One of the big advantages at working within a global community is the ability to leverage experience from one client and region into another.  One group within our MDM community that offers us an entire new set of experiences is our Chinese MDM group.  Many western companies are looking to expand into China and are quickly finding that traditional customer mastering processes are struggling within the Asian market in general and China specifically.  Here are a couple of the differences we’ve found when looking at mastering for these markets

  1. Multiple Names for the same person – in several areas people often have a Chinese name and a western name, this adds a new dimension to the customer challenge, “also known as” is a well understood solution in the West but its not often so core and central as it can be in Asia.  Its fairly regular to have a Chinese name (in Chinese characters), an English character set conversion of that name and another Western name in English characters.
  2. Character Sets mean “near” matches are different – if you are converting written documents into technology then its not the “phonetic” matching that counts its about the “near” characters

These two reasonably simple changes can have a significant impact on how your data stewardship teams work in comparison with western market solutions and structurally can mean that traditionally “strong” match fields like “first name, last name” have to be considered in a much broader context.

These are far from the only differences and challenges we’ve found when delivering into the Chinese market but there are some critical elements that remain consistent.  These link back to our methods on MDM and the concentration on MDM Governance and operating models and then their automation via technology, by understanding the unique challenges of China from an operational perspective it becomes simpler to then deliver that through technology.

In the same way as few companies have thought of their approach to mastering social media so we are finding that many are looking to their Chinese and Asian markets for expansion without putting in place the basic practices that will help them understand, manage and benefit from their customer base in these growing markets.  As with social media as well there appears to be a lag between the market demand and the technology updates to handle the new challenges.

The reason I put the two basic examples above is that there are companies looking to expand into Asia who had failed to address even these basic challenges in Customer mastering that these new markets require.  They had some customer mastering strategy and governance in place but had not looked at how this strategy needed to change in the new markets. What they were doing was taking the western model of customer that they had and then applying that to Asia as a dictation from the centre, in effect it was left as a back-office exercise rather than being at the fore-front of the key growth question

How do I identify my customers?

When looking at growth markets its critical that you understand whether you are actually growing your customer base or simply re-entering existing customers, this is what a clear Customer mastering strategy for those markets delivers – the prospect of assured and proven growth.

So are you Mastering China, mastering the West’s view of China or not mastering your growth at all?