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Do you actually TRUST your Customer contact data?


Are you looking to increase your contactable Customer base? How much money are you losing on incorrectly identified Customer communications? Throughout our 30 years of big data experience working with clients across industries around the globe, we have found that maintaining contact through relevant Customer engagement is a crucial component of putting the Customer First.

Essential to preserving contact data is ensuring that you have the most up-to-date information from your Customers; not an easy task. On average, people in the United States will move an average of 12 times in their lifetime. United States Postal Service data indicates 14% of the population change addresses annually. As email contact has grown, it's important to note that, on average, 30% of people change their email addresses each year. This is driven by ISP or job changes, or just to stop being spammed. As people move away from home phones to primarily mobile devices, phone numbers are stabilizing as consumers maintain the same numbers through physical moves.

Contact data maintenance also includes an effective and trackable process for removing Customers who "opt out", unsubscribe or otherwise request to not be contacted. Beyond Customer fallout for not honoring their request, regulations such as GDPR and CCPA can deliver fines as high as €20 million, or up to 4% of the annual worldwide turnover of the preceding financial year (whichever is greater), for any violations.

So, how are you collecting and managing sensitive, frequently changing Customer metadata? These three questions can help you perform a quick data health check for your business:

  1. How flexible are our Customer data platforms? Can multiple departments use the same Customer master data profile?
  2. What are the accuracy requirements for each of our communication channels?
  3. How unique is our Customer data asset and how valuable is it to our company?

Here are the most common data management options we encounter across industries:


Maintaining Customer information manually through an internal data team can be time-consuming and costly. It may require Customers to update their information online or through a call center, with an internal data team to validate the changes, and your Customer engagement team to be made aware of the changes so they can update their downstream systems. If you are in contact with your Customers on a weekly basis, this process will need to be on-going and thorough to accurately capture the data changes.

2.Third party:

Many third-party CRM systems and databases exist, often removing the manual steps from this process and may even automatically update Customer address information via online sources. In many cases this information is based on publicly available data or the USPS' address tools. However, these updates can verge on being "creepy" to many Customers. Automated systems do remove many of the manual touch points for your teams, but the information is then strictly provided by the third-party databases and processes. Additionally, downstream systems often still require updates from these tools to maintain the most correct Customer information across your data landscape.

While there are some hybrid models of options, here are the main pros and cons we have identified for the primary methods:

Internal Pros Internal Cons
The fastest method if you own and manage your data ingestion platform Managing a metadata repository tied to your website or mobile platform may require significant improvements in your front-end systems and teams
Your internal security can ensure that personal data standards and protections are maintained A true "Customer master" repository will require significant resources, a robust data governance structure and regular audits for both security and data accuracy
The easiest method for maintaining your Customer opt-outs and communication preferences If there is a data breach from your systems, your company is 100% liable for the breach
Platform and tool agnostic. An internal "Customer master" repository can serve as a single source of truth for Customer data within your organization
Leverages the information provided from your Customers which in practice should be the most trusted
3rd Party Pros 3rd Party Cons
Removes significant pressure from your internal teams and systems as you are pushing the process to the 3rd party May require you to maintain your own Customer opt-outs and communication preferences external to their platform
If the data resides on and is consumed from their systems, on-going security becomes less of a concern for your internal teams* May not allow Customer provided information to be captured or maintained
Can be a very accurate source if they are leveraging governmental and legal databases May require the use of their specific software and technology, limiting the ability for your organization to create an internal "Customer master" on your own databases and downstream systems
May be updated on a real-time basis from their systems You are tied to the 3rd party data match and update process dependencies. Additionally, some companies limit the daily number of requests or queries
APIs and other data integration points with the 3rd party may be made available ensuring that all internal teams have the same "Customer master" Are they consuming publicly available data (ex. mortgages and legal proceedings) or are they using some large unmanaged database to match Customer details and data?
How often are they confirming the accuracy of their data? Example "John Smith" may simply be a typo from years ago or it could be correct. How do they confirm accuracy?
*If the 3rd party or their associated processors breach your Customer information, you may still suffer reputational and financial consequences

Regardless of your chosen data mastering methodology, the Customer's preferred data should always be treated as the "most trusted," as this is the data your Customer is asking you to use. We recommend prioritizing Customer-provided data over other sources, only falling back on alternate sources if there are issues with Customer communications.

dunnhumby can help your company develop a comprehensive Customer mastering solution, regardless of your existing CRM process, technology or vendor. We have spent the last 30 years working with Customer data in many different stages of maturity and complexity. Through this process, we have developed proven best practices to collect and maintain your Customer metadata. If you are interested in discussing Customer mastering or Data Consulting, please reach out to your dunnhumby client representative or Contact Us.

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