How to fill the gaps in your CRM

There is a certain inevitability that your customer/client records will fall into disrepair. Here's how to put that off.

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In a perfect world, your CRM solution would present you with complete, accurate, and relevant information every time you call upon it. Well, you already know we are not living in a perfect world but at least the CRM system can be made to function as it’s supposed to. To do that, it’s necessary to fill the gaps with freshly harvested data and make sure that no data is duplicated or corrupted.

This might sound very difficult, but with the right tools it can actually be very simple. Even a small business can do it very effectively by setting up automated procedures for data collection and processing. However, it takes a proactive effort and a readiness to admit that some things need to be done in a more efficient and tech-friendly way.

Eliminating human error

Even the best employees make mistakes, so every manually controlled database will contain a portion of inaccurate data. Some entries might be mistyped, saved in the wrong place, or simply omitted. The impact of human imperfection can be minimised with good training and a culture of accountability, but sooner or later the workforce will need technological assistance to keep up with the constantly growing volume of data. It’s not about trusting the people who handle the data, more about giving them the right kind of support and accounting for their natural tendencies. Considering the amount of data sources that most businesses have to deal with these days, it’s more economically reasonable to upgrade the technological capacities than to suffer from the consequences of using deficient data.

Smart data integration

CRM is supposed to integrate all data sources into a readily searchable company-wide system, but that doesn’t always work as planned in practice. If the solution wasn’t properly customised, it may fail to capture all the essential inputs from all possible channels. To complicate matters further, many companies use ad hoc methods to communicate with prospective customers and consequently the CRM may struggle to keep up with all the informal sources. Taking a good look at internal processes and adjusting the data integration scheme to reflect reality is probably a good start towards improving data-driven sales. It is essential for the data structure to evolve together with the company, not limit its growth and development. Whenever there is a gap, using a custom-built API to make up for the shortcomings of the original deployment is probably a good idea.

Identifying blind spots and bottlenecks

Quite often, a good chunk of problems with customer data originate from the same place. It could be an obsolete data collection procedure or a particular department that doesn’t strictly follow protocols. By recognizing how the gaps in the database occur, it becomes possible to prevent them with smarter organisation. Large enterprises are especially vulnerable to information bottlenecks, and must take active steps to prevent them at any cost. A careful analysis of the information flow and some interviews on the ground could reveal the problematic areas and point towards a solution that permanently fixes the inherent weakness in the system. Of course, it’s entirely possible that new bottlenecks might appear after the adjustment, so the management needs to remain diligent at all times.

Staying up to date is a constant struggle

Finding and correcting obsolete data is perhaps the greatest data management challenge that today’s businesses are facing. Due to flaws in data storage procedures, sometimes old information remains in the database even when updated info is readily available. This type of a hole in the data system is particularly dangerous, as on first sight it appears that CRM software has all that it needs but in reality half the leads are dead. Fortunately, this can be remedied relatively easily with professional assistance of data specialists like those that work for Prestanda. It’s simply necessary to ensure that each change in the system is reflected across the entire company as soon as it’s made in order to have accurate leads that result in additional sales.

Leveraging the power of automation

Since most data inquiries in a typical company can be standardised, the obvious solution is to automate the input as well and ensure that each entry contains all required fields. Execution of this concept is made easier by the fact that virtually all communications today are conducted through digital channels, so implementing a procedure that checks every entry is much easier than ever before. API’s and other data automation tools can do this job very effectively, thereby improving the reliability of data while at the same time relieving the pressure on the workforce. Ideally, this should be done with full awareness of the factors outlined above, taking into account best industry practices as well as the internal structure of the company. Automation is not a cure-all, but it’s a powerful tool that small and medium businesses are not utilising nearly enough at this time, despite its potential to resolve most of the data management problems they are facing.

In-house or third party?

Without a doubt, some improvement in terms of having a more complete CRM database can be achieved by mobilising in-house resources and adhering to existing procedures more strictly. Still, in some scenarios that might not be enough to make a tangible difference, usually due to lack of qualified professionals to take up this job on a full time basis. Collaboration with an external company like Prestanda may seem like a luxury, but only until you do the math and realise how much is left on the table because of the poor quality of data. Of course, the math is different for every company and the decision whether to enlist external help should only be made after a thorough financial analysis.

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