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Maintaining Relationships

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It's a scene that plays out countless times in boardrooms across America. Inevitably, executive management's conversations about improving customer communications will turn to CRM and someone will ask, “Why don't we have the correct data in the database? There appears to be a disconnect between the data we are receiving and the true customer record.” That person is often 100% correct. This data disconnect can easily throw a wrench into customer communications efforts if your intended targets are getting the wrong marketing messages or not receiving the information they need or requested.

Every customer experience, every decision and every touch point depends on high-quality customer data. Here are four key strategies to maximize your potential for creating effective customer communications.

Take a team approach. Customer data, and the quality of that data, are a company's most important asset, and therefore every user needs to take a share of ownership. In too many companies, responsibility for data quality falls to IT. While IT must play a role, the fact remains that poor data quality is not an IT problem—it's a business problem. Marketing needs to understand the true extent of a customer relationship, but data quality also plays an important role in customer service and operations. A team approach, where business users own the rules and IT owns the applications, can help ensure the information is always fit for use.

Integrate to create a single view of the customer. Outbound and inbound customer communication management (CCM) technologies for the creation, distribution and management of multichannel communications need to be better integrated and part of the process for improving customer data. Ensure that your CCM platform is built on open standards to enable broad interoperability for modern service-oriented architecture (SOA) environments and integrates well with existing customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise content management (ECM) and transactional systems, including legacy mainframes.

Use interactive processes to safeguard your investment. With a good foundation in place, you will want to safeguard your investment in data quality by taking steps to keep data errors from entering your system in the first place. Apply the same data quality rules through interactive, front-end CRM input applications that support data entry done by customers, call center reps and outside sales. At these important junctures, you can validate and resolve ambiguities while the only true expert—your customer—is still involved.

Enforce regular data maintenance. Customer data can begin to lose value in short order, as new addresses, alternative phone numbers, new relationships, preference changes and updated rules take effect. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, customer information degrades at a rate of 2% a month, or nearly 30% a year. A well-enforced data maintenance program can help ensure that the information being used is accurate and up-to-date.

Lisa Sutrick is global portfolio director, customer communications, at Pitney Bowes Business Insight and has more than 20 years of experience in the document composition market. She can be reached at lisa.sutrick@pb.com.

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