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Developing a Single Customer View, CRM and customer insight capability

To have a winning CRM and customer insight capability is to have the ability to unify, analyse and translate customer data into commercial decisions that grow businesses. CRM and customer insight is a capability, which requires a wide variety of skills: data architecture to design a Single Customer View, strategic data management, developing analytical approaches, statistical knowledge, data mining, consumer research, data interpretation and commercial decision-making. In today’s increasingly competitive markets, which serve ever more demanding customers, a strong customer insight capability is a non-negotiable for any business wanting to succeed.

The challenge facing many businesses is how to develop this capability. Should they try and build and deliver it in-house with some consultative support from outside the business. Or bring on board a reliable partner, whom they can outsource elements to. There is a third option: to build the capability purely in-house with no external support. Though few businesses go down such a route, recognising how slow and costly it can be.

Deciding on what approach to take will be dependent on the business, its strategic goals, its culture, its current capabilities and budget. These factors will also change over time.


Developing capability in-house with consultative support

In this approach all activities related to CRM and customer insight take place in house with consultative support from an external expert or team of experts. The main benefits are:

  • Team development and employee engagement. One of the main benefits of keeping the capability in-house, is the opportunity it creates, to grow and develop internal teams. This can empower employees and allow them to learn new skills. However this assumes a focus on the continuous training of internal teams to ensure they professionally develop and do not go stale in their role. So this will often require a visionary Head of Insight with experience in building and getting the most out of CRM and customer insight teams.
  • Independence.  Some businesses prefer to keep their independence and not work with any third party agencies. Other businesses fear that they will be locked in a long-term engagement with a third party provider or that they have to move their customer data outside their firewall. Working with external agencies, which offer flexible ways of working can mitigate this fear.
  • Cost. For businesses with established IT infrastructure, data managers and analysts it can be cheaper. If they are processing and analysing non-customer data (e.g. just transactional data), adding customer data to their remit should not require significant additional investment in capacity.


Who is it most suited for?

This model is most suited to larger organisations that have, or are preparing to invest heavily in developing internal CRM and customer insight capability. The volume of data they generate requires investment in a robust Single Customer View database and reporting technology. They can afford to employee a team of 3 or more people in CRM and insight roles, who can leverage customer data; a Head of Insight and two or more analysts.


Outsourcing to a CRM and customer insight specialist agency

In this approach some activities related to the delivery of CRM and customer insight are outsourced to an external agency. The main benefits of this approach are:

  • Capability. Having experts ‘on tap’, ensures you’ll have access to fresh, innovative thinking around how to leverage customer data commercially. In short, it’s an external CRM and insight agency’s job to be a thought leader in their field of expertise.
  • Continuity. One of the issues of developing the capability in-house occurs when employees leave a business, and take with them IP and expertise. Outsourcing provides continuity and stability, particularly useful for a smaller organisation, which is growing quickly.
  • Cost. For organisations without a CRM and customer insight infrastructure, it can be cheaper to outsource (depending on the outsourced partner you choose) as you avoid the cost of hiring and employing additional staff with the right expertise.
  • Speed. It’s quicker to work with an external company who’ve got experience in delivering CRM and customer insight solutions. Consequently, a return on investment is achieved quicker as improved insight-led decision-making drives incremental sales faster.
  • Objectivity. External specialists know ‘what good looks like’, what you should expect and where you should be in comparison to the market. If they’re good partners, they will be objective in their assessment and tell you what you need to do, rather than what you want to hear.


Who is it most suited for?

This approach is most suitable for companies that are smaller with very ambitious targets and are growing fast.  Such companies recognise the importance of having a CRM and insight capability but won’t necessarily have the infrastructure in place to support it. These companies want to develop a deep and intimate understanding of their customers efficiently and cost-effectively and use it to grow market share.


We are often asked which solution should a business go for. We don’t believe that one solution fits all types of organisation. Whichever option is taken, you need to ensure that the scope and on-going ways of working with external partners are clearly defined. Also, be wary of buying off-the-shelf solutions that will require a lot of man-hours to gain value from and which don’t always deliver what you think they were going to.


Article courtesy of the George Bailey Editorial Team, written by Agata Boczkowska.