Data Quality

A Nightmare on Data Street: 5 Haunting CRM Horror Stories

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A CRM that doubles as a House of Horrors can suck the fun out of spooky season.

If you haven’t been prioritizing data quality, your scary data management practices will inevitably come back to haunt you—and your business will suffer the bone-chilling consequences.

Come along (if you dare) for five horror stories told by CRM users* and the lessons they learned from experiencing these nightmares.

#1: “I over-forecasted by millions of dollars!” – Ryan, Head of Sales

As someone who’s worked in sales their entire career, Ryan knows how important it is to have an accurate sales forecast.

“An accurate sales forecast is everything,” he said. “If it’s off even by just a little bit, the chances of the sales team missing their targets increases. Not only that, but it can affect business growth, strategic planning, and the ability to streamline cash flow.”

Ryan says he relies on CRM data to create sales forecasts. (Eighty-six percent of CRM users say their companies do the same.)

“When the data is accurate and up to date, there’s nothing to worry about,” he said. “But that wasn’t the case this time.”

It turns out the CRM data Ryan relied on to create his annual sales forecast wasn’t up to date. The people on his team were regularly forgetting to update CRM data, which meant multiple deals were misreported.

“I relied on false information to create the sales forecast, which ended up being way too high. But I didn’t know this at the time, so multiple departments’ budgets for the year were inflated,” he said. “The marketing team, for example, sponsored twice as many events as the previous year and hired new team members with their bigger budget. By the time I realized the forecast was too high and we weren’t going to hit the revenue target, the money had already been spent—and it was too late. I ended up getting fired!”

Talk about a nightmare.

Lesson learned:

Members of the sales team move fast, and they don’t always make the necessary updates to inform the rest of the business of their progress with deals.

To keep pipeline and forecasts accurate, consider implementing a tool with conditional formatting that shows members of the sales team when they need to update their open deals. That way, they’ll be more likely to keep information in the CRM up to date—and sales leaders can create accurate forecasts.

#2: “I lost my co-worker their client’s business!” – Emma, Sales Representative

As a sales representative, Emma knows how important it is to manage her time wisely.

“In sales, time is money,” she said. “I try to work as efficiently as possible. But doing my due diligence is equally as important, and forgoing this step is one mistake I’ll never make again.”

Emma was going about her day as usual, reviewing the leads that were in her queue and reaching out to them one by one. The calls were going well… until she reached out to a lead not knowing they were already an existing customer.

“When they picked up the phone, I treated them like a stranger. I was part-way through my introduction when they interrupted me and said they were already one of our customers. Immediately, I turned white as a ghost. I was mortified,” she said. “Needless to say, that customer didn’t renew their contract with us.”

Lesson learned:

This spooky situation can happen to anyone—but it doesn’t have to. Consider implementing a tool that helps you cross-compare your Lead and Customer databases to keep both accurate. This way, when you see a lead waiting in your queue, you can trust that they haven’t already done business with your company.

#3: “I lost data during a migration!” – Taylor, CRM Admin

As an experienced CRM admin, Taylor has taken part in his fair share of data migration projects. But there’s one experience in particular that continues to haunt him to this day.

“Data migration is no joke,” he said. “Before you begin, you need to have a solid data migration strategy in place to ensure no data gets lost or manipulated.”

There are a lot of steps involved in data migration. Skip even a single step, and you risk having to say RIP to your CRM data. Taylor tries to avoid rushing through the process for this reason, but sometimes, that’s just not possible.

“When we acquired a new company, I was under pressure to move forward with the data migration as soon as possible. So, I moved quickly,” he said. “As I was going about the process, I made sure to check every box. Planning? Check. Auditing and profiling? Check. Data backup? Check… or so I thought.”

Taylor knew his company’s migration tool had a backup feature, so he didn’t think twice about this step of the process. There was just one problem: he hadn’t tested the backup function ahead of time. The consequences of this misstep were scarier than he could have imagined.

