CRM: Making every dollar — and customer — count
Customer relationship management, or CRM, has never been as critical to businesses as it is right now. We're entering an uncertain economic period where many organizations' first impulse is to cut costs in order to stay competitive. However, it is essential to do so in a pragmatic way. Here are some tips to use the data you have on your customers to find ways to maximize profits and reduce costs.
Work toward a single version of the truth. Many CRM deployments get derailed by inadequate data quality processes, leaving the applications filled with inconsistent, inaccurate or unreliable data. At the same time, the CRM system is rarely the only customer data “system of record” — customer information is usually found in different applications in marketing, sales, support and call center. Data quality and data integration capabilities can help companies aggregate this information, taking data from the CRM system and other systems to build a master record of each customer. With one representation of the customer, rather than a dozen conflicting records, companies can improve customer outreach, enhance customer retention and maximize resources.
Get to know your customers. Customer outreach is only as good as its supporting data. Operating under the guise of an inaccurate customer base can impact everything from demographic targeting to brand messaging. If your databases have information on three customers named “Bob Smith,” “Robert Smith” and “Rob Smith,” all with the same address in Cary, NC, you can get the false impression that you have a cluster of customers in that town. This misleading information will foil efforts to effectively segment customers — and make it impossible to accurately reach new prospects.
Recognize that paper waste is money wasted. There's been a huge buzz in the industry lately about the importance of reducing one's impact on the environment. The Direct Marketing Association recently published guidelines mandating more environmentally friendly business practices. Is poor quality data costing millions of extra dollars in marketing expenses? Is it giving your company a bad reputation for spamming and environmental irresponsibility? With high-quality data, companies can take some important steps towards a “green” business while safeguarding the reputation of the company.
As the economy sputters, companies need to carefully select endeavors that are worth their limited time and resources. No matter what your industry, you need to understand your customers, what they need and how to target them. There's a lot of money being lost right now, but data quality can ensure that yours is being put to good use.
Tony Fisher is president and CEO of DataFlux Corp. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.