It’s no secret that customers want a connected, on-demand experience—but companies often fall short of delivering on those expectations.
According to the Consumer Connectivity Insights 2018 report, 81 percent of consumers are frustrated with what they perceive to be a disconnected experience, and more than two-thirds of consumers say a disconnected experience would make them consider switching service providers.
Part of this may be because 65 percent of consumers also want to interact with companies via messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, but a large part of the disconnected experience is because companies don’t have a 360-degree view of the customer.
The research found that less than 10 percent of companies have a 360-degree view of the customer. They only have access to a fraction of customer information in real-time, which not only hampers customer service levels but also makes it challenging to create personalized Web and mobile interfaces, applications and other tailored experiences for their customers.
However, organizations often face challenges when attempting a 360-degree view of the customer, usually due to their current IT architecture. Manual aggregation is too time-consuming and doesn’t deliver data in real-time. The data changes quickly, making it difficult to process in a timely fashion. Their static data lakes are not flexible enough to allow companies to get the most from their data, and integrations can be complex and brittle due to the number of disparate systems and the data silos they create.
Issues with Data Management processes add to the challenges. Companies often have customer information scattered across a variety of systems, where names and addresses differ, identifying features may be absent, outdated information persists, information is entered and organized inconsistently, and more. Companies must improve Data Management and data quality processes to achieve a 360-degree view. We’ll explore these issues and how companies are addressing them in a later post, but will stay focused on integration in this one.
What APIs Offer That Other Integration Methods Don’t
While there are several ways to aggregate customer data to gain a 360-degree view of the customer, these are often inefficient and fail to deliver the desired results. Manual processing—like pulling Excel extracts and attempting to consolidate into a single spreadsheet—takes time and can introduce errors to the data. Furthermore, consistent data management rules often are not applied.
Building custom code for point-to-point integrations also takes time, and it creates fragile interdependencies between systems that can easily break when something is updated. Developers will need to spend entirely too much time re-coding to keep up with these integrations and changes to the systems. Finally, pulling data into one system is often too slow to provide valuable insights.
In addition to improving customer data management processes and tools, APIs and API Management platforms can play a critical role in achieving an effective 360-degree view of the customer. These provide many essential capabilities:
- Connectivity. System APIs can connect and subscribe to a wide variety of systems, services and data sources where customer data resides—including data lakes, CRM, ERP systems, MDM, and analytics—without brittle point-to-point integrations. Exposing this data through APIs enables data consumers to access a controlled set of data at the appropriate level of access, without relying on IT to reproduce the code for every request.
- Orchestration: Process APIs orchestrate information across systems. For example, they can validate master data, query data to roll it up across multiple sources, and execute actions, such as moving along a business process or migrating customer data from one system to another.
- Real-time delivery. Experience APIs deliver the data output in a way that is consumable by its intended audience. Data delivery must be event-based and performed at high volume, and companies need visibility into the successful delivery and processing of data (and also when it’s not working). This data also needs to trigger actions, such as a chatbot returning an answer to a customer’s query. APIs can use business logic to provide recommendations and trigger actions like these.
- Built-in security and governance. There’s a delicate balance between opening up data silos and making sure data is accessed and consumed by only authorized users. The information security team will want to control and standardize how data is managed without compromising business needs. An API Management solution can provide access control and governance so that business users are getting the customer data they need while the data is still secured.
- Change management. Think about the last time you had to introduce a new system to the IT stack. Now imagine having to re-code a connector for a point-to-point integration—every time this is done, or every time a system is upgraded. Customer information needs will change constantly and new data services will be introduced frequently. APIs enable companies to decouple the applications and data and allow them to swap or add new systems to the mix easily—regardless of whether they’re in the cloud or on-premises.
- Operational alignment. API Management solutions allow enterprises to operationalize their data and provide a centralized way for data consumers to access it before building new code. They help create reusable, discoverable assets that provide visibility into customer data assets. This also allows businesses to open up some customer data to business partners without exposing all the data.
- Accuracy and consistency: With the right tools, APIs can be easy to build, manage, and consume. They’re reusable, so an API created for one system to pull customer data can be used for another with only a few small tweaks. Each API is developed for a specific role: unlocking data, funneling data into processes, or creating a customer experience. In practice, this leads to greater data accuracy, as well as the ability to use data in real-time to make decisions or personalize the customer experience.
Because the data is available to the appropriate systems and connected with something that does not break if the system is updated, customers can receive a consistent experience across channels. The customer service representative on the phone will have the same data as the customer portal, for example. Or the store associate can see the same order information that is in the customer’s mobile app.
If you’re ready to fully leverage the data in your systems and want a 360-degree view of your customers, then leveraging APIs should be part of your plan. Learn more about what APIs can do to unlock your data, trigger actions, and create a consistent customer experience by visiting the 360 degree customer view with APIs page on our site, and downloading the white paper below.
As always, if you need assistance with your current customer 360 initiative—whether you need help with APIs or improving customer data management, please feel free to contact us. Our experienced team will be happy to help.
About the Author
Lori Angalich is the VP of Marketing at Lightwell. She loves exploring new technologies and business models, learning how things work, solving problems, and developing new ideas with others. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and an MBA in Marketing, and she enjoys applying her knowledge from both each and every day. Lori has a passion for travel, art, wine, music, wildlife (including her two dogs, who are a bit on the "wild side"), and most of all, creating great memories with her family.