Lets Keep it Clean – CRM Databases

There have been many articles written about the importance of keeping your CRM database clean and accurate. Almost everyone believes that “garbage in” equals “garbage out”. Let’s take a look at a number of practical ways to keep databases clean on both a preventative and ongoing basis.

When an organization makes the decision to move to a CRM system, a bit of upfront planning is essential as part of a preventative approach to keeping data clean.

The use of drop-down menus, where applicable, is an excellent way to help keep your database clean. Drop-down menus allow the user to choose one or multiple pre-established options already in the system, limiting the user from typing anything in the field.

Because the use of drop-down menus is not feasible for all fields in a CRM system, other steps can be taken in the planning stage to help keep the database clean. One such option is to set up limitations on field length. Another option would be to put a qualifier on a field so it will only accept numeric values.

A field for the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code of an account is an excellent example. SIC codes are always 4-digit numbers that identify the industry for an organization. If the field is set up only to accept numeric values of 4 digits, data entry errors can be prevented.

Once an organization is up and running with CRM, it will need to establish some additional protocols to keep the database clean. Most firms disable deletion rights for users in an organization to prevent the accidental or malicious erasure of data. Usually, a person from Information Systems or Administration with knowledge of the system and data is selected to be the point person who has the right to delete data in the system. This person does not review the data for errors or gaps. This person relies on the users in the company to code accounts that might be duplicated or that need to be deleted.

One of the best methods to mark records for deletion is to have the users put the word “delete” at the beginning of any record they want to be deleted. This allows the person with delete rights to run an alphanumeric sort and clean up any records with the word “delete” in them.

One very important protocol has to do with free-form text fields. In order for the users in the organization to be able to create accurate queries in the system, the organization needs to create some naming conventions. For example, if an account name is “Associated Builders Compound” and everyone in the industry refers to them as “ABC”, the organization needs to establish a naming convention for this account and similar accounts that can be listed differently by users. In this example, the organization needs to determine whether it will be “A.B.C.” or “ABC” or “Associated Builders” or the full name of the company.

Firms that use a CRM system on an ongoing basis recognize that the individual user is the one who is responsible for his/her data, and that includes keeping it clean. It is important for the organization to create a number of search views that users can utilize on an ongoing basis to catch missing data in system records. These types of search views save valuable time for everyone.

Keeping a database clean requires that an organization create a living plan – a plan that is actually used, not one that sits in the bottom of a desk drawer. Part of that plan should include ongoing messaging about the negative impact of entering new records in the system with partial information. The old adage about doing something right the first time applies to clean data as well; loading it correctly the first time is more cost-effective than having to do it twice.