Imagine this: you've just completed a difficult migration from several legacy CRM systems to a modern, cloud-based application. You delivered on time and on budget. You’ve trained the marketing, sales and customer service teams to use the new system. By all accounts, the migration should be considered a success.

But then ...

The marketing team uses the customer data in the new CRM application to segment existing customers for an exciting new product offer. One day later, angry customer calls flood the call center. The marketing team unintentionally sent the campaign to a lot of deceased customers because the ‘deceased’ data field wasn’t properly migrated to the new CRM application. This obviously upsets the family members who received the offer with their deceased family member’s name on it. 

The marketing team is not happy.

The sales team starts complaining about the new CRM system. Their customer profiles are inaccurate and incomplete. The external industry data appends are wrong. For example, GE Aviation is listed as a consumer packaged goods company and Coca-Cola is listed as Business Services. The sales team is also finding a lot of duplicate customer account records. For example, Will Smith and William Smith and Bill Smith are three records for the same customer.

The sales team is not happy.

The customer service team realizes they can't access the total customer relationship across products using the new CRM system. It's missing important information. They still need to put customers on hold and check three different systems before they can resolve a customer issue. 

The customer service team is not happy.

Why did this happen?

The Catch 22 of CRM Projects

The reason you went through the arduous process of shifting to a modern cloud-based CRM was to make your customer-facing teams more effective. CRM is supposed to manage most of your critical customer information so that you can see it all in one place.

Despite the fact that customer data is the lifeblood of CRM and customer experience initiatives, the majority of these initiatives include budget for technology and training, but not the data.

Many people assume that the process of cleaning up bad customer data is “baked in” to the process of migrating customer data from old CRM systems into a modern cloud-based application. Wrong!

At the same time, CRM application vendors assume you will be migrating clean customer data into your modern cloud-based application. Wrong again! That’s the Catch 22 that blocks the success of many CRM projects.

Gene Alvarez, managing VP of Gartner’s CRM practice, shared survey results during his “Planning for the Customer Experience of 2020” at Gartner's Customer 360 Summit last month in San Diego. The survey revealed that the biggest challenge CRM leaders grapple with are multiple sets of customer data and information existing in disparate systems, as can be seen below.

Learning Opportunities


"Planning for the Customer Experience of 2020,” Gene Alvarez, September 2015

Alvarez highlighted three key data issues in his presentation:


"Planning for the Customer Experience of 2020,” Gene Alvarez, September 2015

Set Your CRM Up for Success

“Customer information is key to CRM. It is the basis of customer knowledge and cross-channel interaction. Achieving quality information requires hard work 'behind the scenes.' Most enterprises’ CRM information capabilities are poor, because they have numerous fragmented databases and systems, and they lack an ongoing master data management strategy. CRM project managers who establish a vision first and get an early start on the quality of the CRM data and information tend to have greater success implementing CRM” — Ed Thompson, The Eight Building Blocks of CRM: Overview (registration), Feb. '13

Gartner predicts (registration), “Through 2017, CRM leaders who avoid MDM will derive erroneous results that annoy customers, resulting in a 25 percent reduction in potential revenue gains.”

Master data management can bridge customer information silos and fix bad customer data, allowing your CRM to live up to its full potential. It’s not good enough to do a manual clean-up of your customer data just before you go live. It’s not good enough to outsource the clean-up of customer data a few times a year.

Strategic and secure ongoing management of your customer data is needed to ensure the success of your CRM or customer experience initiative. Don’t just budget for the technology and the training. Budget for the data management technology that automatically ensures your customer data is:

  1. Accurate and complete
  2. Free of duplicates, complete with the data management capability to prevent people from adding more duplicates
  3. Verified with valid phone numbers, emails and mailing addresses
  4. Related to the people, places and things that matter most to your business such as:
    • relationships within households, businesses or networks,
    • relationships with your employees, agents/brokers and channel partners,
    • products they own, assets they have, locations or channels they prefer
  5. Enriched with valuable third-party, social, mobile, sensor or machine data that helps you better understand and serve customers

It’s an exciting time to be the leader of a CRM or customer experience initiative, especially if you work for a company that wants to compete on customer experience. Just remember this: No one kicks off a CRM or customer experience initiative with failure in mind. But great customer data doesn’t just happen. Great customer data requires planning and budgeting. If you fail to do this, your initiative might fail to deliver on its potential.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  electricnerve 

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