The way you collect, store and use customer data can make or break your business. When you’ve got accurate data about your customers and your business KPIs at your fingertips, you can more confidently make decisions about where to allocate your budget and how to set your business goals.

“Those that position their organizations to manage data correctly and understand its inherent value will have the advantage,” wrote Hugo Moreno in a Forbes Insights article about the importance of data quality.

Just as clean data can do a lot of good for your business, messy data can cause a lot of damage. ZoomInfo says poor quality data negatively affects prospect and customer relationships, employee morale, and it “wastes 27.3% of sales reps’ time.” And it’s more common than you might think: According to Experian, “66% of companies lack a coherent, centralized approach to data quality.”

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 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. Research suggests that marketers alone have to make sense of as many as 15 siloed data sources. These sources can be as diverse as leads generated from an ebook download and offline purchase history.

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, with actionable data to boot? 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 also need back-end data sources. These back-end data sources are usually apps such as email marketing, marketing automation and customer care platforms. You can then sync these apps together so they feed into one large, actionable database, ensuring that customer identity becomes traceable on each platform.

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 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. If you combine that strategy with your existing legacy systems and a clear overview of your technical needs, you will have all the pieces of the puzzle ready for a hassle-free implementation.

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 customer.

Do: Invest in the Technology Your Business Needs to Fulfill All Your Goals

To avoid missing out due to outdated or mismatched tech tools, take the time to sit down with your key stakeholders and align all of your goals and the technical resources needed to achieve those goals. According to the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Small Business Software, it’s helpful to “make a list of all the tools you have, the functionality you rely on them for, and any extra features they have that you’re not currently using.” 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.

4. Structured and Unstructured Data

Don’t: Leave a Mess of Structured and Unstructured 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 enters your database already organized, Datamation says unstructured data can be human-generated or machine-generated — human-generated includes creative files such as text, email and social media, while machine-generated data is satellite imagery, scientific data, digital surveillance 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 of preparing such data for analysis.”

5. Polluted Data

Don’t: Let Murky Data Live in Your 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 Data at Least Once a Quarter

Polluted data will seep into every analytical aspect of your business, so it is definitely 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

Companies are becoming increasingly entangled in a race for customers. Many enterprises are selling similar products that are available to customers everywhere. Standing out is now a matter of providing superior customer experience. It is 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,” said Ontraport CEO Landon Ray. “Without clear data at your fingertips and the ability to act on that data quickly, you’re at a serious disadvantage.”

If you want to get ahead, it is time to break down these customer data roadblocks once and for all.

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.