Where’s Waldo: Giving Relevance to Your Data, part 2

Where’s Waldo: Giving Relevance to Your Data

So, let’s face it: your data is a mess and you’re seriously hoping that your next CRM system will be able to bring order out of this chaos and, even better, keep you informed on your customers.

Having diligently completed the exercise in the Where’s Waldo: Building Your CRM System for Better Data, you’re left with the final sprint because, if you’ve followed the advice properly, you should be bursting with ideas and optimism with regards to the future of your data, and have a solid basis for framing your first customer file draft. Not so fast! A cool-headed validation is the key to making sure that you end up with a product that will continue to deliver value throughout future years.

To guide you in the last step towards the finished product, I’ll share with you a few essential rules and pieces of advice that should help you cut through the clutter of needs and ideas that have been collected during your research process.

Cutting through the clutter: 2 questions you should always ask yourself

A CRM system will open up a whole new world of possibilities, which can be quite overwhelming. To help you bring order to your brainstorming session, here are two questions that I always ask to prompt my customers to think about the relevance of their data:

  1. Frequency of use: what’s your information going to be used for and how often? Do you need it on a regular basis (i.e.: for your daily or monthly reports) or just once in a while? The answer to this question will serve to determine whether a custom field is really needed or not.
  2. Likelihood of obtaining and leveraging the information: creating a custom field to capture specific data is one thing, but it doesn’t guarantee that the users will actually fill it in. Be realistic as to what you are asking of them. If the information isn’t easy to find, will the required efforts outweigh the benefits? Take the time to assess why a custom field is there, and whether it will likely be left empty too often.

Validate your first draft

Now that your first version is ready, there is only one way to validate that what you have developed, through thorough questioning and research, accurately translates into your dream customer file: test it out!

You might have to repeat this exercise several times in order to find the best possible way to record your customer data, but when all is said and done, how can you ensure that your customer file will actually pass the test? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Use a (diverse) sample of existing customers and submit the new customer file to them.
  • Get your file tested by several types of positions within your company: an inside sales representative might indeed raise concerns or issues that an outside sales representative wouldn’t necessarily think about.
  • Generate existing reports: test your file by generating a series of frequently requested reports or analysis (i.e.: résumés/summaries/abstracts? for upper management, client lists for the marketing department etc.)

Review your objectives

Want to know the ultimate test to ensure that your CRM system brings added value to your daily work routine? Dig out the initial project goal sheet and validate that what you’ve developed properly matches your needs.

Here are a few common examples below:

  • Goal: segment and target your customers

Capturing information on your customers should make the segmentation process easier. Should your next marketing campaign target a specific region? A well-designed CRM system will be able to bring up a targeted mailing list within seconds.

Obtaining valuable data also greatly facilitates client segmentation. A segmented customer database will enable you to implement targeted actions to meet the needs and interests of your customers. Lastly, an optimal segmentation will allow you to focus your efforts on your best customers, and pursue meaningful and effective actions that should trigger a positive reaction.

  • Goal: develop new analysis tools

Representatives often have an intuitive knowledge of their work performance. Being able to track/visualize their success and failure rate through a CRM system can validate or invalidate those intuitions and thus, help them adjust their behaviors so as to achieve better results. By monitoring the development efforts, successful or not, it will help them uncover valuable insights into patterns and structured approaches to client relations and business development.

Want to validate how competitive your prices really are? The lost or won opportunities will illustrate to what extent price impacts your gains.

Are client relationships what’s really driving your sales activities? The CRM system will provide you with concrete data as to which of your contacts you have the highest or lowest success rates with.
Data entered by your field employees will help draw a realistic picture of what goes on [xxx] and provide critical decision-making information.

  • Goal: analyze your sales activities

An objective that doesn’t come up very often but that’s still very much appreciated is that you can leverage the CRM system to measure the effectiveness of your sales activities by comparing the variations in the efforts made and the results achieved, thus giving you a clear measurement of your Return on Investment (ROI). Having the ability to look at “hard data” to understand which efforts have produced the most results will help representatives adjust their behaviors and ultimately steer them towards better results.

The easiest scenarios to analyze [xxx] compare the completion of tasks vs. actual sales or perform a sales cycle analysis to identify bottlenecks and possible ways to reduce them.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Even when following the best advice, developing a customer file requires a fine balance, and only you can truly understand what’s important to your company. Don’t get too distracted by the many possibilities offered by the CRM system and avoid the following extremes:

  • Create too many restrictions:
    • While standardization which simplifies analysis should be one of your end goals, bear in mind that certain elements cannot be standardized. When creating custom fields, remember to leave a fair degree of flexibility to your users (through text boxes where they can provide more detailed information for example).
  • Create too many unrestricted fields:
    • In the same manner, providing users with too much flexibility will only result in inconsistent and unusable data. Try and standardize your strategic data but limit the use of unrestricted fields to non-critical information.
  • Remove too many fields:
    • In this Big Data era, data cleaning/cleansing has become the latest trend and many CRM systems (Microsoft Dynamics is no exception) are now trying to only display essential information. Do be careful however, as removing too many fields for your users will by extension restrict you from leveraging standard or advanced functionalities.

Last but not least, I will leave you with one final piece of advice that you should keep in mind for the duration of your project. A CRM system is like a living organism, for it resides in an evolving environment that’s itself managed by resources with evolving roles and skillsets. As such, no matter how perfect the project implementation might appear on paper, change and enhancement requests are to be expected as your users familiarize themselves with the system. The fact that you are receiving new ideas for improvement is an excellent sign as it confirms that your users have adopted the system and that they are keen to improve it, based on their practical experiences and processes. Remember to plan ahead for improvement cycles and you will end up with a robust tool that will not only meet your needs but also deliver value added to your operations.


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