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Hang around the CRM space long enough and you’re bound to hear the term “360-degree view of the customer.” It’s a shorthand way to talk about knowing a lot about the customer – although 360 degrees is a nearly unachievable ideal.

It’s simply impossible to know everything about the customer, or everything that call influence a customer experience – things happen to customers that can’t be captured in the data. If the customer is in the middle of a divorce, his dog just died, or if they just received a really nice birthday gift, their experience is affected. Not only can you not obtain that data, you probably shouldn’t.

But there are also bits of customer data that may be eluding you that really should be in the customer record. For example, many voice conversations between the business and the buyer never make their way into CRM, simply because integration is often lacking. A more systemic problem is what might be termed “data sprawl.”

The advent of the cloud has made it easy for sales, marketing and support to implement systems that unintentionally re-build the data silos that CRM was supposed to knock down. The more customer data we capture and the more tools we use to capture it, the more places it resides within the business. The cloud often takes IT out of the equation – department heads can buy and implement solutions easily, and many SaaS vendors actually tout the lack of IT involvement as a selling point. When this happens, by the time data sprawl is identified as a problem, the task of re-unifying the data represents seriously heavy lifting for IT.

Add to that the desire of customers to communicate with the companies they buy from through whatever channel they think is best for what they’re trying to communicate – often, more than one channel – suddenly, the data is spread further, into more silos.

And so, the data story about each customer can become fragmented, isolated within departments and incredibly difficult to assemble.

In order to thrive, your organization needs to create a 360-degree view of your customer data – from sales, marketing and support – regardless of where that data resides. That means taking all the data you’ve gathered about each customer, aggregating it, organizing it and viewing it in context.

Often, announcements at big technology events represent solutions in search of a problem (or solutions in search of future software development). In this case, Salesforce has taken aim at this long-standing data sprawl problem and delivered a solution that could solve it neatly for many businesses while enabling new capabilities – like the ability to easily integrate voice into the customer record

The idea of Customer 360, the headline announcement at the Dreamforce event underway today in San Francisco, is to collect all customer data in one place – and not just data from the various Salesforce clouds but, through the MuleSoft Anypoint Platform, other applications – including contact center applications. The Anypoint Platform connects the applications’ APIs directly to Customer 360. This is what makes the announcement really significant – it tackles a real-world issue. Many companies, even those who rely on Salesforce, have non-Salesforce applications in sales, marketing and service; Customer 360 helpfully pulls this data into the customer record.

After the APIs have been connected, a click-based U/I allows the management of the data to be mapped and reconciled. That creates a single representation of the data, avoiding the hazards inherent in manually assembling the same data multiple times and possibly putting different priorities on different customer data each time the record is examined. All of this can be viewed from within the Salesforce interface.

Customer 360 pulls the data from its system of origin while also using a single ID for each customer; when the system pulls data for a customer, it’s the most recent data in the same sequence as in the past. This eliminates the need for a data lake or warehouse, minimizing the IT overhead.

Salesforce is offering pre-built packages for Customer 360 for service, marketing and commerce. This may seem contrary to the concept of a unified view of the data, but users of that data want it presented in a form that reflects his or her role and how he or she plans to use it. The underlying technology remains the same, but Salesforce allows users to view it in the best way for them.

While Customer 360’s appeal is aimed at companies with data sequestered in multiple systems, the solution opens up new ways to use data – and new opportunities to expand the data companies use, especially around voice. That’s why we’re so excited about this announcement – with our tight integration with Salesforce, we’re already focused on making voice a key part of the customer experience. Customer 360 promises to make it even easier to do that.  

Come and learn the art of great conversations at Dreamforce!

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About Chris Bucholtz

Chris Bucholtz, director of content marketing at NewVoiceMedia, spent 15 years as a technology journalist, covering CRM, customer service and telecommunications among his many beats. He was the founding editor of InsideCRM and has managed marketing content for SugarCRM, Aplicor, Relayware and CallidusCloud. This year will be Chris’ 11th Dreamforce.

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