Gartner says we spent $18 billion on CRM software in 2012, and $20.4 billion on CRM software in 2013. Its vice president of research, Joanne Correia, says that CRM “will be at the heart of digital initiatives in the coming years”.
The future is bright for the industry, and businesses clearly see the benefit of CRMs: better returns, better staff morale, increased productivity.
However, there’s a silent virus lurking in many CRMs. It’s a virus that slowly gets a foothold in the system, then slowly starts to deprive it of oxygen, choking it until it can no longer breathe. As the CRM starts to suffer, the business starts to falter. It wastes time and money, and it spends more and more time trying to stick a Band-Aid on the problem.
So what is the virus? The secret assassin of the CRM? It’s poor quality data. Since the CRM system is simply a framework, the data within it holds the key to its success.
Over time, as the data ages, it becomes less accurate and more prone to error. This process is so predictable, it is almost organic. Experts at NetProspex put the rate of decay at 2 per cent per month. HubSpot concurs with roughly the same figure: 22.5 per cent per annum.
Data quality is a pernicious problem in any dataset held by any business. For example, look at the contact database used by the marketing department. It needs accurate contact records to send out its communications, and it needs to be able to segment the database effectively.
Overall, it’s estimated that 50 to 75 per cent of the success of a marketing campaign relies on the accuracy of the data used.
CRM data quality is not just a marketing problem. Sales teams also rely on the CRM to give them a hotline right to the customer. The support team needs to know whom they’re supporting, and the executive team need to have faith in the reports they’re reading to make healthy business decisions.
Customers must trust all departments to handle their data ethically and lawfully.
A CRM in crisis cannot support the business in any of those activities. It cannot be said to serve any department well. And if you can’t address your customers confidently, using the correct information, you will need to manage your reputation – and possibly pay fines – when they start to complain.
According to Target Marketing’s 2001 survey, 70.8 per cent of contact records had at least one change in a 12-month period. It’s easy to see how the CRM can be assassinated in just a few months.
The only way to halt the virus is to practice good data hygiene, using CRM data quality solutions that offer adequate protection against decay.
That means constantly checking the CRM data for errors using specialised data quality software, and ensuring new errors are not introduced at the point of entry. Only then can the CRM be protected against its arch-enemy: poor data quality.