The path towards clean customer data

The age-old debate over the use of customer data in marketing campaigns is still being played out and, while we may be in a truly digital age, it’s still important for businesses to adopt a robust approach to data quality.

Accurate and rich customer contact information sits at the core of successful marketing campaigns and, while management of this data is usually a responsibility passed on to marketing teams and IT departments, the quality of data can have a very real impact on a business’ bottom line.

Insightful contact information, whether address or email, is the bedrock of effective marketing campaigns and, if managed well, it can increase the success of customer acquisition and retention initiatives and up-sell and cross-sell campaigns. Managed poorly, companies will suffer the consequences of ill-targeted campaigns, which may include wasted marketing budget, damaged brand image and high levels of customer churn.

Getting it right at the start

In order to make the most of your contact data, businesses need to get it right from the beginning. If it’s not correct at the outset, then it is almost impossible to identify who the good customers are. If this data is spread across silos in the organisation, then it becomes even harder to manage it. So before undertaking any data quality initiative, it is important to undertake an audit to identify the data that already exists on customers, find out where the gaps are and remove any duplicates or out of date records.

Regardless of whether data has been captured online, face-to-face or over the phone in call centres, companies must take steps to identify where incorrect or duplicate information exists, and clean their data records accordingly. Databases that are left untouched, for example, are likely to have contact information with incorrect address details or hold names of people that have since passed away or changed names. Contacts that cannot or will not respond, such as those who have passed away or moved house, should be removed by suppressing data to include a mixture of mortality data, house movers and preference files.

When data is clean and accurate, it can then be enhanced using geo-demographic or business information to help profile customers and provide tailored offers and services, encouraging loyalty. By adding additional information to existing contact data, a much clearer picture of your customer and prospect base can be built. Beyond this it means marketers can better segment their customer databases and devise more targeted campaigns, such as those aimed at people living in a particular area. It can also help with cross and up-selling by selecting those customers more likely to respond to particular offers and deals.

Putting data at the heart of a business

It is important to get on top of the problem areas when it comes to data management. Not only can out-of-date or inaccurate customer data distort reporting, it can also make a customer appear to be of more or less of a value to the business than they actually are. What’s more, duplicate mailings lead to irritated customers, damaged brand image and wasted budget, not to mention a larger carbon footprint.

Above all, businesses need to remember that data quality is an ongoing journey that requires careful planning and maintenance. With wider company buy-in and the right tools in place to tackle data quality head-on, organisations will see customer retention and the ROI of their marketing campaigns improve – successes businesses are all striving to achieve. 

By Stuart Johnston, UK managing director, Experian QAS

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