In the right hands, a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system can be one of the most valuable assets to any business. But often it falls into the wrong hands and this is where problems can occur.

Bad data can sneak into a CRM at any point in time. This could be something as minor as information being entered into the wrong field, but it could easily be something far more severe like the wrong record being completely changed and going unnoticed by a busy user. Either way, a culmination of small and big errors can slowly deteriorate the value of your CRM, and have a significant knock-on effect on your marketing campaigns and sales efforts.

Whenever I am faced with a messy CRM, I often think back to a conversation between my father and great auntie that took place over twenty years ago. Auntie Floss said something very poignant that I have always remembered: “I don’t really know much about computers and databases, all I know is that if you put rubbish into them you can expect to get rubbish out.”

I have used a variation of that quote many times in recent years when I’ve been faced with customers' messy CRMs. Because in simple terms, your CRM is only as good as the data you feed into it. In fact, CRM heavyweight Salesforce has noted that 91% of CRM data is incomplete and 70% goes bad or becomes obsolete every year.

So with that in mind, here are some of the biggest causes of “bad data” issues that we come across all the time, how they can impact the integrity of your CRM, and how to fix them.

1. Lack of adoption

Over the past decade, I have used close to 50 different CRM platforms for one thing or another. Some good, some bad and many horrendously ugly.

Yet, despite the underlying purpose and sheer effectiveness of the tool (when employed correctly), one common comment crops up time and time again: “I don’t see the benefit of using it”.

In some cases it is easy to see why. If a salesperson is spending countless hours trawling through duplicate records trying to find the right account, or perhaps incorrect information is making it harder to reach their desired contact, they are not only less likely to embrace the system but they may opt for other options.

This may lead to frustrated users neglecting the system and entering the bare minimum in order to ‘tick a box’ or even not bothering to sense check their own entries. This could lead to there being a substantial impact on the accuracy of pipeline reports and forecasts.

The best way to overcome user adoption issues is to make your CRM part of the company DNA, by:

  • Explaining and demonstrating its value – take the time to understand how your team can benefit from the CRM and sell it to them!
  • Making it part of training – provide training sessions to your existing staff and make it a part of every new employee induction moving forward.
  • Providing follow-up tips and further training – CRMs are ever evolving, don’t just leave your team to learn about these for themselves.

2. Overcomplicated data collection

Remember the quote about putting rubbish in and getting rubbish out? Well, too many businesses waste time collecting data they simply don’t need.

If a customer has several representatives working at different offices across the world, do you really need to collect each individual mailing address? For example, my home address requires 48 keystrokes without me even entering a country. Imagine if you had to do that for 10 different sales representatives.

Not only does unnecessary data collection lead to time being wasted, but mistakes will inevitably be made.

Therefore it is crucial to think about the data you actually need to improve the productivity of your CRM. If there is something included in your existing data that you never use, chances are you don’t need it.

3. Being consistently inconsistent

Inconsistent data can be a huge problem for your business. When you enter into high levels of bad or inaccurate data, it isn’t just one person or a department that is affected – it’s the whole company!

While data inconsistencies are virtually impossible to avoid, you can implement data entry processes that can prevent errors from occurring during crucial stages of the sales pipeline.

For example, in HubSpot you can create dependencies between deal stages in your sales pipeline.This means that CRM users will have a set of mandatory properties that require specific information to be entered at each deal stage.

Another way this can be avoided is to introduce standardised property values throughout the CRM. By using drop-down selectors, radio buttons and checkboxes, the user is given a number of options to choose from. This eliminates the need for manual data entry, where a simple spelling mistake could lead to issues with reporting and segmentation.

4. The dangers of customisation

While CRM customisations, such as add-ons and integrations, can be a great thing in theory, in practice they can also be a huge hindrance.

When a CRM is viewed and used as the central source of information in a large organisation, several departments want to get the most out of the system to make their jobs easier. The marketing team wants to track campaign activity. The sales team wants to know everything about their prospects. The accounts team wants to be able to track invoicing and payments. The support team wants to monitor customer satisfaction and feedback. 

Although fulfilling these desires may be feasible within your CRM, any added functionality can clutter the system with unused or duplicate fields that will lead to further instances of bad data.

Therefore, it is important that stakeholder requests are considered on a case-by-case basis and not just granted en masse. You need to ensure that any add-ons will stand the test of time.

5. Inefficient processes

According to market research firm IDC, companies lose 20 to 30 percent in revenue every year due to inefficiencies. Yet, worryingly, many companies continue to ignore the problems caused by poorly managed data and don’t have procedures in place to nullify this threat.

By implementing a few simple processes your teams can play an integral role in maintaining the cleanliness of your CRM data:

  1. Create a list of standard procedures for entering data into your CRM and distribute these to staff.
  2. Keep these procedures up-to-date via an intranet or internal system, and require staff to confirm that they have read and understood them.
  3. Introduce mandatory CRM data management training as part of onboarding for new staff.
  4. Run regular data cleansing reports through a tool such as Incycle that allows you to de-duplicate, cleanse and bulk associate customer, company and deal records.

Although bad CRM data can be a huge problem for your business, it isn’t insurmountable. By rooting out the rubbish and introducing better data management measures, your team can maximise the potential of your CRM, use time more effectively and make better decisions that will enable your business to grow faster.