10 Mar Garbage In – Garbage Out
The importance of good data quality
Most people would agree that one of the key points, and benefits, of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is to be able to get good quality data out in the format you need and when you need it.
Maybe one of your key reporting tools is managing staff goals – what are their targets and how close are they to achieving them?
Or maybe one of your key objectives is to manage lists of contacts with email addresses for marketing purposes, which will probably need to be further segmented by any number of different criteria such as location, previous orders, size of organisation, job title or role etc.
With most Customer Relationship Management systems there are ways to improve the quality of the data being entered.
- Use drop-down lists/lookup tables where possible for accurate data selection.
- Specify the correct field types – don’t try putting dates into character fields for example.
- Use formatting rules where possible.
- Decide on any rules you or your company want for the use of punctuation and spaces in company names and phone numbers.
- Implement workflow or other processes to improve the user experience of the system and to do some of the routine data collection automatically where possible. For example, if the corresponding sales person is determined by the company postcode – get the system to manage this for you.
- Use fields only for a single purpose.
- Set up duplicate detection rules where possible.
Let’s have a look at some examples:
Data Quality Considerations
A bit of planning in the beginning can make life easier for yourself in the future. Before creating a new ‘company’ or ‘contact’ record it is recommended that you search the database to ensure that a record does not already exist with the same details. When searching, any misspelling will mean that the record is not found. It is important to consider the fact that in the majority of cases your CRM database is a shared system and there are other people using the data. This simply means that you need to take a little extra care to ensure that the integrity of the database is maintained for everyone.
Think about standards for your data, for example:
- Company Name – punctuation or spaces e.g. BBC; B.B.C.; B B C.
- Contact Name – This will vary depending on the system you use, some will have one field for the entire contact name (eg: Ms Pam Mannell), others will separate out the fields for the title (Mr, Mrs etc), the First Name and the Last Name.
- Phone numbers – Consider standardising on spaces within the number itself as this will impact searching. Consider whether all your numbers are UK based or you need to allow for international numbers.
- County and Country – use a lookup table for consistent data entry e.g. Hertfordshire not Herts. if possible. However, this is not always possible if you have international contacts.
- Implementing “AKA” (Also Known As) fields can be very effective in reducing duplicates.
As mentioned earlier, many fields will have been setup with drop-down lists, giving a list of valid entries for the field. Using lists like this greatly enhances the quality of the data and therefore makes selection of data for marketing purposes or analysis/reporting much more accurate.
Wherever possible keep this list of options as short as possible, often users only select from the ones they can see in the visible part of the list rather than scrolling.
Any good CRM system will enable you to easily analyse data to find inconsistencies. Set up some rules to manage your data by concentrating on the areas most important to you, for example:
- All records created in the last week
- All records without a postcode (or any other field that is of particular importance to you)
A little time spent reviewing this on a regular basis can keep your data clean – and clean data means better targeted marketing. I use a Dashboard to quickly show all new Accounts, Contacts and Leads created within Dynamics 365 over the last 7 days. This way I can quickly see what is going on, and check that records have been created correctly by anyone within the organisation.