Why should you be concerned about the state of the data in your CRM system?
Over the course of time the data in a CRM system becomes inconsistent through incorrectly loaded data and bugs in the software. What’s more, when changes are made they might not be wholly correct (it happens). These issues lead to CRM processing being incorrect, and when it involves financial processing it can lead to a major problem.
Financial processing and CRM
It’s often financial processing that leads to the need for action. When BACS or HMRC start to raise questions, you are forced to do something.
I have been involved in a few of these CRM finance situations recently, and it is striking to see how people struggle to get the problems sorted. Staff may be hugely committed to solving the problem, and sometimes I’m amazed at what people will do to make the processes work. They often feel responsible, but sometimes they may hide issues because of that sense of responsibility.
How do you solve CRM data problems?
The starting point to resolve these problems is to look at the data, and correct it. My approach is in three stages.
Firstly, check the accuracy of the data and compare it to what it should be. This stage may identify a number of reasons why the CRM system got into its current state. It is necessary to identify the causes so that you can identify incorrect data before it has an impact.
Secondly, fix the errors. This stage actually takes quite a long time. Some problems lead to other problems. Some causes may be one-off changes, some may be unknown bugs. It can be difficult to see what causes a problem until the data is correct and then see when it goes wrong. I usually spend quite a bit of time doing fixes – then I can see the wood for the trees.
Thirdly, this leads to reviewing and enhancing the CRM processes, especially for financial processing.
Financial processing data issues
My preference is to set up a two-part system for financial processes.
1. Set up a check system to alert users to incorrect data so they can do something about it straight away. This helps to uncover the causes of problems as the people and processing are fresh and staff are more likely to remember any anomalies or changes. It is harder to do this later on, especially just before a financial process is run.
2. Set up a process that will pre-check a financial process, such as a Direct Debit claim, to confirm it will process correctly. In reality this step should not be necessary, but having been involved in serious financial processing problems, I am a keen advocate of this level of detail. Direct Debit claims are a good example. A pre-check process will make sure the Direct Debit claim does not have any problems, and the actual Direct Debit claim can be checked against the pre-check result before it is submitted to BACS. Any problems can be fixed before there is a real financial impact. This process gives management confidence that the Direct Debit claim is correct.
Why check your CRM data?
Finally, though its often when a crisis happens that a specialist get involved, there are many other reasons to check your CRM systems data. Here are but a few:
- You may be missing out on Direct Debit payments that you may not even know about.
- You may be giving your customers freebies without knowing it, such as memberships for which they have not paid.
- You may be feeding incorrect data into your accounting system or missing financial transactions completely. My experience is that accountants are very parochial about their data.
- If you are planning to move your CRM, it helps to correct the data first.
Experience shows that it’s worth getting a specialist in for the tricky stuff to make sure your financial processes work, and to train staff to make sure it continues to work. There is little doubt that you gain more benefit in the long run.
Find out more about data cleansing.
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