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Microsoft Dynamics 365

For those of us who have been hanging around software systems for a while, the phrase Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO) is well acknowledged. We all know that our operational systems, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365, can only deliver on their promises – better marketing conversions, better customer service, maximised sales opportunities and better analysis – if the data is up to snuff.

But in study after study, organisations see negative impacts from poor data quality. A recent Forrester survey found that 68% of companies struggle to create a single view of customers in their CRM system. We have known about GIGO, for so very long, so what is going so very wrong?

CRM Data Strategy

In this post, I will outline that, while GIGO is easy to say, it can be difficult to manage, and, in any case, is never the full picture. Here are 7 things that you should consider as part of your CRM data strategy.

1. Know where you are starting from, then get accounts involved

A regular data quality health check will tell you how big the problem is and what the right next steps are to go and fix it. A health check will reveal levels of duplicate records, how well your data is structured (you may have the right data, but not necessarily in the right fields), and where the gaps and inconsistencies are.

Once you have an idea of the health of your data (run on a representative sample of records), you are in a position to size the problem in pounds and pence. For this part, your accounts department can certainly help. They will know how much a returned package costs, how much a courier will charge to correct an address or how much to re-book two skilled engineers out to a missed field service call. If the wrong goods or people were sent to the wrong customers at the wrong place, they should be able to quantify all of that. Just make sure that they think about all stages of the process.

Before you even think about the cost to reputation, customer churn, or potential lost sales, you will have a great idea as to how urgently the problem needs fixing.

2. Make sure you are not turning a blind eye to “Garbage In”

When we think about how data gets into our Dynamics solution, there seems a clear need to provide real-time help: stop the bad happening at the point of committal. Whether your customers are providing data directly via eCommerce, you are receiving data from trusted selling partners, or your representatives are updating records, it is dangerous to assume they will always:

  • Know what they should be entering in each field. An example is shown as below.
customer contact data
  • Will never typo
  • Understand the various rules that constitute a valid email address
  • Will tell you the truth

This last part is particularly important. We all love our customers but sometimes they don’t tell us the truth because they don’t want to be bothered (M.Mouse@blahblahblah.com). More seriously, they want to hide who they really are – maybe to get a second bite at an introductory offer, or other, more sinister reasons.

Happy couple shopping through laptop at home

3. Remember, you don’t know everything

Despite all the due diligence we provide regarding data entry screen designs. According to Harvard Business Review, 47% of newly created records will contain at least one critical error. Think about that email address above, is it real? Actually, there’s nothing wrong with the syntax, so it could be. Having the ability to automatically check if is receiving email on a valid domain may tip the balance though in whether you accept it onto your system.

Similarly, with addresses. Where is Boston? Massachusetts? Lincolnshire? Did you know there’s also one in Lancashire? And let’s take this address:

88 Langley Road, Slough, Berkshire, SL3 7RB

By sight, there is nothing wrong with it. But sending a courier, there is going to incur an unexpected cost – the postcode should be “SL3 7TB”.

And maybe you are not delivering goods or services to an address, but a building site. Latitude and longitude coordinate, UPRN, or UDPRN could help.

In general, accessible trusted reference data in real-time will take human errors out of the equation, ensuring that, at the time of capture, the data is as good as it can be.

That covers, ‘at the time of capture’. But then what?

4. Data gets old – Deal with it

Time, it is said, is a great healer, but not when it comes to your customer data.

If you believe the data in your Dynamics system is accurate here are some statistics, you might want to consider.

  • It is estimated that 3 million people in England and Wales move home in 2019
  • 600,000 died in the UK in 2019
  • 270,000 got married in England and Wales in 2015, and while they did not all changes their names, 85,000 people separately changed their names by deed poll
  • Around 10% of people change jobs each year
  • The government has committed to providing 300,000 new homes per annum by mid-decade – that’s a lot of building sites and new addresses
  • There are around 650,000 new companies registered each year

These ‘slowly changing dimensions’ are eating up the time of our sales reps, marketing budgets and the value of any analysis we attempt from our Dynamics data. According to a study by LeadJen, each year sales departments lose approximately 550 hours and $32,000 per sales rep from using bad data.

There are a couple of approaches to handling this problem. The first involves the use of in-house data management software which has access to the necessary reference data you need (e.g. Aperture Data Studio). This gives you the flexibility to cleanse data monthly, weekly, or even daily if needs be. Alternatively, a regular cleanse using an outside agency may be suited to smaller data sets.

This will also help eliminate the build-up of duplicate records over time. Duplicates are hard to eliminate as subtle differences in customer information result in the safety-first approach of entering a new record rather than overwriting an existing one. Again, access to reference sources can help resolve differences and keep your Dynamics implementation lean and meaningful.

Learn more about Microsoft AppSource

Ensure only accurate, valid and correctly formatted contact data enters your Microsoft Dynamics 365. Experience Experian’s data quality integration for Microsoft Dynamics 365 today.

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5. Go global in a quality way

I’ve talked a lot about the UK here, but if you have customers in other countries then think about how reference sources can be accessed everywhere that you do business. Also, of course, appreciating that things like address and phone standardisation are country specific.

Your Dynamics system was implemented to be a global solution to manage all your operations, no matter where in the world you set up operations. So why not ensure the system can handle all the various types of customer data that maybe thrown into it, like the front or centre latitude & longitude of a property, for example, in Australia.

Experian’s Microsoft Dynamics 365 applications support all the global enrichment datasets, please click here to find out more.

6. Whatever you do, don’t hardwire it and build it for scale

If you are a Dynamics user, you may have noticed that Microsoft keeps up a pretty fast pace when it comes to development. Address, phone, and email validation services need to be up-to-date with the latest Power Apps component framework (PCF) to meet Microsoft certification and keep apace of the frequent new versions of Dynamics 365. No-code integrations are far preferable in this instance as the upgrade implications become trivial.

Also, you have to be aware that these systems are using API calls to web-based services used by thousands of other companies. At times such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, these services can get pretty busy. You may not be processing thousands of transactions per day like a large retailer – but you are going to be using the same data – make sure the service can cope.

7. Keep an eye on the end goal

It has been said that data is the new oil. I would like to refine that statement (and the oil) and state that data is the new fuel.

This may be the most obvious point, but if the reason you invested in Dynamics 365 is being compromised by the data, then you are obligated to fix it. You have a state-of-the-art engine with the potential to improve your marketing campaigns, give you new upsell opportunities, and better customer and field service operations. You have the functionality to deliver all of these and the added ability to truly understand your customers better, as well as the processes that deliver the best to the bottom line. You have a world-class engine – so it’d better to put world-class fuel in it.

How Experian can help

As a certified Microsoft Gold Partner, our global data quality solution integrates seamlessly into Microsoft Dynamics 365 to ensure only accurate addresses, email addresses and phone numbers for your customers and prospects are captured and stored in your Dynamics system.