When it’s time to send an email campaign, but you have to build a separate list, outside of your CRM. Because you know one sad truth: you can’t trust your CRM data.

So what’s the point, really? Isn’t the point of your CRM to hold truths about your customers? To have a place to refer to when you need accurate information?

You invested in state-of-the-art CRM software but keep running into issues. Bounced emails amass because of clumsy mistypes that go unchecked. 

You miss details that keep you from targeting your audience properly. Duplicates make you contact the same person twice. And cleaning up your data takes too much time. It’s an unfortunate snowball effect that happens to anyone who isn’t paying close attention.

Bad CRM data is costly. And even the best CRM software can't stop it from creeping into your database. 

Think of it this way: bad data getting into your system is like junk food you eat mindlessly. Once a month might be okay, if you go to the gym and eat healthy the rest of the month. But if you keep letting it get in, buying a gym membership or a fancy water bottle isn’t going to stop things from getting bad.

That's why getting the right CRM system is only the start. To address corrupt data and make your CRM database trustworthy, you need to do more.

In this article, we break down what CRM databases are, how poor data gets in, and what you can do to change this.

Want to see if your data is ready for powerful customer relationship management? Request your free data check.

Why you need a reliable CRM database

Your CRM database is like your insurance against business Alzheimer's. It keeps track of all your customer relationships despite changes within your company.

People get fired and leave jobs. If you rely on human memory, the relationships you built will be gone as well. That's why it doesn't matter what memories you have of your customers. The only thing that matters is what's stored inside the CRM. But what happens when you can’t even trust that data?

Having insurance (like a CRM) doesn't mean that nothing bad will happen. Companies assume that the right CRM system will solve all their problems. There are many ways in which bad data can creep into a CRM database.

It can get corrupted by commas in email addresses or missing salutations. Life happens and data decays. And the data you recorded will soon become a reflection of a moment that's already long gone. 

If data is incorrect or missing, we can't use it. To be successful, a CRM needs to reflect reality. It needs to be complete, accurate, and up-to-date. 

Get our ultimate bundle of checklists, workflows and swipe files to manage your customer database like a data pro.

What are CRM databases? A quick 101.

CRM stands for customer relationship management. CRM systems help you do this by tracking and centralizing information about all your relationships. Here's a quick breakdown of the components of a successful CRM system.

What is a CRM database?

A CRM database stores all the interactions between you and your customers. It includes names, notes you've written down, and emails you sent. This makes your CRM database the source of truth for customer insights across your organization.

As its name suggests, a customer relationship management database is where you log and update information about your relationship with your customers.

What is CRM database software?

CRM database software is the set of tools a company uses to manage its CRM database and workflow. It includes:

  • The interface users interact with,

  • integration with sales and marketing automation tools, and

  • analytics dashboards.

The right software is crucial. Non-intuitive interfaces make it hard for team members to use the system. And unclear data overviews make it hard to draw solid conclusions.

Well-known examples of CRM software tools include:

  • Hubspot

  • Salesforce

  • Nethunt 

  • Insightly

See our post on CRM software and tools for our full list of recommendations.

What is CRM data? 

CRM data is the data inside your CRM database. You can use it for sales, marketing, and support purposes. Here are examples of different types of CRM data and what to use them for:

CRM data examples

Type of data

Examples

How to use it

Basic customer details

Name, age, email address, salutation.

Personalizing email marketing campaigns and sales messages.

Other personal details

Hobbies, pets, kids, dream job. But beware of GDPR regulations. Make sure the data you’re collecting is relevant to your offering and you have consent for holding this data.


Read more in our post on data enrichment and GDPR compliance to make sure you’re sticking to the law.

Understanding what market segments you serve and fine-tuning your marketing strategy.


See our post on customer segmentation to find out how data can help you do this.

A history of interactions with a customer across every touchpoint

How a customer reached out, the last contact moment, feedback they gave.

Identifying how active customers are, looking up past communication.

The buying history of a customer

What items they bought and when, invoices, reviews.

Offering personalized promotions and recommendations for follow-up purchases.

Status of the sales pipeline

Leads and where they’re in the sales pipeline, via what medium they came in, who’s in charge of a specific lead.

Tracking what works and what doesn’t to improve your sales strategy.

Level of engagement with the company

Visits to your website, engagement on social media channels, opening rate of newsletters.

Identifying promising leads and customers that are interested in follow-up purchases.

What makes a CRM database reliable

CRM data should be valid and useful, which means it's:

1.In the right format.

2.Relevant and updated consistently.

3. Displayed in a way that makes sense to others (standardized naming conventions).

4. Free of duplicates.

How bad data creeps into your CRM database

In an ideal world, you'd set up your CRM, train your staff to use it, and all would go smoothly from there. But there are many ways in which poor data can creep into your database. And the most advanced CRM software won't stop this from happening.

