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Reaching the Peak of Data Mountain: One Firm’s Story of Data Quality Triumph
Sep. 23, 2020

Need some Data Quality inspiration? I’ve recently witnessed a 180° turnaround by one of our clients.  Their results were so inspiring, I knew immediately I needed to share their journey. For those of you who know you need to do something about your data, here’s a success story and some perspective on the reality of getting it done. Will it be easy? No. Will it be fast? Not really. Will it be a hell of a climb? Yes. And I promise, the view is worth it. You have all the tools you need to make it happen.

See if You Can Relate

1.4 million contacts. 190,000 tickets. At one point, there was only one person working on ticketsmerging duplicates, and managing bounce-backs. InterAction had never been rolled out to fee earners, and for years the firm was synchronizing all contacts from users—yes, ALL of them. In addition, the firm had been importing duplicates directly into marketing lists just so contacts could be mailed to (since users weren’t aware of and couldn’t contribute to lists).

Like most firms, IT resources are pulled in many directions, and for a time, log files and processes were not monitored as closely as they are now. Therefore, the CRM team wasn’t aware of any technical issues, let alone able to troubleshoot them along the way.

Sometimes these things happen. Priorities shift, fires come up. But their CMO had goals and understood the role an accurate CRM would play in those goals. She proceeded to give the team the resources and time they needed to gear up and begin the climb.

They were looking to roll out CRM to their fee earners and support staff in the not-so-distant future, so they created their own deadline. That deadline was a driving factor for them to get organized, lay out a plan, and move forward.

Location: Basecamp

First, wanting to make sure they prepared for this effort, they worked with a LexisNexis® InterAction® Client Advisor on a Health Check. It was the first time they could see the big picture of what they were dealing with.  They used it “like a bible.”

Second, after absorbing the information from the Health Check and doing some work on their own, I came in to workshop with them on the big three things I encourage all clients to start with every time they approach data cleanup:

  • Archiving/deleting irrelevant contacts (using searches) to get rid of the noise and the clutter
  • Adjusting DCM rules so they were getting tickets for only the most important things
  • Tackling existing tickets methodically and ruthlessly

 GOLD STAR MOMENT: After spending a couple days with them, they had a different mindset. They were well on their way to confidently reducing their contact collection and tickets by 50%.

 REALITY CHECK: According to the team, “The first couple of weeks were 24/7 deleting!” Don’t get me wrong, deleting/archiving 700K contacts and processing 95K tickets aren’t the quickest processes. But for motivation (and out of curiosity), they did some calculations. They noticed, when deleting contacts for example, the system would be able to delete about 20 contacts/min. Slowly but surely that count improved to 25/min., then 30/min., etc.

0005__50px WORDS OF WISDOM: Slow and steady wins the race.

The Ascent: Blizzard Warning!

Next, after carving away the extraneous contacts and tickets, they started working on the remainder of existing tickets. Keep in mind, they’d already scrutinized their DCM rules, cutting back on Review tickets.  Things were either important enough for a human to look at (Submit), or they weren’t (Accept).

Now, one might think, “I’ll start with the easier tickets to get a sense of accomplishment.” But let’s face it, the more daunting the task, the harder it is to get started. Seeing progress would be key to their motivation, so they attacked the high number of more difficult tickets. They knew when a big task was done, it would feel good and they could say (and show) they made some good progress. As they put it, “If you’re climbing a mountain and you can’t see the summit, it can get discouraging.” If you’re in a better position and managing day to day, I recommend doing easy tickets first, but in this case, completing a large, difficult piece was necessary to show progress, stay motivated, and feel better about the easier work to come.

GOLD STAR MOMENT: Just a quick mention of the color-coding, spreadsheets, and metrics involved in making this project a success. Documenting their plan was integral for them to stay organized, focused, and motivated, and allowed them to report their progress. The tactical management, coordination, and execution by their Marketing Coordinator (their sirdar on the mountain) and the whole team was amazing. Bravo!
REALITY CHECK:  At this point, the commitment from IT with greater support/resources were going to be put to the test. Contacts started coming back in from the users. There were log file errors that needed to be addressed. They also began to realize the implications of the 250K contacts that had been imported directly into marketing lists over the years. These were likely duplicates, and to make matters worse, those contacts didn’t have accurate/any who-knows-whom information. One step forward, two steps back. This is what happens to best-laid plans but that didn’t dissuade them. They adjusted their plan, upgraded hardware, and made sure the latest InterAction software versions were implemented, addressed each situation as it came along, and kept climbing.

0005__50px WORDS OF WISDOM: The best view comes after the hardest climb.

Skies Are Clearing!

