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Getting Organized: What data do you migrate to your new database?

A new year means letting go of the old, getting organized and starting fresh. For many of our clients, that comes in the form of a new CRM database, and companies are often eager to let go of their legacy data and start fresh in their new system.

On the one hand, I understand where they’re coming from. The more historic data you have, the more information there is to weed through, the slower your system runs, and the higher your startup costs of sorting, mapping and formatting the data. On the other hand, organizations – and their customers – are typically better served by migrating the bulk of their data.

Data migrations are inevitable, so what would you need to carry over to a new system? What could you leave behind? The complete answer depends on your business, your CRM and a cost-benefit analysis. But largely, it boils down to one key question: What do your customers expect based on the information they’ve shared with you over the years?

There’s a wide spectrum of customer expectation, so let’s put ourselves in a customer’s shoes for a few examples.

Example 1: National Coffee Chain

We all have our favorite coffee, so you can fill in the blank with your go-to national chain. Let’s say your chain of choice maintained a database of every customer’s purchase history since their founding in 1990. If they were making an update, how important would it be to you that they had a record of your first drink purchase, how you took your coffee, and at what location?

Not very. Outside of a rewards program that tracks points, customers get no benefit from tracking how much coffee they’ve bought. (In some cases, it’s best not to total it.) And you wouldn’t expect that every barista at every location knows your “usual” order, if you even had one.

As a coffee chain is transferring their database, they wouldn’t need to retain ALL of their customer purchase data. Doing so would slow down their system and be incredibly costly with no benefit to the customer.

Let’s take another example.

Example 2: Jeweler

Many jewelers offer lifetime cleaning and inspection policies on their engagement and wedding rings. If your jeweler were updating their database, do you expect them to have a record of your ring purchase from 1998?

Of course you do! If you came in for your 20th anniversary cleaning and they asked you for a receipt, you’d be at a loss for words. Retention of that “lifetime guarantee” data is important, no matter how long ago the purchases happened.

But let’s say you also bought a necklace from them 18 years ago, which did not come with a lifetime policy. Would you expect them to keep that purchase record, too? Perhaps not.

With that in mind, the retailer would need to keep some types of transaction records, but not all would need to make the carryover, at no loss of customer experience.

How about this one?

Example 3: Auto Repair Shop

Say for the 10 years you’ve had it, you’ve always taken your car to the same repair shop. If they updated their database, you’d expect them to have a complete record of your car’s maintenance history, right?

Absolutely! For most people, cars have too many parts to keep accurate record of every air filter, hose and fluid. And customers expect that the experts in the repair shop have all the information they need to make informed decisions.

In this case, there’s a high level of customer expectation on data retention. Ditching it would mean a huge reputation loss for the repair shop. Ideally, they’d keep complete records in their transfer.

And for the final end of the spectrum, let’s think about something as important as your medical history.

Example 4: Health Care Provider

At the far end of the spectrum, consider your dentist’s office. Do you expect your dentist to have your entire dental medical history?

Absolutely! Like a mechanic, a dentist requires trust from their clients. You’d definitely want your health care provider to know what procedures you’ve had done, when you’re due for cleanings, your long-term health conditions and your allergies.

In fact, when my dentist made the switch, they maintained both their old and new CRM during a transition. They transferred the bulk of the patient records over, and they added in additional history when patients returned for appointments. That way, they maintained full patient records, but didn’t pay initial costs to transfer over every piece of data from patients who weren’t coming back. It was a little clunky, but with both systems running, they could reference everything and add it into the new database only as needed. This can be applied to any sector in the health care industry. For example, a dermatology clinic may be seeking a comprehensive record-keeping solution (such as a Dermatology EMR), which could help reduce staff workload, improve accuracy, and securely manage patient records. This would be far better than their old CRM system.

What it All Means

So as we’re thinking about this data transfer with a coffee shop at one extreme and a healthcare provider at the other, you can see how important historical client data can be. In some places, a 1:1 transfer is essential, and in others, you can do something less than a 100% data migration.

Migrations are inevitable across every industry, but how do you make the best decisions with your bottom line in mind? It can be costly to map out each individual piece of data from one system to another – but rebuilding your brand reputation would cost even more.

I challenge you to think through these examples with your own data. Go ahead and open your database, and select three random individual records. What data do they all have? What custom fields are rarely used? Based on your customers’ expectations, what information do you need to maintain?

Food for Thought: Giada’s Easy Lentil Soup

Sometimes I leave an ingredient out of a recipe, just like sometimes people leave legacy data out of a migration. In putting this blog together, of course, I wanted to offer a recipe where I have left out an ingredient but it didn’t hurt the quality of the dish.

This lentil soup recipe fits the occasion. I have made this soup MANY times over the years, and I expect I will make it again soon to fight off this cold weather. This time around, I’ll be skipping the pasta, which does not alter the quality of the soup AT ALL! I’m working on cutting the useless carbs I intake, so I leave them out wherever it makes sense.

I was going to try not to call this a “healthy” recipe; that word is subjective. But lentils are a great source of vitamins that are good for the human form. So, there it is – a real fact. Plus, lentils are cholesterol-busters, so why make this soup and leave them out? Pasta, on the other hand, doesn’t offer nutritional value, so why leave it in?

Either way – it will make your brains fall out.

Bonnie Massa is Founder and President of Chicago-based Massa & Company, Inc. She works with companies and nonprofits to make the best use of their information about customers, partners, donors and sponsors. With more than 40 years of experience in marketing and predictive analytics, Bonnie is passionate about helping clients make informed, data-driven decisions to increase the value of their customer base. She strongly believes that making pasta and ice cream from scratch are worth the effort, and she spends much of her free time testing and re-testing that theory.


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