Get it clean and keep it clean: mastering customer data

There are ways of ensuring you’re using consistent information to maximise the currency of customer data across the enterprise, says Tyler Graham

By Guest on 12 August 2015
Get it clean and keep it clean: mastering customer data

This article was first published in the Summer 2015 issue of OnWindows

Customer relationship management (CRM) has become an essential element in business management. Customers are more knowledgeable and informed, and demand higher service levels and more consistent interactions with the companies they buy from. At the same time, with the growing sophistication of available channels and technologies for amassing customer information, organisations have a wealth of data to fuel high-gain customer exchanges.

In this business environment, solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM can provide a powerful and highly sophisticated platform for organising, automating and streamlining the sales and marketing business processes that nurture customer satisfaction and loyalty. CRM systems are designed to support ¬outward-facing sales and marketing related processes. As a result, they are good at storing information specifically related to sales and marketing interactions, and provide user interfaces tailored to performing these types of activities. But CRM systems are not the only enterprise systems that consume and contribute to customer information, or drive customer interactions.

Other enterprise systems may use the data more to support internal processes – such as order processing and fulfilment, supply chain and logistics management, and manufacturing to order – and need different information about the customer than that required for the sales and marketing function. For these processes, customer-related information around pricing and contracts is as important as the customer record itself.

Where the sales organisation views the customer through the lens of purchasing patterns, decision makers and budget timelines, the billing system (or multiple billing systems, if the customer buys from multiple divisions of the company) sees the same customer as a purchasing entity at a specific bill-to address, and the order processing system sees specific ship-to addresses and special delivery requirements. All of these enterprise systems, along with the CRM system, must draw from the same ‘master’ customer record in order to maintain consistent customer service levels across the organization and maximise the benefit of customer-related processes at every level.

Initial CRM implementations often require the combination of data from multiple sources, whether prior customer management applications, home-grown applications, or sales members’ contact lists. Ensuring that the data loaded into the CRM system is consistent, accurate and de-duplicated can lower total cost of ownership (TCO) of the system, and simplify later integration, as in the case of mergers and acquisitions. The bigger and more widely distributed the data, the more complex the challenge, and the bigger the value gained in getting a clean start. This means getting the data right to begin with, and then physically connecting and integrating the data with the CRM system. For Dynamics CRM users, this can best be accomplished by using the Dynamics CRM Adapter for Master Data Maestro to link customer-related master entities, and all of their defining attributes, into a master data management (MDM) solution.

With the Maestro Dynamics CRM Adapter, the Maestro MDM solution from Profisee allows organisations to quickly accumulate the superset of customer data from all sources, cleanse and standardise addresses and phone numbers, and master those records into a set of unique and clean accounts and contacts to load into the Dynamics CRM system.

Once customer data has been mastered and harmonised across Dynamics CRM and other source systems, the harmonisation and data sharing rules established within Maestro are used to keep the customer data in sync. This synchronisation can be accomplished on a ¬resource-efficient timed batch basis (often nightly), or near real-time, with Maestro’s event management system.

Today, the holy grail of maximising customer data value end-to-end can be achieved.

The use of Maestro will speed initial Dynamics CRM implementations and improve ongoing maintenance and integration by assuring that the data loaded into the CRM system – whether from other CRM instances, enterprise systems, or third party sources – is complete, consistent, accurate and de-duplicated.

Maestro’s data harmonisation ensures changes in source systems are appropriately applied to the master customer record in the CRM system, and guides the process of pushing updated CRM data back out to source system records, providing complete operational MDM capability.

In this way, the value of best-in-class customer relationship processes can have maximum organisational impact, and produce the highest return on the CRM investment.

Tyler Graham is industry solutions product director at Profisee

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