Companies in every industry still use spreadsheets for tracking, monitoring, and analyzing data. It’s arguable that we’ll also use spreadsheets for certain business tasks. They can be powerful tools, but they aren’t built for everything.
One thing they definitely aren’t built for is running your business. The businesses that attempt to maintain prospect, client, and employee data solely in spreadsheets find themselves lacking the ability to really use their data. Here are a few problems they might find:
In fact, 88 percent of spreadsheets contain errors. These errors happen several ways: manual data entry, multiple copies, completely losing a version, etc. When you’re trying to run any kind of business, errors in data cause an abundance of problems.
ALSO READ: How to Perform a Successful Data Migration
Unsupportive of customer service
Any good business puts a lot of focus on customer service. After all, happy clients refer! Pleasing clients is all about quick response time and reaching out proactively to stay in touch. When you’re working in spreadsheets, both of these can prove to be difficult.
They aren’t updated in real-time, so team members can never really know if they’re working off the latest data. Plus, each person might record data differently, causing some confusion.
Manually backed up
We all think data loss won’t happen to us, but it happens. When you’re storing important data in spreadsheets, you’ll have to be very disciplined with a rigorous manual backup schedule to ensure you don’t lose data in the event of a natural disaster or hard drive crash.
The last thing you have is free time in your workday to spend constantly updating rows and columns. Survey respondents said they spend 12 hours a month “consolidating, modifying, and correcting the spreadsheets they collaborate on with others and reuse frequently.” Instead of your data working for you, you’re working for your data.
A better place for your data
Spreadsheets are simply unproductive. They’re error-prone, manual, confusing, and difficult to maintain. That’s why most businesses are choosing to adopt CRM (customer relationship management) software to run their business operations. But making the switch can be daunting — there’s choosing a tool, onboarding it, and then (perhaps most frightening) migrating data. How can you ensure that your data stays clean and secure during migration? The following tips can help.
First, ask the right questions
Some CRM vendors are more hands-on than others. That’s why it’s so important to ask upfront what their process looks like for data migration, especially when you’re working out of spreadsheets.
Some questions to ask might be:
- Do they help with data migration? Or, do they expect you to import on your own?
- Do they offer templates for import?
- What kind of communication are you going to get throughout the process?
Some vendors will consult with you about your data and walk you through what needs to be done, maintaining communication with you throughout the process. Other vendors might give you a template and let you take it from there with little consultation. And, finally, there are vendors who are very hands off who expect you to use an import tool in their system and work through it yourself.
Knowing these things up front will help you plan for the migration process and choose a vendor that fits your needs.
Next, prepare your data for migration
Have you ever heard the acronym “GIGO” (“garbage in, garbage out”)? This describes the idea that when businesses use “garbage” data, they return “garbage” results. This applies to numerous functions within your businesses, and it begins immediately with data migration.
In order to have a successful data migration, “garbage” data needs to be addressed. When attempting to “clean” up your data, throw out the things you don’t need, fill in gaps, and maintain the newly organized data going forward.
Be sure your data:
- Uses abbreviations consistently (think street addresses: “st” vs. “st.” vs. “street”)
- Uses the same number formatting consistently (think social security numbers, phone numbers, etc.)
- Uses capitalization correctly and consistently
- Utilizes columns correctly (using separate columns for first and last name, for example)
- Uses consistent descriptors (using ONLY “client” vs. sometimes using “client” and sometimes using “customer”)
This might seem really nitpicky, but all of this is necessary for a smooth data migration.
Finally, maintain clean data going forward
Now that you’ve done all of this work, you don’t want to undo it all with poor data maintenance practices.
In your new system, you’ll inevitably feel more organized than you did in your spreadsheets. But, it still takes some effort from your team to maintain the organization.
Clean and accurate data is organized and updated. Be sure to set expectations for your team to be extremely thorough in their data entry. This means getting as much information as possible on prospects and clients and keeping it updated.
A good rule of thumb is to be sure that another team member could “pick up” any contact information in your database and work easily with it even if they’ve had no previous relationship with them. So, this means having thorough notes on your last conversation, all pertinent contact information, and anything else you’d need to continue the sales process with a prospect or service a client.
Clean and thorough data makes your book of business truly valuable for your team. Once you’re in the habit of maintaining clean data within your new system, you’ll inevitably benefit by actually using your data for automation, data analysis, and more.
Kelsey Rosauer is the marketing brand specialist at AgencyBloc. She plans and creates educational resources to help our customers organize, automate & grow their insurance agency.