So, they cleaned up the contacts. One and done, right? No. After finishing a task, they knew that task needed to stay on the radar if they were ever going to successfully manage this in the future. As they built searches to find and clean contacts, they made sure to keep those same tasks top of mind by adding them to their Favorites folders: duplicates, candidates for deletion/archiving, incomplete information, etc. By having them in Favorites, the team could dedicate a little time, here and there, running them weekly to make sure data was staying clean as they continued cleanup in other areas.

Different people were assigned to different searches and folders. It reminded them: “This is what I own.” They run those searches, watch for trends and spikes, and make sure they are staying on top of it. Is anyone falling behind? Does one area need more help, while another area doesn’t need as much focus right now? Little by little, this would become the norm—consistency and accountability, modeling how the new process(es) would flow, transitioning from a mindset of reactive cleanup, to proactive management.

 GOLD STAR MOMENT: They established benchmarks, and incentivized users based on those benchmarks. To keep up morale, they provided pizza lunches, gift cards, etc. and because their work was going to fall across the holiday season, they knew it would be a good time to get a lot done. Leadership heavily incentivized ticket work during those slower times for the firm. They’ve kept the team together through it all and it’s created a camaraderie, a sense of pride and accomplishment as a team.

Reaching the Peak

 REALITY CHECK:  Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you, a global pandemic!

This firm had a leg up in terms of getting started before the world was turned on its head. But they’ve continued their efforts through many other challenges, stabilized their contact collection, and reduced their ticket count to zero (and maintained it!). Because they started early, they’re now in a better position to handle situations like this in the future, and the firm is in a better position to keep and grow their business with a reliable CRM. Regardless of external factors and trajectory of the firm’s plans for CRM, they are beginning to yield the rewards of proactive data quality management.

0005__50px WORDS OF WISDOM: Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

And speaking of the trajectory of the firm’s plans for CRM, that deadline signaled a shift toward rolling CRM to their end users. They know that it will be a culture change at their firm (a task in itself) and they also know aligning with their data now will encourage and strengthen engagement in a system that’s clean, organized, and trustworthy.

Speaking of trustworthy, we can look at the success of their efforts with qualitative measures, too. An important question to ask is if we are giving Business Development (BD) and Marketing more valuable intelligence? Are they seeing a difference? According to the firm, “…BD managers have more confidence in the lists that are being used for targeted mailers/invites … they trust the [Who-Knows-Whom] reports that we are producing.”

Everything may not be completely rosy, but it’s a much brighter shade of pink for this firm. There will always be things they want to do. They still want to take a closer look at what they can automate. They still want to create an integration with their time and billing system, and those things require the cooperation of other departments. So, in the meantime, they’re taking it one step at a time and controlling the things they can control.

Enjoying the View

One might say data integrity IS the basecamp of a well-run CRM. And if so, this firm is now up there, enjoying the view where growth opportunities for the firm are more visible and actionable. This is why they started this climb.

For many of you, unlike this firm, your users are aware of your CRM. They actively contribute to it (though, maybe not as much as you’d like). But if you’re in a position where you know something needs to be done with your data, remember, it’s like climbing a mountain—it’s always daunting until it’s done. There’s no way around it, you just have to start climbing. But know that others have gone before and you can learn from their challenges and victories.

0025_50px LESSONS LEARNED: The less content you have, the faster EVERYTHING runs and works.

  • “You don’t need a slew of people for CRM …” (others can help with work during peaks).
  • Focus on what’s most important (high traffic contacts).
  • Focus on what you and your team can control.
  • Don’t jump around from task to task. You work more efficiently when your mind is focused on doing one thing.
  • A deadline is a blessing.
  • Benchmarks with incentives are an important combination.
  • Just do it! Do the big, boring, overwhelming stuff first (it’ll feel so good when it’s done!).
  • Color-coding/spreadsheets (and Admin reports in InterAction) help you stay organized and provide visuals/metrics of all your hard work.
  • You can’t do everything at once and that’s okay.

As I write this post, the future is unclear and things are in flux. Sometimes it feels like many of us are hanging on by our fingernails. But this firm secured a good grip when they decided to turn it around. They didn’t let go—they fought their way up that mountain and now they’re standing proudly upon the peak. Let this firm be your sherpa. They’re throwing down the rope and saying to us, “Get up here, you gotta see this view!”

Maggie Hepburn

Maggie has been training and delighting her clients for over 15 years. She is exceptional at ensuring her clients are equipped to handle their daily responsibilities with InterAction. Maggie holds a Master of Arts degree in Linguistics. She thoroughly enjoys anything about the mysteries of language, speech, and pronunciation. She will find any excuse to build a spreadsheet and her favorite movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Read More View All Posts by Maggie Hepburn
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