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:
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.
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.
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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