This writer from The Economist said it best when they wrote: “the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.” Data allows business leaders to make faster, smarter decisions that push their company’s growth forward. While a business is rarely sitting on an undiscovered oil well, we’re all sitting on a well of data about who our customers are, how they behave, and what they want.
That customer data is critical to everything from marketing campaigns to product roadmaps, yet when it isn’t clean, it’s not only useless, but potentially dangerous. Dirty data has the potential to ruin customer relationships by causing your business to send the wrong communication at a bad time. It can also cause your team members to make ill-informed decisions that set you on a negative trajectory. To avoid those pitfalls, it’s critical to keep your data clean, as well as secure. Here are a few recommended processes to avoid dirty data.
1. Minimize Human Error
Human error is one of the biggest threats to clean data. Every day your customers or reps are entering fields of information into your database. And if their processes aren’t consistent, data can quickly become dirty. Take the word “street”, for example, which could be entered as “St.”, “st.”, “Street”, “street”, even “Strt.”. Without the right user and backend catches in place, this could quickly mess up your data.
Ensure that you encourage and train on uniformity in how reps enter common words and fields. For your customers, include helper text on your form fields that explain how entries should be formatted and prevent submissions unless the text is entered correctly. And wherever possible, automate cleanup so that the system returns the information in a more consistent way.
2. Train on Critical Action Points
Data error commonly occurs when users are taking big actions like merging old and new data, segmenting contacts, or switching to new software tools. It’s essential that anyone who is touching those points of action knows and follows appropriate procedure. Keep your training up-to-date and limit the number of users who have access to take critical action on data. This will help ensure that anyone who touches the data in a potentially impactful way knows what they’re doing.
3. Consolidate Duplicate ID’s for Same Contact
It’s to be expected that you will end up with some duplicate entries for the same contact within your database. Establish a process that allows you to periodically check your database for duplicate leads, and remove them. However, be careful before you delete records to ensure that both leads have been vetted, confirming that the one with accurate data is being utilized. The majority of CRM software programs save you loads of time by providing auto duplicate deletion. Also, use the alert feature within your CRM as another stop-gap to ensure you’re able to take a look at contacts before they’re deleted permanently, so you can avoid mistakes.
4. Remove Inactive Contacts
You likely have some contacts hanging out in your database that need to be deleted. Query your database of inactive users to find out who is still interested and remaining on your list. Before you delete all inactive users, first try to decide why they’re inactive and whether or not they could be brought back to value. You can use each email campaign as an opportunity to analyze opt-outs, mutations, bounces, and your overall results. Consider cleaning your database after each email campaign once you’ve compiled and examined the results.
5. Remove Garbage Contacts
Your database may contain some “garbage” contacts doing little more than wasting space and dirtying up your data. These garbage contacts could be the result of intentional or accidental user error in how email addresses or phone numbers are entered, or could be no longer in service. Your CRM should allow you to run a search to determine which contacts have poor or garbage data, and can be deleted.
6. Agile Communication
When your sales, marketing, and IT teams work together, it’s easier to maintain clean data. Each team has a different level of knowledge about the contacts coming in, as well as the systems used to maintain the data. Ensure you have a system in place for teams to communicate quickly and effectively about data and contact questions. This could be a channel in your internal chat tool or a ticketing system in your service desk software. The faster team members are able to ask and answer on data questions, the less likely it will be that a data error causes a larger issue.
Customer data is invaluable— but only if it’s accurate. Clean data ensures your team can make the most informed and accurate decisions. You’re sitting on a wealth of information, don’t let it go to waste.
Jessica Barrett Halcom is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com, with specializations in human resources, healthcare, and transportation. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and currently lives in Nashville, TN.