“The backup failed during the migration, and we lost over half of the data!” he said. “I thought I was going to get fired! Thankfully, this didn’t happen. But the not-so-nice words my boss had for me that day have been burned in my brain forever.”

Lesson learned:

Losing years’ worth of valuable, hard-earned data is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine. To prevent this from happening, invest in a backup solution, set a backup schedule, and test backups on a regular basis to validate that data has been accurately captured and files are intact.

#4: “My company ended up on a blocklist!” – Shayla, Email Marketing Manager

Most email marketers have the basics covered. Craft compelling copy, create a killer design, add an eye-catching subject line, hit send.

Shayla’s team was no different. But shortly before the business-critical holiday season, she encountered an obstacle that nearly destroyed her email program (and made her realize she still had a lot to learn about email marketing).

“We were sending promotional campaigns for a while, and as far as we knew, they were all delivered. So, we didn’t think we had anything to worry about,” she said. “But at the start of Q4, we found out Gmail put us on a blocklist! That’s when I learned a huge portion of our emails were being filtered to the spam folder, not the inbox.”

Shayla did some digging. It turns out their CRM was filled with duplicate records containing old, inactive email addresses. Shayla and her team weren’t aware any duplicates existed, so they continued sending campaigns to these addresses. This registered as spam-like behavior to Gmail, which landed them in the spam folder—and eventually, on a blocklist.

“I couldn’t believe it. Who knew ‘delivered’ could refer to anything other than the inbox?” she asked. “Two quarters’ worth of effort creating top-notch campaigns was basically for nothing, since most of them were never seen by our intended recipients. I had no idea duplicate records could have such a huge impact.”

Lesson learned:

You thought the twins from The Shining were scary? “Double trouble” takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to duplicates. Put an end to this data nightmare before it begins by implementing a deduplication solution that works best for your business. The right solution may fall into one of the following categories:

  • Preventative: Use a duplicate blocker to manage duplicates as they come in from end-user entry, list imports, web forms, and system integration.
  • Automated: Take your trusted deduplication scenarios and set them to run on a cadence.
  • On-demand: Run a data tool to find and merge any data duplications.

You should also make sure you understand the difference between email delivery and deliverability and are following email best practices to avoid ending up on a blocklist.

#5: “We held onto data for too long, which violated GDPR and resulted in a huge fine!” – Cory, CRM Admin

“Data is incredibly valuable. Sometimes, it’s tough to know which data to hold onto and which data to get rid of,” said Cory, an experienced CRM admin. “I like to hold onto as much data possible, because you never know when you’re going to need it! Or at least that’s what I used to do…”

Cory’s desire to hold onto CRM data started as a precaution, but over time turned into something much more sinister: data hoarding.

“I thought holding onto data was the smart thing to do, but it ended up coming back to haunt me!” he said. “The amount of data we were holding onto exceeded storage limitations, and over time, the data became outdated. Both of these things violated GDPR, which resulted in a fine!”

Lesson learned:

Don’t let your CRM become a graveyard for out-of-date data. Instead, familiarize yourself with data regulations so you know how long you’re allowed to hold on to your data. Then, establish and work with a cross-functional data governance team to assess the need for each data point. Be sure to also have a data archive plan in place for the data you decide to keep.

So, what will it be: trick or treat?

High-quality CRM data is a treat for any business. But when data quality suffers, that’s when it starts to trick you—and people throughout the company begin experiencing data horror stories like the ones above. Don’t fall victim to data demons. Keep these five lessons in mind to avoid CRM nightmares and make the most of your data.

While Q4 is already in full swing, it’s never too late to learn how to keep your CRM in tip top shape (especially during high volume sales periods). For expert tips, check out our guide, “6 Steps to Prepare Your CRM for Q4”.

*These are fictional accounts based on real stories our data experts have encountered in the field.