The data deluge – sink or swim?

Here, Mike Richardson, managing director EMEA at Maximizer CRM, explains how businesses can understand and utilise their data.

Today’s data challenges are not purely the domain of large organisations. Any business, of any size, is well aware that the way it handles data has an increasing bearing on overall business success – yet, at the same time, it is continuing to grow in complexity as well as volume.

Here, Mike Richardson, managing director EMEA at Maximizer CRM, shares some important Dos and Don’ts to help firms ride the data tide and drive their business forward in the digital age.

Do:

Put in the groundwork

So here is a business revelation; information is not necessarily intelligence. Capturing data has the potential for giving you insights that can be used as the foundation of business intelligence and customer experience improvement initiatives.

However, if real return-on-investment is to be derived, a coherent strategy and methodical plan of action are prerequisites. The first step is to establish an objective view of how data is currently handled, in other words, how is it captured, organised and accessed? Where does it reside and in what format? This audit will shed light on any stumbling blocks to best-practice data management and highlight where process improvements are needed, before data can deliver value.

Integrate your data sources

Better information sharing is often the overriding goal when a company sets out to overhaul its data. You might assume that this task would be more straightforward in small companies compared to a large company, but in reality, most companies have experienced the frustrations of the ‘silo’ effect; where individuals, teams, or even whole departments can lose sight of the ‘one company’ ethos and lapse into working in isolation.

Internal barriers sabotage effective data management. A central data repository can help substantially, bringing together commercial information from wherever it is captured, such as sales, marketing, customer service, finance and product development. But remember that people still manage your technology – so training staff to foster a culture of transparency, integration and collaboration is vital or put simply, let’s just learn to share!

Strive for a 360-degree view of the customer

The big benefit to unifying data sources into a central pool is that it allows you to link up information derived from every single interaction your customers have with you. You then gain a rounded profile including buying habits, behaviour and payment history which is the springboard for commercial analysis. Immediate insights, opportunities and problems can be spotted and this intelligence can be made accessible across the business.

For instance, marketing may identify that a customer is particularly responsive to offers at the beginning of the month, but information from customer service may reveal that the customer is rather tricky and takes up a disproportionate amount of time in relation to their overall value. This insight can then drive well-founded decisions so that marketing spend and resources are allocated appropriately.

Don’t:

Restrict the benefits

Being able to access and analyse the company’s data in an agile way means that you can group customers by segment (such as a particular demographic or geographical location) to gain a greater understanding of your customer base and direct your marketing strategy.

Naturally incorporating a more sophisticated management regime will benefit the entire business. For instance, the lessons learnt from customer segmentation work will be invaluable for the product development team. Also, an up-to-the-minute, complete customer view that is accessible by customer service staff means that they can handle queries more efficiently. Decision-making across the company will be improved if information is shared effectively.

With the right data infrastructure in place, a fully-fledged CRM can be implemented across online and offline channels, allowing your company to provide a consistent customer experience that meets the expectations of today’s digitally-savvy consumers. This is a key part of building loyalty and, ultimately, customer retention.

Prioritise quantity over quality

Nobody wants to go to the trouble of capturing or storing information for the sake of it.

Yet there is a very real risk of this happening which usually arises because the company isn’t clear on its data strategy. That’s why putting in the ground work to define goals and approach is so valuable. Nonetheless, even if the right processes have been put in place, the problem often comes down to the fact that the data itself is unreliable. How can data-driven initiatives such as CRM and Cloud adoption meet commercial requirements if the underlying data is inaccurate?

Even at a simple level, if addresses or phone numbers are out-of-date or simply wrong then basic customer communications will go awry (and even damage your reputation by causing annoyance and upset to customers). Whatever the motivation behind your drive to better manage data, regularly cleansing databases is fundamental.

Overlook data governance

Not only will poor quality, poorly structured data prevent you from achieving your desired commercial outcomes, it could even expose the company to significant financial penalties and reputational damage by flouting regulatory requirements such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

From next May, when the regulation is enforced, companies of all sizes will need to be entirely transparent about how they are using the information they hold – and this, of course, relies on a robust understanding of their own strategies, systems and processes.

For instance, strict privacy policies must be in place, and companies will need to disclose, amend or delete information within a month of being asked to do so. Data quality also plays a key role, since ‘dirty data’ will clearly infringe the stipulation that databases are kept accurate and up-to-date.

So we can conclude that when a company implements a clear strategy, it will have a profound bearing on the overall business success.

Further reading on data

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