Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are now widely regarded as essential to the sales, marketing, technical support and customer service departments of large companies. What’s surprising is that not all companies seem as aware of the importance of the customer data within these systems.
Good quality data can become an important asset for a business if it is managed and maintained well. But the customer data in CRM systems is often neglected - in fact, it becomes a liability, undermining decision-making and service levels.
We recently commissioned an online survey that asked UK-based IT and marketing managers about their CRM systems and the data underpinning them. The results highlight that many UK organisations still aren’t taking the data in their CRM systems seriously – in fact, almost half of respondents (48 per cent) stated that they were unsure of the quality of data within CRM systems. Another 13 per cent were not confident about the overall quality of their customer data.
This failure to manage customer data quality standards threatens to undermine the fundamental objectives of having a CRM system at all. If the customer’s name or telephone number is incorrect, the customer record is immediately redundant and the time spent attempting to contact the customer is wasted. If there are duplicate customer entries, the service histories can be spread across systems and service standards can be negatively affected.
Data quality wasn’t the sole issue that our survey identified: 26 per cent of respondent organisations operate two or more CRM systems, which can contribute to multiple, conflicting views of the customer. In fact, 47 per cent of respondents cited data de-duplication and data quality as the biggest challenges, with 23 per cent believing interoperability was the greatest frustration.
Duplicate records can distort the view of a customer and waste valuable resources by marketing to the same customer twice. They can also lead to untrustworthy results when customer data is used for business intelligence analysis. It is best practice to integrate a company’s multiple CRM systems into a single, consolidated system. The subsequent application of data quality routines and the implementation of a data governance programme allows the CRM system to become an asset to the company and provides a tangible return on investment.
However, give credit where credit is due: it’s clear that many companies are already recognising the benefits of a single, integrated CRM system: 47 per cent of respondents have a single CRM system for the entire organisation; 32 per cent have on-going systems consolidation initiatives; and 33 per cent are working to improve the quality of their CRM data.
The competitive advantage of a successfully-implemented and maintained CRM system can be significant. But it is important to remember that a CRM system can only ever be as good as the data it has to work with.