I recently was on holiday with friends, one of whom was in charge of a hospitality business.  She complained that the CRM she was using was so badly designed that, when she put her own name in, she could not then find it!   No wonder her employees would always create a new record for each customer regardless of whether the customer was an existing customer.

I’ve known this myself when dealing with Sugar CRM.  It is only too easy to duplicate accounts and contacts and, once you have duplicated them, the process of deduplication is ridiculously complicated, and involves asking the user to decide which fields from which record to keep on an individual basis.

This is mad.  If it takes me minutes to merge the records on one contact or account, then, unless I have a very small number of customers, I shall never do so.  Yet the result is exactly the same as for an individual with dementia – the business forgets each customer the moment they’re entered into the system, and renders the CRM almost entirely useless.   No wonder salesmen prefer to keep their own records in Excel.

Yet the solution is both obvious and easy.  First, make it much easier to find people.  My friend suggested that Facebook was a good model for this, and it surely is.  Of course your CRM may not have a photo, but it can check connections, and it can associate contacts with accounts, and it can show lists of potential matches while you are still typing.  All of these ideas make it far more likely that you’ll match a new contact to an existing contact..

Then, should you duplicate records, you should only need to tell the system which are the duplicates.  Then, when you look at the details, you should see all the versions, dated according to the record, with no need to select one or the other at the time (though you may want to be able to do so later).   In that way, anyone who spots duplicates can quickly remove them.   Should the merging be in error, no information has been lost, so splitting the records should not be a problem.

I understand that there are CRM packages that do offer Facebook style searches – I don’t know whether they also offer speedy methods of removing duplication.   Any business that uses a CRM package that fails on either of these counts is cutting its own throat



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