Cultivate a 360-Degree View of the Customer

Nature of analytics: Tracking white rhinos and holistically engaging customers

Manager of Portfolio Strategy, IBM

How does the behavior of the white rhinoceros influence the 360-degree view of the customer? Carefully monitoring the behavior of endangered white rhinos and continually tracking their movements across vast landscapes over time helps scientists understand their behavior, energy expenditure, and environmental conditions. By knowing where the animals are, where they’re going, when they’re in danger of crossing paths with poachers, and taking the right action can possibly help avoid hundreds of senseless slaughters.

In the corporate world, customers are constantly under threat from poachers of a sort. Competitors are continually on the hunt to steal their customers. One way to help ensure high customer retention and increase engagement with existing customers is to embark on a project that offers a 360-degree view of the customer.1 The 360-degree view of the customer concept isn’t new. Organizations have always needed to consider any and all sources of data to help them gain a holistic perspective of customer behavior. This outlook includes customer comments, purchase habits and history, and marketing response that optimizes customer interaction and understanding.

However, the exponential sources of data available to help organizations achieve the 360-degree view of the customer have advanced and are changing market conditions. In addition, technologies such as IBM® InfoSphere® Streams streaming data analytics enable organizations to act immediately on an opportunity.2 Today, there are new ways to visualize customer-related data and find hidden gems of insight. Drawing upon the tracking of white rhinos by geospatial positioning using real-time tags, customers in the same way send signals about their preferences all the time. The trick for organizations is to be quick and agile enough to spot them.


Deep customer engagements

The 360-degree view of the customer should be expanded beyond managers looking for insights on customer behavior. Today, this approach provides a way to do business and provide guidance on how to connect with customers. A revolutionary 360-degree view approach is designed for use by everyone involved in customer engagement, including frontline employees. Organizations can connect their customer-facing professionals—employees who directly handle customer service in the call center, in person, or through social media, email, or chat—with important information. This approach makes engaging with customers, developing trusted relationships, solving customer problems, and eventually up-selling and cross-selling the right products easier than ever before. To accomplish these goals, organizations need to be able to zero in on what a particular customer needs, and not spend time searching for information.

For example, rather than focusing on shortening every customer interaction because that is usually the best way to keep costs down, having customer-facing professionals spend time teaching customers how to add value from the products they already own may be appropriate and beneficial. This kind of attention can lay the foundation for expanded business; escalated sales; and deep, lasting relationships. Adopting the 360-degree view of customer initiatives helps organizations realize the following common goals:

  • Understand what customers are saying about the company, its products, and its services
  • Recognize how customers interact with the organization
  • Realize how well companies serve their customers
  • Improve every interaction with access to information and insight-driven recommendations
  • Deepen relationships and stay relevant to the customer

A holistic environment

How can big data technology enable an enhanced understanding of customers? Consider the view provided by the IBM Watson™ Explorer interface (see figure). For the customer, Janet Robertson, there is a combination of structured data from enterprise systems such as customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management (SCM), and order-tracking systems and customer support databases. And these structured data sources are combined with unstructured content from sources such as email, file shares, and content management systems (CMSs). InfoSphere Streams can analyze and correlate real-time data related to customer sentiment or competitive position from social media and other sources, and then send the results—Robertson’s profile—to the appropriate system.

Cultivate a 360-Degree View of the Customer – figure

An IBM Watson Explorer interface–provided 360-degree view of the customer

Suppose this enhanced 360-degree view of the customer is used in a telecommunications scenario. Fueled by rapid adoption in developing countries, mobile communications are driving rapid changes. The rising emergence of smartphones and 3G and 4G networks has resulted in widespread Short Message Service (SMS) usage, cell phone–based Internet access, and escalating wireless phone calls. This influx of data can be overwhelming, but smart telecommunications providers are turning this information into an opportunity to increase their understanding of their clients and marketing strategies in the following ways:

  • Process call data in real time to predict customer churn and fraud. Call detail records (CDRs) and Internet Protocol detail records (IPDRs) can be processed to proactively predict and prevent customer churn and help filter SMS spam and SMS fraud in real time.
  • Implement timely market promotions, and analyze success in real time. Trigger promotions to a selected set of customers within the subscriber list based on a predefined set of business rules. Then determine the success of promotions within minutes, and take necessary corrective actions.
  • Highly utilize costly network assets. Initiate region-specific, real-time marketing promotions to help ensure enhanced utilization of high-cost network infrastructure equipment. Recognize the geospatial location of the callers, and target them effectively.
  • Acquire incremental revenue from new marketing promotions. Provide a platform to run powerful geospatial analytics that establish subscribers’ location patterns, and cross-sell and up-sell additional services and promotions from partner vendors.


Analytics adventures

The nature of analytics today sets a course of adventure for organizations that are ready to take a big data analytics approach to gaining insight for enhanced security, strategy, and customer experience. These organizations realize they need a deep understanding of customer sentiment from both internal and external sources. They also want to increase customer loyalty and satisfaction by understanding what meaningful actions are necessary. But getting the right information to the appropriate employees who can provide customers what they need to solve problems or cross-sell and up-sell products and services to them can be challenging. InfoSphere Streams can play a key role in these adventures by analyzing streaming data for insight into not only swans, codfish, and rhinos, but also security, successful business outcomes, and customer relationships.3

1 Big Data at the Speed of Business, enhanced 360-degree view of the customer,   Cultivate a 360-Degree View of the Customer
2 IBM Stream Computing, stream computing overview,
3 See the other two videos in the Nature of Analytics series, “The Swan of All Fears,” and “I Cod Help Falling in Love.”


• IBM InfoSphere Streams, data sheet.


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