Customer 360: what it is, why it’s important, and common implementation challenges

No matter the industry you’re in or the maturity of your business, you need happy customers to foster sustained growth.

After all, happy customers will—all else equal—spend more on your products and services, refer your business to others, and stay loyal to your organization.

So how can you delight customers over time? Though the answer can take various forms, we’ll explain why a customer 360 is one that can make a significant impact when implemented and utilized effectively.

You might be wondering: “What is a customer 360?” or “Why is it important?” and even “How can I implement it?” You can read on to get each of these questions answered.

What is a customer 360?

A customer 360 is a centralized and comprehensive collection of your customers’ data. This includes the customers’ experiences, both on your platform and with your team members; and it includes background information, like the contact information for specific users.

Building a customer 360 requires integrating all of the apps that contain customer information (e.g. your CRM) with your data warehouse. Once connected, you can build a process where your integration solution ingests the records from these source systems, cleanses them, and then validates and audits them, before loading them into a data warehouse like Snowflake

Once the data lives in the data warehouse, it’s standardized and ready to be leveraged in downstream apps. To that end, you can build data flows where the data moves from the data warehouse to specific downstream systems either in real-time or in batches. 

Deciding between real-time and batch data distribution depends on the nature of the data. For example, once a new lead gets added to a CRM, it’s imperative that the process moves as quickly as possible. This means that once the data is transformed and loaded into a data warehouse, you’d need to push the data back into downstream apps—like your CRM, marketing automation tool, sales engagement platform, etc. Only then, the lead can be nurtured quickly by the appropriate teams. 

An example of the solution architecture for a Customer 360

Why is a customer 360 important?

With this overview in mind, let’s cover a few of the top benefits from having a customer 360.

1. It acts as the single source of truth

By relying on a single version of customer data across your apps—versus multiple versions—, employees no longer have to question which data is accurate and which isn’t.

This should give them all the more confidence in acting on the data, and, therefore, getting more value from it. In addition, since employees across functions are looking at the same set of information, they’re all the more likely to align on the best decisions, both big and small, for customers, prospects, and their organization.

2. It prevents data silos from forming

Data silos, or when information gets locked into a specific app(s), cause all kinds of issues. 

Employees might be unaware of certain data, and therefore operate without it. And in other cases, employees are forced to request access to data, which can take weeks to process (knowing this, employees might not even bother making the request as the expected time delay can diminish the data’s value). In either case, your team’s ability to engage with customers and prospects can get compromised, and in doing so, disappoint everyone involved.

By implementing a customer 360, you can break down data silos and stamp out the negative outcomes it created, as employees can now access the customer data they need within the apps they’re using. 

3. It enables teams to provide more personalized customer experiences

To drive this point home, let’s use an example: Say you include product usage data in your customer 360. Let’s also assume that a particular client is using certain product features while neglecting others.

The dedicated customer success manager can uncover this insight in their CRM, and once they have, they can reach out to the client with messaging around the value that these neglected features provide.

Common challenges in implementing a customer 360

Unfortunately, implementing a functional customer 360 can be difficult when you’re relying on custom code or a traditional integration tool, like an integration platform as a service

Here are a few potential issues to keep in mind:

  • Volume of integrations: Building a comprehensive and valuable customer 360 involves connecting a wide range of apps with your data warehouse. 

However, as only a few employees in IT and engineering have the expertise necessary to build these integrations, their timeline in doing so can get stretched. Moreover, given the diversity of apps they’re integrating, they’ll likely need to work with various business teams throughout the process of building them; this, in and of itself, can lead to bottlenecks and delays in implementation.

A visual breakdown of the applications that different customer-facing teams use.
A look at the applications that different customer-facing teams use.
  • Agility in adopting new apps: Your clients’ needs are constantly evolving.

Responding to these changes involves adopting new apps and leveraging additional types of data quickly and easily; unfortunately, like the previous issue, relying on technical resources to adopt and integrate new apps with your data warehouse can prove unsustainable. These employees simply don’t have the bandwidth to address these requests quickly—and if they do, they’re forced to ignore other business-critical tasks that they’re uniquely equipped to handle.

  • Knowledge of client-specific data and processes: The employees working in customer-facing teams understand clients’ needs, along with the tools and data required to support and engage them, better than anyone else. Leaving them out of the implementation process, therefore, can easily lead to faulty or less-than-optimal integrations and data flows.
  • Eliciting action from teams: Simply having a customer 360 may not be enough to spur meaningful action from your customer-facing teams. And, as a result, it might not drive the ROI you were hoping it would.

Fortunately, there’s a way to address each of these roadblocks. You can read on to learn more.

Related: How data management and data governance differ

How Workato can help you overcome these challenges 

Workato, the leader in enterprise automation, offers a low-code UX that allows customer-facing teams to implement integrations and automations built on triggers—all within a secure environment that’s governed by IT. In addition, the platform offers:

  • Hundreds of pre-built connectors so that builders can implement their customer 360 quickly and maintain it easily 
  • Hundreds of thousands of customizable automation templates (or “recipes”) to help your team implement a wide range of workflow automations between your customer 360 and your downstream systems 
  • Workbot, a platform bot that works in Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Facebook Workplace, and that allows you to bring automations directly to your business comms platform 
  • Features that enable effective and scalable cross-functional collaboration, including roles-based access controls, audit logs, and lifecycle management
To learn how Workato can help your team implement and get the most from your customer 360, you can schedule a demo with one of our automation experts.

About the author
Jon Gitlin Content Strategist @ Workato
Jon Gitlin is the managing editor of The Connector, where you can get the latest news on Workato and uncover tips and frameworks for implementing powerful integrations and automations. In his free time, he loves to run outside, watch soccer (er...football) matches, and explore local restaurants.