Magazine Article | November 1, 2000

What Really Lies Behind A Great CRM Solution

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

CRM (customer relationship management) solutions are vital to businesses. But, clean data for these systems may be even more essential.

Integrated Solutions, November 2000

You're lying in bed at night in a cold sweat, awake from a nightmare. Your largest customer — one that you've had a relationship with for many years and who regularly purchases millions of dollars' worth of your products — is walking out your front door and heading directly for your competitor. You vaguely remember your customer saying, "You simply don't understand all of the business we do with you (brick-and-mortar, catalog, and Web). We can't get a consolidated invoice for all product purchases on a monthly basis. And, your customer service representatives don't realize that while our billing address is located in the United States, we ship to various locations around the world. I am tired of your inability to deal with us on a global level."

Quality Data Fuels CRM
Technology has taken CRM (customer relationship management) to a whole new level. Customer expectations are high. Businesses around the world are spending millions of dollars developing integrated customer strategies with sophisticated analytic and reporting capabilities in order to keep up with customers' demands. Knowing that their competition is just a click away has kept many CEOs awake late at night. Now, marketing and IS professionals are also losing sleep. The Meta Group reports in a recent study that 92% of the companies surveyed believes that improved customer intimacy is an important priority. However, only 20% has actually developed a unified view of customers. Add to this the tremendous push toward e-commerce via the Internet, the addition of more touch points to interact with customers, the opportunity to develop one-to-one relationships online, and you place tremendous stress on an already over-burdened CRM environment.

But, if you look closely at the problem, you may notice that it isn't the analytical processing tools that are failing. The condition of the data itself makes it impossible for these tools to effectively provide you with the information you need. A single source of clean and consolidated customer information is essential for effective CRM. Look across any typical enterprise and you will see massive volumes of customer data being collected from legacy systems, call centers, third-party data sources, and most recently, via Web or e-commerce sites. Consolidating, standardizing, transforming, and matching customer data to make it ready for analysis is one of the most difficult challenges facing organizations today. The issues most crucial to achieving a customer-centric view are centered on the quality of the data and the ability to provide the enterprise with a consistent view of your customer at the desktop and around the world.

Better Data, Better Bottom Line
At the core of these efforts to enhance the functionality of CRM tools and solutions is the data quality process that establishes an accurate and clear view of the customer, be it individual, household, business, or any combination thereof. The process in place at each touch point must be capable of:

  • investigating, consolidating, cleansing, and standardizing customer data
  • integrating fully at each touch point within your enterprise providing data quality from the desktop to the mainframe
  • functioning with international data sets to recognize, cleanse, and match customer data from multiple countries
  • seamlessly interfacing with Internet components (COM+ and CORBA) that allow organizations to interact with customers in real time.

Effective data quality is the result of an architecture designed to help solve the complex problems inherent in legacy system data, while also serving as the operational gatekeeper for incoming data. As organizations become more globally focused and centered on CRM systems for growing their businesses, the impact of data quality becomes more obvious. Data quality solutions that support the efforts of CRM tools have a proven track record for affecting CRM and the bottom line. And that should hopefully allow everyone to sleep well tonight.

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