How to...ensure CRM data quality

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Any CRM initiative, be it a marketing campaign or a major software and process overhaul, will underperform if the underlying customer data is weak, disorganized, or downright misleading. Take these four steps to ensure that data quality is high and that CRM efforts are a success the first time. 1. Reduce Multiple Master Records The biggest enemy of data cleanliness is the redundant record, which disperses and obscures valuable information about a customer throughout the enterprise. Emerson Process Management faced a tremendous challenge four years ago in getting its CRM data in order: There were potentially 400 different master records for each customer, based on different locations or different functions associated with the client. "You have to begin to think about a customer as an organization you do business with that has a set of addresses tied to it," says Nancy Rybeck, the data warehouse architect at Emerson who took charge of the cleanup. Working with Group 1, Rybeck analyzed the customer records for similarities and connections using everything from postal standards to D&B data, and managed to eliminate the 75 percent site-duplication rate the company suffered in its data. "That's going to ripple through everything," she says.
2. Don't Abandon Eyeballs Automation plays a key role in any data cleanup, but human judgment is still vital. Automated systems may fail to make an association between an affiliated brand or a corporate division, for instance, and highlighting those relationships can help your company treat your clients holistically. "Understanding those cross-divisional situations is where you really stand to benefit," says Mike Ostrowski, e-business practice manager at Optimus Solutions. At Emerson, connecting the dots in this manner helped alert the sales team to opportunities it was missing by underestimating certain clients. "A company may have been listed as our 100th-largest client, but it was really the 50th-largest, and [it wasn't] getting the attention it deserved," Rybeck says. 3. Reduce Overlap Whenever Possible Once you have a better handle on the true identity and nature of your clients, use that knowledge to reduce redundant communications that don't add value--such as sending multiple brochures to one client, or sending several salespeople to the same site on the same day. Although there are other ways to end such redundant activity, stopping it before it starts--within the customer database itself--is the most efficient way. "If you have inconsistencies within a single system, trying to understand that customer across multiple systems becomes tremendously more difficult, and therefore will have a seriously negative impact on your CRM initiatives," says Jeff Canter, executive vice president of operations for Innovative Systems. 4. Practice Continual Cleaning Clean data does not stay clean of its own volition. Your organization will need to take ongoing steps to ensure that redundancies, errors, and inefficiencies do not work their way back in. Again, focus on stopping problems before they start. Have your data entry systems perform validity checks on records as they are entered, to prevent striking the wrong keys or creating new, duplicate records. "You need to have interdictive filtering that will help ensure that the quality of data is maintained over time," Canter says. These efforts, while rewarding, won't be easy. "It takes way more time and money to keep data clean than it does to build the system in the first place, and you need to be prepared for that," Emerson's Rybeck says.
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