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Why single view of the customer is a myth in India?

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When I came back to India for good, I choose to settle down in Bangalore. One of the first things I did was to get a mobile connection and the service provider I choose was Air Tel.

Now I have been an Airtel customer for 10 years and I am sure they had all my records in their database, but still I had to fill the forms once again as a new customer. But the surprising thing was that once they sold me the mobile connection Airtel never bothered to ask me if I needed broadband, landline or DTH.

As I was just setting up my house in Bangalore, I was looking out for them as well. But Airtel missed a big opportunity to get more of my wallet share and hence loss in revenue. The gain in both cases was Tata.

Single view of the customer was the problem in this case. I am sure the mobility arm had never shared my data with the internet arm, DTH arm as well as the fixed line arm. But I am surprised that if Airtel is in such shape I wonder how the other firms would be.

hand-magnifying-glass-001

The single view of the customer is intended to provide the corporation with an opportunity to cross sell all its products and services. The net result is that it lowers the cost of sale and ensures that the customer is sold the entire portfolio.

The most important requirement to have a single view of the customer is a very robust database, a good CRM and insightful analytics running on top of it.

Let me give you an example, As I took the mobile connection, the sales person had to just ask me if I was new to Bangalore and check that box, as this data is fed into the database, the CRM should be able to pick that up that customer “Vikram” has just moved into Bangalore. The analytics reports should immediately flag that as a potential cross sell opportunity and flag it to the other arms namely DTH and Internet.

I am sure that a firm like Airtel has all these but why did they not do this, seems like common sense, isn’t it? These are some of the reasons why such a opportunity is lost every time a customer walks into the store.

  1. Lack of clarity on the customer requirements- Often sellers are not aware of what value the customer is seeking when he is walking into the store. For example thought I was sold a mobile connection, my need was for communication which would also involve, broadband, Cable TV and fixed line.
  2. A narrow view of the business- Again most sellers and marketers have a narrow view of the business. For example what is the business the firm is in. In Airtel’s case they are in the communication business. Selling only mobile connections narrows down the opportunity that presents itself.
  3. Investment in technology – Capturing the single view of the customer requires investment in technology. It requires a CRM and a Analytics solution. Mostly firms in India are happy with Excel. As a matter of fact I found out that a major consulting firm still uses Excel based client lists and did not have a CRM.
  4. Training – Sales and marketing has to be trained to identify opportunities for cross sell, but most hit the filed with just some words of advice and a cup of tea. Hence this is another big challenge.

But I would like to listen to your stories, when have you felt let down by such a gap. Is single view of the customer a myth? Or do you think there are some good case studies on that.

Would love to hear your views on the same.

  1. Dr Vikram says

    Hi Abhishek

    I think that is a good point. It is very important that we understand that data collected has to be acted upon.

    Thanks

    Vikram

  2. Abhishek Upadhyay says

    Hello Dr Vikram,

    This is indeed a good article and something which companies should be looking at. However, I dot think it is as easy to implement as it sounds. For example, when I called HDFC customer care a few months ago, looking for information pertaining to home loan, they provided me the basic information and promised to arrange a call back in 24 hours. That call back didn’t came within 24 hours, I waited for them and eventually started to feel that perhaps HDFC may not be really interested in selling their products. The point here is that just capturing the information is not the only important thing, HDFC must have captured my information when I called them, but the corresponding prompt follow up is more important. So in a real world the organizations should be looking at cross selling, using the same agent to sell different products rather than departmentalizing them and passing the information for someone else to follow, as per his time lines. Your thoughts please….

  3. Abhishek Upadhyay says

    Hello Dr Vikram,

    This is indeed a good article and something which companies should be looking at. However, I dot think it is as easy to implement as it sounds. For example, when I called HDFC customer care a few months ago, looking for information pertaining to home loan, they provided me the basic information and promised to arrange a call back in 24 hours. That call back didn’t came within 24 hours, I waited for them and eventually started to feel that perhaps HDFC may not be really interested in selling their products. The point here is that just capturing the information is not the only important thing, HDFC must have captured my information when I called them, but the corresponding prompt follow up is more important. So in a real world the organizations should be looking at cross selling, using the same agent to sell different products rather than departmentalizing them and passing the information for someone else to follow, as per his timelines. Your thoughts please….

  4. Airtel wireless broadband says

    yes i agree it’s like merging the common business units. It should be like the guy who sells he Mobile connection should sell the DTH and broadband.I totally agree, these systems are totally unfriendly and ultimately defeat the purpose of selling.Great point common interdepartmental marketing priorities would really help.

    1. Dr Vikram says

      Its not necessary that the same person has to sell all the services but at least the data could be shared.

  5. Raza says

    This is not only happening in teltcom sector. Even in financial sector they are doing the same mistake.

    1. Dr Vikram says

      Hi Raza

      That is interesting to note as outside the government, Banking is the other sector that spends so much on technology.

  6. Dr Vikram says

    Hi Bhuvan

    Great point common interdepartmental marketing priorities would really help.
    But it is still sad that none work on it.

  7. Bhuvan says

    Nice Article!
    Yes, It is not only about the how and what Enterprise app they use.
    It is about the common marketing department for interconnected products. In customer point of view. From top to bottom. It is like merging the common business units. It should be like the guy who sells he Mobile connection should sell the DTH and broadband Or he should guide customer with referring him to another marketing person.

  8. Ankit Agarwal says

    Great article! Having worked with ERP systems for sometime, I think large enterprises overcomplicate the already *un-user friendly* systems thereby under utilizing the software. Additionally, CRM is largely considered a "luxury" module and the major focus remains on finance, inventory etc. its a shame consumer focus companies like Airtel etc. fail to realize the opportunities of maintaining a good ERP/CRM system. If not for customer satisfaction, there is a huge potential in cross-selling as you rightly pointed out.

    1. Dr Vikram says

      Hi Ankit

      I totally agree, these systems are totally unfriendly and ultimately defeat the purpose of selling.

      Cross sell requires a lot of change management especially in large organizations where departments are silo-ed, difficult to achieve that without a good analytics strategy in place.

  9. Su Khi says

    Great article! (#2). This is not only India but few other countries too (did I say, "developed too"? ).

    There's a problem of this sort in a small (and hence more organised) countries as well. For example – New Zealand. In India it becomes even more difficult as :
    1. There's nothing equivalent to Social Security Number. It becomes difficult when you do not having any common binding among various 'databases'.
    2. There are verity of name formats. Some people do have names in "first-middle-last" format, some believe they don't need a last name.
    3. Addresses are not in standard format (e.g. 10, Brown Street, Wellington 6010). When you have address having words like : near, behind, following, next etc, its just not going to work on the basis of address as well.
    4. Population. For single customer view (which I'm working in this mess, well – sort of) takes a huge data processing. And in a highly populated country like India, this is enormous. Of course, this is something technical and not overly difficult.
    I think, no doubt, having a good ERP helps in having Single Customer View, its not a absolute requirement. The legacy database still can be used. I think its more of a 'Process' than a ERP/database.

    1. Dr Vikram says

      Hi Su

      Great point on the SSN, I think that would make a huge difference. I am wondering if the use of UID (Unique ID program) in India once implemented should address that.

      On the formats and parsing of data, those issues remain in many countires like the US as well. I remember doing some consulting work around that for a large pharmaceutical company in the US.

      But great insight and definitely worth incorporating in the piece, maybe I could do a follow up piece on it in context of social security.

      Thanks

      Dr Vikram

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