What is Customer 360 and How Can It Help Your Business?

What is Customer 360 and Does Your Small Business Need to Know?

Customer 360 is a business idea dealing with how SMBs (Small and Medium sized Businesses) understand their target markets. Generally, it’s all about putting together customer data so you can reach out to them effectively.

What is Customer 360?

Small Business Trends talked with Brent Leary Co-founder and Partner of CRM Essentials. He supplied an overview of why this is important to your SMB success.

“It seems like the idea has been around forever,” he says. “It’s like the Holy Grail of business. It’s about collecting data to find out everything that you can about a customer.”

The Customer Data Ocean

He says there’s quite a few different tributaries feeding the customer data ocean so you can get insights.

“Customer 360 can start before they’re a customer. You’re looking at things like how they interact with you and what kind of things they’re looking for.”

Then SMBs need to add in other factors including how customers like to be engaged with and what their reactions are to your goods and services. And those are just a few more of the ingredients that go into the mix.

“It includes everything that you need to know about a customer from a sales, marketing and service perspective,” he says.

What is Customer 360 and How Can It Help Your Business?

The Digital Age

Sound like a confusing hodgepodge for a busy entrepreneur? Leary supplies focus and a path forward. There’s lots more information to sort through in the digital age too.

One of the big tools used for Customer 360 is CRM. But early on it was only a place to store contact information.  Now Leary says the cloud and the latest CRM companies like Zoho and Salesforce are front and center.   They are able to help small businesses leverage and makes sense of this information.

“These companies make these applications affordable to use. They take out all the complexity of trying to turn the data into insights,” he says.

What is Customer 360 and How Can It Help Your Business?

The Steps

Leary breaks the process down into steps highlighting how these tools work.  Look for a company that can do all of the following.

“The first thing is being able to find the data,” he says adding it can come from several different sources. These sources include social media, messaging apps and even website activity to name just a few. Statistics and numbers from any one source can give you some insights. The first idea on the road to  Customer 360 is to get all this information in one place.

Get Insights

The next step is to be able to find insights and patterns that you can’t see on your own.

“You also need to get these insights at the right time to make a connection with the customer or prospect,” Leary says. There’s more. After you get insights and make connections you need to analyze them to see what works and what doesn’t.

If that sounds confusing it shouldn’t. He isn’t suggesting small business owners go it alone. For one thing, you can use automation to pull all the information together in one central place. Here’s some tools that you can use.

Leary supplies a good tip when you’re trying to sort through all of your options here.

“You can set up your profile with some of these and they’ll start adding information about the folks that are already in your system,” he says.   “These tools are out there to make the process of data entry easier.”

You’re building a Customer 360 foundation when you’re integrating data into your CRM system. But there are other new innovations you can’t afford to ignore. The latest digital tools that point you to customers most likely to buy.

How Artificial Intelligence Fits In

“Over the last couple of years, you’ve been hearing a lot about AI and Machine Learning,” Leary says. He adds this is the latest piece of the puzzle and one you can’t do without.  “AI and Machine Learning analyze the data in a way the human brain just can’t.”

These systems can take huge amounts of data and continually analyze it for the insights your SMB needs. One of the best things is the system is continually working for you. You tell them what works and what doesn’t and Machine Learning builds on that.

He also stresses that these new digital ‘brains’ aren’t really a threat. They free us up to build customer relationships based on the analytics they provide. To do what we’re best at—the human part.

“Artificial intelligence might provide the insight,” Leary says, “but we take that insight and deliver it in a human way to a potential customer. That’s the whole Customer 360 thing.”

Enhancing Customer Engagement

In addition to the concept of Customer 360, small businesses can benefit from strategies and technologies that focus on enhancing customer engagement. This involves creating meaningful interactions and relationships with customers to drive loyalty and sales. Here are some key considerations and tactics for boosting customer engagement:

  • Personalization: Tailor your interactions and communication to the specific needs and preferences of individual customers. Use data collected through Customer 360 efforts to offer personalized product recommendations, discounts, or content.
  • Multi-Channel Engagement: Engage with customers through various channels, including social media, email, chat, and phone. Ensure consistency in your messaging and branding across these channels.
  • Feedback and Surveys: Collect feedback from customers regularly. Use surveys, feedback forms, or online reviews to understand their opinions and areas for improvement. Act on this feedback to show that you value their input.
  • Customer Support: Provide excellent customer support. Respond promptly to inquiries and resolve issues efficiently. Consider implementing chatbots or automated support systems to handle common queries.
  • Content Marketing: Create valuable and informative content that addresses your customers’ pain points and interests. This can include blog posts, videos, webinars, or downloadable resources.
  • Loyalty Programs: Implement loyalty programs that reward repeat customers. Offer incentives such as discounts, exclusive access, or rewards points to encourage continued engagement.
  • Community Building: Foster a sense of community among your customers. Encourage them to connect with each other through forums, social media groups, or events related to your products or services.
  • Email Marketing: Utilize email marketing campaigns to keep customers informed about new products, promotions, and company updates. Segment your email list to send targeted messages.
  • Data Analytics: Continually analyze customer data to identify trends and behaviors. Use this information to refine your engagement strategies and make data-driven decisions.
  • Mobile Optimization: Ensure your website and communication channels are mobile-friendly. Many customers engage with businesses through smartphones and tablets.
  • Embrace Automation: Invest in marketing automation tools to streamline repetitive tasks and nurture leads. Automation can help you maintain consistent engagement even when resources are limited.
  • Social Responsibility: Show your commitment to social and environmental causes. Many customers appreciate businesses that support positive initiatives, which can enhance their perception of your brand.
PersonalizationTailor interactions and communication to individual customer needs and preferences.
Multi-Channel EngagementEngage customers through various channels like social media, email, chat, and phone while maintaining consistency.
Feedback and SurveysCollect and act on customer feedback through surveys, forms, and online reviews.
Customer SupportProvide prompt and efficient customer support, potentially using chatbots or automated systems.
Content MarketingCreate valuable content addressing customer pain points and interests, such as blog posts, videos, and webinars.
Loyalty ProgramsImplement programs rewarding repeat customers with incentives like discounts and exclusive access.
Community BuildingFoster a sense of community among customers through forums, social groups, and related events.
Email MarketingUtilize email campaigns to inform customers about new products, promotions, and updates with targeted messages.
Data AnalyticsContinuously analyze customer data to identify trends and behaviors for data-driven decision-making.
Mobile OptimizationEnsure mobile-friendly websites and channels, as many customers engage through smartphones and tablets.
Embrace AutomationInvest in marketing automation tools for streamlined tasks and consistent engagement, even with limited resources.
Social ResponsibilityShowcase commitment to social and environmental causes, enhancing your brand's perception.

What is Customer 360 and How Can It Help Your Business?

Data Security and Compliance

While the collection and utilization of customer data are essential for Customer 360 and effective engagement, it’s equally crucial for small businesses to prioritize data security and compliance with privacy regulations. Protecting customer information not only builds trust but also safeguards your business from potential legal and reputational risks. Here are key considerations in this regard:

  • Data Encryption: Implement strong encryption protocols to protect customer data both in transit and at rest. This ensures that sensitive information remains confidential, even in the event of a security breach.
  • Access Controls: Restrict access to customer data on a need-to-know basis. Only authorized personnel should have access to sensitive information, and their permissions should be regularly reviewed and updated.
  • Data Backup and Recovery: Maintain regular data backups to prevent data loss due to system failures or cyberattacks. Establish a robust recovery plan to minimize downtime in case of a data breach.
  • Privacy Policies: Clearly communicate your data handling practices to customers through privacy policies. Ensure that customers are informed about how their data is used, and obtain their consent for data collection when necessary.
  • Compliance with Regulations: Stay informed about data protection regulations applicable to your industry and location. GDPR, CCPA, and other regional laws may impose specific requirements on data handling and disclosure.
  • Employee Training: Train your employees on data security best practices. Human error is a common cause of data breaches, so educating your staff can significantly reduce risks.
  • Vendor Security: If you use third-party vendors or cloud services, ensure they have robust security measures in place and comply with relevant data protection regulations. Review contracts to clarify data ownership and responsibilities.
  • Incident Response Plan: Develop a comprehensive incident response plan to address data breaches promptly and effectively. This should include steps for notifying affected customers and relevant authorities as required by law.
  • Customer Data Portability: Be prepared to provide customers with their data upon request. Many privacy regulations grant individuals the right to access and transfer their data, so have processes in place to facilitate this.
  • Regular Audits: Conduct regular security audits and assessments to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in your data protection measures. Address any issues promptly to maintain data integrity.
Data EncryptionImplement strong encryption protocols to protect customer data during transmission and while at rest.
Access ControlsRestrict access to customer data, allowing only authorized personnel to view sensitive information.
Data Backup and RecoveryMaintain regular data backups to prevent data loss and establish a recovery plan to minimize downtime.
Privacy PoliciesClearly communicate data handling practices to customers through privacy policies, ensuring transparency.
Compliance with RegulationsStay informed about data protection regulations applicable to your industry and location and comply with them.
Employee TrainingTrain employees on data security best practices to reduce the risk of human error leading to data breaches.
Vendor SecurityEnsure third-party vendors and cloud services have robust security measures and comply with data regulations.
Incident Response PlanDevelop a comprehensive plan to address data breaches promptly, including customer and authority notifications.
Customer Data PortabilityBe prepared to provide customers with their data upon request, in line with privacy regulations.
Regular AuditsConduct periodic security audits to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses and promptly address them.

