Saying goodbye to an old friend – Data cleanup in the world of GDPR and data privacy laws.

Kris Bochat, Senior Consultant, LexisNexis: 

Let’s be honest for a second.  When I sit down and think about a CRM system, the first criticism that always comes up is data quality.  Why don’t I have good user adoption? Bad data!  Why am I not successful reaching new prospects? Data quality!!  Where do I spend most of my free time? Maintaining data quality!!!  Is data quality really the problem though, or is the issue actually having the right data in my database to begin with?  

When I started with InterAction/LexisNexis over 11 years ago, I went through training just like our clients do. I met with our then marketing director and I was coached by several of my colleagues on how to use InterAction, which included what contacts to share. Almost every conversation ended with “share everything,” “there is no such thing as a bad contact,” and “more information means more connections”.  I truly bought into this philosophy that a CRM should be the gateway to more business connections and that the more contacts you have, the more successful you would be. To this day I still subscribe to different parts of the “every contact has a purpose” philosophy, but how I interpret that philosophy has, and continues to change.

What has led me to this epiphany… this change of heart?  Who is this old friend and why do we have to say goodbye? The answer is simple (but incredibly heart breaking coming from someone who once believed there is no such thing as a bad contact). It is time to purge the useless junk data from our databases to focus on what really matters. In the legal world, what matters are relationships; the people and companies that we work with, communicate with, and have proven to add value to your company. 

During a recent GDPR review of my CRM database I used the same logic that we recommend for my clients.  My team and I came to some very harsh conclusions that still to this day make me squeamish.   The rules I used purged over 100,000 people contacts, and 50,000 company contacts that no longer had value to us, but at one point, during the life of the database, thought would be important to our success.  The process felt the same way it did when I cleaned out my cell phone contacts of friends I had not talked to in years, and whose numbers are wrong or no longer exist.

The approach I took to clean out the database is the same that I have been recommending to clients who sign up for our GDPR review offering.  The first step is to work with the low hanging fruit.  My first search is to look for contacts that have no address, phone, electronic address and ‘Knows” relationships.  If I cannot communicate with a contact, identify their region, and nobody knows them at our firm, they are not worth my time and effort to keep and maintain. 

The second step(s) is to continue to whittle away contacts from my database that have no perceived value to the firm.  I use various combinations to search for missing data and lack of relationships to continue to remove contacts.  One of my highest impact searches is to find anyone in our database who has no ‘Knows’ relationships and is not associated to a client or prospect.  In my experience with my database and other client database the numbers have been in the thousands.

The third step and beyond is to change our approach to what we put in or database.  If I let the good quality, complete data into my system I immediately have a win in the data privacy game.   If I don’t let the bad data in to our system I don’t have to worry about it violating a data privacy law or some other data quality issue.  I am immediately reducing my time needed to work with data, saving time and money, and I am increasing the value of my database for my users.

It has been a tough journey but gone are the days where every contact should be put in our database “because”.  No more will I advise customers that you should put every contact into your database and just clean it up.  The time is now to cleanup and focus on what is important to me and my users.  In light of GDPR and other data privacy laws, anyone who says put all your contacts into the database and see what happens, will just cost you more money in the long run.  Use these laws to cleanup and out your data, refocus on what is important to you, and take your CRM to the next level.