Data quality is a critical issue that appears on the path to successful completion of all customer relationship management (CRM) projects. Let's begin by defining CRM and reviewing common CRM initiatives. Modern CRM initiatives involve communicating with the customer on a one-to-one basis for marketing, support and other interactions. In order to do this, customer information and transactional behavior must be collected and stored in one centralized data mart or warehouse for analysis and reporting.

Call center systems, Web analysis tools, ETL tools and reporting tools are often marketed as complete CRM solutions; however, the majority are not standalone solutions. The CRM warehouse is usually an online analytical processing (OLAP) schema that pulls data from multiple operational online transaction processing (OLTP) systems. The number of customer touchpoints a company has will determine the systems from which a full CRM implementation must collect data. These can include phones, e-mail, Web sites, direct mail and brick-and-mortar locations. The systems that support these touchpoints are usually diverse and not integrated within the company. You may have all of these touchpoints with separate systems supporting each functional division of your organization and, therefore, much redundancy and potential for error.

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