Introducing the Retail CRM Whiteboard - Best Practices for Inspired Retail Marketing blog page!
Welcome! I’m glad you’ve decided to pay us a visit, and I hope you’ll come to use this blog page as a regular resource in your CRM marketing initiatives.
So what’s this all about?
Since we are successful when you are successful, we’d like to share some best practices tips to help you get the most out of your Epicor Retail CRM system. Our posts, at least for the next little while, will follow three different themes: maintenance, campaigns, and loyalty. Our first couple of entries will cover the topics of data capture and data quality. Does that affect you? In my experience, those issues affect almost every retailer – so I have no doubt there will be something for everyone in our blog posts!
Who are we?
The contributors to this blog come from the Epicor Retail CRM Services team. This is a dynamic group of more than ten people who are all passionate about CRM. Many of you have probably already worked with them on some of your projects. What do they actually do on a day-to-day basis? Just about anything CRM related, from data management and hygiene services, campaign and loyalty management, to strategic consulting, training, and user support. When it comes to solving CRM problems and optimizing your potential, they’re experienced and hands-on – and eager to share their knowledge in this series.
How else can we help?
As the Product Manager for our CRM solution, I welcome any CRM product enhancement suggestions… that’s what my other job is all about. When I’m not coordinating the blog contributors and their entries, I get to spend my time planning the content of our Retail CRM releases. It’s a juggling act that I just love! So send me your suggestions and you may just find them in an upcoming release…
Thanks and come back soon!
Product Manager, CRM
Last week I received a very pleasant phone call from Toni my car mechanic; he is a really good guy who keeps close ties with all his loyal clients. He wanted to remind me that I should bring my car in soon so he could perform its routine, "periodic maintenance.” Toni explained that this ensures that my car is not under-performing or that critical parts are at risk, especially with its relatively high mileage. And because he is someone who has earned my trust, I appreciated that call.
Similar to Toni’s advice, we at Epicor suggest several procedures be done periodically to ensure that the application is always performing at the expected level, particularly as the database gets bigger. Some procedures are done more frequently than others depending on the necessity of the related tasks and time required.
On a weekly basis we highly recommend taking a closer look at the Process Watcher because, as the name suggests, it monitors all the processes that took place or are taking place in the application. Finished but non-permanent processes can be safely deleted from the process watcher, while aborted and suspended processes should be further investigated before attempting to delete them.
Failure to clear or resolve these processes correctly can create performance issues. For example, if you ever notice that your Create List or Database Analysis report is taking forever to initiate or finish, one of the possible reasons might be that a long list of aborted processes is stuck in the process queues. Similarly, finished but undeleted promotions can impair CRM’s ability to post transactions; it can take a long time to check if the transaction matches an active promotion. Terminating a finished promotion does not mean that the promotion is deleted; all lists, statistics, results and reports attached to this promotion are retained in the system.
Less frequently (e.g. quarterly), lists that are no longer needed should also be deleted, as these take up precious space in the database and make fetching data slower. As an added value, you won’t be confronted with an overwhelming number of lists every time you open List Maintenance. It’s just like cleaning your personal email inbox every now and then to make it more visually appealing and easy to use.
Some annual procedures can also be performed to keep your system in top shape. These include purging inactive customer records and transactions older than “x” number of years. In addition to taking up space in the database, these inactive customers count against the license level. Not all clients are comfortable purging data so before permanently deleting them, it might be a good idea to export these data and archive them. Many details and rules go into deleting customers, so a detailed analysis of customer rate of retention and shopping frequencies usually takes place before deciding on the “who, when and how” for handling inactive customers and old transactions.
All the above procedures are examples of simple yet very effective things that can significantly improve processing times and make your system run faster and more efficiently. A final word of caution though: it's very important to be careful during all these cleaning steps to make sure permanent and valuable processes and data is retained.
I trust Toni, he is a good guy who really cares about his clients and their cars. We at Epicor care a lot about our clients and are inspired by your businesses...
Watch for our next blog, “Essential CRM Add-Ons”
Most of us shoppers love the shopping part – picking, choosing and trying out various things. But too often we hate the buying part, especially when we’re forced to wait in line, then wait even longer while an associate wrestles with the transaction and tries to locate us for CRM. This frustration is sometimes made worse by crowds during holidays and sales such Black Friday and Boxing Day, but it is always made worse by inaccurate customer records!
From a consumer’s perspective, you know how often this happens. But from a business perspective, have you stopped to really think about what it costs?
Why duplicate records can duplicate costs
A rise in duplicates will increase your direct costs in many ways. For example, duplicates lead to the disintegration of customer records and may “hide” your best customers behind a false record, making them impossible to identify and reach. Based on the wrong or second record, valuable frequent shoppers might appear to have little purchase history; they may look like average customers less worthy of special attention. Duplicate records will also duplicate your printing and mailing costs for no additional return. Additional costs are imposed by the time and effort required to find and correct the errors.
