In the old days, it was a filing cabinet that got stuffed so full that no one wanted to risk opening a drawer for fear of what might spill out.
Later, it became that shared drive on the corporate network — the one that had folder after folder of documents and spreadsheets that everyone had to wade through in order to get work done.
Today, the risk is that your CRM could become the place where information goes to die, and it’s going to take everyone’s help to make sure it doesn’t happen.
It’s ironic, in a way, that we have to talk about data cleansing and CRMs, given how organizations were struggling to manage information before.
Employees would often give up on those overloaded filing cabinets or those shared drives and simply start hoarding the data they needed locally, on their own computer.
Much like having sticky notes attached to your monitor, it was a way to make sure they could find the information they wanted the moment they needed it.
The problem was that these little islands of data made it a lot harder for teams of employees to work well together, especially if they were occasionally serving the same customer.
A lot of the data that gets used by the marketing team to fine-tune their campaigns and segment their customers, for example, could be of equal value to sales reps who are trying to prioritize their outreach. Customer service teams might use it to personalize the way they answer questions or fix problems. It shouldn’t be siloed.
Using a CRM solved all that, but it only works well when it’s treated as a living document, rather than a repository.
Companies might assume that they’ve overcome the biggest hurdle in deploying a CRM just by getting different teams to input their data, but that’s only the beginning. It’s really a matter of cultivating good habits around data that keeps a CRM clean and ready to drive growth.
Try these ideas and make sure to promote the fact that it’s in everyone’s best interest to contribute to CRM data cleansing, not just the sales team.
There’s a natural human interest in focusing on the latest leads or opportunities to boost sales, but CRMs have a way of accumulating a lot of data over time.
That’s why you should think about bringing up some of your oldest records first to determine whether they’re still accurate or relevant to the business.
A quick way to sift through aging records is to look at engagement levels. If nobody’s touched a record in six months or more, it’s probably not the most active customer relationship.
Instead of turning this into a big project, make inventorying aging records a standard process — maybe one in which you have automated reminders to help employees across departments to stay on top of it.
Cleaning your CRM data isn’t just a matter of removing records. Due to the way it allows for input across several different departments, a potentially bigger issue is duplicate records.
It’s also a dangerous issue, because “duplicate” may only mean the records reference the same customer, not that they have the same level of depth or accuracy.
It’s easy for duplicates to pile up, too. A newer employee might not check the CRM first before creating a new record about an existing customer, for instance.
Based on a regular maintenance schedule — it could be quarterly, or even monthly — review any duplicates that have been flagged by team members or through an automated check.
In some cases, it might make sense to merge rather than delete duplicates because they both have valuable data. The marketing team might have done research about a customer that speaks to their pain points, for instance, while a duplicate record has the particulars of the customer’s buying process that a sales rep learned first-hand.
Merge duplicates when you feel you can truly get the best of both worlds from a data perspective.
Cleanliness is not just about the volume or accuracy of records but also how consistently the information is entered. Details matter here, because CRMs are designed to analyze information based on patterns and commonalities. If every record has unique features, that job becomes more difficult.
This is where a “style guide” could help. Develop a standard way that all information should be entered into the CRM and ensure that every team member across all departments understands and adheres to it.
Pay attention to things like the way address details are abbreviated (or not), whether job titles like “Vice President” can be shortened to “VP” and so on.
This is not a matter of nit-picking. The more clarity you have around the way CRM data should be captured, the less cleanup you’ll have to do later on.
Also, make sure you also touch upon how notes are entered. This can be highly variable to one employee to another, but it should primarily be a place for data that leads to direct action.
Talk with your team about the notes when you’re reviewing it and assess whether people are entering information that’s truly valuable in terms of boosting sales or retaining customer loyalty.
It would be great if the CRM would eventually be completely spotless, but that’s not realistic, especially if it’s used widely by employees on a regular basis.
Some organizations try to get around the data cleanliness issue by limiting the number of administrators. That may reduce the potential for errors in some cases, but your ultimate goal should be galvanizing your entire team to treat the data in CRM like gold.
When it shines, your company’s future will become brighter, too.