Implementing Customer Segmentation in Customer 360

Understanding Customer Segmentation: Customer segmentation involves dividing your customer base into distinct groups based on common characteristics. Implementing this within a Customer 360 approach allows for more targeted and effective marketing strategies.

Benefits of Customer Segmentation:

  • Personalized Marketing: Tailor marketing efforts to specific segments, improving engagement and response rates.
  • Product Development: Develop products and services that better meet the needs of specific customer groups.
  • Resource Allocation: Allocate resources more efficiently by focusing on the most profitable customer segments.

Leveraging Predictive Analytics in Customer 360

Enhancing Decision Making: Predictive analytics use historical data to predict future trends and behaviors. Integrating this into your Customer 360 strategy can enhance decision-making by anticipating customer needs and market changes.

Applications of Predictive Analytics:

  • Sales Forecasting: Predict future sales trends and adjust strategies accordingly.
  • Customer Lifetime Value Prediction: Identify high-value customers and focus retention efforts on them.
  • Churn Prediction: Identify at-risk customers and implement strategies to retain them.

Integrating CRM and Customer 360

Enhancing Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Integrating CRM systems with Customer 360 provides a holistic view of customer interactions across all touchpoints. This integration helps in delivering a consistent and personalized customer experience.

Key Aspects of CRM and Customer 360 Integration:

  • Data Consolidation: Combine data from various sources for a complete view of each customer.
  • Real-Time Data Access: Enable real-time access to customer data for immediate and relevant interactions.
  • Automated Workflows: Automate marketing, sales, and service workflows based on customer data insights.

Understanding the Role of Data Quality in Customer 360

Ensuring Data Accuracy: The effectiveness of a Customer 360 approach is highly dependent on the quality of the data collected. Ensuring data accuracy and consistency is vital for reliable insights and decision-making.

Strategies for Maintaining Data Quality:

  • Regular Data Cleaning: Regularly clean data to remove duplicates and correct inaccuracies.
  • Data Validation Processes: Implement validation processes to ensure data accuracy at the point of entry.
  • Consistent Data Standards: Establish and maintain consistent data standards across the organization.

Exploring the Future of Customer 360

Emerging Trends and Technologies: Stay informed about emerging trends and technologies that can enhance the Customer 360 approach, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Adapting to Changing Customer Behaviors: Continuously adapt your Customer 360 strategy to align with changing customer behaviors and preferences, ensuring that your business remains relevant and competitive.

What is Customer 360 and How Can It Help Your Business?

Conclusion: Mastering Customer Engagement with Customer 360

  • Empowering Insights: The Customer 360 approach equips small businesses with a robust framework to deeply understand and engage with their customers. Gathering diverse customer data provides valuable insights into customer behaviors, preferences, and needs.
  • Leveraging Technology: Modern CRM systems, along with cutting-edge technologies like AI and machine learning, turn this data into actionable strategies. These strategies are crucial for enhancing customer satisfaction and building loyalty.
  • Beyond Data Analysis: Achieving Customer 360 is more than just data collection and analysis. It’s equally important for businesses to focus on customer engagement. Personalization, multi-channel communication, top-notch customer support, and building a community are pivotal for fostering deeper customer relationships.
  • Competitive Edge in the Digital World: In today’s digital era, where customers are spoilt for choice, combining Customer 360 with effective engagement strategies is key. This blend of technology and a personal touch helps businesses not just understand but also cater to the unique needs and expectations of their customers.
  • Driving Growth and Loyalty: By adopting this comprehensive approach to customer management, small businesses can enhance growth and foster loyalty. This strategy is essential for standing out in a competitive market.
  • Holistic Business Strategy: Incorporating Customer 360 into your business model means embracing customer segmentation, predictive analytics, and CRM integration while ensuring data quality. This approach ensures personalized customer experiences that align with their changing needs.
  • Adapting to Market Changes: Keeping abreast of market trends and adapting strategies accordingly is crucial for businesses to remain agile and customer-focused. This continuous adaptation is vital for thriving in a dynamic market landscape.

Image: Depositphotos.com

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Rob Starr Rob Starr is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 7 years. He is a graduate of Ryerson University in Toronto with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. His print credentials include employment with various Toronto area newspapers and three works of fiction: The Apple Lady (2004), Creekwater (2006) and Sophistry By Degrees (2008) published by Stonegarden Press In California.