More importantly, duplicates may also increase your costs through lost business. The whole point of your CRM program is to build business through better marketing, engagement and customer satisfaction. Bad records undermine all of that. Instead of encouraging your customer’s loyalty, they may end up encouraging a trip or click to your competitors—at your direct expense.
How an alias appears
To understand how to deal with the problem of duplicates, you must first identify what causes them. We mentioned the impact of holidays and sales on your customers, but they also cause your associates to rush, and in the process to make mistakes. They may type in the customer’s name and email address incorrectly, which means customer records don’t merge automatically. Similarly, they may be given or confuse a work number for a home number, or simply search for the customer record improperly, then end up entering the customer record multiple times with different information. These duplicates may not auto consolidate through the import process, especially if the consolidation scoring is not appropriately set.
Exposing a hidden identity
Since it is close to impossible to avoid all duplications, you must have reliable methods to find and correct them. The two most common ways are to identify duplicates from a customer import and from a manual search. During a customer record import, your CRM system compares new information against existing customers in your database based on four criteria and a 200 point scoring system, as illustrated in the following table.
Alphabetic Match Key
Typically: LLLLLLLLFFFF (L = Letter in Last Name, F = Letter in First Name)
Address Match Key or Phone Number
[P = Post Code, 1 = Digit in Address 1
(House Number), A = Letter in Address 1
(Street Name), 2 = Digit in Address 2 (Apartment)]
The score is then added up. If the sum is less than 200 the customers are not considered duplicates, but if it is greater than 200 then they are flagged as duplicates. If the import consolidation parameter is set to auto consolidate, then the records consolidate when there is a single match. (You will not have to get involved when there are multiple matches to decide which records get merged.)
While working on various work sets, potential duplicates can be activated if they are not a match (<200) or can be consolidated if they are a match (>200). While consolidating duplicates manually you must be mindful of both the last update date and the create date on the customer record, as the most recent information should be retained.
You can also search for duplicates outside the import process using various search criteria – such as nickname and address, nickname and telephone, nickname and email and nickname and zip code – applied to the entire database or a specific subset of customers. These searches are often run daily. Other searches, such as email and address, can be run weekly or bi-weekly.
While running manual searches you can use the system-defined keys or user-defined keys (for name and address). The system has two default name and address keys, but the user-defined keys help catch spelling mistakes sales associates often make, nicknames they often use, and the use of non-standardized addresses. You can catch more duplicates by creating your own keys and varying the components.
Don’t put it off!
Duplicates should be identified and consolidated daily to keep your database clean and duplicate free. Get your sales associates on board – make sure they understand the value of entering good data and focus carefully when entering records. Determine user-defined keys to fine tune your searches to suit your database, and invest in address standardization software (such as QAS) to minimize errors.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, mass consolidate with caution, to avoid making mistakes such as consolidating your VIP customer with a non-VIP customer or an employee record with a customer. While manually consolidating, drag and drop the information you need from the duplicate record to the destination record. Be careful, because the duplicate record gets wiped out, and the only information available to you will be the customer number on that duplicate record.
Watch for our next blog, “Your CRM’s Spring Maintenance.”
You’ve probably seen video clips of buildings being brought down with explosives, after they were found to be too old or in too poor of condition to continue serving a useful purpose. I saw one of these the other night. It’s certainly dramatic, especially when you consider the scale and value of the resources involved.
This prompts me to ask: Which building are you currently operating in?
It may seem like an odd question, but as a marketer, your customer database has a lot in common with the buildings pictured above. Both are vital structures that enable multi-million dollar business operations. Both are designed to house and protect core business assets. And both are subject to decay and collapse if they are not routinely maintained.
In our last blog we talked about some of the problems that can occur when that maintenance doesn’t happen – when your best marketing ideas are compromised by outdated customer data. It’s an inconvenience for consumers, who end up receiving misdirected and often irrelevant marketing, but it can be a disaster for the retailers who send it, who can end up wasting huge dollars on promotions that just get clicked or dropped in the trash.
In this edition of our CRM blog series, I’d like to offer some practical tips for making sure your database stays clean and in top condition day-by-day, so you can continue to rely on it as a profit-generating business development tool year-after-year.
Assign one person to manage daily incoming files. The person in charge of maintaining your database must be responsible for all the daily files that come in. He or she must note who the contact is, the full contents of the files, when the information was uploaded and in which directory it was placed.
