Customer Data Management: Key Considerations & Best Practices

As the amount of data we produce online explodes, so do the opportunities for organizations to use that data to create better experiences that help increase revenue and strengthen customer relationships.

But unlocking these benefits requires more than just collecting customer data. Using that data properly to achieve the desired results requires sound customer data management.

What is Customer Data Management?

Customer data management involves collecting, storing, and using customer data to drive increased sales, customer retention, and better customer experiences.

Proper customer data management is essential to success in today’s data-driven world. But what exactly does that entail? Here’s what you need to know.

6 Considerations for Best Practice Customer Data Management

A lot goes into getting customer data management right. Starting with these six areas of consideration can help you develop a best practice customer data management strategy from the ground up.

1) Organizational Ownership

First, you need to determine which internal team (or individual) will “own” customer data. This team or person will be responsible for every consideration that follows. While they will certainly work with others along the way, they are the ones ultimately accountable for the data.

So who exactly should have responsibility over customer data? We hear this question a lot, and the answers have begun to evolve. Traditionally, ownership of customer data falls on a team like Marketing, Sales, or Customer Success. But recently we have seen some new roles surface to take the lead on managing customer data within the organization. Those roles include Marketing Operations, Growth, Data Operations, and Data Engineering.

With all these options, there’s no right or wrong answer for who should own customer data; it really depends on your company’s internal resources and staffing goals. The most important thing is that someone does own the data, because if “everyone” owns it, then no one ends up taking real responsibility for it.

LinkedIn Thread - Data Quality Responsibility

2) Data Types

Next, you need to decide which types of customer data your organization will collect. Typically this should cover identity data and attribute data (who they are) as well as behavioral data (what actions they took).

A sample list of customer data types to collect often looks something like this:

Identity & Attribute Data

  • Customer name
  • Company name
  • Job title
  • Phone number
  • Email address

Behavioral Data

  • Website visits
  • Email opens
  • Email clicks
  • Email replies
  • Social media interactions
  • Mobile app engagement

Taking this step will make you think about not only what data you want to collect, but also the sources from which that data comes. As you do so, it pays to take inventory of the various sources holding the data you want, keeping in mind that some of the data may be stored in places you don’t use every day. In those cases, it’s important to determine how you will get to that data.

3) Data Storage

Once you determine the types of data you’ll collect, you need to decide where that data will be stored. For example, will you keep it separate, across different tools, or unify the data in one central location?

You can make both options work, but centralizing the data in a single place is the best way to keep teams aligned. You can centralize the data using internal resources and data warehouses or by using a customer data platform (CDP), a tool built to unify data sources to create a single customer view.

4) Security and Privacy

As you consider data storage, you also need to ask (and answer) how you plan to meet data privacy and security requirements.

Certain industries, such as financial services and healthcare, face industry-specific considerations. If you’re in one of these highly regulated industries, it’s important to take note of the standards you must meet and make a plan for how you’ll do so.

Regardless of your industry, new privacy laws like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have recently come about. These laws govern how organizations must handle different types of customer data and are designed to protect consumer privacy by giving individuals more control over how their information gets used online. Whichever team owns your customer data should become familiar with these regulations so they can develop a plan for compliance.

5) Data Quality

Getting all the necessary customer data in a good place is one thing. Keeping that data clean and up-to-date over time is another. This type of ongoing data quality effort is often overlooked, but is key to long term success. That’s because without the proper processes and controls in place, your data can quickly become unstable.

So how can you keep your data clean and up-to-date? One of the best places to start is by leading annual or quarterly data refreshes that include data enrichment activities. You can also implement data standardization or validation to aid in these efforts.

6) Activation

Last but certainly not least, you need to figure out what tools within your tech stack will ultimately need the data to power them. Common tools to which organizations generally push customer data for activations include CRM, marketing automation, and sales enablement solutions, as well as dashboards for reporting. The specific activations you plan and, as a result, the tools that need the data will depend on what goals you have and the strategies you put in place to achieve those goals.

If you use a CDP to centralize your data, make sure you implement one that allows you to sync the data out to different tools in addition to pulling in the data. In other words, you want a CDP that has the ability for data to flow both in and out easily.

Get Started with a Best Practice Customer Data Management Program

Customer data management is critical for any organization that plans to use data to better communicate and connect with customers. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take today to get a best practice customer data management program off the ground in your organization.

Starting with the six considerations outlined here will help get your team not only thinking about how to best manage and use customer data, but will also give you a blueprint for introducing the necessary workflows and solutions to do so.

And once you do get started with customer data management, you will be well-positioned to use the data your organization has been collecting for years to drive meaningful business results.

Angela Sun

Angela brings over a decade of B2B technology marketing experience to her role as the Director of Marketing at Hull. Prior to Hull, she spent 5 years at utility data aggregator, Urjanet, where she held various roles in demand generation, marketing operations, and product marketing.