a single view of the customer, the information sits in many systems internally to the organisation like the finance system, the invoicing system, the operations system and the marketing system. In fact there are information sources that sit externally to the organisation that add to the picture of the customer such as, their geolocation, the socio-economic climates in these locations, census data, weather data and social sentiment.

Data blending and the power of Customer Analytics
So how can the promises of a CRM system be met. Karabina Solutions knows through experience that one of the answers is to utilise the power of customer analytics through the science, art and techniques of data blending.
This is done by blending the data that contains customer information, whether it be internal or external to the organisation. There are certainly challenges in achieving this but the toolsets, methods and techniques available today take this out if the realm of theory into something that is imminently achievable. Toolsets such as in-memory Business Intelligence, data extraction and blending platforms, data marts and master data systems are part of the modern arsenal.
Some scenarios that these toolset assist in are:

* A sales manager, wanting to understand the impact and effectiveness of their team, they need to be able to see customer forecasts, actual sales, complaints, activities, payment statuses, order statuses, returns, yearly behaviour and comments on social media etc. The only way to do this effectively is to blend customer data from all the internal systems of record as well as social platforms. This will give a far better picture of the customer, through blending and visualisation technologies.
* Another example is the ability to understand the impact of weather on the customers’ sales of ice-cream. Doing this will allow an organisation to plan production better, run more effective campaigns and not make erroneous assumptions. In the above example you may say there is an obvious correlation between ice-cream and weather, however the assumption is not really valid. Tubs of ice-cream sell as well in summer as they do in winter, most people enjoy a dollop of ice-cream with their hot dessert in winter. Whereas the assumption applied to ice-lollies is perfectly valid. So using this information to advise customers of the best purchases at certain times of the year will increase their satisfaction.
These simple examples show the possibility of blending customer sales data with external data in order to perform customer analytics.

The power to realise the promise of CRM is in your hands and can be done today.