A close look at four essential points you should always have in mind when looking to get the most out of your database.
With your CRM system installed and it no doubt becoming a critical component of your business, we’re here to offer some additional advice.
In previous posts, we've looked at how your database can assist customer retention, as well as invited you to reflect on your experience using your chosen software. Today, we'll help you investigate the best habits to keep your database organised.
With that in mind, here are the 4 Best Practices to follow (or implement as soon as possible) when managing the database within your field service business:
If you haven’t already, you must decide on what information is critical for your business, what information is good to have, and what information is irrelevant. When considering what is irrelevant, think about what your clients could consider as intrusive.
After all, the data you collect should have a use: like knowing the customer's contact preferences so you can communicate easily and in a way they're comfortable with. In this instance, contact preference is an example of “good to have” data. The “critical” data would be their name and actual contact info, like their mobile number and email address.
Some data will be hard to get: not everyone wants to give away their data (and rightfully so), but if you’re honest and reasonable about why you’re asking for certain details and make it clear customers will get something in return (i.e. ease of communication, or offer of a discount or resource), they are more likely to give you the info and respond positively than if you demanded it without explanation.
Before you start sifting through your database—or when setting one up—decide what information is critical, good to have, and irrelevant for your business. It’s a good idea to make sure you’re familiar with the following two classifications and then decide what data to retain...
Transactional Data (TD):
This data describes an event as a result of a transaction and is usually represented numerically. You’ll build up a lot of transactional records over time. Typical examples of this data include:
- Finances i.e. invoices, payments, discounts, purchase orders
- Activity records i.e. hours worked
- Logistical data, i.e deliveries, storage, or travel records.
This data can give you a good idea of how customers are using your business i.e. biggest spenders, or frequency of engagement. The information can also help you work out your ideal customer, so even help you target new customers via your marketing efforts.
Master Data (MD):
This identifies your customers and prospects. Additionally, if you use your database to control stock and orders, it also applies to your suppliers and partners. Unlike transactional data, master data doesn’t change very often as it includes more concrete details, such as:
- Telephone numbers
- Installed appliances (for an engineering or maintenance company), or installed hardware and software (for an IT support company), and so on.
Why TD and MD are both important
Collecting both types of data has obvious benefits, from knowing who your customers are, to knowing what work has been done, to streamlining finances. However, where both types of data are concerned, you need to make sure you’re consistently keeping things organised to increase accessibility.
Fortunately, a good database should give flexibility not just for your office staff, but also your engineers who will find it especially useful when out in the field.
With that in mind, have you made your database readily available to your engineers? Are they able to update customer data whilst out at a job? It’s definitely worth considering, especially with mobile phones and tablets allowing for easy access away from the office. Most of us dislike admin work as well, but when it can be so easy, who better to update details than those actually interacting with your customers on site?
For example, if an engineer has completed a job, the master data will already be included on the digital service report, as will the type of transaction. They will only need to add a couple of details and get a customer signature (which they can also do digitally) and then invoice. This can all be instantly recorded in your database and save valuable time for your engineer, office staff, and improve the onsite customer experience of your service.
Whether it’s an office worker taking calls, a finance colleague processing invoices, or your engineer on site, ensuring your team can work cohesively to gather and organise your information is immensely valuable.
Just as your staff enjoy the benefits of good data, it should be known that gathering information is also part of their job. The effects are felt both in and out of the office: less paper-chasing, more efficient use of time, and the pursuit of more valuable work. Your staff should continue to reap what they sow by practising good information gathering.
With this in mind, the key is to gather as much useful information about customers as possible. We already mentioned critical, good to know and irrelevant data, but consider how your staff can go beyond just textual information and collect things like photographs or videos of installed equipment (like boilers), or even digitally scan documents to create electronic copies (PDFs) for safety certificates (and more) to be sent instantly to a client.
A mobile or tablet can be their best friend—even offline—they can still take images, ready to upload later. Imagine how useful that information could be for office staff to refer to on a phone call as well, or if another engineer has to take over a job from a colleague. Gathering information can create valuable context to better inform their work later on.
Another useful habit, this time for office staff, is to have them update the database whilst they’re on the phone with a customer. In particular, make it a habit so that when your admin staff call or email a customer they check the information in the database is up-to-date. This could be considered part of your wider communication plan, but queries will like this will only take a moment: “Is the best email to reach you on: email@example.com?”. In contrast, sending an invoice to the wrong address can result in wasted effort, cause embarrassment, and even damage a customer relationship.
If you haven’t already, be sure to implement these good habits to help eliminate and prevent potential problems to improve data management.
Just like how it’s a great idea to get feedback from your customers (they’re the ones who use your services after all!) you should also encourage and facilitate employee feedback. Ask your team a few times a year to report on whether the database is still working as intended.
For example, has your business changed, requiring an update to the template or system design? Do your employees spot weaknesses in the database (where you’re not recording something that you should)?
This feedback loop can be invaluable as choosing a database isn’t the end of the story: checking that the database continues to service your business well is an on-going task.
Remember: even the best software won’t pick up every single error, so it’s a good idea to trust the people you work with, delegate effectively, and then work with your software partner; together, you may even be able to develop better solutions to assist everyone.
Also, employees feel more valued and that they have a stake in the success of the system if they are consulted. As a general rule of thumb, the least helpful input is from those who say the system is either perfect or completely useless; what you need is constructive criticism so be sure to ask for specific feedback.
We all like to make well-informed decisions; whether it’s reading restaurant reviews online, getting a movie recommendation from your film-buff friend, or going with a well-known brand: we go to sources we trust based on high-quality data. Similarly, your database should do the same for your business and be a trustworthy place to store information.
Without good quality data, you’re more likely to make poorly informed—and even bad—decisions that could be hard to rectify. Whether it’s attracting the wrong type of customer, or causing you to invest in fruitless marketing campaigns, these are the things you want to avoid. However, manage your data well and that you will learn to trust and be confident in what it can show you and help you achieve.
Making information gathering a habit and collecting feedback (as discussed) are great ways to make sure you’re producing high-quality data, so be sure to continue in your efforts to keep your house tidy i.e. (correcting records, updating telephone numbers, merging records, asking customers if their information is correct).
Be consistent in your data entry as well, with simple things like:
- Using the same address format (including postcode),
- Inserting names in the correct fields
- Using capital letters and numbers correctly.
This will increase the accuracy of your data and ensure that intelligent searches within your database run smoothly.
Data is an immensely valuable company asset, you have a duty of care to your customers and your staff to make sure you’re using it wisely and well!
To help offer a handy reminder of today’s content and ensure those best practices stay with you, we’ve developed a useful infographic for you to download: just click below. It contains a summary of hints and tips you won’t soon forget.
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