Customer 360 vs CRM

Finding the Best Way to Create a Compelling Customer Experience

Last Published: Sep 12, 2023 |
Monica Mullen
Monica Mullen

Director, Product Marketing 

In today's world, customers have more ways than ever to communicate with businesses. From social media to email to chatbots, the options are endless. As a result, it's become increasingly important for companies to provide exceptional customer experiences across all channels. After all, a single negative interaction can turn a potential customer away.[1]

So how can companies find a way to access, connect, analyze and act on each customer touchpoint — from first contact to final sale? Successful organizations want to find a way to better understand their customers. Often, that means they implement a customer 360 or a customer relationship management (CRM) solution.

Understanding the Role of Customer 360 vs. CRM Tools

What Is a Customer 360 Tool?

When companies say they want a 360-degree view of the customer, what do they mean? A customer 360 solution offers a way to collect information about every touchpoint for their customer. A customer 360 view can centralize and automate the information about virtually every click or call, order or return, email, social media post, chat discussion, NPS score or customer satisfaction survey. Companies can then use this information to create a complete view of that customer.

Put another way, a customer 360 solution provides companies with a way of looking across all these channels and stitching this information together intelligently and in real time.

But what can you do with that information? This is where many turn to a customer relationship management (CRM) solution.

What Is a CRM Tool?

Customer relationship management (CRM) solutions help you manage what you know about customers. They collect data about how you interact with customers to optimize marketing, drive sales and improve customer support.

Initially, in the 1990s, organizations used CRMs to keep track of information about their known customers. Today, CRM solutions are mature technology. Organizations now use CRMs to manage customer relationships within each business function. CRM solutions improve the customer experience by providing a system of record for customer transactions. This enables organizations to tackle inefficient sales and service activities, manage customer opportunities centrally and provide executive visibility.

Companies can use data within a CRM solution to make sales and service conversations more relevant. They can also analyze it to develop account-based strategies and reporting. For example, CRM for sales teams provides contact management, sales management, productivity and more. Marketing departments use CRM solutions to create and manage customer relationships and campaigns. This gives sales and marketing a better view of leads, prospects and account relationships. This information lets you:

  • Close opportunities faster
  • Understand which sales and marketing activities are most successful
  • Manage contacts and interactions
  • Align the right resources to markets and territories
  • Create and target engaging communications to turn prospects into customers
  • Reach key decision-makers quickly

CRM systems are suitable for capturing and managing customer sales and service data. They provide a point-in-time snapshot into customer sales, marketing and service interactions and a window into opportunities. CRMs also help service teams with customer success initiatives by supporting workflows, service level agreements (SLAs) and service tickets when issues arise.

Drawbacks and Considerations of a CRM

However, CRM solutions still have several limitations, especially when it comes to developing deeper customer insights and relationships. Typical issues with CRM include:

  • The customer journey, from awareness to lead to prospect to customer, remains disconnected organizationally and can be difficult to map or understand.
  • Interaction histories are fragmented and often scattered across multiple systems.
  • Decentralized or functional-specific rules, logic and analytics result in conflicting experiences for customers.
  • Multi-channel experiences need more personalization and consistency.
  • The systems are not designed to manage or govern data, and the quality of the data in CRM systems erodes over time. This creates a need for more trust in data accuracy and relevance.

Comparing Customer 360 vs. CRM Solutions

When evaluating CRM and customer 360 solutions, you need first to determine where your organization is in its digital transformation and your level of focus on customer experience. Here are four ways to summarize the differences between these customer-focused solutions.

  1. CRM is a departmental solution that helps you manage what you already know about the customer. A Customer 360 offers a way to organize customer information so that everyone in the enterprise can better understand the customer.
  2. CRM is operational — it collects data about how you interact with customers to optimize marketing, drive sales and improve customer support. A customer 360 uses data to reveal how customers behave across all transactions and interactions, channel experiences, sales conversations, service calls and so on. These revelations provide insights that lead to greater customer centricity and a better customer experience.
  3. CRM is a front-office system of record with limited support for customer engagement; a customer 360 can be used to drive engagement at scale.
  4. CRM anticipates that data will begin and remain “clean.” A customer 360 can incorporate a data management layer to unify and cleanse data dynamically.

Benefits of a Unified Customer View

A single view of accurate customer data is vital to understanding your customer. You want to be able to follow your customers on their end-to-end customer journey. Intelligent data helps you understand every step of the customer lifecycle and make improvements in your:

  • Customer profiles
  • Micro-segments
  • Acquisition and conversion metrics
  • Predictions for the next-best offer, action or experience
  • Churn and retention analytics

customer 360 use cases

Figure 1. A customer 360 prevents data silos and drives cross-functional collaboration.

How a Customer 360 Solution Can Help Create a Better Customer Experience

Creating a data-driven customer experience means using relevant and trusted data to develop an intelligent 360-degree view of your customer. With 88% of customers saying that customer experience is as essential as a company’s products or services, you must have a single, enterprise-wide view of your customer to succeed.[2]

You can deliver this information to the teams that need it, where they need it, in their systems, channels and functions. To create an even more robust view of your customer, you can apply matching algorithms that mimic an expert human user to add real-time information to existing customer profiles — such as social, email, click stream, chat, analytics or survey data.

This additional transaction, interaction and behavioral data offers an even richer, more complete understanding of your customer and gives you better insights to create the next best experience.

A 360-degree view of your customer can be a powerful tool for many teams in the organization. Marketing, sales, service and other teams that impact customer processes can use a customer 360 to:

  • Quickly onboard customers and streamline information collection and sharing across channels, groups and lines of business
  • Increase customer engagement by delivering personalized, targeted communications relevant to customer needs
  • Share and use customer information from a single source of truth
  • Make the right data available at the right time to the right people
  • Automate and streamline business processes
  • Eliminate conflicting versions of the same data
  • Address data privacy concerns and enhance compliance with regulations such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
  • Deliver deep and broad data intelligence
  • Easily track and understand business-critical KPIs

Real-world Use Cases and Success Stories for Customer 360

By delivering visibility throughout the customer lifecycle, a customer 360 can help companies better understand customer behavior to provide convenient, consistent, personalized and relevant experiences that keep customers engaged and focused. Let’s look at a few examples of how companies can leverage their customer data to sharpen their competitive edge and add value to their business.

Gaining Omnichannel Traction with 35 Million Customers

To deliver a seamless customer experience, Discount Tires wanted to make sure they knew who their customers were, no matter which store or channel the customer used. They consolidated over 70 million customer records and provided a single view of customers across multiple point of sale, ERP and e-commerce systems.

More Relevant Matches and Greater Satisfaction Drives Targeted Sales

Kelly Services, one of the world’s best-known staffing companies, has two types of customers: companies with job openings and individuals looking for work. Using a data platform focused on customer data, Kelly Services extracts data from resumes, emails, job descriptions and video interviews to create rich and accurate profiles of both jobseekers and open positions. Those, in turn, lead to faster, more relevant matches between talent and opportunity and, ultimately, greater satisfaction for both groups.

Get to Know Your Customers Better

Want to make it faster and easier for your company to gain value from your customer data and meet customers' evolving expectations? A single, actionable, 360-degree view can help. An enterprise customer data strategy supported by an intelligent data management cloud can help you create personalized experiences that will grow mindshare, build loyalty and achieve more.

Additional Resources

Ready to learn more about how a trusted, 360-degree view of your customer can help you deliver personalized and relevant experiences? Here are some resources to get you started:

[1]Salesforce, State of the Connected Customer, Fifth Edition


First Published: Sep 13, 2023