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Leveraging Real-time Customer APIs for a 360-Degree View

By Chris Detzel posted 07-19-2023 10:25


In today's highly competitive and fast-paced business environment, companies need to deliver personalized, seamless experiences to customers across every touchpoint and channel. This requires having an integrated and comprehensive view of each customer in real-time. Master data management (MDM) platforms help consolidate data from disparate systems and enable building a single source of truth for customer data.

The Need for Real-time Customer APIs

With data spread across CRM, loyalty, e-commerce, and other systems, companies struggle to get a complete view of their customers. This fragmented data also makes delivering consistent omni-channel experiences difficult. Real-time APIs help bridge these systems to provide a unified customer profile.

Here are some key use cases that demand real-time customer APIs:

Personalized Omni-Channel Engagement

Call center agents, online portals, mobile apps, and other touchpoints need real-time access to customer data to provide personalized recommendations, offers, and service. For example, when a customer calls the service center, the agent can instantly pull up their purchase history, outstanding orders, product registrations, and other information to provide relevant recommendations and offers. Real-time APIs allow on-demand access to the latest customer profile information.

Understanding the Customer Journey

To optimize the customer journey, marketing and sales teams need complete visibility into how customers interact across channels over time. For instance, stitching together web visits, email clicks, online purchases, and in-store purchases provides a view of the buyer's journey across touchpoints. Event streams from real-time APIs help piece together the journey by detecting engagement events across systems in real-time.

Digital Self-Service Experiences

Customers expect instant self-service access to their information online or via mobile apps. For example, a customer should be able to log into a banking portal and immediately view account balances, recent transactions, and more. Real-time customer APIs allow retrieving the latest profile data to enable frictionless self-service.

Privacy and Consent Management

With regulations like GDPR and CCPA, businesses must manage customer consent across engagement systems consistently. When a customer opts out of email marketing in a CRM system, that needs to be reflected instantly across other channels like mobile push notifications. Real-time APIs help check and enforce consent status in real-time during customer interactions.

Targeted Marketing and Sales

Delivering contextual next best offers and recommendations requires integrating data from various sources in real-time. For instance, mail campaigns can be personalized by integrating web behavioral data with CRM data to identify customer segments. Real-time customer APIs allow retrieving this enriched information for segmentation, scoring, and personalization.

API-Led Integration for a Unified View

To enable these use cases, organizations need an API-led integration strategy that can connect disparate systems to a central customer data platform.

While each source system manages customer interactions for specific functions, they don't provide a complete view of the customer. Typically, businesses end up with fragmented islands of customer data scattered across systems.

API-led integration helps unlock this trapped data. It exposes lightweight REST APIs from each system that can be orchestrated to build a unified customer profile. For example, APIs can ingest customer records and updates from the CRM, map it to identifiers from other systems, consolidate profiles, and augmentation data.

This begins by assigning a persistent unique ID for each customer that spans systems. As data comes in from different applications via their APIs, it can be mapped to the appropriate customer record. Additional services like data cleansing, validation, and augmentation further enrich the profiles.

The customer data platform then provides APIs to serve this unified information back to other applications in real-time. This powers use cases like service agents accessing the latest customer data, personalized recommendations based on buying habits, enforcing a single consent status, and more.

MDM Platform for Complete Customer Profiles

A master data management (MDM) system, such as Reltio, provides the specialized capabilities required to ingest, consolidate, and manage customer data coming from various sources through API-led integration. Key features include:

  • Connectors to source systems - Pre-built APIs and integration tools to connect to CRM, e-commerce, loyalty systems, and other applications. This avoids having to build custom integrations.

  • Identity resolution - Advanced matching algorithms to accurately associate records from different sources to a single persistent customer ID. This stitches together data on the same customer.

  • Data management - Ingesting profile data, cleansing, validating, and augmenting attributes to maintain completeness and accuracy.

  • 360-degree view - Real-time APIs to retrieve a complete view of the customer profile aggregated from the unified data.

