The 3×3 Method to Improving Salesforce Data Quality
Traffic laws help us drive (or walk or bike) safer and faster. Without traffic laws we wouldn’t be able to anticipate what other drivers would do. We wouldn’t know when it’s our turn to go. Imagine the chaos!
Your Salesforce org is similar. It exists to avoid confusion, so employees can sell, market, or whatever their job is, without stumbling around.
But one pothole can really slow things down and clog up the roads.
The pothole in your Salesforce org? Poor data quality.
You’ve probably considered cleaning your data once or twice, but may have been overwhelmed by the thought of such a daunting task.
So, how can you make the seemingly impossible mission of improving Salesforce data quality possible? Break the process down into small, doable chunks.
When faced with an overwhelming challenge, I like to apply a 3×3 method. I start with one goal. Then I define three strategies that will help me achieve that goal. For each strategy, I give myself three actionable tasks to do that will help me complete the strategy, thus completing the goal.
Try applying the 3×3 method to improving your Salesforce data quality. I’ve gone ahead and laid out three goals that will get you on your way, each with strategies and tasks that will help you accomplish the goals. (I even put together a checklist so you can track your progress!)
Here are the three goals that will help you improve the quality of your Salesforce data:
- Clean existing data
- Implement a data maintenance plan
- Make Salesforce a “one-stop shop”
Goal #1 Clean existing data
The first step to improving data quality is to lay a solid foundation by cleaning your existing Salesforce data.
- Strategy 1: Eliminate dupes already in Salesforce
Task 1: Profile data to understand the current state of the data
Find out how many duplicates are currently polluting your org and where your biggest problems lie. (You can do this for free with Cloudingo.) Most Salesforce users underestimate the amount of duplicate data that is present in their org.
Task 2: Perform multiple cleaning “sweeps” of your records to catch all dupes.
Start merging duplicate records that are, without question, duplicates of each other, like Leads that have exactly the same last name and email. (This part is can be done automatically using a data cleansing app.)
Once all the obvious duplicates are gone, be more creative with matching styles, filters, and scopes to find the less obvious dupes. These will be records that need extra time to be evaluated, and you will likely need to make some decisions on how to handle them.
Task 3: Dedupe from the top down, starting with Accounts.
First merge Accounts, followed by Contacts, then Leads. This eliminates the decisions about which Account your Contacts should be affiliated with and reduces the risk that new Leads or Contacts will get attached to the wrong Account.
- Strategy 2: Get rid of old, stale records
Task 1: Delete meaningless records
If your business only uses phone and email to contact customers, and you have records with no valid phone number or email address, those records are useless. Without a means to contact the prospect or customer, there is no need to keep them in your database.
Task 2: Delete fake or test records
How many Leads do you have with the first name “Test”, or records with “@email.com” as the email domain? Get rid of them.
Task 3: Delete inactive records
Delete inactive records that have no activity within a certain time period. Those records are just taking up space, and most likely the contact information is no longer valid. Outdated email addresses cause high bounce rates, increase your risk of being blacklisted, and attribute to inaccurate performance measurements.
- Strategy 3: Standardize, update, and enrich data
Task 1: Populate new data points via mass update
When new data points are introduced, ensure all records have updated information. If your sales department decides that a new data point should be collected and added to your Salesforce org, such as a “customer type” picklist, retroactively populate the new field value across your existing records by mass updating records.
Task 2: Verify and standardize mailing addresses
Having verified mailing addresses helps to save money on postage by eliminating undeliverable or incorrect addresses. Standardized addresses also see faster shipping times, so you can reduce shipping delays and get products to clients quicker. Once verified, standardized addresses add more data points for accurate deduping.
Task 3: Enrich data with third-party data providers
Decide what data is missing in your system that would be relevant to your business operations and seek companies that can fill in the blanks. However, use caution and do your due diligence to find out how reputable the sourced data is.
Goal #2 Implement a data maintenance plan
Once data is cleaned, it’s critical to take proactive measures to ensure data stays clean.
- Strategy 1: Prevent dirty data
Task 1: Evaluate how incoming data is entering your org
Make sure you understand how data is coming into Salesforce and that the data is clean. This can mean properly formatting a file prior to import, or researching your data entry sources to ensure the accuracy of the data coming in.
Task 2: Block duplicates from entering Salesforce
Data coming into Salesforce from any source could potentially duplicate records that you already have. Utilize Salesforce’s native dupe blocking functionality or install a free dupe prevention app to stop duplicates in real-time.
Task 3: Take preventative measures when importing records
When importing, it’s critical that you don’t create duplicates. Ideally, you’ll want to upload unique records and update existing records with information from your file.
