The Never-Ending Quest for a Single Customer View

Click to learn more about author Kevin W. McCarthy.

A “single customer view” is one of those ever-elusive concepts in the world of Data Management, almost a digital “white-whale” for you Moby Dick fans. Everyone talks about it by some name or another: 360-degree view, golden record, single source of truth, system of record, and so on. Very few have achieved their goals around single customer view, and the few that have must strive to maintain it every day as new records are created and deleted from their systems. It got me thinking that a single customer view is a lot like happiness.

If you ask almost anyone what they want out of life, their answer will fundamentally be the same: they want to be happy. Some might call that finding peace, others define it as being rich, while others seek fame. The specifics that lead to happiness may differ, but at the end of the day, it’s what everyone is after. And there are some common factors that contribute to a solid foundation for happiness across the board, such as good health, safety, family/friends, financial security, and so on.

The same can be said for a single customer view (SCV). Even though everyone in Data Management talks about it, everyone seems to have a different definition of what it means. There are, of course, some common foundational elements that always factor into SCV such as accuracy, consistency, and completeness. But based on the specific definitions of various organizations and even departments, what comprises a SCV can differ.

A SCV for a marketing organization may be defined more loosely, meaning even close record matches may be linked together (like “Kevin W McCarthy” and “K. W. McCarthy”). But for an accounting or regulatory department, they may have tighter match rules, meaning the records may almost need to be identical to link them together. The end goal is the same – to have a single, trusted master record for each customer and prospect, made up of the most accurate and most holistic information possible. But as you can see, my SCV and your SCV may not be the same.

Just as you can’t let another person’s definition of happiness decide what happiness looks like for you, don’t let one organization’s—or even another department’s—definition of a golden record decide what it looks like for you. While the standard definition of happiness, like married, steady job, 2.5 kids and a white picket fence, might work for most people, it certainly will not work for everyone. So, don’t worry if your definition of a single customer view doesn’t adhere to the standard. The truth is, even the standard is only a close approximation of what it might look like in each individual instance (show me a family with 2.5 kids). What you need and what works best for you will inevitably differ from what is effective for someone else.

To define your single customer view, consider what information matters most to you—what insight do you need to have to understand your customers and deliver positive customer experiences every time? What data will impact your decision-making? How exact do you need your records? What regulation do you have to comply with? How often do you need to ensure the data is up to date? Do you have all of the information you need, or will you need to append third-party data? The answers to these questions will vary from organization to organization, department to department, and sometimes even person to person.

Ensuring that whatever tools and processes you employ to achieve a SCV provide flexibility and the option of customizing the view depending on what you’re looking for will be an important way to ensure that you can reap the benefits of SCV. Work toward your specific definition, take appropriate steps to get there, and don’t forget that new data is coming in every day, so maintaining your single customer view processes on an ongoing basis is key to your future success!

We use technologies such as cookies to understand how you use our site and to provide a better user experience. This includes personalizing content, using analytics and improving site operations. We may share your information about your use of our site with third parties in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You can change your cookie settings as described here at any time, but parts of our site may not function correctly without them. By continuing to use our site, you agree that we can save cookies on your device, unless you have disabled cookies.
I Accept