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Use CIM as a Tool to Collect More Customer Data

Whether you call it customer centricity or relationship marketing, we are living in the next era of customer relationship management. This era is marked by many companies having a baseline capability to communicate with customers and feeling they have avoided a CRM failure.

However, most would admit their results are not as lofty as originally planned.

Most likely your organization has significant customer-focused short-term goals along with a desire to learn more about core segments. Part of the foundation of your customer marketing plan is solid, secure and reliable customer data upon which to base your customer communication plan.

At the same time, policies and procedures regarding data access, use, sharing and data retention are probably incomplete, or even nonexistent. Yet many companies ignore the crucial need for a customer information management plan.

Customer information management often is defined as the centralized management of all customer information regardless of where the data reside and who owns the data within the enterprise. It is a reasoned strategy for collection and retention of data, the assurance of responsible use of customer data and a unified approach to data quality and integrity. Other components of CIM include the administration of risk management strategies, implementation of standards, policies and procedures as well as the execution of privacy laws and industry standard practices.

CIM involves:

· Developing business rules that direct data use.

· Administrating data and collection policies for all customer touch points.

· Creating and finding new data sources and elements.

· Evangelizing “data respect” at all levels of the organization.

· Coordinating cross-functional policies and procedures.

· Educating new and existing users on the meaning of information.

· Monitoring quality, consistency and completeness of data.

· Developing detailed security requirements.

· Ensuring information is used to its fullest.

· Communicating notification and use policies.

To capture more customer data, your organization needs a centralized process responsible for CIM enabling all divisions in the organization. A sound CIM policy directly affects your ability to collect more customer data. Better data quality allows more accurate matching, leading to more identification of customers, and cleaner data provide more opportunities to match customers – identifying existing unknown customers. Studies have shown that customers of companies that protect their customer data trust the company more, thereby making them more willing to share data.

Having a CIM process is important because customer-focused initiatives depend on reliable customer data. The new level of business sophistication creates a dependence on and expectation of sound customer data. Given your organization’s large investment in building the customer capability and the future plans based upon the existing customer base, CIM is essential for effective collection of additional data and is necessary to execute privacy initiatives. Legislation also will mandate some changes in the way we do things.

With a sound CIM process in place, your organization can increase revenue and customer intimacy, leading to higher loyalty and retention. Without a sound CIM policy, your company risks eroding credibility with customers as well as an inability to identify or fully recognize best customers. Creating a public relations fiasco similar to those of ChoicePoint or Bank of America could be costly to your brand.

One challenge many companies face is that data collection is done largely without the consent of the customer, which increases the potential rejection of your relationship from the customer. Also, business units beyond marketing are not fully aware of available customer information and potential applications of customer data. To address these issues, your company should:

• Dedicate resources responsible for creating a vision for customer identification opportunities.

· Execute a short- and long-term strategy for data collection, use, retention, quality and integrity.

· Assign a position accountable for ongoing management of responsible use of customer information assets.

· Create a strategy, application and management of a comprehensive information risk management plan.

Begin this process now because of the tremendous demands of running and transforming the business. The existing business requires dedicated full-time resources that let business experts focus on current marketing tasks. Marketing needs to stay focused on the customer. Be proactive in addressing your firm’s CIM needs because a reactionary mode exposes it to an ill-advised level of risk.

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