CRM data duplication is not an easy problem to solve. It can require a change in company culture, software solutions, and even help from third-party consultants. Though it may not seem that important on the surface, duplicate data can cause a variety of internal problems that can lead to lost business.
Multiple salespeople may contact the same prospect, making the company look disorganized and incompetent. As duplication increases, opportunity tracking and reporting becomes more fragmented and difficult. Unfortunately,there is no way to completely eliminate CRM data duplication. However, with the right plan, software, and possibly some outside help, it’s possible to reconcile existing duplicate entries, and minimize the creation of duplicate data in the future.
Have a Plan
The first step to preventing CRM data duplication is to have written guidelines for data entry. These guidelines should be available to all employees who access the CRM software, and should standardize the way data is entered into the system. To the CRM software, “IBM” and “International Business Machines” can look like two completely different entries. If different users enter the same information in a different format, that information may be treated like two different entries, leading to duplicates. By standardizing everything from abbreviations to punctuation, many duplicate entries can be avoided.
Spread the Word
A plan only works if everyone is following it. Employee education is paramount to preventing CRM data duplication. Every employee who interacts with the CRM system should learn and adopt the company data entry guidelines. If employees start to go off-road with their data entry, then duplicate entries will inevitably creep into the system.
It’s also important to teach employees to be conscientious when adding new contacts. When entering new information, great care should be taken to verify the information being entered. Simple mistakes like a misspelled last name or switching LLC for Inc. can lead to CRM data duplication.
Employees should also be taught to check for existing entries before entering new contact information. Most CRM solutions include some ability to find duplicate entries by searching for various fields. Salesforce, for example, allows a user to search for records with similar information to a new or existing contact record. The user simply selects the field they want to search for, and the software will present a list of records with the same data in that field. For example, entering “John Smith” in the “name” field will generate a list of all records with John Smith in the same field. Existing records can then be merged, converted, or deleted.
Many CRM vendors provide some level of automation to help make this process easier. Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides duplication detection rules that automatically scan new entries for existing data. If an employee enters “John Smyth” and an email address into the system, they will be alerted if that same email address is already in the system for John Smith, or anybody else for that matter. Using redundant checking of multiple fields, Dynamics (and others like it) significantly reduces the chances of duplicate records being created due to typos or misspellings.
No Incomplete Records
To maximize the advantage of multiple-field verification, it’s important that as many fields as possible are filled out. When employees are in a hurry, it’s not uncommon for them to create incomplete contact records. Using the rules available in many CRM solutions, it’s possible to prevent the creation of incomplete records. As each field is completed, the built-in duplication detection has more information to use to search for existing records. This helps reduce CRM data duplication now, and in the future.
There is a wide variety of third-party software available to prevent, merge, and remove duplicate CRM data. There are stand-alone solutions, as well as plugins for most of the popular CRM systems. This software can be used to enhance, or even replace, the built-in duplication controls of most CRM solutions. For CRM software that doesn’t have robust duplication detection, third-party software may be the only software option for detecting and removing duplicate records.
Get Outside Help
For larger CRM data duplication problems, it may be wise to enlist the aid of a third-party consultant. There are many consultants available who offer their services as a one-time cleanup, or as an ongoing effort to maintain clean records. Some consultants handle de-duplication exclusively, while others offer the service as part of a larger CRM migration or implementation project.
Use the Tools at Hand
Without proper handling, CRM data duplication can quickly spiral out of control. Using preventative measures like data entry guidelines, user training, and software controls, many data duplication problems can be stopped before they start. For larger, or more complex, CRM data duplication issues, there are many qualified third-party consultants available to help.