A few months ago, our team began to investigate our bank’s legacy email data. Not surprising to many of us, we found a messy, uncoordinated, collection of good and bad addresses. But, the data was just the tip of the iceberg. Culturally, email was never truly valued at our bank. It along with physical address, contact information, and other basic demographic data was collected sparingly, rarely updated, and never categorized. I asked around. We weren’t alone. Especially in banking. And that’s ironic: after years of touting the advantages of interacting with banks online and via mobile devices, the financial industry had fallen short on securing and maintaining the prime connector between itself and the customer.
The Technical Challenge
As a business grows, the methods for collecting, storing and updating emails can become cumbersome. Many banks struggle with clients who have multiple emails across multiple services that live in multiple locations. Leads live in one database. Accounts in another. Absent a CRM (or even with a CRM), the categorization, type and status of client or prospect email is not always clear. Keep this in mind:
- Centralize Your Data
Centralization is the most important aspect of good email database hygiene. If emails live in more than 1 place in your business, get them into one location (spreadsheet, database, CRM, wherever you need to).
- Define Your Data
Often overlooked, defining data upfront is more important than ever. Is email #1 the preferred? Is email #2 another family member? Are one of a customers’ emails opted-out while another opted-in? As many tables of information as you need: define them, write the data asset description down, and keep a document that is digestible for any mid-level employee or new hire in the future.
- Pattern Your Updates
There is no point in centralizing and defining your data, if you are not going to keep it refreshed. Updates may be required from 5 different sources, three different departments, and 2 different sets of code. Create a workflow for updating the information, set reminders, and hold other parties accountable.
The Cultural Challenge
Sometimes tougher than technical hurdles is how your employees view the collection (and maintenance) of this information. Not everyone is a marketer. “Collect or update” is not always one thought away when you are trying to close a deal or handle a product or service issue. So, how do you build a more data-driven culture? Even for something as seemingly fundamental to communication as email.
- Set An Example
Nothing catalyzes change like a peer success story. If you have one example of a time an email changed a client’s mind, closed a deal, or squashed a service issue, use it. Write an article for your company’s intranet site or shoot a video of the employee explaining their approach and why it worked.
- Provide Incentive
You’d love the collection and updating of customer information to be second nature, but sometimes a little cash goes a long way. A 3-month contest (individual or team-based) can foster some friendly competition and jump start a change in your employees’ behavior.
- Train The Conversation
Your employee’s days have filled over the years with many “15-minutes of your day” procedures that were going to make their jobs easier. Some have. Some haven’t. So, asking for another 15-minute slice of their day to review or update email data might not go over well, understandably. Email can be different. It should be trained as part of the conversation. Whether an opening salvo or closing question, there are a lot of good questions that will end with an email in-hand. Here are a just a few that speak to primary acquisition, household acquisition, and updating:
We’ve started asking our clients for their emails to alert them in case inclement weather causes us to close. Can I take down your email so you can avoid any future inconvenience?
I noticed we only have your husband’s email in our system, but don’t want you missing any important information he may not pass on. Can we add yours?
I see we still have a .edu email in the system for you. I wanted to make sure you were not missing any important information we send out occasionally. Can I update this for you today?
Despite the rise of social media, text messaging, and other chat programs the last few years, email is still one of the most powerful communication, selling, and nurturing mediums at your disposal. It’s well worth the investment in time, systems, and training.