When business owners use customer data the right way, they will be able to work smarter, not harder and, in turn, make better business decisions related to marketing strategies, maintain a loyal client base and provide solid customer experiences.

Understanding your customer data contributes to overall savings on business costs and the creation of competitive advantages. In order to use this data to your advantage, you’ll need to adopt smart habits, such as keeping your contacts organized and cleaning your data on a regular basis.

Having accurate customer data on hand can do a lot of good for your business, while messy data can wreak havoc.

ZoomInfo notes that poor quality data negatively affects prospect and customer relationships, employee morale, and it wastes sales reps’ time. Inaccurate or unreliable data hinders smart decision-making and can diminish a business’s competitive edge in the market.

Here’s a list of the five most common customer data “don’ts” that your business can turn into “do’s”:

1. Data silos

Don’t: Store customer data in numerous siloed contact records

Keeping an overview of each individual customer has always been tricky, but the emergence of countless digital channels has made it an even more daunting task. When your data is stored in too many places, it becomes difficult to keep track of it all. This inevitably results in lost information. In fact, research suggests that 54% of marketers view fragmented or siloed data as their biggest barrier to leveraging customer data.

Do: Converge all of your data sources into one holistic customer profile

When it comes to data sources, communication is key. Each source should converge with the others so that your sales, marketing and customer service teams can get a 360 degree view of contacts in one place at any given time. The result: a smooth and seamless customer journey for both prospects and loyal customers.

How do you work towards this single view of the customer? The answer is not always as simple as using a CRM. Though CRM software is a vital part of creating your customer profile, if your software of choice isn’t an all-in-one platform, you will still need back-end data sources. These might include email marketing, marketing automation and customer care platforms. By syncing these apps together, you’ll create one, actionable database.

2. Slow integrations

Don’t: Waste time trying to patch systems together

A common mistake business owners make is starting with one or two inexpensive single-point solutions and slowly racking up additional software tools over time. While this may work well at first, as more tools get added to the list, it becomes more difficult to integrate the data. As a result, businesses end up either working with slow, hacked-together integrations or with tools that don’t communicate with each other at all.

Do: Use a CDI hub to integrate customer data

While the simplest solution would be to get every part of your business into a single all-in-one CRM platform, that’s not always an option. To integrate each software solution effectively, companies are turning to CDI (Customer Data Integration) hubs for an easy fix. The advantage of a CDI hub is that they allow companies to automatically integrate customer data into one central database. Before the data is sent to the hub’s central storage, the quality and the accuracy of the data are verified.

It’s important to note that these web-based CDI implementations can also be quite lengthy and pricey. The easiest way to maintain an acceptable budget is to devise a solid data management strategy. You’ll find that optimizing your customer data will allow you to spend more time focusing on your bottom line.

3. Depreciating tech

Don’t: Use outdated technologies or try to stretch a tool’s functionalities

There are two problematic tech practices in many organizations right now: The first is that companies are using outdated technology because they’ve made the investment in the not-so-distant past. The second is that companies start using their existing tech for purposes that are way beyond the actual scope of the product. Stretching your software’s functionalities may seem like a great hack at first, but you will end up missing out on crucial functionalities needed to get a single view of your customers.

Do: Invest in the technology your business needs to fulfill all your goals

The best way to maintain a realistic budget is to create a data management plan and get a clear overview of your technical needs. This will help you optimize your customer data which will, in turn, help streamline your business practices.

Get rid of redundant software and invest in new, data-solidifying technology. The key is to find a sustainable way to link your existing systems holistically and to invest in the right technology for your business.

4. Structured and unstructured data

Don’t: Leave a mess of structured and unstructured customer data in your contact record

When your customers and leads fill out web forms and interact with your brand, the information enters your system in two formats: structured and unstructured data. While structured data arrives already organized, unstructured data is a little more difficult to manage and analyze because it consists of human-generated or machine-generated data like text files, video files, social media content, satellite imagery, PDFs, and sensor data.

Without a method for keeping your long-form unstructured data integrated, you’ll be stuck looking at an incomplete picture of your contacts.

Do: Integrate structured and unstructured data neatly

This doesn’t mean that you have to spend countless hours manually editing each of your contacts to your liking. There are ways to automate much of this process and prevent many of the errors and inconsistencies from happening in the first place.

For example, you can use text tagging, which Search Business Analytics says is “the process of manually or automatically adding tags or annotations to various components of unstructured data as one step in the process of preparing such data for analysis.”

5. Polluted data

Don’t: Let murky data live in your customer database

As you accrue more and more data, you’ll see an increase in information that is slightly murky or downright useless. Data is no good if it cannot be turned into actionable insights. Often, you start gathering the wrong or inconsequential data because of one of three reasons:

  1. You don’t know exactly what you want to measure.
  2. Various stakeholders have various interests, and it is too complicated to keep track of all of the KPIs.
  3. You are not using the right filters and end up counting a lot of useless data, leading to a distorted view of reality.

Do: Clean up your customer data at least once a quarter

Polluted data will seep into every analytical aspect of your business, so it is in your best interest to sort it out as quickly as possible. Clearly document what you want to measure, consider which elements could be distorting your analytics, set up the appropriate filters to sort out the problem, and enjoy your brand new, clean database. Make sure to rinse and repeat every quarter for the best results.

An arms race for the customer

If you operate in a saturated market, you’re competing against many different companies that are selling similar products. How do you stand out? By offering a superior customer experience — a feat that can only be achieved with a clean database and a holistic view of the customer.

“Your ability to understand and respond to what’s happening in your business is mission-critical,” Ontraport CEO Landon Ray says. “Without clear data at your fingertips and the ability to act on that data quickly, you’re at a serious disadvantage.”

Want to get ahead of the curve? Revisit the customer data roadblocks you may be facing and focus on what your customers are really thinking and how you can meet their needs — even in an incredibly competitive consumer market.

About Magali De Reu
Magali De Reu is a no-nonsense, go-getting storyteller for PieSync. She knows the tech world like the back of her hand and loves exploring innovative ways to make it in an ever-changing business environment. @PieSync helps you to sync your customer data bi-directionally between your favorite cloud apps and Ontraport.