Right vs. Right Now: Real-Time Data, Security and the Customer Experience

Tara Kelly, President & CEO, SPLICE Software
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Tara Kelly, President & CEO, SPLICE Software

Today’s companies are focused on customer experience excellence as a key differentiation point in a competitive marketplace. To deliver an outstanding customer experience, marketing requires data, which means marketing professionals increasingly need to work closely with their IT counterparts. But to truly succeed, the partnership has to go beyond surface collaboration: marketing and technology executives need a joint strategic vision that addresses data and security.

“Data is a key building block in a customer-centric company and it has to be both real-time and secure”

Mapping the Customer Journey

The first step in creating a joint strategic vision is to understand how data is collected and used at every stage of the customer lifecycle. Companies are collecting data from an ever-expanding number of sources and measuring virtually everything. But not all data and metrics are equal; it’s important to be able to prioritize actions and touchpoints correctly.

Customer journey mapping—creating a visual representation of the process the customer goes through to accomplish a task or complete a transaction from the customer’s perspective—is the key to setting the right priorities. The customer journey mapping exercise yields useful information for both the marketing and IT teams, providing marketing with insights on messaging and giving IT executives an overview of when and how data is collected, processed and used at a granular level.

For example, an insurance company might map out a customer journey involving a subscriber who lives in a connected home. A water sensor alert generates data that flows to the company, which in turn triggers communication with the customer and the customer’s preferred plumber to check out the alert, protecting the customer’s possessions and avoiding a potential loss for the company.

Balancing Real-time Data and the Security Imperative

The customer journey example above illustrates the need to find a balance between real-time data and security. Data used in customer support and communications can include a variety of data types, such as big data, public information and small data gathered from customers-including permissions, up-to-date contact information and individual preferences on communication platforms, preferred vendors and actions,. All of theseareneeded to deliver a truly excellent customer experience.

The customer journey map is an essential resource for IT executives who are looking for ways to improve security. With an accurate visualization of each stage of the customer journey, they can audit every point where data is collected, and applied, to ensure a secure transaction. And it’s likely that at certaintouchpoints, they’ll determine that it makes sense to require additional logins and authentication to protect customer data.

This might be a point of contention with marketers and customers, who want to make the customer journey as frictionless as possible. But CIOs should never apologize for slowing things down when necessary. Every relationship is based on a value exchange, and customers and even marketers are willing to be patient if they understand the reasons behind the additional security measures. Business apps that import Facebook profiles are just one example of how this type of value exchange can work successfully.

Putting Security at the Core of the Systems Architecture

Cloud computing is what makes all of this instantaneous data processing possible, and it gives companies an incredible amount of power. Businesses like insurance companies are choosing cloud providers like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure and building an infrastructure on top using big data processing engines like Spark, Hadoop or SQL, to lower costs and improve scalability as they leave legacy IT systems and business processes behind. But cost and risk management factors are as relevant as ever for all businesses, and that underscores the importance of the partnership between marketing and IT.

The focus on real-time data in delivering a great customer experience will accelerate as more data sources become available and accessible online, including Internet of Things data streams. But to balance real-time data with security, companies need system architects to build the structure and ensure security. They need top-down support with security at the core, not just a layer on top. And everyone involved needs to understand that without the appropriate systems architecture, it doesn’t matter how many data scientists the company hires.

Making Sure “Right Now” is Done the Right Way

Data is a key building block in a customer-centric company and it has to be both real-time and secure. That’s why it’s so important for CIOs and CMOs to work together. A joint strategy that gives equal weight to the application of data to personalize and enhance the customer experience and keeping sensitive information secure isn’t a contradiction—it’s an imperative. When marketing and IT work together to understand all facets of the customer journey, fully leverage big and small data and find the right balance between doing what’s right—right now—they can deliver an exceptional customer experience and gain a key competitive advantage.

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