How to stop good data from going bad

You’re a loyal customer to a bank. You rely on monthly mailings of bill statements to help keep track of your finances. But at one point, you open up the mail to see that all of your information has changed. Your credit card bill is through the roof and shows purchases made at stores you never visited.

You call the bank and they say that they sent you the wrong statement. Sure, you might feel a little relief. But the trust you had in the bank is gone. And that’s how one wrong piece of data – in this case, what information to print on a billing statement and where to send it – can make or break customer relationships today.

At the most fundamental level, every decision a business makes is based on data. The size of the business doesn’t matter. For enterprises, data spreads across the organisation. Sales uses data from marketing to get in touch with leads. Marketing monitors data from the website to identify potential opportunities. Product uses data to refine the company’s offerings and executives leverage data to devise strategies. That’s why it’s so important that companies can access data they can trust.

> See also: 3 steps to implementing a data governance programme

For small businesses, operations and commerce are largely dependent on data. Retail stores have to keep track of inventory and product shipments. Online businesses have to sort through mailing addresses and email addresses to make sure shipments arrive safely. Brochures and catalogues need to be sent to the right households.

Good data is the heartbeat of a company’s operations. It can be incredibly problematic when all of that information isn’t properly managed. To some degree, that’s happening in almost every business. Maybe sales and marketing aren’t exchanging data, maybe the event team isn’t passing leads over to marketing in a cohesive way, maybe the retail clerks aren’t working with a store’s marketing manager to keep data streamlined.

Whatever the case, a failure to govern data in the right way merely serves to enforce the natural silos of a company. Access to accurate information is vital to improve business performance.

Bad data isn’t just useless, it can be damaging to the company’s bottom line. Customers who are mailed the wrong thing or called twice by two different salespeople can become frustrated. Strategic planning mistakes can be made and opportunities can be lost.

In fact, without the right management and governance in place, even good data can go bad.

Starting from the top

The first step to ensuring that good data doesn’t go bad is to find out which teams are actively collecting, storing and sorting information. Then, come up with a plan to organise that data in a way that helps individuals perform most effectively. From here the business can begin to formulate a robust Information Governance strategy that takes into account the multiple channels that now form access points for data to enter a business.

Some businesses are taking decisive steps in this direction.

Forrester recently found that businesses are revamping customer analytics programs by managing and integrating data from a variety of sources (54%) and ensuring data quality from a variety of sources (50%).

>See also: Big data and mapping: a potent combination

Consolidation and quality ought to be interwoven. Cleansing of data should be considered part of the process if an organisation chooses to create a central store of information that enables users to view all the available customer profiles. Data Quality can also be applied at the point of capture to prevent new bad data getting into the organisation. If data does go bad, so do corporate bottom lines, as according to Ovum Research, bad data costs a business at least 30% of revenues.

Something as simple as a misspelled last name or an incorrect phone number can disqualify an otherwise great lead, because you could leave a bad impression or be unable to get in touch. When companies creates a consolidated multi-dimensional view of data, it’s easy to discover what information matches and which might have errors. The right platform will allow for thorough deduplication and be able to check data against third-party sources.

Pride and process

The reason consolidation and integration can be so difficult is that every team has a different method for managing data. Sales might have a CRM system that shares lead information across the department – but who can modify it? If multiple people are tweaking one lead’s record, then call history, stage of purchase or customer sentiment can all get lost in the shuffle.

Likewise, if marketing has divided customers into segments but the loyalty team is running a separate campaign, then there’s a chance one customer could get multiple campaigns at the same time.

> See also: It’s time for the IT department to join the real world

Information Governance helps to identify clear ownership over different sets of data. That will involve appointing team leads for data management who can oversee the process or maybe setting permissions and rules for when data is modified and who’s notified when a modification takes place. In some enterprises, that role is being fulfilled by a data team headed by a chief data officer (CDO).

As the appetite for data grows, so too will the opportunities for companies to learn more about customers and deliver more unique, memorable experiences. But only if it’s possible to create a better data management platform, for integrating, cleansing and enriching data and a solid Information Governance process that can help make sure that good data can never go bad.

By Andy Reid, Business Development Manager, Pitney Bowes

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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