Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are huge upgrades to the rolodexes and address books of days past. Not only is it easier to type the name of an associate into a search bar than it is to flip through hundreds of (hopefully) alphabetized index cards, CRMs also offer more functionality. They track interactions with customers and even provide analysis of the potential conversion rate of leads.
Despite the obvious advantages of a CRM, you still need to do some work to assure it is functioning optimally. Like a chef’s kitchen, it’s set up to facilitate efficient and effective work, but if you don’t properly maintain it, you may as well survive with nothing more than a hot plate.
What does it mean to properly maintain your CRM? It’s really all about the data it contains. If your CRM is full of duplicated or incomplete customer data, you’ll find it impossible to keep track of your customer interactions, leads will fall by the wayside and you’ll yearn for the days of the rolodex.
Avoiding Bad Data
The key to keeping your CRM clean is to not let any bad data get in in the first place. Be careful when importing contacts. It’s a good idea to create a best-practices document for entering data, so that all of the customer data within your CRM is uniform. This is crucial, and it’s surprising how just a few rotten apples can ruin much of the fruit basket. If there are only a few duplicates or incomplete customer profiles, the integrity of the database is compromised. So, make sure you know who is allowed to import data into your CRM, then you can assure everyone with access knows how to properly do it.
Most CRMs will allow you to construct—if they don’t already have them as a default—duplicate detection rules as a safeguard. Microsoft Dynamics CRM, for example, has detections rules that notify you if you try to import a new contact that already exists. You’ll need to understand your CRMs duplicate detection rules, so that you can use them as effectively as possible and avoid the pitfalls of human error.
Try as you might and take all the precautions possible, it’s still unlikely you’ll be able to keep out 100 percent of the bad data. Nobody’s perfect after all. So, you’ll want to regularly scrub your CRM for duplicate or incomplete data. The same way it’s easier to keep a clean kitchen by cleaning up after every meal rather than just once at the end of a long week, it’ll be easier to keep your CRM clean if you have a constant eye out for bad data.
Getting Rid of the Bad Data
Despite all of your efforts to keep your CRM clean, let’s consider what to do if you suffer the dastardly fate of a CRM full of bad data. The first thing you’ll want to do, as is the case with cleaning up any kind of mess, is to analyze the situation. If it turns out to just be a few dirty dishes in the sink and some old leftovers that need to be thrown out, you can probably take care of it manually inside your CRM. However, if your mess is considerably larger, you may need to take more serious measures.
Assuming you are dealing with a major mess, the first thing you’re going to want to do is hire an intern (I’m only half joking). Cleaning duplicate and filling in incomplete data can be a long and tedious process. Fortunately, most CRMs offer some tools to help you clean up bad data. For example, ActivePrime offers a product called CleanCRM for its CRM tool, which goes through your database of customer information and cleans up any duplicate data. Most other CRMs offer similar products or functionality, so check with your CRM support team to see how they can help you merge your duplicate data.
Another useful trick for identifying and fixing bad customer information is to export all of your data to Microsoft Excel. It is probably easier to scrub through all of your data in a spreadsheet than on your CRM. Once you identify the bad data, you can correct it within Excel and import it back into your CRM.
It would be nice if there were a panacea to fix and avoid bad data in a CRM. Unfortunately, we’re not quite there yet. In the meantime, keep a watchful eye and stay on top of your customer information, so the bad stuff doesn’t get out of control.