Changes are taking place in the utility industry with the roll-out of smart meters, use of Big Data, cloud services, self-service customer portals and mobile devices. All these new channels present a huge opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell to customers. However, the quality of customer service remains a key issue. Privacy, security and ownership of customer data are challenges that the industry faces on a much larger scale now than before. Maintaining data integrity across multiple channels of customer interaction is key.
Wipro's Unified Data Model approach addresses these challenges and here's how. Earlier solutions were dependent on the IT application landscape and the model of customer service. Another level of complexity was added when third party or cloud-based offerings began to be used for customer service. Our solution lies in having a data model based on a ‘Single Source of Truth' concept for each data entity, irrespective of which IT application it comes from and in my view this is what makes it effective. Let us see how this model can address the above mentioned challenges.
First, the privacy aspect - customer data is usually maintained as attributes in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Customer Information Systems (CIS) applications which ensure privacy. When new channels for customer interaction are introduced, it is critical that the source of truth lies in a single place without impacting the performance of the underlying CRM/CIS application. Tools are available which can synchronize the data two ways - between the CRM application and the interacting application, or using event based control. For example, if a cloud based applications used to send an email to an end customer, then the message passes through the common message broker, which validates it against the attributes in the underlying system. This ensures that privacy of customer data is still maintained in the CRM application.
Second, problems with data security have grown exponentially with the introduction of new channels. While some of these problems can be addressed through firewalls and access control, having a common source of truth helps. This implies that business rules are not applied on the channel layer but are rendered as services through the common data model approach. This especially helps when using third party cloud based solutions. The baseline CIS applications don't get exposed to security risks and the risk is handled at the unified data model which serves as the middle layer.
Third, data ownership was traditionally defined by application separation or functional use of data. The boundary lines were well defined. But now, with the proliferation of new channels, fundamental questions arise. Do you have a single marketing function or channel specific marketing function? Does the current marketing team understand the web analytics data being shared with them? The answer is not solution driven but lies in a mix of options such as retraining the staff, ownership based on channel & data type, or creating a new structure. The Unified Data Model provides the framework where in all data integrity rules are applied at a single place.
While customer service is poised for a revamp, it is also important to asses an organization's readiness to address these challenges. The opportunities are huge while risks to privacy and security can be managed. The good news is that there are solutions available and they should be adopted from a long term perspective.
What is your view? Do share your thoughts and experiences.