"Right, People. Let's blast out that mail campaign we've been planning for so long."
It's time to put your trusty CRM software to work; to let it earn its keep. You run a search of people and companies you want to target.
You soon realize something's wrong when your list is far smaller than anticipated. A quick check reveals many profiles/categories have not been filled in, impacting your search results. Further inspection shows numerous records are incorrect; others are riddled with typos. And that's just for starters.
With a sinking feeling, you realize that last push isn't going to happen in a hurry.
Time for some Damage Control or Preventative Maintenance.
Fortunately one of the most common reasons cited for the high failure rate of CRM systems - poor data quality - is also one of the easiest to avoid.
Your CRM software is only as good as the information it contains. As the old programmers motto goes 'garbage in, garbage out'.
So how can you avoid incomplete, incorrect, irrelevant or out-of-date and generally unfit-for-use data from permeating your CRM software?
You need to gather your key CRM users together and thrash out a DATA CAPTURE PROCEDURE document, defining the rules of use.
? Who has what rights to the system; who can Create, Insert, Modify or Delete records, assuming your software supports all these functions? Forward this information to your system administrator to action.
? Decide on a procedure to check for any duplicates before creating a record. Depending on what 'de-duping' or 'data scrubbing' features your system has, this might require some simple searches before starting a new record.
? Do you allow abbreviations or acronyms? For example: IBM, or I.B.M, or International Business Machines Inc. or Incorporated and so on. A policy on ensuring consistency of input will help to avoid duplications in future.
? Are records going to be created in Upper and Lower case and when are CAPS acceptable?
? By when do you expect records, notes and so on to be created or updated? Same day, on return to the office?
? Check to see whether your Postal Services have specific requirements. Ensure your data meets these criteria.
? Is the primary address of clients to be created as a postal or a physical address?
? Make sure everyone checks spellings if they are unsure and do not trust spellchecker! When in doubt, ask the client ? they'll respect that. Is it Clark with an 'e'; Shawn, Sean or Shaun? One certain way to get your mail binned is to spell someone's name incorrectly.
? Also confirm the kind of corporation e.g. LLC, Inc, PTY Ltd. and so on.
? Make rules for creating new profiles or User Definable Fields (UDF) (or whatever your specific CRM software calls them.) Place a lot of emphasis on this. Every time a new UDF is needed, it should first be approved. Otherwise duplicates will permeate your database e.g. Lead Source: Yellow Pages, YP, yelo pages.
? Ensure that email addresses are put in correctly. Basic but common mistake!
? Set up procedures, if not supported by your software, of how to create records from inbound emails.
? If applicable, are you going to use Mandatory/Forced fields?
You might as well address the issue of Backups while you are about it.
? Who is the responsible person for backing up your databases/s? Who covers for them when they are absent or unavailable?
? How frequently are backups to be done? Diarise!
? How are backups done e.g. by the Grandfather, Father, Son method.
? Ensure backups are made on good quality CD's or whatever format you are using. It's no good doing a backup, then finding on attempting a Restore that it doesn't work! It is also a good idea to copy backups onto more than one data format.
? Where are the backups to be stored?
? Are the backups secure? This is important for both security and practical reasons.
Once your Data Capture Procedure Document is finished, get everyone to sign it off as READ!
As standard practice, ensure that document is handed to all new employees at your company.
Refer back to this document for possible revision every three months or so.
Try this: select a couple of records - both good and bad - every week, to put on the overhead at staff meetings. Make sure you don't unduly embarrass anybody but watch this become the light-relief highlight of your meetings! People learn best when having fun!
What if your database is in one unholy mess?
Has the rot set in so deeply that your database needs a complete overhaul? Turn this seemingly insurmountable task into an opportunity to you. This is an excellent excuse to re-establish contact with your clients and let them know you care. You can always put lapses down to data crashes but tell them you have fixed the problem!
Importantly, help your staff understand what you need from the data to facilitate more accurate marketing and reporting and hence the success of your business and their careers.
By creating a sense of pride and ownership in the company database, you are nurturing the essential process of buy-in, necessary for the success of your CRM initiative. Don't compromise this critical tool by allowing your CRM software to be infected by inferior data.
About The Author
Perry Norgarb has specialized in Small Business CRM solutions for the last 15 years.
Contact him or find out more about CRM, Contact Management and other Sales Tracking software tips and solutions for small businesses at: http://www.smallbizcrm.com.
You are free to re-publish this article as long as this bio box and copyright remain intact. ? 10 December, 2004.