Make sure the files are correctly processed. Check in the appropriate folder for the time stamp; these can sometimes be overwritten, and if you check a day too late you could lose valuable data. Check the Process Watcher for any errors and correct them without delay (errors left unresolved can accumulate as fast a dirty dishes!). And if you use Epicor Retail POS, make sure to check the Trickle process. Trickle is the replication process that synchronizes all changes made to a customer’s record with the store’s database. Begin by checking the Outbox and Backup folders to make sure the files were sent to the store’s database and backed up by our application. Next, check the Implog.log file and the Trickle Process in the Process Watcher to see if it was successfully completed. If you find any errors, immediately open a call with Client Care – otherwise the changes made to customer records will not show up at the stores.
Respect and manage opt-outs. We all use email to maintain regular communications with our customers – and we hope they are receptive to our offers and information. But it’s always the customer’s choice to receive those emails or not, and we need to respect our customers either way. Make sure that any opt-out requests are implemented immediately, either by appending an attribute of “do not email” or setting them to do not email and rerunning your daily master lists to exempt them.
Investigate and correct undeliverables. You never want to incur the expenses that result from maintaining incorrect email addresses. As soon as they are identified, set them to undeliverable in the database and rerun your master list. A good practice after flagging any contact as undeliverable is to clear the email address from the record and set the email indicator to Mail. With a blank email field, it is more likely that the sales associate will ask the customer for their email address the next time they visit the store.
De-dup every day! Duplicate contacts are costly in at least two ways: they increase your mailing costs, and they increase the chances that your customer will become annoyed with your excessive mailings and eventually opt out. Duplicates throw your reporting off as well. Search for duplicates daily to minimize your costs and present offers to your customers as intended – professionally and correctly.
All of these tips are fairly simple, but because they are (or should be!) routine, they can be sometimes taken for granted and ignored. Consistent, daily practice of these essentials can help keep the foundation of your marketing efforts strong—and supporting your business forever.
Watch for our next blog on “Duplicates – Why do they exist and why do we care?”
Epicor CRM Services
“Data quality matters!” You probably hear this all of the time, and you know it’s true. But can you really maintain the kind of high quality data that retailing now demands? The answer is emphatically “yes” – when you follow the right steps for...
Effective Data Quality Control
Every time I think about the benefits of quality data -- and the consequences of bad data -- I think of the mail I receive at home. I moved into my current home almost 10 years ago, and I am still receiving retail coupons and promotional mailings for two of the former owners, and those two people didn’t even live there at same time! Obviously, those retailers are using very old data. What’s worse is that they are wasting precious dollars and missing out on the opportunity to please those customers, and of course on the chance to engage new ones like me!
Quality CRM data is essential for customer satisfaction – and for everything that it ultimately provides to your business. After all, if you can’t trust your customer data, you can’t trust what you think you know about who your customers are and what they want, need and expect. And you can’t make sound decisions to satisfy those needs.
In our last blog, we discussed some best practices for collecting customer data – and the cost of not doing that right! But while collecting data is one thing, maintaining it is another! Once it’s in your system, how can you ensure it remains accurate, trustworthy and able to deliver top marketing results? Left to itself – or worse, mishandled – good customer data can go bad faster than a piece of chicken. And like that chicken, everything it touches will get contaminated, too. Here are some ways to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Walk the Walk
Everyone can agree that it’s important to maintain high quality data, but that truth needs to be backed up by effective action. It demands:
Dedication – a defined quality management program, backed by
Investment – in the adequate, appropriate resources
Discipline – consistent adherence to well defined standards and practices
Reinforcement – so data quality becomes part of your company’s culture and everyone’s responsibility
Take the First Steps
These are the steps you need to take to implement an effective data quality management program:
1. Follow recognized procedures. Implement robust techniques, standards and tools to sort the good from the bad. Make improvements to your procedures as you learn what’s best for your business.
2. Define and maintain valid quality indicators. Your data does not need to be perfect right from the start, but you do need to set adequate initial goals and change them as your data gets better. There’s no rush -- take it one step at a time.
3. Establish a custodian of your data. This should be someone with the right technical skills who understands your data model concepts and your business. This position requires a team player with diplomacy and negotiation skills who is well-respected by his colleagues.
4. Educate your employees and recognize their results. Data quality should become part of your company’s culture. Employees will support quality-control initiatives when they recognize the impact of poor quality data, including the loss of money and opportunities. Make them proud of their achievements!
Never drop your guard. High quality data requires constant vigilance; I find this to be the most exciting and also critical step in the data quality management process, so it deserves a few extra words…
Proper tracking of processes and data will help you build your initial data profile and figure out what “bad” data is currently being captured. (Is that really your customer’s phone number on their record – or is it your store’s number?) Once you have a baseline of what is being captured you can set goals and begin measuring.
Measuring Through Periodic Reporting
Reports are a powerful solution when it comes to measuring data quality. They are a great resource to identify how your stores and sales associates are performing, good or bad. Use reports to provide immediate feedback on their data capture efforts, and to recognize and reward top performing staff members.
