♩♪♫♬ All I want for Christmas is a Clean CRM ♩♪♫♬

All I Want for ChristmasMost of us have participated in an Angel Tree program around the holidays. Charitable organizations use Angel Trees to request gifts for those who are less fortunate.

Let’s say you participate in an Angel Tree program to collect coats for children. When you choose an angel from the tree, it doesn’t tell you every detail about the child, but it typically includes three critical pieces of information – gender, age and size.

Suppose any of those three pieces of information were missing or inaccurate for one or more of the children on the tree. The organization collecting coats wouldn’t have the right coats in the right size, and you’d have a lot of disappointed kids.

Now think about the impact on marketing, sales and customer service if the data in your customer relationship management (CRM) system is inaccurate or incomplete.

You could end up targeting the wrong audience with your marketing. Not only will you waste valuable marketing dollars, but irrelevant, poorly targeted marketing will make people question the value of future communications from your company.

From a sales perspective, if data is outdated, incorrect or incomplete, salespeople may end up contacting the wrong people, which makes them look bad. Then they have to waste time researching emails, phone numbers and other information to make sure they reach the right person.

From a customer service perspective, think about how frustrating it is when you have to repeat information that a company already has. It doesn’t exactly give you a warm and fuzzy feeling about that company, does it? This happens because they don’t have clean, integrated data.

How Does Data Get Dirty in the First Place?

You lose data integrity for a lot of reasons. When people aren’t using the CRM or they don’t know what data to enter, you run into problems. If you have no formal policy and process for entering and updating data in the CRM, you run into problems.

Very often, employees will just store data on their smartphones or in spreadsheets, which causes you to lose visibility into your data. It also creates a security risk. If the employee leaves or their device is lost or stolen, that data is as good as gone.

There needs to be a CRM policy in place with a top-down directive that defines how the CRM is used and how data is handled across the organization. Appointing a person or team to oversee these processes is crucial.

A 4-Step Approach to Ensuring Clean CRM Data

The first step is the standardization of data fields. Make sure all fields are consistent. Stay away from text fields. They are the devil. There are too many variables with text fields. For example, the U.S. Postal Services uses five different abbreviations for California. People could abbreviate it differently, spell it out, or spell it wrong.

 Instead, use a pick list that allows users to make a selection from multiple choices. If a person is from California, users will have one option to choose.

The second step is addressing duplicate records. This could involve merging, moving or purging data. It could involve an entire record, or certain data within that record. A prime example of this is having separate records for a person with multiple email addresses.

I’m a member of an organization that has three email addresses for me on record. Because they haven’t addressed my duplicate records, I get the same email three times – every time they send an email. I’ve started unsubscribing because of the repetitive emails. Do you want your clients and prospects doing the same thing?

The third step is managing data capture and hygiene. This is accomplished by using as many electronic means as possible to capture data and minimize manual data entry. Web forms, the importing of LinkedIn contacts, and card scanners allow you to capture data automatically. Again, use quantitative fields instead of text fields. This reduces the risk of errors and makes it easier to run reports.

The fourth and final step is to append data when necessary. When a contact changes jobs, for example, there must be an easy way to update their information. This should be done on an ongoing basis, but the individual or team overseeing CRM data should periodically confirm that data is accurate, complete and up to date.

One way to do this is to email your contacts and offer them an incentive to verify their information. They should be able to go in and update their information themselves if necessary. If someone doesn’t respond, you can do some investigating and analysis to find out why.

Wouldn’t you consider trust and credibility in the eyes of your clients and prospects to be the ultimate Christmas present? On the other hand, if you let your data get dirty and stay dirty, you’re just asking for coal.

Clean up the data in your CRM, and make sure you have a process in place for keeping it clean. If you’re not sure how to do it, the Holistic Business Solutions elves will be happy to help!