Badly set up product data can seriously impair your sales efforts, leaving your workforce to feed on scraps of information, damaging customer relations, creating opportunity ‘blind spots’ and leading to mistakes in billing and distribution.
Before we go into some practical steps you can take to solve these problems, let’s meet the people who rely on good customer insights for success.
The product management team need good data to understand how their products are performing and how customers react to changes and updates. They want to be able to manage new product launches and deployment processes more effectively.
Marketers have perhaps the greatest need for product data in your organisation, tapping into buying histories and demographics to personalise their communications, identify unmet needs, and make the most of cross-selling opportunities.
Life is so much easier with an accurate product and price list in your hand. You can match products to customers, identify opportunities, keep a running total, and get discounts approved on the spot. You’re clear which products to push, which legacy products to move away from - and what commission each product attracts!
The team in this part of the process want to know what the sales reps and the customers have agreed, so they can make sure the right product is delivered. Is it a red or a green widget; does it come with installation included?
The finance team are hankering for some good product data too, in order to be able to invoice your customers correctly and categorise your revenue in relation to different products lines, segments and customers.
Let’s not forget your customers. They also need you to keep your product data simple, so they can see exactly what they’re buying, how it meets their needs, and what it’s going to cost them - laid out in a clear and transparent price plan.
Eight practical steps to ensure your staff get the data they need
- You’ll need to identify a single owner with responsibility for keeping data accurate and up to date across the business
- Make sure to keep the ownership role and the administration role separate
- Everyone wants a single clear product and price master with no duplicates, so you must decide which system is the master and design a process that ensures other systems remain in sync
- Don’t fall into the trap of having multiple products to cater for different prices or foreign currencies, or where specific customers have special prices
- Look for a system that closely links products and price lists and also supports prices that have time validity - otherwise you end up with a product for 2014 and a product for 2015
- Identify the points in your process which are for different products - and design your product attribute model to drive the process
- Integrating product data between systems is complicated, so approach with care and minimise what you pass between systems.
- If you rely on a manual process, then ensure it has appropriate reconciliation and reporting
Some complexities you need to be aware of
It’s important to be aware of certain complexities when designing your solutions - each of your products is likely to be ‘owned’ by a different section of your business, with different reporting requirements and different methods of billing and fulfilment.
The classic example is your mobile phone - you buy a proposition - maybe ‘500 mins, 1gb of data and a phone’. You can have all sorts of other services with that phone too, so you need to decide whether your overall order looks something like this:
If you represented just the purple subscription bundle throughout your systems then you’d find it difficult to rapidly create new propositions and to really understand what drives revenue.
Your fulfilment teams would have Post-its all over their screens to remind them what the purple subscription bundle is, and your finance team would be tearing their hair out at the end of the month. Product management and customer support will be screaming to understand which bits of the bundle are working and which aren’t (for somewhat different reasons, usually).
Once a customer buys a product, then you need to be able to record that - but that’s another blog.
Is your company scrounging for good quality product data? Contact Clarasys to find out how we can help.