360 degrees of customer clarity

Structure your approach to manage data.

Doing business with a large organisation can be extremely complicated, unless you have a structured approach to managing your data.

I touched on the need for customer account hierarchies in one of my previous blogs as it’s always such a hot topic of discussion among our colleagues and clients.

A customer account hierarchy refers to the relationship between different parts of a company. At its most basic, it’s a diagram with the HQ or registered office at the top, followed by several tiers of subsidiaries, retail outlets and branches.

This gives you a simple 360-degree view of your customer, providing a better customer service experience, simplified processes, and a more targeted approach to sales.

Let’s use the Acme Corporation as an example to illustrate a customer account hierarchy planned badly and the same one done right.

Six reasons why you absolutely have to develop a Customer Account Hierarchy

Having a single view of customers across an entire organisation can be challenging to put together. Here’s why developing an account hierarchy is worth your time and effort – and some practical steps for getting it done.

  1. It makes it easy to understand the level of spend each of your customers has with you. There’s probably a team in finance who scramble to put this together, so it’ll save time.
  2. You can remind your customers about the services you offer – and when you let them self-serve, they see the correct level of data
  3. It allows you to manage risk – and could even reveal that you are depending too heavily on a particular customer or supplier
  4. You can coordinate the activities of your team worldwide and ensure that you’re offering the best possible experience, not just sales, but service, finance and administration
  5. You can use analytics to identify cross-sell opportunities between your accounts. For example, perhaps you have a product that John Lewis are buying, but House of Fraser aren’t. Cross-sell analytics will help you identify more similar opportunities
  6. It supports customer account segmentation and allows you to assign the customer accounts to be assigned by territory

Four steps you need to take to get it right

  1. Determine the need for and purpose of the hierarchy – is it primarily for sales, marketing or finance? Each will have different requirements – finance will want a strict legal interpretation, sales may require a more operational view. These views may be contradictory, so it is important to accept this and design accordingly. In particular, you must clearly define the meaning of an account
  2. Understand the constraints that the systems place upon you and make changes where possible. It may be necessary to evolve to your target, rather than attempting to deliver the change in one go
  3. Prioritise and deliver based on the 80:20 rule – if your key need is to perform a white space analysis based on total spend across your customer base, then your hierarchy needs to be just good enough to deliver that
  4. Determine the best approach to sourcing data based on 2) – and implement targets and measurements early in the process so you can see progress. Consider crowd sourcing the data from your sales team directly in the system to reduce technical effort, whilst looking at integrating a strategic data source e.g Orbis, D&B/Salesforce data.com etc.
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