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It happens with everything in life – stuff builds up all the time. Leave it long enough and you’ll then find it very easy to ignore and put it off as it’s just too big a task to sort out at all. Time is best spent elsewhere. Much like paperwork. The trouble with your CRM database’s duplicated contacts is that you and your colleagues need to make business decisions based on the contact data in your database. And if you have lots of staff accessing your CRM database, there are loads of opportunities for users to add in duplicated contacts. Contacts that are already in your system, under slightly different naming conventions, or exactly the same if you users were anything like the ones I used to have to ‘manage’. And then misunderstand your organisation’s link to that person.
Duplicated contacts mean your users start not liking your system. And then they use something else, for example their own lists. And then your duplications multiply very quickly indeed. And that’s a quick downward spiral of nasty awful dreadful horrible-ness. So, you have two choices; ignore it, or sort it out. You might as well sort it out – it’ll only get worse.
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And you have two ways of sorting it out; slowly or quickly. Whichever route you take, you need to keep it neat and tidy so it remains useful. Much like your kid’s piles of Lego in your sitting room. Leave it out each night and soon you can’t find a foot space to walk across your own room when the kids have gone to bed. Keep tidying it away and you have a nice clear sitting room that’s the relaxing place it should be when your ankle-biters have retired for the evening. A few lucky readers will have worked out how to get their kids to clear up their own Lego – and this is the same as getting your users to not add duplicates in the first place. Carrot or Stick? Others, like me, will have to do it for them.
So, reserve a regular hour each week or month (depending on how many new contacts you get added each week or month in your organisation) to task someone with removing rubbish data. But how do you get there so you only have to manage it for an hour a week. As mentioned earlier, you can do it slowly or quickly.
First, lets go through ‘slowly’. Prioritise. Find your best contacts. Do a search of all of them and go through that list (you may only be able to sort them by surname depending on how the reporting function of your CRM system works). And simply look through them, combining contacts (or simply deleting the second one / least populated record) as you come across them. Then move onto your second tier of contacts. Can’t accurately find contacts this way? Maybe because some contacts are classified as key, others not (who are exactly the same person)? Then simply go through by surname. Do the A’s first. Then B’s. Then C’ etc. err, till you get to Z. If you are using MS Excel as your database, it allows you to spot duplicates (but only exact matches) and highlight them. The Excel rule can highlight them in red for instance. Then just filter your spreadsheet by the red values and go through those first. That’ll give you the biggest ‘bang for your buck’. That might take you a while if you have a lot of contacts.
The quick route; give your data to someone who lives and breaths ‘sorting out data’. It’ll cost you more, but then again, you won’t have to waste your own time doing it. There isn’t a quick way of doing it yourself. And if there was, you’d have already done it wouldn’t you? They’ll be a reason it wasn’t done.
Data management is often the hardest part of CRM databases. And how do you get your users to not add duplicates in the first place Try reviewing their database usage in the performance reviews. Try re-educating users in how to use your CRM database. Simply delete the duplicate records you find each week. Your users may get the hint when data they add simply disappears and it annoys them more than adding in the duplicate.

Article ‘Make Your Marketing Activity Easier’ written by Simon McNidder from Database First Aid .

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