HubSpot: Why CSV sucks for contact management (and what to do instead)

Managing contacts means working with large amounts of data, often representing tens or even hundreds of thousands of contact information from different people.

These contacts are often stored in many different tools, which means that companies often want these contact databases to communicate with each other. One of the most common methods is to export and import contact data to CSV files or comma separated values ​​file.

This method involves manually exporting data from one app, typically as a CSV spreadsheet, and importing it into the other app. The spreadsheet acts as a vehicle to move your data.

The options for importing and exporting files using CSV are present in many popular applications, such as Google Contacts and Outlook. CSV is great for some purposes – like one-off data transfers – but for ongoing contact management it can really suck.

Read on to learn about common issues with using CSVs for contact management, when to avoid using them in your business, and what to use instead.

Common issues with CSV imports and exports

If you use CSV to move your contact data between apps, there are several pitfalls that can quickly escalate into real problems for your business. You may have faced these issues before, or they could surface in the future, but either way every business should avoid them.

1. The CSV format can get very complicated.

CSV files are not easy to use. You might have spent hours arguing with a CSV template to get your data in the right format, only to import it into your target application to find out that there is an error that makes everything invalid.

In a CSV file, data is separated by commas or semicolons, and decimal separators break the structure. With this format, it is easy to corrupt long blocks of text or turn phone numbers into formulas and amounts.

When working with a large data set, as most businesses do when managing contact data, it doesn’t take much to lose the integrity of your data and face a lot of work for them. make it reliable again.

2. You waste a lot of time repeating the same tasks.

If you manage your contacts by importing and exporting CSVs between apps, that means your database is only up-to-date immediately after each manual update. This can be once a week or even once a month.

Since CSV imports are irregular and manual, you might miss new data in your apps – not just new contacts, but also changes to contact data (like unsubscribes or customer status).

Not only is the CSV method prone to errors and outdated contact information, repeating the same manual updates is time consuming and frustrating.

3. Contact details are constantly changing.

When you export data in CSV format, you freeze your data in time. This is a huge risk, as customer data is constantly evolving.

Your business systems and processes must run on live data to deliver accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information to power your business operations and deliver the best customer experiences.

4. Importing data via CSV files can become very complex.

As your contact database grows with your business, effectively managing it with spreadsheets becomes impossible. There are too many variables: email address changes, decision makers joining or leaving the company, and customers upgrading and changing their subscriptions.

You might find that you spend your time restructuring a temporary spreadsheet that always runs the risk of errors instead of actually improving your business data.

If managing your data has become too complex, it’s a sign that you’ve moved beyond simple CSV and need a more intuitive solution to automatically sync data.

Sync contacts between apps without CSV

In order for your business to run more efficiently and provide a great customer experience, you need to stay in sync with certain groups of contacts. It could be :

  • Your phone contacts and CRM contacts, so you always know who is calling

  • Customers in your CRM and customer support software

  • Sync contacts between Google Contacts and iCloud on different phones

  • Marketing qualified prospects in your CRM and email marketing application

The best contact management strategies ensure that the data for all of these apps isn’t isolated – in other words, if you want to get the most out of your available customer data, you need to make sure your apps are integrated in time. .

When you use a sync tool to connect contacts between your apps, you have the latest information right where you need it – and you can enrich what you see in each app, too.

Import or synchronization for contact management

So when should you use CSV files to import and export data – and when should you sync your contacts instead?

Importing data is the process of manually creating a temporary snapshot of your contacts and moving it from one app to another. It’s best for the occasional movement of your data between apps.

Synchronization is the best alternative to CSVs. It creates a direct and automated connection between applications with one-way or two-way data flow – no spreadsheets involved. It’s best for repeated syncs and constant data flow between apps, such as your CRM, and sales, marketing, and support apps.

In short, if you need to do a one-time transfer of data from one application to another, CSV does the trick. However, you should consider syncing instead of importing with CSV files when:

  • Your databases are messy

  • You spend too much time manually updating data and apps

  • Your contact details are constantly changing

  • Your data imports have become too complex

In short, if you need to keep two databases in constant synchronization, you need another solution other than a CSV import.

It comes down to the choice of importing and syncing contact data that we mentioned earlier. Synchronization is a much better choice for the ongoing management of contact data.

We define synchronization as establishing consistency between two databases and maintaining that consistency. While solutions like Zapier let you create one-way trigger-based data pushes, the best option for managing contacts is a sync that communicates data back and forth.

When you synchronize data with a two-way connection, you establish consistency with the initial synchronization, and then maintain that consistency with continuous two-way synchronization.

By choosing two-way sync, your contact data in each app is enriched by pulling data from other apps, so everything is always consistent and up to date. This is something you can never achieve with CSV.

Originally posted Oct 1, 2021, 10:47:59 AM, updated Oct 01, 2021

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HubSpot Inc. published this content on 01 October 2021 and is solely responsible for the information it contains. Distributed by Public, unedited and unmodified, on 01 October 2021 03:11:04 PM UTC.

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