Customer Data - Stop the Bleeding
prior article in the series Customer Data – Are You Neglecting a
Key Corporate Asset, we covered the topic of promoting awareness to
customer data integrity problems. In summary, we reinforced that, while
personnel in most firms know that there is a problem, it is only spoken
of anecdotally. To ensure that you are able to rally the support (and
resources) you need to address the issue, you need to make it painfully
obvious to senior management that something must be done (NOW) or risk
remaining hamstrung in your ability to achieve corporate objectives.
Once you have the attention of senior management, it is time to "stop
the bleeding," the topic which we will cover in this article.
Form a Customer Data Quality Group & Governance Council
To ensure success, you will want to assign an individual who will drive
the program forward and "own" Customer Data Quality on an ongoing basis.
In addition, you'll want to form a virtual team, consisting of the
fewest possible people who represent stakeholders of customer master
data. This typically includes (at a minimum): Sales, Finance, Service
One of the first objectives of this group is to define the program
charter, major objectives and next steps, which include (at a minimum):
Preparing an organization-wide announcement
Identifying points of customer data maintenance
Interviewing groups performing customer data
Establishing customer data entry standards
A key outcome of promoting awareness of the problem is securing an
executive sponsor for the initiative. Upon doing so, you'll want this
senior executive to publish the organization-wide announcement prepared
by the team. The announcement should name the team leader and cover the
project charter and the major objectives. Doing so provides you the
necessary "air support" for what may become "difficult conversations"
with organizations that may need to be restricted (in whole, or in part)
from updating customer data.
Identify points of customer data maintenance
Now that the organization knows of the initiative, the next step is to
identify all points of customer data maintenance. This is two-fold as
Helpful hint: When evaluating the above, don't forget about your
website. In a recent client engagement, we thought we had identified all
the customer maintenance points only to learn of an online form which
enables customers to add their own profile, which was a significant
source of data corruption (duplicate records, data not meeting customer
data entry standards, etc.).
Interview groups performing customer data maintenance
Once you have identified the above, you will then want to meet with each
group that has access to perform customer data maintenance. The
objectives of this meeting include:
Learning the nature of the customer maintenance that
they perform, and why.
Determining the volume of activity.
Determining how they define a customer (key data
elements, when they "think" they need to create a new customer
record, how they flag key accounts and meet other business
requirements to effectively manage the business and customer
Helpful hint: When interviewing folks on their customer data maintenance
practices, you must use tact and diplomacy. That is, you will
undoubtedly uncover practices that "seem", well…stupid. However, they
were put in place for very good reason (in their minds) because of some
business requirement that they were asked to support, or their lack of
training on the ERP system. Give them a break; listen and seek to better
understand the "why." Once you have done that, then you have an
opportunity to provide coaching on how they might meet the business
requirements in a way that is more in line with maintaining high quality
Establish customer data entry standards
The "starting point" for establishing standards for customer data entry
is customer name and address information. To minimize elongated
discussions and debate on this subject, it is suggested that you simply
adopt the United States Postal Service standards (or the standards that
exist for the countries you do business in). The key reason (in addition
to minimizing debate on this subject) is that there are numerous
utilities and services that can help you standardize your customer data,
based upon USPS standards and the USPS's extensive database containing
ALL valid US addresses.
In addition, you'll want to define the key data elements that make up a
complete and accurate customer record, based upon the interviews
conducted in the prior step.
So far we have covered steps that will be met with little to no
resistance from the organization. This step (restricting access to
maintaining the customer master file) will be met with a variety of
responses, ranging from acceptance to total resistance. Some tips that
we have found to be very useful include the following:
When interviewing groups that perform customer data
maintenance above, MAKE NO MENTION that they may be a target for
restricted access. If they ask, certainly don't lie; indicate that
at this stage you are simply learning the various customer
maintenance practices and nailing down the "definition of the
customer." You will then review this information and make
recommendations on where restriction would benefit the organization.
Identify and address the "low-hanging-fruit." That is,
during your interview process you will undoubtedly find groups that
are more than ready to hand over the task of maintaining customer
data, to the Customer Data Quality group. Tackle these groups first.
You may find that out of 7-8 groups that touch the customer master,
4-5 are "ready and willing" to let it go.
Once you have restricted access for the 4-5 groups and
the Customer Data Quality group has demonstrated that it can
effectively meet the demands (for customer data maintenance) for the
organization, it will be an easier (didn't say simple) sell to
complete the "lock down" of the remaining groups.
Helpful hint: In order to lock down the customer master, you'll need to
define a Customer Maintenance Request process. For the purpose of
brevity, we'll exclude covering that here as this could range from the
very simple (email based) to a tracking system with reporting
capabilities, all based upon the size of the organization and available
Now that we have stopped the bleeding, in future articles we'll share
strategies that you can follow to improve customer data quality,
In the meantime, if you are fed up with your customer data quality
issues, please don't hesitate to give us a call. We'd be happy to expand
on the strategies we've discussed here and explore how we might be of
assistance to you.
Customer Data - Stop the Bleeding
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