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Being customer obsessed starts with accurate data

The term customer obsession has become popular as businesses endeavor to create meaningful connections to break through the marketplace clutter. As a consumer, I would be personally thrilled if marketers knew me better and sent me communications with relevant rather than generic messages.

To my excitement, marketers are working hard at implementing loyalty programs and one-to-one marketing initiatives. Regardless of how sophisticated your marketing program is, you’re likely considering how to reach your customers with better targeting. While the creative, messages, and channels are all central to this effort, it all starts by having a clear picture of your customers.

By analyzing your customer database with contact details, information about buying patterns and preferences, and even past interactions, you will have the insight needed to determine your best strategies. Getting this right is crucial to marketing campaigns. Without accurate customer information, segmentation or targeting could be incorrect or the consumer may not even receive the message.

However, even with this focus on customer obsession, organizations are still struggling to keep basic customer information accurate. According to a recent Experian QAS study, 92% of organizations suspect that their customer or prospect data might be inaccurate. On average, respondents also suspect that as much as 25% of information is inaccurate.

With that level of inaccuracy, it can be extremely difficult to reach consumers, much less segment correctly and then market strategic messages to individuals. It seems elementary, but to implement a customer-centric strategy, marketers first need to have accurate information about their customers.

Getting the basics right is essential to the data accuracy for true customer obsession. Marketers can take the following steps to do so:

1. Clean existing data – Marketers need to start with a clean slate before they can execute targeted campaigns to customers. Therefore, they should take basic steps to cleanse the existing records within their database.

First, stakeholders should clean existing contact information on each client. Contact data cleansing can be done with in-house software tools or by sending the information to a third party. Clean data will ensure that marketers can actually reach customers, but also help to identify duplicate entries.

Second, marketers need to identify and merge duplicate records. Multiple records for a single customer can divide purchase history and prevent stakeholders from understanding the value of each client. Depending on the size of the database, duplicates can be identified through Excel spreadsheets, tools contained in the CRM system, or separate software tools. It is important to keep in mind that with any manual process, organizations are more prone to human error. Therefore, organizations should carefully consider the ease of deployment and accuracy level when selecting a solution.

2. Ensure the accuracy of incoming information – Once contact data is clean and duplicates have been merged, marketers should implement processes that ensure the accuracy of all incoming data. Verification tools can be put in place that use sophisticated matching techniques to identify accounts within a database and validate any contact information as it is being entered.

While marketers will need to team up with other departments that directly enter information (e.g., customer service, sales, and IT), ensuring the accuracy of data as it is being entered is a critical step. The old saying “garbage-in, garbage-out” certainly applies. If information coming into a database is perpetually incorrect, then marketers will be forced to clean up information before each campaign or they’ll be unable to segment individuals for targeted messages. Accurate incoming information will not only allow marketers to more accurately target consumers in real time, but also will help overall business efficiency and customer service.

3. Consider the channels through which data is collected – It’s important to remember that there are differences in how information is collected through each channel. In a call center or point-of-service location, staff members are typing information. However, only so much information can be collected at the point of service when time constraints become a major factor. Additionally, there are differences in online and mobile channels. Customers on mobile phones are dealing with a smaller screen and have a harder time entering information. While marketers want to collect as much information as possible, it’s important to keep the customer experience in mind. Marketers need to consider the overall usability of given channels and only prompt for information necessary to the purchase or easy collected through the medium.

Being customer obsessed starts with accurate data. Advanced analysis and segmentation is only as good as the background information supplied. Unfortunately, without accurate data, organizations are unable to target customers effectively or draw accurate analysis.

There are simple steps marketers can take to improve data quality within their database. While ensuring that information is collected accurately may not be a core job function of a marketer, the successful execution of that marketer’s campaign depends on data. Marketers should get to know their overall data quality strategy and how their department can better improve data quality for marketing purposes, but also to benefit the organization as a whole.

Beatriz Santin is senior director of marketing and product at Experian QAS.

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