Where’s Waldo: Building Your CRM System for Better Data

As its name indicates, CRM is a tool to help improve the customer relationship. The best way of improving your relationship with your customers is, above all, to get to know them. Besides the options of automating processes and increasing productivity, the full value of a CRM system lies primarily in its information and what is done with it. No matter how powerful it is, it needs good data to generate constructive, understandable analyses.

The core driver of CRM data is the customer file. Building it is the first challenge during implementation and it must not be underestimated.

On most projects, organizations that decided to implement a CRM solution to manage customers already had the desired information. At issue was the fact it was not in a format where it was easy to find, analyze and, especially, understand. No matter how powerful ERP systems are, they are built from parallel systems that supply the additional information required but have quickly turned into a nightmare to maintain. For example:

  • Access databases where a single person could produce analyses that required daily manual updates;
  • managers who had to do recurring Excel manipulations to make the customer base visible;
  • marketing departments that had to ask representatives for a list of customers to which to send a promotion.

Do these situations sound familiar? Before rushing to implement your CRM solution, take the time to think about what you want so you do not run into the same problems.

The CRM solution will give you the benefit of being able to structure information the way you want so it is easy to find, analyze and understand.

How to start?

The starting point is to define what must be known as information on customers, both organizations and individuals.

If your customer data are not consolidated in your organization, start the exercise with these three thoughts:

  • What I need for my daily operations
    • Talk to all the positions that need customer information for their daily tasks to determine what is essential in your management to prevent wasted time.
  • What I need for my analyses
    • Talking about the expected result will make it easy to determine what must be in your file.

Example: Do you classify your customers by type of industry in your sales analyses? Be sure the industry is indicated in the customer file. To make life easy, determine the possible values beforehand and standardize capture with a dropdown list.

  • What my representatives already know
    • The goal of a CRM solution is to record all known information. You want to avoid having information stay in your representatives’ heads and never be part of corporate knowledge. If your representatives know of any recurring elements, they must be entered into the CRM system.

If your customer information is already consolidated, that is, in an ERP system, a CRM system you want to change or even an Excel file, you have a base from which to start. But be careful! If you implement a new CRM system, what you already have will doubtlessly be unsatisfactory. Though the exercise may seem superfluous, take the time to examine what you have.

What to look at in particular:

  • Improperly entered information
    • The unrestricted entry of data (for example, in a plain text field) gives the user freedom, but it may lead to headaches during analysis. Think about standardizing the fields essential to your analyses.
      Example: To prevent the entries PQ, QC, Quebec, Québec in the province field, insert a dropdown list giving all the options. No more headaches when you want to analyze accounts in Quebec!
  • “Misappropriated” fields
    • Users often use codes to indicate an information item they cannot enter any other way. Be sure to provide a place for that entry.

Real-life example: Use of a special character in the address indicating the presence of a certain type of equipment at the customer’s.

  • Always-empty fields
    • A field that is always empty indicates a problem. Either the user cannot get the information so does not complete the field, or entry is too difficult to be worth the effort. Think about removing that field or simplifying it via standardization.
  • Duplicates
    • If you have duplicates in your existing data, your current data management may be insufficient, and automatic validation might solve the problem. However, duplicate creation may be caused by a lack of visibility of the information. What information does the user need to validate if his data already exist? The harder they are to find and view, the easier it will be for duplicates to be generated.

These first points should help guide you as you consider creating a customer file that will deliver value to your operations, for all the users in your company.

However, this exercise is incomplete until you get to the end result. For a fault-free customer file, follow the Gestisoft blog to see part 2 of this article, which will help guide your decisions.