It is fair to say that businesses have been plagued by poor quality data since Lester Wunderman was in short trousers. And you would think that our recent report, which revealed poor-quality customer data now costs businesses an average of 6% of their annual revenues, with nearly all organisations (91.4%) affected by data-quality issues may make at least a few sit up and listen.
But with the May 2018 EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance deadline fast approaching, those who haven’t already woken up to the need to keep it clean will finally be forced out of their slumber – or face the real prospect of being forced out of business.
The stark fact is that unless organisations act now to improve their data management, under GDPR they will face a huge shortfall in usable, permissioned customer information when the new regulation is enforced.
It is no surprise that in working with inaccurate or out-of-date customer contact data, UK brands lose one in five customers each year on average, a trend that has been on the rise since 2014, according to the research. So how can marketers and data experts improve the quality of their customer data to improve campaign effectiveness and achieve compliance?
Addressing poor-quality customer contact data
For the last three years there has been a steady rise in the number of marketers reporting problems with incomplete, out-of-date or duplicate data. However, today three in five organisations (65%) only cleanse their customer data once a year, have no process in place at all or simply don’t know how often their data is cleansed. The myth that resolving data quality is a one-time fix is partially to blame.
Untangling the data-quality web starts with recognising the proliferation of sources that capture customer data today. Digital marketing (websites and mobile web), sales (retail and e-commerce) and direct customer contact (face-to-face or contact centres) are being used to provide organisations with new customer information daily.
The responsibility for managing that data is often shared across multiple functions without consistent processes for data collection, validation and cleansing. While marketing leads data strategy and collection in most organisations, CRM functions, customer service, sales and e-commerce also have roles in managing incoming customer data. For some organisations, centralised data management operations or IT take on this role.
Finding a path forward
Improving the quality of customer contact data will take an organisation-wide approach that starts at the top. GDPR gives marketers a mandate to educate leaders on their existing data challenges and make the necessary investments to overcome long-standing customer data management challenges.
With more than 7 in 10 organisations starting their data-quality journeys with incomplete, inaccurate or out-of-date customer data, more and more marketers need support to first validate their existing data, and then create a universal process for automatically validating all incoming data at the point of capture.
Once existing data is validated, businesses need formal, continuous data-cleansing and enhancement processes to keep customer information accurate, permissioned and compliant over the long term.
Using compliant and permissioned third-party customer contact data will allow marketers to ensure contact data is up to date as customer information changes. Finally, they must work now to put repermissioning strategies in place to ensure GDPR compliance ahead of next year’s deadline.
The complexity of internal data management structures can make overcoming historic, persistent data-quality problems seem impossible. But with professional guidance and consistent commitment across the business, 2017 could just be the year that organisations overcome the challenge of poor-quality customer contact data once and for all.
Jim Conning is managing director of Royal Mail Data Services
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