How to make the most of CRM data

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If workers don’t use their data to meet the needs of the business, a new CRM system will undoubtedly be pegged as a failure. This can be avoided by keeping in mind a number of factors both before a system is implemented and after employees start using the data.

Out with the bad before in with the new
It’s easy to become blinded by the promises of a new CRM system. After all, a new solution loaded with features will surely fix all problems, right? Sadly, the answer is no. The truth is just because a CRM system is new doesn’t mean past data problems will be magically remedied. If a new system is put into place without first acknowledging inaccurate or corrupt data, the situation will only get worse.

Cleaning existing bad data can require a great deal of time and effort, so company leaders who have invested time and money into a new system can be prone to ignore the importance of fixing the bad before bringing in the new. If these data are not taken care of in advance, they will be transferred to the new system and can completely defeat the purpose of upgrading in the first place. CRM often involves a significant investment and a substantial amount of employee training, so if you’re not using a new system to its full advantage, you’ll only end up hindering your business.

Set goals and get the right features
Each organization’s business data are different and require a distinctive program for the greatest benefit. For this reason, project managers, consultants and vendors should have a good understanding of how data can be used most effectively for their specific business.

Companies should define goals before putting a new system to work. Ask what the projected benefits of a system are and make sure to define an answer in detail. Include numbers—even if they are estimates, they will still provide you with a better understanding of whether or not CRM is meeting your goals. Otherwise, there is no way to determine whether a new system is a success.

Ensure the solution has the right features in place to make understanding customer needs easier. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • The new system should allow for easy review of data from outside sources, such as spreadsheet programs and business analytic software. There are tons of data out there, and not all of them are good. The system should be capable of flagging bad data as they come in and powerful enough to analyze the information that counts.
  • The solution should offer a convenient method of deleting or editing out-of-date customer data. If data are particularly old, a system function that marks them as suspect is useful. In addition, the application should be able to detect and eliminate duplicate records from the database.
  • Look for built-in features that make data management easier, such as analytics tools, reporting applications and work flow automation engines.
  • Many companies use data entered from locations all around the world. If this is the case, make sure the database can handle all character sets.
Expect quality
If there is no standard of quality for data, a CRM system becomes useless. Databases full of contact information won’t help employees perform their daily jobs better if the information is incomplete or full of errors. Perfection is an unrealistic goal, but expecting employees to follow certain standards and exercise the greatest care possible will no doubt lead to higher-quality data.

A CRM system should not be simply a holding place for e-mail. Unfortunately, some companies spend time and money investing in a new solution and then use it exclusively or principally for that function.

Employees face a great deal of pressure to input data as quickly as possible, and as a result the data often end up copied and pasted directly from e-mail. The information contained in e-mail is no doubt important, but an expensive new CRM system can only be used to its full advantage when dealing with additional, higher-quality data. To discourage sloppiness, make sure employees know there are certain data quality standards to follow and that the standards are required, not merely recommended. Reinforce this fact by monitoring data on a regular basis to make sure the input is up to the set standard.

Ensure free-flowing data
Possessing essential customer data can make managers and salespeople feel powerful. After all, data are the lifeblood of the business. If employees possess valuable data nobody else has, they can be tempted to keep them to themselves. They might even feel as though their job is on the line if everyone else has access to the data.

It is important that these employees have a good understanding that their work is valued and that they will actually worsen the company’s position if they horde information. In order for CRM to do its job properly, a number of people must have access to the data that will increase efficiency, sales and ultimately allow the business to perform well.

Sam Biardo is the founder and CEO of Technology Advisors (, a business solutions consulting company.

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