Early this year a host of inquires were coming in about data quality challenges in CRM systems. This led to a number of joint inquires between myself and CRM expert Kate Legget, VP and Principal Analyst in our application development and delivery team. Seems that the expectations that CRM systems could provide a single trusted view of the customer was starting to hit a reality check. There is more to collecting customer data and activities, you need validation, cleansing, standardization, consolidation, enrichment and hierarchies. CRM applications only get you so far, even with more and more functionality being added to reduce duplicate records and enforce classifications and groups. So, what should companies do?

Thus, the genesis of a new Forrester report that gets beyond the other silver bullet answer to fix customer data - data quality tools and master data management. Kate and I wanted to lay out when and how to leverage data quality and business services provided by CRM applications and when to know it is time for more robust capabilities. We looked closely at tipping points within CRM, business processes and roles, and the wider data ecosystem that influences the ability to deliver trusted customer information. This mile high view demonstrated there is a framework for customer data architecture than just throwing more technology at a problem. It gets underneath how to implement functionality and solutions that tighten the connection between business process and data process. In our report, "Better Customer Relationships Require Trusted Data" we provided the frameworks that allow companies to get the most out of their CRM investments to avoid customer risk and deliver on better customer interactions that drive revenue.

Here's the secret,

start with the customer journey...

When we develop our CRM environment we prioritize our internal business processes: customer communications, issue resolution, sales activities, lead to order, etc. This is still important, it is just too far down the overall process the customer experience. Processes begin to be viewed in silos, thus customer data within the application begins to fragment. The customer journey illustrates the activities and orchestration needed across CRM stakeholders and users. This vantage point gives better visibility into where and when customer data issues arise and the upstream/downstream affects it has in the relationship and the business.

Make that connection early and it solves two challenges:

1) You can actually fix the data with the right functionality faster

2) You have a better business case to get the support and funding needed if data quality investment is required

If your are hitting the wall with dirty CRM data or are about to purchase a new CRM application, don't forget the data. Start with the customer journey to better support business processes but also ensure that you have the data you need to create great customer experiences and business outcomes.

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