Here are some simple things you can do up front to stay organized and be better prepared when you are ready to look at and manage your customers and the business in depth.
- Be consistent about how you collect customer data – There are usually several layers to the importance of customer information elements depending on your relationship. What you want to do is determine the information that is most critical and collect this consistently across all methods. Keep in mind that what is mandatory to transaction may be different from what you need to follow-up with customers after a purchase. So, make sure that you take this into account at the point in time you collect the information. It is harder and more costly to collect after the fact.
- Save data elements into dedicated fields – The biggest issue I find with new businesses and small businesses when they need to convert to more robust systems is that data elements are merged together into a single Excel cell. When collecting contact names, break apart the first and last name into separate fields. Do the same for addresses having fields for street address, city, state, country, and postal code.
- Determine what platform has the Master data – The second biggest issue when migrating customers to a robust system is the inability to determine which record is the most valid of duplicate entries. If you are saving contact and company information between your mobile phone, laptop, website, and company server, which will you consider the single source of record? Once you determine this, make sure you sync your lists to that source. I recommend you do this weekly at the least and use your primary server. Then, include the database in a weekly back-up process.
- Save, Save, Save – You may have caught this recommendation in the previous bullet. Backing up is critical. It is mandatory. I’ve watch small businesses loose business critical information because they didn’t back up or back up often enough. There are easy services today that make backing up our information simple. At the very least, invest in a USB storage device and plug into daily when you sit down and get to work. Before you do anything, back up. Make it a habit.
Managing your customer and company information does not have to be difficult or cumbersome. With a little forethought, when you business gets off the ground and you are ready to invest in better platforms and reporting, you will have a great foundation to do so.