Although Salesforce has its own import wizard, it fails to effectively consider duplicates. There are many import tools that accomplish this and that offer more robust features for identifying duplicates.
- Strategy 2: Enforce data entry standards and procedures
Task 1: Implement validation rules
Make data entry easy for users by applying validation rules. For example, create a validation rule that alerts the user with an error if four digits are entered for an Account Number when five digits are required. Picklists can also help keep your data uniform which makes both reporting more accurate and data entry easeier.
Task 2: Set key required fields
Require fields, but not too many. Only require users to input what’s critical to the business. Asking them to input too much information will deter them from using Salesforce.
Task 3: Assign a data steward
Appoint someone, or build a team, to maintain responsibility for your Salesforce environment, like a full-time Salesforce admin or a consulting firm.
- Strategy 3: Perform periodic audits
Task 1: Reevaluate fields
To foster consistency across records and make indexing and searching the database possible, in most circumstances, the fewer the fields the better. Consider if any fields can be combined or eliminated by running field usage audits. Be sure fields properties accommodate the data you need.
Task 2: Ensure data quality is up to par
As your business changes, so does your data. That’s why it’s important to dedicate time on a meaningful interval to reevaluate your data quality. We typically recommend you revisit your data quality standards at least quarterly. The good news is that as your data improves, it becomes more reliable and easier to find deeply rooted problems.
Task 3: Check users and permissions
Don’t give users access to your entire org. Not only do you run the risk of erroneous edits, but you’ll also overwhelm users which decreases user adoption.
Goal #3 Make Salesforce a “one-stop shop”
The main goal of Salesforce is to serve as your single source-of-truth – a place where all points of the customer journey are documented from start to finish. The more users use Salesforce, the better your data quality will be.
- Strategy 1: Make Salesforce mandatory
Task 1: Tie performance, payroll, and reports to Salesforce
Have performance reviews include metrics and reports that are pulled from data that lives in Salesforce. Numbers that account for activity and usage should be reflected in performance reviews. “If it’s not in Salesforce, it doesn’t exist.”
Tie the payroll process to tasks in Salesforce. For example, require that sales reps fully close out an Opportunity before a commission check is issued.
Task 2: Get buy-in and enforcement from management
If upper management is not diligently using Salesforce, get them to start using it. Explain that they need to set an example for employees. Have your data steward create meaningful executive dashboards and reports to facilitate this process.
Build an Executive Sponsorship team to be champions and enforcers of the Salesforce platform. Their vested interest in increasing user adoption will help influence subordinates to use Salesforce so that everyone can meet the goals of the company.
Task 3: Set measurable goals
How can you tell that your users are using Salesforce? Tracking login rates is a great place to start, but they don’t tell the complete story.
Examine how many records have been created within a certain time period and the number of created and completed activities. Make sure important fields are being properly filled out and pay close attention to duplicate records. Ensure there’s purpose to what users are inputting. You don’t want data in Salesforce just for the sake of having data. Data needs to provide meaning to your organization.
- Strategy 2: Eliminate siloed data
Task 1: Sync outside systems to Salesforce
Eliminate the need for users to navigate outside of Salesforce. Sync ERP systems, marketing automation platforms, accounting applications, and other business tools with Salesforce.
Task 2: Restrict outside workarounds
To prevent data from being siloed, limit access to software programs and platforms outside of Salesforce. If sales reps are able to generate quotes in Salesforce, don’t give them access to quote generators that live outside of Salesforce.
Task 3: Integrate business process via apps
The Salesforce ecosystem is filled with applications and components that can do this for you. Anything from document generation, lead routing, to timesheets tools can be found on the Salesforce AppExchange. If all your business data is inside Salesforce, there should be no reason why users would use anything but Salesforce.
- Strategy 3: Customize Salesforce
Task 1: Customize the user experience
Keep page layouts clean and simple. Combine, consolidate, and eliminate fields that are not used or are duplicated. Only display fields that are relevant to your business. If you don’t use social media information for leads, there’s no reason to have that as its own section on your lead page layout.
Task 2: Give correct access and permissions
Only give users access to Salesforce pages and functions that they need. Doing so will foster a cleaner, simpler user experience and a more relevant org that is easier to adopt.
Task 3: Automate tasks and workflows
Create workflows that reflect internal business practices. Make Salesforce work for your business processes, instead of forcing business processes to work with Salesforce.
For example, setup a workflow that will automatically send an email reminder to the renewal manager 20 days before a contract expires. Or prevent leads from slipping through the cracks by automatically notifying the sales manager if a lead is not assigned within in two days.
Feel better about improving your Salesforce data? No one said it would be easy, but hopefully this method will ease any hesitations you have.