In which I try to explain a seemingly complicated marketing term in the clearest language possible. 

I ran a rudimentary Google search to see what was out there, and of course the Wikipedia entry is the first result. Now don’t balk at this, in a rare moment for this series of beginner’s guides, I’m going to copy exactly what the Wikipedia page for ‘single customer view’ says…

"A Single Customer View is an aggregated, consistent and holistic representation of the data known by an organisation about its customers."

Uh-huh. Now that’s a little maze of jargon in of itself and being as it also contains the word ‘holistic’ it immediately places itself amongst the very worst buzzwords of the damned.

I’m sure there’s an easier explanation, so let’s make our way through the quagmire.

To understand ‘single customer view’, first of all it’s important to know what the phrase ‘multichannel customer service’ means. 

Multichannel customer service

Multichannel customer service provides customers with options for communicating with a brand across a variety of two-way channels. This can be via email, Twitter, live chat, telephone, online form, etc.

The best multichannel customer service provides a seamless experience. This means that no matter what channel a customer chooses to make an enquiry or bellow a complaint down, the response (in terms of speed, tone of voice and outcome) should be the same.

Of course this makes things very complicated for customer service teams. Consumers hop across various channels in order to carry out even the simplest of tasks, whether it’s buying stuff from an ecommerce site or checking the opening hours of its retail shop.

It’s entirely possible that within the same company, all these different channels are run by different teams with different agendas and different priorities. It’s therefore entirely possible for a customer to skip across every brand channel and have a vastly different experience within each one. 

More and more customers expect issues to be resolved via social media, they don't care that a branded Twitter account was solely set-up for broadcast marketing. Customers will make contact via their own preferred channel, not yours. As far as customers are concerned, they are dealing with a single company, whether online, in a shop or via social, and therefore consistency is expected.

There are few retail experiences more galling than purchasing goods online and then being told you can’t return them to the same retailer’s high street store, or having to explain an entire email conversation you’ve previously had with a different customer service representative to the one you’re currently talking to on the phone.

And this ladies and gentlemen is where the single customer view comes in.

Single customer view (SCV)

A SCV provides businesses with the ability to track customers and their communications across every channel.

The obvious benefits of this include much improved customer service levels, better customer retention, higher conversion rates and hopefully an improved overall customer lifetime value (CLV). 

Organisationally this will also lead to better communication between traditionally separate teams and a more cooperative approach to customer service.

Look at me skilfully avoiding term ‘siloes’ there.

SCV also means being able to use the huge amount of data being pulled in from all these various channels into one place, and being able to use that data in a meaningful way. By building a fuller, personalised picture of the customer and their journey, a business will have a more insightful guide to improving future sales and make improvements to future customer interactions. 

Further reading for beginners...

To further help you in your journey towards understanding the single customer view, here are some more beginners guides, which should hopefully steer you in the right direction…

To help manage your company’s interactions with its current or future clients or customers, you may need a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Here’s a guide to what CRM is and why you need it and then the next stage is covered here in Social CRM. Then here's a helpful post on customer lifetime valie and why you need to measure it.

Next week: 'holistic'!

Not really.

Improve your skills further by attending our Festival of Marketing event in November, a two day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, and more.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 9 September, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (7)

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Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance


Re: "There are few retail experiences more galling than ... having to explain an entire email conversation you’ve previously had with a different customer service representative to the one you’re currently talking to on the phone."

Sorry to be picky, but how exactly does that work with regard to data protection? Because one of the things that's more galling is hearing the phrase, "I'm just going to have to take you through security", when all you want is to ask a simple question.

over 3 years ago


Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2

Hi Christopher

I'm going to take issue with your last paragraph: good, relevant CRM is the RESULT of having a single customer view and using it wisely.

Also, SCV is really important but it the means to an end and not the end itself.

I speak with people that consider their data warehouse to be job done, whereas the reality is they don't actually derive much insight/benefit from it.


over 3 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@Pete - good question! One I'll definitely explore further.

@Mark - thanks Mark, this is very much an over-simplified explanation of what SCV means, so your comment's much appreciated. I'll make the final paragraph sound a little less like its's a straight line from one to the other.

over 3 years ago



I kind of disagree with the wikipedia definition criticism. I actually thought it sums it up nicely and concisely, for all sorts of sectors and organisations.

over 3 years ago


Guy Mucklow, Senior Web Designer at PCA Predict (formerly Postcode Anywhere)

Hi Christopher, I think you actually explain a complicated concept pretty clearly! You might also be interested in this post from industry experts on tips for achieving SCV:

over 3 years ago

Manoj Ranaweera

Manoj Ranaweera, CEO at UnifiedVU

Hi Christopher,

Since you wrote the article in 2014, we have been working on addressing this problem in a unique way. Please take a look at

We address the issue by not just bringing marketing and communications, but bring data from every business system, both internal and external that includes customer data into one screen, with functionality to help daily jobs completed faster and make best-informed decisions, leading to revenue growth and profitability.

Keen to hear your first impressions .

over 1 year ago


Caroline L., qwerty at qwerty

Great piece of content! Very informative and easy to digest. Here you can find our post about building a single customer view platform: I hope you'll find it interesting.

3 months ago

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