The old adage says ‘you put rubbish in, you get rubbish out’ and there has never been truer words spoken when it comes to CRM. For a CRM project to be a success the data entered must be accurate and reliable.

Data quality is a challenge for most businesses, even those with a strong CRM culture. Firstly, this is because there is a lot of data about (90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years*). Secondly, it is constantly growing, making it more difficult to manage. And, finally, because it degrades so quickly – with B2B email data decaying at 22.5% per year**.

However, it is essential to strive for data quality because without reliable data your business’ reputation can be damaged and your decisions will be misinformed. Here we share our recommended steps to overcome your data management challenges:

Define what data is important to your business?

Look at the data you have already and decide what additional data would be of use to you and will help you to understand and anticipate your customers’ needs more effectively.

Identify how is best to record and report on it

Once you know what you want to know, you need to find the best means of recording it. It is easy to add additional fields here and there, but before you know it your screens can become cluttered. So, it is best to think through where to store the information you need, ensuring it is accessible to all, easy to find and easy to report on.

Educate others

Communication is key to get others to see the value of keeping accurate records. Once they can see the value to them and the business they are more likely to follow requests and new processes. i.e. tell your sales team that by recording more detailed information about your customers, marketing will have better information to inform their strategies, resulting in more leads for sales.

Start collecting it

Once you (and other users) know what data is important for your business you need to start collecting it. For existing customers and prospects this will need to be done retrospectively, and could be done as part of a data cleanse exercise. For any new contacts you need to ensure the information you need is recorded from the off by introducing new processes.

Implement data quality processes

Ultimately the users of your CRM system are human, therefore there is a chance of human error – this could be anything from forgetting to record information or entering it in the wrong format. By tweaking your system you can make it easier to record the right data, in the right place. You should start with;

Mandatory fields

By making important fields mandatory users will be unable to progress to the next activity without populating the required information. This is a great way of jogging the memory.

Picklists

Picklists remove the need for manual data entry and therefore reduce mistakes. It also makes segmenting and reporting on your data simpler.

Regular data cleansing

Data degrades quickly therefore, no matter how good you are at entering data, it will need to be reviewed and cleansed on a regular basis. Depending on the volumes of data you hold you might want to outsource this to specialists.

Dedupe routine

Duplicate records can affect customer experience and the accuracy of your reports and forecasts, so it is important to introduce preventative measures. Many CRM systems can be configured to look for matches in the database before a new contact or account is added. In addition to this it is also wise to run a dedupe exercise on a regular basis to catch any that fall through the net.

*Marketing Sherpas
** IBM

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