Here are some examples of reports we wrote for clients who wanted to periodically monitor and measure store performance. By the way, you could write these reports yourself if you wanted!
CRM Data Quality Report
This report validates the capture of email, name, address and phone. It provides counts and rates per total transactions; ranking the number of captures against your established quality standards.
CRM Capture and Quality Report
This report displays the invalid data captured in the email, name, address and phone fields. How does it know what is considered invalid? It’s checking the data against your established quality standards.
Data quality was once considered a nice-to-have initiative; today it’s critical for any retailer’s success. So what are you waiting for? Get started on your data quality management program today!
Watch for our next blog on “Daily hygiene for a healthy database”.
Maria Elena Duran
Best Practices for Inspired Retail Marketing
Capturing Better Data
Every time I shop, whether it’s in-store or online, I expect to be actively encouraged to shop again – to be asked for my contact info, whether I have or want a loyalty card, and whether or not my experience met my expectations. I’m sure you’re in the same position. After all, as CRM professionals, we know that customer data capture and engagement is the lifeblood of CRM, and that CRM is now, for so many retailers, an essential competitive tool.
What really surprises me, therefore, is when I’m not asked for my information at the point of service. This happened just last weekend at my local mall, where I loaded up on sale-priced shirts at a major national retailer I don’t normally shop with. I chose, I paid, and I left – nothing more. And as soon as I did, I remember thinking, “Wow, they really missed the boat.” I was actually fairly impressed with their merchandise and bargains, but they completely ignored the chance to reinforce and leverage that impression as future business – or to even contact me with a promotion that might bring me back.
These days, a retailer who fails to capture any customer data is by far the exception, not the rule. But just as much damage can be done when a retailer captures incorrect or incomplete information, or when they mishandle otherwise good information after the fact. And that happens far more often that most of us would like to admit – in spite of the fact that we now have so many different tools to connect with our customers, and that we’re continually exposed to improved techniques, infrastructure, and media.
Your data may seem great, but take a closer look!
Five Steps Forward, No Steps Back
What can you do to stay focused on collection – not correction and all the problems that result? Here are five key steps that will help you capture better data and achieve stronger marketing results.
1. Review Your Processes
It’s never enough to just collect data; that information has to be validated before it gets into (or otherwise infects!) your CRM system, and all the other systems it interacts with it. Establish your base metrics with the data’s end-use in mind, and be sure to distinguish between poor data and good data. Qualifying data-quality is an analytical process involving objective reviews through quantitative measures. Then review your current practices and specify improvements, along with ways to ensure they are adopted consistently.
2. Audit Existing Data
Take a close look at what’s already in your system. In particular, evaluate whether your customer database is large enough, whether the contact data is sufficiently complete and, most importantly, whether that data is sufficiently accurate. If you fall short in any of these areas, investigate until you understand the root of the problem(s) and can specify solutions. And again, ensure that those solutions are adopted rigorously and monitored for compliance. I have seen firsthand the importance of having a compliance monitoring program. Amazingly, in less than a year, the quality of the data captured at one of my clients improved from less than 50% to almost 90%. You could be that retailer too!
3. Examine Your Data Collection Points
How your data is being captured can of course have a huge impact on what you are able to capture and what value it can provide. Check your forms – make sure they are easy to use and provide only the data you really need. A form that requires work is a form that won’t work! It’s also important to standardize your forms so the same information will be collected from your website and stores.
4. Train and Motivate Your Staff
Everyone on your staff needs to understand the importance of capturing accurate and complete customer information. They need to know its value to your company and their responsibilities to help deliver that value. Document and teach proper collection methods as well as the costs and consequences of not following them. Get directives from the top down if necessary, to let your staff know this is important to and expected by the executive team. Motivate your staff with incentives for doing it right, including recognition, contests and rewards, and support those efforts with regular monitoring and reporting.
5. Develop a Go-forward Strategy
Develop strategies to resolve existing problems and to prevent future ones. It is much more cost effective to prevent problems from happening in the first place than to correct them after the fact. Toward this end: Create a plan to reduce the need for data cleansing; define and implement an ongoing data quality process; set targets and tollgates; validate data periodically by comparing your results with established metrics; and compare and rank performance among stores and associates using CRM Data Quality Reports.
Value – For You and Your Business
If you follow these steps consistently, you’ll rest assured that the customers who visit your store or website won’t ever share my recent experience at the mall. They won’t miss an opportunity to gain savings, promotions and rewards and, more importantly, you won’t miss the chance to turn a first-time or sometime shopper into a higher-value customer for life!
Watch for our next blog on “Effective Data Quality Control Procedures."
Maria Elena Duran