After installing and managing three CRM systems in the past five years, I believe its important to remind users, all CRM users, of the importance of data quality.
We all know the quality of the data you get out of a CRM is only as good as the quality of the data you put in -- garbage in, garbage out.
Unfortunately, only the database administrator gets blamed for what comes out and by the nature of a CRM, the data is NEVER perfect.
Everyone in the organization needs to know what goes into the CRM and help keep the data accurate.
The value of your CRM is equivalent to your current revenue, the lifetime value of your customers and the potential value of your prospects.
Failure to keep the data up to date will result in a 30% erosion in value of one of your company's most valuable assets.
Your CRM is how you know what your customers like, dislike, bought, how they want to be communicated with.
The quality of the data in your CRM is a direct correlation to the experience you, and your employees, will provide your customers.
You cannot provide an outstanding customer experience with inaccurate or incomplete customer data.
Following are 11 ways to improve data quality:
- Track all mail deliverability. Create a way to track returned mail as well as email bounces. While this will increase administrative work, proactive database cleansing will improve the quality of the data in the CRM and save on postage and your company's image over time. Once the process is in place, set benchmarks and address accuracy goals for the future.
- Verify, clean and append information before entry into the CRM. Correcting contact information is easier when the client is engaged. This engagement can occur through a web form or a telephone call. Ideally data verification software will prompt either the staff representative or audience member to complete missing contact details and format the address to comply with U.S. Postal Service or email standards. I also recommend engaging an outside third-party, like Reachforce, to clean and append legacy data prior to importing into a new CRM. This provides a level of confidence that the incoming data is in as good a shape a possible, especially relative to legacy data that may be years old.
- Use naming conventions. How you enter a company name (e.g., do you keep "The" in front of it) as well as an individual's name (e.g., do you specifiy Jr., III, IV) is critical as is the punctuation of initials and titles and the use of first initials and middle names.
- Use pre-defined drop-downs to ensure consistency and reduce errors (e.g., for titles, departments, segmentation, state, country, prospect type, lead status, areas of interest, contact preference, etc.). Drop downs can help you communicate with customers and prospects with relevance and in the manner the customer prefers.
- Know your data and how it got there. Identify potential data entry trends and where bad data accumulates. Trace returned correspondence back to a particular operation or target audience. Understand data quality challenges and make the systems changes that will improve the quality.
- Appoint multiple data quality managers. Data management should be shared with all employees who capture, access, manipulate and update CRM records. Whether better data translates into more effective prospect meetings, lead nurturing campaigns, customer implementations, product deliveries or other mail communications, the business benefits of data quality are reaped by everyone in the company and the company looks better to the customer.
- Train users. Track where your biggest problems are and address them, either as a group on an individual basis, if needed. Anyone using the CRM should take ownership for the accuracy of the data.
- Schedule regular database checkups. Individuals and businesses have become mobile in today's economic and social environment. This causes data to become outdated even more quickly. A complete data quality strategy calls for regular database checkups to ensure old data is refreshed and the CRM continues to perform at a high level.
- Determine if required fields need to change. A fax number is no longer as important as a mobile number. Should both, or either, be required? Be careful that required fields do not invite false/inaccurate information just to complete the entry.
- Ensure use by those that are supposed to be using the system. Hold people accountable for entering and tracking leads and keeping their contact lists current. People in the field hear about changes in a client or prospect organization before a database administrator ever will.
- Ensure c-level executives understand the value of your CRM and the need to invest resources, people and money, to keep the data accurate.
What best practices have you put in place to ensure the data in your CRM remains accurate and up to date?