How a 'single view' strategy can swiftly save your business stacks of cash

Building a broad and convincing business case

A single view is about having one golden record for each of your customers

In previous roles, I've delivered several 'single view of a customer' projects. Each time, I prepared a very positive business case before getting approval for the project, and each time the benefits were evaluated after implementations.

Perhaps the most interesting thing is that unlike many other projects, the business benefits ended up being more positive than originally forecast.

What is a single view of a customer?

Put simply, single view is about having one 'golden' record for each of your customers, so that whenever you refer to a customer, you're using the most up-to-date details, and everything you know about that customer is correctly linked to them.

It means that when a customer phones your contact centre, you can find their details quickly, and can see their full history of transactions with your organisation. It means you know how many customers you actually have, and what they're worth to you. And it means customers are central to your business model, rather than accounts, subscriptions or orders.

Single view of a customer as a requirement for compliance

If a government or regulator mandates that you strive to achieve a single view of your customers, then you don't need a business case. Either you do it, or you lose your licence to operate. An example of this is the Know Your Customer rules that apply to banks, who need to successfully identify their customers to ensure that they, as financial organisations, aren't being used for money laundering activities.

However, I would argue that the other benefits that come from a single view are so important that you should consider them too. If it is mandatory, there's a temptation to stop there and do it because you have to – but I would encourage you to keep reading. If you have to implement a single view of a customer, you may as well get as much value out of it as possible.

Cost reduction

If you have a large number of customers and communication with them is a major cost for your organisation, you can make surprisingly big savings by implementing a single view of a customer. This would typically be an important part of the business case for energy suppliers, telecoms, insurers, banks or local government bodies, where regular postal communication to all your customers is a major cost.

In some cases, it may be worth going one step further and thinking in terms of 'single household', and thereby avoid needless costs by sending duplicate communication to everyone at an address.

Risk management

One of the reasons governments have mandated Know Your Customer practices for banks is to enable better risk management. Each customer has their own risk profile, and if you're managing that risk profile, it will be a lot more accurate if you make the effort to link everything you know about a customer via a single customer record.

The risk profile for a customer will be much more complete if you can link their borrowing to their savings, for example. If you can identify a returning customer, you can assess their risk profile much more accurately than if you treated them like a new and unknown customer.

The more accurately you can assess your total risk, the less provision you need to make to cover unknown risks. This in turn releases capital for other opportunities or further investments.

Customer loyalty

It often comes as a surprise, but most customers like it when the companies they deal with have a complete picture of them. It boosts confidence that they are treated as an individual and not just as an account.

Admittedly it's not universal, but in my experience the overwhelming majority of customers expect companies to know them. When customers hold multiple accounts with you, they expect you to join up the dots. Personally, I like it when Amazon suggests books to me that I might like, but I get annoyed when my bank tries to sell me a credit card that I already have. One is showing it knows me, the other is showing it doesn't care about me.