Data corruption happens on many levels. And it's almost always the fault of the users, not the software. 

How bad CRM data gets into your database:

1. People make mistakes 

You, your team, and even data expert. We enter data all the time, stop paying attention, and start making careless mistakes. Think about it: accidents tend to happen on roads where we drive the most. Simple mishaps like dysfunctional keys on a keyboard can cause errors as well. 

2. Forms can confuse customers

Most marketing data is the result of customers filling out opt-ins and forms. And you can't train them like you can train your team. The result: different experiences and cultural backgrounds can cause confusion. You'd be surprised, for example, to learn that "name" often means "last name" in Germany, not "first name".

3. Records left unmanaged decay fast

Despite amazing data inputting systems, workflows, and processes, data still decays. People move around, get promoted, change offices. And you can't always access them. You might find out about these changes via a LinkedIn notification or a bounced email, but often you don't. 

4. Datasets from data providers are often full of mistakes

Because they scrape, don't check for errors, and don't update the data consistently. As a result, a good chunk of it is often unusable. 

5. Salespeople can have different workflows 

Most of the time, you’ll find each person using the CRM has their own way of doing so. It works for them, but there’s no standardized way to share their workflow (if it’s even documented) with someone else on the team. 

The outcome: the data they log makes no sense to others. If they leave the company and pass on the CRM to someone else, it’s unusable. Alternatively, if others in the company need to use that data, there’s no easy way to figure out what it means.

How to build a CRM database you can trust 

Follow these CRM best practices to make sure the data you’re acting on is correct and up-to-date:

1. Ensure correct CRM data entry

The first step to a reliable CRM database is improving the quality of what goes in. Do so by:

Method

Implementation

Drawbacks

Installing data entry rules

  • Rule sets (“Field can’t be empty”, “Email addresses shouldn’t contain commas”)

  • Preselections (Where a customer came from: inbound, outbound, webinar, meeting)

Risks excluding information that doesn’t fit the format like “this customer is only accessible from 9am till 5pm”. Make sure to give users a way to record extra data right there where it matters.

Training your team to enter data

  • Show importance of proper data entry

  • Create incentives to enter data correctly

Severe repercussions like withholding commission fees can confuse and demotivate your team, so be careful.

Data entry restrictions can prevent a lot of bad data from entering your CRM system. But make sure you're taking the reality of your team members into account when designing rule sets.

Lots of companies choose to use repercussions to ensure their sales team enters data the right way. Often, managers simply don't know how else they can achieve good data quality. But be careful. Making people’s livelihoods dependent upon correct data entry can very quickly backfire.

If you want to know more: in our post on CRM best practices, we discuss more in-depth how you can design your company processes to ensure optimal data entry and CRM usage.

2. Clean up your CRM data

Controlling data entry minimizes bad quality data going into your CRM database. But you also need to address the data that's already there.

Clean up your CRM data in one of two ways:

1. Manually deleting data duplicates and correcting errors 

For small organizations, this is doable. But if your database contains over 10,000 data points, this becomes too much work. Who has time to go through thousands of email addresses to correct mistakes?

2. Using software that cleans up your data for you

You can use tools to purge your data from errors and duplicates. Tools like tye also normalize and enrich your records. tye identifies proper salutations and combines separate lists into a uniform format. Check out our buying guide on data quality tools to find out what's best for your company.

Make your CRM database serve you again

A good CRM database is like your insurance against business Alzheimer's. It keeps track of all your customer relationships despite changes within your company. But you can't use information that's incorrect or missing.

There are many ways in which bad data can creep into your database. People make mistakes, data decays. So how can you start trusting your CRM database again?

The answer: improve the data that goes into your CRM database and clean up what's already there. Combine this with a solid CRM strategy, and your CRM database can become one of your greatest assets. 

Want to see if your data is ready for powerful customer relationship management? Get in touch with us for a free data quality check.

Bounced emails. Misspelled names. “Mrs” instead of “Mr”... Your #CRM database is no good if you can't trust it. Find out how to fix this in this guide by @tye_io:

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Key takeaway

Great CRM software is no guarantee that your CRM database is free of errors. Bad data creeps in because of mistakes, outdated records, and poor data sets. But you can fix this. Improve the quality of data that goes into your CRM database, and clean up what’s already there.

Get our ultimate bundle of checklists, workflows and swipe files to manage your customer database like a data pro.

Markus Beck

Markus Beck - January 12, 2021

CEO with a passion for data relationships. Markus is half Finnish, half Austrian & fully committed to helping businesses keep bad data from ruining great relationships. Process Engineer by training, with digital marketing & project management skills from previous jobs.