  • Security - Granular role-based access control, encryption, masking, and logging to manage sensitive customer data.

  • Data governance - Configurable data quality rules, survivorship rules, hierarchy management etc. to conform data to business needs.

  • Extensibility - Ability to add custom attributes, data sources, match rules, and orchestration workflows through configuration vs. coding.

An MDM platform, such as Reltio,  brings together customer data across systems while providing governance and management capabilities missing from application-specific data stores. This trusted "single source of truth" can then power customer-centric initiatives across the organization.

Real-time API Orchestration Patterns

While MDM systems provide the consolidated customer data, additional orchestration helps optimize serving it via APIs. The orchestration layer handles routing requests, transforming data, service level monitoring, and managing connectivity.

Here are some common integration patterns enabled by the orchestration layer:

Consolidating Data - Augment profile attributes from the MDM system by retrieving additional data from sources like marketing databases in real-time.

Caching and Queues - Cache frequently used data in high-speed stores and queue requests to control load spikes on the MDM system.

Request Routing - Intelligently route requests to different MDM APIs based on the input parameters.

Protocol Transformation - Convert between protocols like HTTP, asynchronous messaging queues, files, and legacy systems.

Error Handling - Handle errors from underlying systems and retry failed requests to ensure uptime.

Security - Authentication, access control, usage throttling, and firewall policies to secure and control API usage by different consumers.

Monitoring - Track integration metrics like latency, errors, and usage for alerting and troubleshooting.

While it's possible to build these orchestration flows directly on top of MDM APIs, platforms like MuleSoft and Realtio Integration Hub provide pre-built capabilities so you can focus on your specific integration requirements.

Real-time API Examples

Let's look at some examples of real-time customer APIs built using MDM and orchestration:

1.  Get Customer 360 API

This API retrieves a customer's unified profile from the MDM system. The orchestration layer handles:

  • Routing requests based on input parameters like customer ID, device ID, session ID etc.

  • Calling appropriate MDM APIs - get by ID, get by attributes, search etc.

  • Retrying with different parameters if customer not found

  • Creating new customer record in MDM if no match after retries

The API returns the full 360-degree customer view - demographic details, contact info, identifiers, preferences, transaction history etc.

2. Update Customer API

This API allows updating a customer's profile by passing changed attributes in the request payload. The orchestration layer handles:

  • Resolving customer ID from input or other context like session ID

  • Validation rules on attributes, data types, formats etc.

  • Calling MDM API to update profile with changes

  • Handling errors, logging, retries in case of update failures

  • Caching to improve performance

The API returns status of update success/failure to the calling system.

3. Customer Search API

This API searches for customers based on a variety of parameters like name, email, location, account number etc. The orchestration:

  • Accepts flexible search parameters in the request

  • Routes to appropriate MDM search APIs based on parameters

  • Collates, de-duplicates, and ranks returned profiles

  • Caches common searches in high-speed stores

The API returns possible matching customer profiles ranked by relevance.

Benefits of Real-time Customer APIs

Real-time customer APIs enabled by MDM and orchestration provide the following benefits:

  • Consistent identity - Unique persistent identifiers for each customer across all systems

  • Complete profile - 360-degree view of every customer, aggregated from all sources

  • Instant access - Microsecond response times for customer data retrieval and updates

  • Ease of use - Simple and flexible APIs to get, update, and search customers

  • Efficiency - Caching, retries, routing improves speed and uptime

  • Flexibility - Support diverse integration patterns beyond basic CRUD

  • Cost savings - Reduce custom coding effort on point-to-point integrations

  • Agility - Faster API development cycles and accelerated testing

  • Customer focus - Powers hyper-personalization and customer-centricity across channels

With real-time customer APIs, organizations can meet the modern demands of delivering engaging, seamless customer experiences. Investing in customer data management and integration lays the foundation for higher loyalty, growth and profitability through customer-centric business models.