Is your CRM data the elephant in the room?

As businesses look to the year ahead, budgets are being finalised and strategy is being discussed. Inevitably, cost savings are on everyone’s mind, and money will be directed at keeping the lights on first. Beyond this, the business will look at operational efficiency, and look at ways of cutting costs and waste.

The biggest productivity drain could be hiding away in your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Perhaps you’ve noticed it. Perhaps you daren’t mention it because you know it will be expensive. But your data quality could be the elephant in the room.

Why spend on data?

Data is the new oil. It flows through critical systems; it keeps cogs of your business moving freely from day to day.

Data is as valuable and precious to your business as the black gold that powers vehicles and industry.

Yet 22% of businesses surveyed by Econsultancy said they suspected a problem with contact information in their database. It’s as though the asset is not acknowledged, or considered worthy of investment.

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

Sure – there’s a cost involved in tackling data quality. But there’s a bigger cost involved in neglecting your CRM and its contents.

This article in Economia says it well: “Bad data in: errors ‘to the power of ten’ out.”

If you neglect to plan for data quality improvements, the problem will only get worse. There’s a useful rule that explains this: the 1-10-100 rule.

The principle is simple: if a problem costs £1 to fix when it occurs, it will cost £10 to fix an hour later. If it’s neglected for the next 12 months, it will cost £100 to fix – or maybe more.

Extrapolate the 1-10-100 effect over a database that contains thousands – or millions – of lines. You’ll soon see why good data quality is seen as an expensive goal.

In his book Data Driven: Profiting from Your Most Important Business Asset, Thomas C Redman makes a similar assertion. He claims that effort is multiplied by 10 when data is inaccurate, and good quality data gives the business a genuine advantage of the competition.

Tackling the problem at source

As data flows into the system, inaccuracies and faults spread like a virus. And once your CRM is infected, every other system begins to pick up flaws, as users look for workarounds and seek healthy data elsewhere.

Thanks to this process of natural decay, the elephant in the room can only grow. As your CRM becomes less agile and more polluted, every team that comes into contact with the system will pay the price for this inefficiency. They will lose track of data in the CRM, work with data that is wrong, breach security or compliance rules, or fail to record data in the CRM in a standard way. Duplicates and misspellings will confuse them, and they will be frustrated by records that look the same but are different.

Data quality in your CRM isn’t just a resource issue, although resource will certainly be wasted through the year. There are also real, tangible outcomes that are a direct hit on your ROI, and they come from surprisingly predictable sources.

The CRM is not at fault; it is the data, the oil in the system that needs to be cleaned. The data in your CRM is probably going to double over the next 12 to 18 months.

>See also: How to stop good data from going bad

To maintain data quality, the business must set aside a budget to face the elephant head on, like investing in data quality software to purify the data within the CRM. Retrain staff on systems, clean up web forms and ensure customer-facing teams are fully engaged in nurturing the data they work with.

Ditch primitive capture methods, such as spreadsheets and Word documents. Ensure your CRM software has data quality modules that perform automatic checks on data. And invest in enhancement and enrichment of data so that you can understand more about your market and segment your customers more effectively.

Budgets for data quality improvement need to be set aside to prevent CRM disaster. Otherwise, the elephant in the room will grow several times larger by the time next years’ budgets are decided.


Sourced from Martin Doyle, DQ Global

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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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