Clean data is healthy data

Published on the 01/08/2014 | Written by MYOB


Cleaning doesn’t stop at home or around the office, it extends to the information inside your business too as Michael McCash and Trudi Masalski discuss…

There’s no need to bring out the wipes and  rubbish bags. This cleaning session needs  nothing more than rolling up your sleeves,  getting a hot drink and mustering up a bit  of determination at your PC. The noise around ‘big  data’ relates to making use of all the data captured  by a company, so data quality management is more  important and challenging than ever, so a quick  clean-up can help increase your data’s effectiveness  and save time and money.

Four tips to help get your data clean and  make sure it stays that way:

1. Data cleansing
The first tip is to do an initial data cleanse.  Ideally, you’re using a Customer Relationship  Management (CRM) system or software that  allows you to export and import any changes.  With the data exported, it’s time to look at some  typical culprits that are easier to handle such as:

Inconsistent format
Ensure a consistent format for all your data  fields. For example, email addresses need to have  an initial text, followed by a ‘@’ symbol, followed by  the domain name and ending with a .com/.com.   au/.co.nz etc. Phone numbers should be saved in a  consistent format, with the standard international  number format recommended (i.e. +64 2 1234  5678) including country and area code for ease of  one touch dialing on mobiles. Quickly sorting and  filtering the data makes it easier to pick up errors  and correct them.

Duplicate records
Searching for duplicate records can be done  against a number of common attributes, like email  addresses, phone numbers or physical addresses.  Duplicates can arise from a simple mistake such  as creating one account under the trading name  and another under the legal entity. Finding,  matching records and combing through these  accounts ensures you’ll have one customer record  to store your documentation and dialogue with  contacts against.

Data matching
A quick way to refresh your data is to email  your contacts and ask them to update their  records. Just make sure you advise them of why  you have their details and why you are contacting  them. If you have a lot of records, it may be worth  investing in a data matching company.

“A clean, accurate  and well-managed  database will not  only reduce your  headaches but will  also help you to make  your customers  happier too.”

Sending a ping email
You can also check if an email address is still  active without the expense of paying for an email  campaign. There are tools available that allow you  to ping email addresses to validate them – just  do a Google search for “ping email tool”. The  customer won’t actually get any email – it’s just a  check that the email address is valid. If the email  comes back as invalid you can then focus your  efforts and budget on correcting that data.

2. Tweaking your input fields
If you are able to, you might want to look  at restricting your input fields. For example a  telephone number field should only allow users  to enter numbers not letters. Fields can often be  tailored to your requirements so you can capture  mobile or home phone numbers. By taking the   guess work out of your inputs, you can improve the  quality of your data and ensure you’re in a position  to contact your customers when you need to.

3. Incentivise staff
Every staff member that works with clients or  client data should be incentivised to keep that  data clean. They should be educated about why  the business needs clean data and what goes  wrong when the data is ‘dirty’. The next time they  speak to a client, make sure they confirm the  contact person is still with the company and check  the email or address is still up to date.

One effective solution we’ve seen was to make  a competition out of maintaining data. The person  who updated the most records in a month won a  $100 voucher. $100 may seem a lot ($1200 a year),  but in terms of the amount of time and resources   saved over a year it’s one of the cheapest ways to  ensure your data remains clean.

4. Nominate a data steward
Every business typically has a ‘health and safety  steward’ or a ‘fire warden’ and given the increasing  importance of efficient data quality management  there should be a ‘data steward’ too.

Admittedly it isn’t a life threatening need, but  having someone who takes on the responsibility  of managing the accuracy of your data ensures  it remains an ongoing priority instead of being a  one off.

They can be the ones to motivate staff, run  an incentive programme, find ways to automate  and optimise the data cleansing process through  better systems like implementing a modern CRM  or business management system, and implement  processes within your company to ensure  that data gets entered, managed and updated  correctly.

Having a clean database means every call,  email or post you send out reaches the right  person, every time. With an average of 15 percent  of businesses changing postal addresses, one in  five employees changing jobs and one in 5,000  businesses changing phone numbers every year,  the reality is that your database is always out of  date, so it needs a constant maintenance effort.

A clean, accurate and well-managed database  will not only reduce your headaches but will also  help you to make your customers happier too.

This article was supplied by MYOB. The authors,  Michael McCash and Trudi Masalski are from MYOB  and specialise in B2B sales and marketing activities for  MYOB’s Enterprise software.

 

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Other Articles by MYOB

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opinion-article |December 9, 2014 | MYOB

The resident experts at MYOB provide some insights into job costing best practices and software designed to support it…


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opinion-article |May 26, 2011 | MYOB

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