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Financial organisations will need data leadership to navigate the next year’s uncertainty

Financial organisations will need data leadership to navigate the next year’s uncertainty 1

By Wayne Parslow, Executive Vice President at Validity International

As the economic travails of the current pandemic continue to impact businesses globally, many marketers at the forefront of revenue generation are pushing harder than ever to convince consumers to part with their cash. If you have noticed your inbox being flooded with messages from businesses you may not have engaged with in months or years, then you’re not alone. It’s a predictable symptom of the uncertainty businesses are now enduring. For financial organisations in particular, where uncertainty is changing their customers’ behaviours in unpredictable ways, increasing communications with customers and prospects digitally is the only channel of contact.

The success of this tactic will of course differ from business to business, but as marketers settle into the changing landscape, they’ll better weather these uncertain times by focusing not just on reengaging with long-lost customers, but on improving customer retention. The best way to do that is by taking a closer look at their CRM data. With proper management and organisation, CRM data can provide the insight needed to inform and shape successful marketing campaigns in future. The kind of campaigns that not only serve to engage your core customer base, but also bring new customers into the fold.

A key part of this will be personalisation of offers. A recent Yes Marketing report highlights that 52% of consumers ranked relevance as the most important factor when considering marketing approaches from financial services organisations. If communications with customers aren’t about the services they are interested in they’ll be lost before you can engage them. Only through clean data can those connections be made.

Added to this is the increased regulatory pressure for financial services to disclose more diverse data and more granular data to central banks and regulators. Regulations such as Basel III, FRTB, MiFID II, AML/KYC, FATCA and more all carry heavy fines associated with non-compliance. This forces banks and other financial services organisations to collect more data in a controlled way, so that the necessary reporting can be generated automatically, but also that all data is available and up to date for ad-hoc inquiries of the regulators.

Where many financial companies fall down on this is by failing to ensure that CRM data is accurate, up to date and properly managed. A recent survey from Demand Metric and Validity identified the scale of this problem: one-third of marketers don’t yet have an effective process for managing CRM data. Only when businesses have accurate, clean data in their CRM can they achieve the trusted client relationships, seamless customer experiences and effective marketing campaigns needed to succeed in these harsh economic times.

Achieving quality CRM data

Why then are a full third of companies not managing their CRM data appropriately? Ostensibly it’s not a difficult process, but it requires diligence and, most importantly, leadership infrastructure.

The issue many financial organisations face with CRM data management is with achieving buy-in from the highest levels of the organisation. The same Demand Metric and Validity survey mentioned above shows a clear correlation between leadership engagement with CRM data and the quality of said data. The more leadership involvement, the better the data.

Some businesses will go the extra yard and implement an executive-level steering committee or even a CDO (Chief Data Officer). The CDO’s ultimate responsibility is the state of all company-wide data and data initiatives. The steering committee on the other hand is tasked with data policy, whilst a governance team focuses on understanding the business’ data needs: what data is needed, why it’s needed, and where it should be captured.

We have, however, skipped a step. How do marketers ensure that the executives are indeed making data a business priority especially within financial organisations where often, legacy systems and processes are favoured? You have to communicate its importance in the kind of language they’ll understand, by aligning CRM data with the company’s bottom line to underscore its importance.

For example, consider the fact that 95 per cent of marketers using CRM data for sales forecasting and reporting believe when CRM data quality is high, their forecasts improve substantially. When you deliver the data importance message in these kinds of terms, it’s far easier for executives to understand its importance and commit to driving a business-wide effort that prioritises proper data management.

Building a company-wide data team

Leadership buy-in may be the spark that starts the fire, but those embers will need tending. Data quality needs to be a company-wide initiative, and each department needs to elect a person to be part of the data team and act as their liaison. Ensuring each department is engaged and responsible for their data will increase its accuracy and the efficiency of the whole process. Ensuring that data quality is part and parcel of each department’s day-to-day functions underscores the importance of the mission throughout the company and ensures it’s not seen solely as the remit of a data team somewhere else in the business.

Once you have executive endorsement, a company-wide data governance structure and the right team in place, the next step is to gain a better understanding of the current state of your data. Getting a read on the gaps that currently exist will provide a better understanding of the road ahead, and what tools the business might need to invest in to improve the CRM data quality and clean and augment the management process.

More often than not a company will need to go through a process of deduplication, standardisation, and, at minimum, email verification. The mismanagement of these key actions impacts the teams most crucial to customer retention and acquisition, namely sales, marketing, and customer services.

This isn’t a one and done process though. If the initial data cleanup is successful, it means more customers, more transactions and, ultimately, more data enters the business. A successful business’ data is not static, it should be a constantly shifting and changing mass as defunct data is removed and newer, more accurate and relevant data comes in. Data needs to be managed daily, just like any other department in a business. Without an ongoing, cross-company effort, the quality of your CRM data will be compromised.

Ensuring CRM data is clean and accurate provides a host of benefits that are crucial to the running of a successful financial services business, regardless of the economic situation. Right now, however, it’s more important than ever. There are a variety of technologies on the market that can help a business keep its data accurate, but that’s just one element that needs to be considered. Maintaining clean, up-to-date data needs to be seen as a continuous process and a company priority, and although that starts at the top of the business, it requires data governance and leadership at points across the business to remain a priority. These efforts will be rewarded with the ability to better engage customers, more accurately forecast sales, and boost retention and opportunities to upsell, whatever the economic storm to come.

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