UK businesses risk losing customers as they struggle to put the customer at the heart of the business, Experian research reveals


More than half of UK businesses identify people and data as key barriers to implementing an effective single customer view


London 10 July 2012 – Experian, the global information services company, today published research revealing that while 72 per cent of UK companies see the competitive advantage in using data and insight to put the customer at the heart of the business, just 29 per cent have plans to adopt a single customer view (SCV) strategy to make this happen. This is in stark contrast to the fact that 84 per cent of consumers threaten to take their custom elsewhere if they experience poor customer service and engagement.

The study, commissioned by Experian QAS, surveyed 400 UK businesses to better understand how they are harnessing data to implement a single customer view (SCV) strategy, ultimately aiming to drive personalised multi-channel engagement with customers.

The research clearly shows UK businesses have yet to take the necessary steps to develop a SCV despite being aware that this is becoming increasingly crucial in order to remain competitive in today’s business world.  Over two thirds (67 per cent) of organisations claimed that people-related challenges were a barrier to creating a SCV, while over half (52 per cent) cited data itself as an issue.

In addition, 85 per cent of companies reported that they could have avoided specific business problems over the past year with a SCV in place. And a further 58 per cent of organisations polled felt that an effective SCV would help them overcome various business inefficiencies – 38 per cent put this to cost inefficiencies, with nine out of 10 companies believing that they can reduce costs across the business with an effective SCV in place.

Analysis across industry sectors highlights that organisations in utilities and telecoms, leisure and travel, and financial services have experienced more challenges that they felt could have been avoided with a SCV in place than those in business and consumer services, manufacturing, retail, and public sector. Customer complaints and cost inefficiencies are the biggest problems named; with 66 per cent of utilities and telecoms, 58 per cent of leisure and travel, and 55 per cent of financial services citing these as major problems.

Experian QAS also researched 2,000 UK consumers on their attitudes towards businesses and how they interact with them, the findings of which highlight the benefits of having a SCV. Eighty four per cent of consumers surveyed would take their custom elsewhere if they experienced poor customer relations and understanding. On the flip side, nearly half (44 per cent) of happy customers would actively sign up to company communications including loyalty schemes, emails and newsletters and three quarters would respond positively to the engagement.

Joel Curry, Managing Director for Experian QAS, commented: “Though companies say they understand the critical importance of having a complete and holistic view of each and every customer in order to truly be successful in our data-driven world, the reality is that most are still struggling to come to grips with how to use the data effectively. Competition is cutthroat in our current economic landscape and those companies that fail to engage with customers in a way that suits them and that they trust will see those customers take their business elsewhere. There really is no room for error, and there’s only one shot to get it right today.”

While UK businesses are wising up to the benefits of a SCV, only 24 per cent of companies admitted to already having a strategy in place and an alarming 57 per cent have yet to take any action beyond the planning stage for implementing a SCV. The research points to people, data, and process as the primary reasons for this failure, while half of companies surveyed also cited a lack of stakeholder and board-level support and proper planning as reasons.

More than two-thirds of respondents (67 per cent) identified problems related to people within the company when attempting an SCV implementation, from a lack of resources to insufficient testing and project scoping. Fifty two per cent of companies identify data complexity as another barrier – of this, a third say they have too many sources of company data to manage effectively and a further third cite the poor quality of the data. In addition, just under half (44 per cent) of companies surveyed found that processes got in the way, from having developed the wrong implementation process (17 per cent) to dealing with legacy applications (16 per cent).

“It’s no secret that gaining buy-in from the top down and establishing a company culture that aligns people, data and process in order to properly support a SCV implementation is crucial to the success of it,” continued Curry. “With Gartner suggesting that 50 per cent of all new programmes will fail to meet their business objectives in 2012, having a realistic business plan and step-by-step journey to deliver this plan is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but a necessity. And, when you look at the cold, hard facts where 90 per cent of companies believe that a SCV strategy will help them cut costs and 80 per cent drive sales, planning for and ensuring the proper implementation of a SCV strategy is crucial to the bottom line and success of a business.”