Written by   |   Sep 18 2018   |   Read 5414 times

If you use a CRM database, it’s highly likely that it will contain some degree of ‘dirty data’.

Signs of dirty data are duplicate records, invalid email addresses, empty fields, out-of-date information, mistakes in spelling, punctuation and formatting. It might not seem like a big problem however dirty data can cause significant losses to your business through sales inefficiencies, decreased productivity and diminished customer satisfaction.

Even with the best of intentions, your data is in a constant state of decay. Your contacts change jobs, email addresses, locations and contact numbers and you won’t necessarily be updated. Business acquisitions, mergers and system integrations also play a role in the cleanliness of your database. Additionally, CRM users who lack skill and an understanding of how the data flows can have a massive impact on the quality of your data. The process of cleaning up all this dirty data can become complicated, time consuming and expensive. The good news is that there are simple steps that you can implement to ensure you have quality data.

Read our top 6 ways to avoid dirty data in your CRM

1. Configure your CRM 

Correctly configuring your database can help with clean data entry. Set up mandatory data fields where appropriate to ensure all critical information is complete and accurate. Your standard mandatory fields should include name, email address, phone numbers and postal or residential/business address. If you require other fields to be entered, create a drop down with set entries so you don’t get random content. If you know that a field requires a certain amount of characters, limit the field size to the maximum number of characters so surplus information cannot be entered. See How to Create and Manage Act! Database Fields for more information and additional options.

2. User training 

Providing training for all CRM users will help to ensure complete and accurate data entry from the out-set as well as encourage adoption of the system. In addition to basic CRM functionality, all users need to understand what signifies clean data, how and what data is to be entered and how to find information. This is particularly important with new staff. Don’t assume that a short in-house training session is going to suffice as they’ll develop bad practices and create problems.

If users don’t understand the concept and value of the CRM, they will cut corners and end up fostering the very issue that you are trying to avoid. When users recognise and respect CRM data intelligence, the easier it is to manage the data integrity. See Act! Training options.

3. Data Champion

A data champion is an important aspect of a successful CRM solution. Assigning a dedicated person to administer your CRM processes will help to maintain data consistency, make your database easier to manage and empower other users to adopt the system. Your data champion should have a plan to monitor, clean, organise and improve data collection processes in order to generate better results from marketing initiatives. Read the 4 reasons why you need a CRM Champion.

4. Check your format

Just as important as accurate data, is having your data formatted and punctuated correctly. You wouldn’t write a letter to a customer using all uppercase, lowercase or a combination of both, so why do it with your data? ‘Dear john smith’, ‘Hi JOHN’, ‘Hi jOHN sMITH’ look unprofessional and make John feel like an under valued customer. Encourage all database users to take particular care with formatting when entering information. Additionally, educate users to update any incorrectly formatted data they might come across. It only takes a second to update it and will save you time later on.

5. Don’t duplicate

Duplicate data prevents your team from gaining a single, accurate view of your customer that can lead to oversights and issues with communication. As a common practice, get users to check for an existing contact prior to creating a new one. As well as lookup the contact name, go a step further to check the company name and even the email address. Use the Lookup feature of ‘starts with’ or ‘contains’ to expand the possibilities. For example, if you are looking for John McDonald, he may be in the database as John Mc Donald or John Macdonald.

If you find a duplicate, its best not to be hasty and just delete it as it may contain valuable information. Use a merge tool to combine multiple records. Depending on the level of training that users have, you might want to allocate the task of merging and deleting duplicates to the CRM Champion.

In Act!, you can set criteria to alert the user if they are creating a duplicate record, scan your database for duplicates and then merge duplicate records. See How to set Duplicate Checking preferences in Act! and How To Manage Duplicate Records and Merge Contact Records in Act!.

6. Stop the pollution

Identifying dirty data before it infiltrates the system is the key to clean database. Prior to importing data, utilise the power of Excel to help you get data in the precise format that you want. (Read the Top 10 ways to clean your data in Microsoft Excel). It is so much quicker and easier to clean up your list prior to importing than once it’s in there.

With new contacts, decide what data you want collect upfront and what data can be collected at a later date. There is no point entering useless information just to make it look complete as it can actually have a negative effect. Inaccurate data can distort your sales pipeline, compromise decisions, waste time analysing worthless information and possibly annoy customers with redundant messages.

Lastly, if your data comes from different sources and/or has multiple users accessing it, it is important to keep it secure and restrict access when applicable. Ensure that each user has the database access rights appropriate for their role so they can’t do any unnecessary damage.

By treating your data with respect you are treating your customers with the same reverence. Accurate data makes it actionable and drives valuable customer engagement and long-term relationships. If you would like some advice or help managing your Act! database or you would like training for your end users or Act! Champion, please contact us on 1300 362 046.

Peter McCarty

Peter McCarty is an Act! Certified Consultant with over 20 years of experience.

Peter’s initial work experience included several years as a Microsoft certificated professional trainer specialising in the use of database applications. He joined Act Today in 2002 with the vision and expertise to design CRM systems for small businesses tailored to their specific requirements.

He prioritises clients’ needs, has dealt with a diverse range of businesses and has sound business analyst skills.

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