Do you really know your customers?


Some may say this is a silly question, of course we know our customers, especially when it comes to delivering public sector services.  But in most cases, you would be wrong.  There is a distinctive difference between knowing who your customers are and ‘knowing your customer’.

Yes, you may have verified the identity of an individual you provide services to.  You may have used cutting edge technology to ensure the identity document provided is genuine, that they are who they say they are and live where they say they live.  You may have seen proof of their income and bank statements to prove their savings.  Fine, you know who your customer is, but does that mean you know them?

Let’s not get confused with Know Your Customer (KYC) technology used within the investment and financial services industry to verify customers, their risk profiles, and financial profile for the purpose of anti-money laundering or access to services, what I am talking about is really knowing your customer, how they interact with you, the services they are getting from your organisation and the engagement you have with them.

This is probably better referred to as having a ‘single view’ of your customer, their needs, the reliance they have on your services and the level of contact and engagement for service application or for making and/or receiving payments.  How many departments in your organisation contact the same customer, have verified your customers identity, make payments or chase debts from the same customer, or provide overlapping services?

How do you engage with your local authority?  What if you are a part time member of staff for the borough you live in whilst the rest of the week you care for an elderly relative, you’re on a low income and as a result are supported with your rented accommodation.  Your children attend schools in the borough and are in receipt of free school meals.  This may sound far fetched to some but is totally plausible and as a result your personal data may be held in a myriad of disparate systems within the organisation.  These could include:
  • HR Payroll
  • Adult Services
  • Social Services
  • Housing services
  • Council Tax
  • Housing Benefits
  • Grant Administration/Payments
  • Education

This is just an example of how one customer’s information in held across an organisation, and whilst that customer is known to each individual department, does each department know the true extent of the customers engagement? I doubt it.

How many times has this customer had to complete an application form or prove their identity, income or living arrangements to access services?  How many times are they written to requesting they supply further information or evidence to support continued receipt of services?

If you really knew your customer, it would be much easier to:

  • Streamline application processes
  • Ensure correct payments or eligibility
  • Reduce efforts to prove identity of service users
  • Identify instances where service users receive conflicting services/benefits
  • Reduce income collection resource requirements
  • Manage debt recovery more effectively
  • Implement propensity to pay initiatives
  • And much more

Where an organisation has a single view of its customer, it allows it to operate more proactively and make evidence-based decisions on customer needs and service delivery.  It enables effective intervention to stay off costly reactive solutions and allows effective financial planning and forecasting in budget setting.  It would help the organisation understand service pressures and allow for the measurement of resource requirements or collaboration needs.  Overall, knowing your customers and their needs allows you to improve and innovate service delivery.

So I ask again, do you really know your customers?

Mark McAuley, CIPFA Senior Fraud Consultant

Know your customer

CIPFA will be holding a webinar on 10 August. If you are looking to reduce fraud against your organisation, learn how to apply 'know-your customer initiatives' to prevent fraud in this hour-long webinar. Hear about private sector initiatives which will be beneficial to public sector organisations.

Webchat is available Monday to Friday, 09:00 - 17:00 (excluding UK bank holidays).