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A study by DMC Software has found that businesses are failing to adopt a data-led strategy, with many keeping customer data in non-secure storage solutions.

79% of SME’s were found to be risking the customer experience due to poor data quality in their records, with just 21% of those surveyed admitting that they had confidence in the customer data that they hold.

2020 has been cited as the year that the customer experience will become a key brand differentiator, and it is data which holds the key to businesses gaining a competitive edge. Therefore, if companies fail to shape up their data management practices and ensure that their data is ‘clean’, they may find themselves soon left behind.

The study also uncovered that 38% of businesses have lots of incomplete records; which can lead to customer frustration, especially if they have already handed over the relevant information to an employee and it’s not yet been recorded.

However, it’s not just incomplete records which are proving problematic for businesses, as data cleansing was also highlighted as an issue that companies are failing to address, with 66% admitting that they only found duplicate data by accident. Leaving just 34% who say they regularly check for records which have been duplicated.

Failing to cleanse data properly leaves challenges for staff who are customer facing and striving to deliver consistent levels of service. It also leads customers to become frustrated if their interactions with a brand haven’t been documented correctly, leading to complaints and lowering retention levels, ultimately.

Inaccurate data is also leading many businesses to experience issues when delivering communications to customers, with email and phone numbers incorrect at the time of contact. Therefore, customers are missing out on important notifications and offers, and businesses unable to see an ROI for their marketing or sales efforts.

Often, businesses fail to understand or foresee the implications and impact that poor data quality can have on their operations. With a survey by SAS revealing that 93% of leaders believe that their data strategy allows them to innovate existing business processes through improved analytics, data is what separates competition and increases customer retention.

However, what is most concerning from the study, is the storage solutions that businesses were using to keep customer data. Out of those surveyed, just 43% kept data in a dedicated CRM, while 20% use an Excel spreadsheet. A further 11% admit to keeping customer records in their email software, which considering the rise in cybercrime is particularly worrying and leaves your business at an increased risk of cyber-attacks – not to mention customer outrage if data is hacked. Leaving 5% using paper to retain data and 21% admitting they use more than one system – which leads to a greater risk of inaccuracies and duplicates in data.

With many dubbing 2017 the ‘year of the customer’ and Gartner finding that 42% of CEOS said that customer experience (CX) was the key to getting more wins, data is the key ingredient to improving the CX. Therefore, if businesses are to maintain their data-led strategy and increase their profits, they need to ensure that their data is up to date and well-maintained. After all, with the GDPR regulation coming into effect next year, there’s never been a better time.

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