Written by Sohaiyla Khalili
Today, automotive brands need to refine and digitize the customer experiences they provide—otherwise they will not be able to maintain long-time loyal customers. But how can it be done?
Imagine if everyone in a vast auto company knew everything about customers’ histories in order to anticipate their unique needs and ultimately improve the customer experience. Think how powerful it would be if the company’s auto retailers and distributors were able to convey information relevant to the customer’s current situation at every turn.
Creating a Unified View of Customers
One of the world’s largest auto manufacturers set out to do just that. In keeping with its keen customer focus, the auto manufacturer embarked on a project to understand and predict the needs of its customers and make each interaction feel cohesive, in turn enhancing customers’ experience with the brand. This goal had to be achieved while maintaining total respect for customers’ privacy and data security.
In addition, the company wanted its customers to have seamless access to their information whenever they used apps, logged into websites, booked services, or visited retail locations, with all customer data synced and updated in real time.
The detailed project goals were clear-cut:
- Have all relevant information about customers when they contact the company
- Ensure that customers and potential customers can contact the organization and access offerings using whatever methods they prefer
- Understand and predict the needs of existing and potential customers in order to offer them the right products and services at the right moment using the right methods of communication; digital or physical
- Learn how to improve products and services on an ongoing basis, based on customer feedback
- Respect customers’ privacy and security expectations, as well as legal requirements, at all times
Taming Fragmented Data
The company knew it needed a data unification platform that would help its national distributors and local retailers provide the best possible service and meet a lofty standard of customer care by recommending services, oil changes, marketing and sales materials, and limited-time offers at just the right time.
The first step in creating the data platform was to identify legacy customer data sources and work through the challenges of how data was collected, managed, and used in the past. The issues loomed large, because incomplete information with varying quality was spread across silos at the company.
For instance, a large portion of the customer information was housed with 30 national marketing and sales companies (NMSCs), each supporting initiatives for retailers and consumers regionally. Some NMSCs used centralized customer databases; others created separate databases for different business functions.
Integration methods varied as well, ranging from none at all to manual integration or external agency outsourcing to master data management (MDM) solutions. While the MDM solutions were effective with small amounts of static data, they could not scale or evolve with the increasing data complexity and volume.
Data fragmentation made it difficult to optimize customer outreach and deterred the effectiveness of marketing and sales innovations such as new apps, demand forecasting, and upselling. Innovating and satisfying the expectations of customers was difficult.
Solving the Data Unification Issue with Machine Learning and Expert Curation
The automobile manufacturer needed an integrated, scalable approach to unifying customer data; one that could use machine learning so the company’s data platform would get smarter with the addition of new information and sources. In addition, the company wanted to find a solution that would allow expert data owners to resolve any questions. Their input would continually improve data accuracy.
The manufacturer deployed a unified data platform in two regions, and quickly began to see the benefits. One country that had pursued manual customer data integration through external agencies in the past was able to bring data unification in-house, creating substantial efficiencies.
Across the region, the automaker has reduced redundant outreach, optimized upsell opportunities, and improved its ability to innovate and meet customer expectations for connected, seamless experiences. The project also resulted in a 40% reduction of duplicative customer records, allowing for an increase in efficiency and business value.
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