How a CRM Ensures the Accuracy of Contact Information

One of the most basic and familiar applications of CRM in law firms, and other professional firms that need to manage contact relationships, is the collection and updating of contact information used for the production of holiday cards. Sometimes, that is all that is done to communicate with clients in an organized way. A good CRM system can make the process of creating holiday cards much easier and will also facilitate sharing information about contacts, prospects, and clients. Once a central database is kept up to date, mailing lists can be easily generated for any purpose such as sending out firm newsletters and mailing or emailing invitations to firm-sponsored events. The attorneys, or other professionals, keep their contacts in Outlook, and the same contact could be in more than one Outlook folder. As a result, there could be variations in the contact’s phone number, email address, or other details. Just figuring out the most recent and correct information can be time-consuming when working with Outlook only. The CRM shared database has just one record for each contact, which includes a list of the attorneys who have it in their Outlook folders. The CRM system provides a process for all new Outlook contacts to be shared with the central database, unless the attorney or professional wants to keep it private. Once a contact record is in the database, changes to the phone number, company, email address, mailing address, etc. done in Outlook, by any attorney, update the one contact record in the shared database. Additionally, these changes are updated back to the Outlook folders of any other attorneys who share the contact. As a result, all attorneys have the most current information on every contact.

Prevent duplicates

The CRM system normally includes a method of warning, in Outlook, that a contact being added as “new” matches one or more contacts that already exist in the CRM database; typically showing the user the name, company name, and other data so he or she can decide if it is really the same contact.

But, if any duplicates do get added to the CRM database, e.g. due to a difference in name spelling or a different associated company, the CRM system provides utilities to consolidate or “merge” them, with the ability to choose the contact information that is correct and most current.

Automate acceptance of contact information from Outlook

Most CRM systems enable firms to create their own rules and procedures for acceptance of both new contacts and changed information from Outlook into the shared database, with varying levels of automation. For example, new contacts can be automatically accepted unless they are very similar to a contact already in the database, in which case a “human” review of the contact will be required. For changes, firms can decide which contact information fields in Outlook will be “monitored” by the program, and whether these changes will be automatically updated to the database or will require a “human” review.

Consistent data in Outlook and CRM database

Consistency of data between Outlook and the CRM database avoids failures to match, in the new contact match warning in Outlook and in the automatic acceptance rules, thus avoiding unnecessary “human” reviews of changes. The CRM system provides “data cleansing rules” for contact information, for example:
  • In the street address: Change “Street” to “St”, “Avenue” to “Ave”, “Suite” to “Ste”, “North” to “N,” etc.
  • In the address State: Change all variations of state names and abbreviations into the standard 2 letter abbreviations
  • In the Job Title: Change “VP” to “Vice President”, “CEO” to “Chief Executive Officer”, etc.
These rules are typically defined prior to the initial sharing of contact data from Outlook into the CRM database. When they are used, the “cleansed” data is updated to the CRM database and back to the contact in Outlook folder(s).

Unicode database format

Unicode is an industry standard for the consistent representation and manipulation of text expressed in most of the world’s writing systems. It was developed in conjunction with the Universal character set standard, and now consists of a repertoire of more than 107,000 characters covering 90 scripts. This means IntelliPad can now correctly display and update not just English and European languages, but also Chinese, Japanese, and many other languages. Contact data in multiple languages can exist within the same database.