Shari would like to thank Dan Fisher for his contribution to this month's column.

This is the second of two columns on 360-degree insight into customer data. This month, we highlight the importance of capitalizing on what you have learned about your customer and discuss the challenges associated with closing the customer-insight loop.

To gain better customer insight, you must integrate, understand and act on customer data. For example, when a customer rents the movie Grease, information is recorded in the customer record. When the video store uses a marketing campaign to cross-sell music CDs, a mailer offers the customer the Grease soundtrack; and the customer buys the CD. If this information is also fed back into the customer record, the video store may assume this customer is receptive to music offers and/or has an interest in items from the '70s. More importantly, they know this is a profitable customer they want to continue to serve. Closing the loop enables you to know more about your customers and act more in-tune with their needs.

Functionally, closing the loop is logical. Future decisions, strategic changes and customer interactions are affected as a result of customer analytics. Technically, however, capturing new data transactions or editing business rules may prove challenging, especially with customer data. To address some of these challenges, we often recommend a review of data governance within an organization. Data governance brings people together across the organization – both business and IT data users –­ to set and promote a data warehouse strategy. This strategy involves developing business and process rules; identifying data definitions; avoiding data duplication/redundancy; and determining standards for data capture, storage and distribution.

The examples in Figure 1 are common, but not all- inclusive, challenges for closing the customer data loop, implications of not addressing these issues and some recommended data governance tactics. Regardless of the issues you encounter in closing your customer loop, data governance is a strategy you can use to build consensus among stakeholders and decision-makers on customer data standards.

Figure 1: Common Challenges for Closing the Customer Data Loop

Customers are the lifeblood of every organization and an integrated view of the customer, based on a solid data governance strategy, is critical to 360-degree insight.

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