A duplicate-free Salesforce environment is key to an efficient sales and marketing machine and to the perception of your organization by your customers. In this post, we start with a definition of duplicate data. Next, we will look into different ways duplicates frustrate the work of your sales and marketing team and how this will affect (potential) customers. At the end, we will consider different options for the cleanup and prevention of duplicates.
What is duplicate data?
In relation to Salesforce and other CRM solutions, duplicate data describes a situation where two or more records in your database describe one unique real-world entity. Let’s say you have a contact named Mariah Carey. Your Salesforce has three contact records describing Mariah Carey, each with some variations (M. Carey, Maria Carey). Check five reasons why cases like this are killing your Salesforce effectiveness.
Poor customer experience
The number one reason to start fixing your duplicates is poor customer experience. How would you feel getting the exact same email twice? How would you feel calling customer support and having to explain your problem all over again because they are looking at a different record? Salesforce is there to provide a seamless customer experience. Having duplicates results in the exact opposite.
Wasted sales opportunities
Having duplicates creates a lot of waste and frustration in your sales team. Imagine a situation where a salesperson contacts a lead that is already in negotiation with another salesperson. Wasted time, added frustration and a bad experience for the lead to boot.
Too many duplicates lead to salespersons not trusting the data in Salesforce. When that happens, they will start to either extensively vet every contact before reaching out or don’t bother to check background data at all. We have seen cases of salespeople going back to using excel sheets instead of using Salesforce.
Especially companies who rely on physical objects for their marketing (think of brochures, sample kits, direct mail) will lose a lot of money sending out stuff to the same person twice. It is bad for the environment as well.
Some software licenses are based on the number of records. By eliminating duplicates, you reduce the total number of records and associated costs.
Forecasts are created by assessing how many prospects will move through the marketing and sales funnel. Having inflated numbers because of duplicates leads to forecasts that are categorically too high — and we're all familiar with what may happen when you don’t meet your targets.
Bad decision making
Good decision making starts with having a single customer view. The single customer view consolidates all customer data in a single view. It can include click data, transactional data, and contact details, plus enables all kinds of things (cross-channel marketing is just one). The most important thing is to measure the effects of an action across all channels, leading to better decisions. Having duplicates in your database immediately guarantees that no good analysis is possible for that specific customer, and that data in aggregate is also not suitable for analysis.
How to handle duplicate data in Salesforce?
In my experience, combating duplicate data needs a two-pronged approach.
1. Prevent duplicate data from getting in
2. Perform a thorough cleanup on existing data
Prevent duplicate data
Every CRM I have ever come across is constantly expanding in the number of records. When you are not preventing duplicate data from getting in, a cleanup is pointless. Salesforce lets you configure rules to prevent duplicate records. They work on manual entry (block or alert) or entry by API and import (block only). Solutions like Duplicate Check for Salesforce offer more flexibility regarding matching and processing options. Very useful since a full block leads to data loss. Duplicate Check offers the option to merge a new record with an existing record, either manually or automatically. This way, no data is lost.
Both manual entries and Web to Lead/API/import entries need to be addressed in any case.
Perform a cleanup on existing data
When you have made sure that you have measures in place to prevent duplicate data it is time to clean up your existing database.
The ‘Performance’ and ‘Unlimited’ versions of Salesforce offer a feature to batch process existing duplicate records for Leads, Contacts and Accounts. After this job, you have to manually assess and merge each duplicate pair. As you imagine, that is a lot of work for larger organizations. Duplicate Check and other solutions offer fully automatic merging functionality. We recommend you first do some manual merges to fine-tune the rules before committing to an automatic process.
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