Data Dirty Dozen

How to Mitigate CRM Data Quality Difficulties & Deficiencies

As mentioned in a previous post CRM: An Introspective, the value of a CRM platform is dependent on successfully managing the quality of data put into it. Attempting to sell, market or serve a client with a baseline of bad data is an uphill battle. Subscription services, sound business practices, data quality management tools, and a solid partner in planning for data quality are avenues that enable cost-effective and professional efforts. Adhering to the following tips will help you proactively combat the twelve main issues related to poor data management.

1. Address-Related Data Entry Errors: When working with address-related data entries, it is common to come across typos or obsolete names of streets, cities, and/or states. This inaccurate data can be detrimental to an organization because it can waste mailing dollars and has the potential to misalign sales territories. The solution is to use CASS Certification. This ensures that your addresses are actual deliverable USPS addresses. (Please note: additional services are available for international addresses.)

2. Tricky Duplicates: It can be challenging to uncover duplicate records. For example, consider the names: Bob, Rob and Robert Smith; or Helen Gurley, Helene Gurly-Brown and Helen Browne. Are they duplicate records or different people? Having un-merged duplicates pose a threat because they give an incomplete view of the customer and lead to decisions made on faulty information. Nevertheless, one can eliminate many of these tricky duplicates by using nickname matching, mobile phone and email matching, or even IP address matching.

3. Stale Data: Over time, data becomes stale; people can move, marry, die or divorce; companies can be bought, sold, closed, or rebranded. Combine that with professionals changing titles and you risk targeting the wrong people at the wrong companies with an invalid message. To avoid relying on stale data, a variety of subscription data services and crowd-sourced solutions can keep you abreast of changes over time.

4. Incomplete Data: It is common to come across data entries that are incomplete. Not having complete information on your companies and contacts can result in missing out on opportunities, or giving up control of how you prefer to reach them. To combat the disadvantages of incomplete data, it is vital to use subscription data augmentation services and algorithm-based tools to fill in the holes where they exist.

5. Abandoned Web Inquiries: Abandoned web inquires are never good. Forcing your prospect to fill out too much information with long, arduous forms and required fields can result in bad data at best and out and out abandonment at worst. Instead, use web-form design. Remember, your prospects are not on your payroll! Require the least possible information from them and augment it on the back-end.

6. Stale Area Codes: Stale area codes come into play if phone numbers change when area codes are split or realigned. This results in out of date phone data. Getting a “not in service” message frequently turns into a contact being marked obsolete by mistake. Large swaths of contact numbers can be invalidated overnight if you are not keeping up-to-date with the changes. The best way to avoid stale area codes is to do a little research and find the data-appending service that meets the unique needs related to your customer and prospect base.

7. Inconsistent Abbreviations: Companies can be entered in your database with various abbreviations or DBA names that are hard to standardize. For instance, having “International Business Machines, IBM, and I.B.M. coexisting in your database makes it difficult to determine if you have all the right contacts and relationships in view at any moment. These inconsistent abbreviations can result in duplicate accounts if standards are not put in place. So…standardize, standardize, standardize! Also, make sure to conduct regularly scheduled reviews of your database to proactively search for and resolve issues.

8. Marketing to Deceased Individuals: Unfortunately, it is a possibility to market to someone who has passed away. At best, this costs time and money by marketing to the wrong individual. At worst, it is embarrassing and you will be perceived as uncaring, lazy and unprofessional. To prevent this embarrassment, build an ironclad suppression process into your systems and culture. Renting a list from a vendor with bad processes is not a sufficient excuse.

9. Global Addressing Format Variance: Different countries have various rules for address formatting (i.e. envelope layouts and postal codes). Using the wrong layout can impact physical mail deliverability or even the possibility of being thrown away before being opened. Data validation rules may not allow you to capture leads or accounts for prospects where the format is different. Thus, understanding the formatting standards in all of the countries in which you operate is essential. If you cannot build address formats into your systems, use a mail-house who does.

10. Thinking About Data Quality Too Late: A common issue is simply thinking about data quality too late. Quite frankly, failing to plan is planning to fail. When planning a new system, or enhancing an existing system, put data quality at the first and foremost of your priority list. Make sure to think about data quality in upstream and downstream systems: required formats, validation rules, missing information, etc.

11. Dishonoring Opt-Outs: Dishonoring personal preferences like Do-Not-Call, Do-Not-Mail, and Do-Not-Email is a waste of resources and unethical if done intentionally. Contacting these individuals can result in fines and penalties and will definitely annoy your prospects. Consequently, it is imperative to maintain suppression lists to exclude contacts and companies from channels for which they have requested it. Always contact your prospects through the channel in which they prefer to be reached!

12. Free-Text Anarchy Often free-text fields are used when pick-list, checkboxes, or relational lookups are a better fit. Giving prospects the option of answering an open-ended question opens the floodgates to a vast array of terminology, typos, and irrational responses. All of these things can be crippling to your efforts at successful analysis. To avoid the disadvantages of free-text fields, use pick-lists or related record lookups whenever it makes sense. Remember, you can always offer “Other as a choice with a text field to follow.

Written by John Townsend, DCS Business Analyst
John has over twenty years of experience in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), with a focus in B2B marketing, sales and service spaces. As a business analyst at Demand Chain Systems (DCS), John helps manage CRM initiatives, primarily focused on sales and marketing process definition, business process mapping and review, requirements documentation, and training.
Want to learn more about Data Management? Visit our Data Management page.

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