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5 steps to cleaner, happier data

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Although your database can be your greatest ally, it can also be your enemy:

  • Acting as a barrier between you and your customers if records are badly organised or maintained;
  • Requiring proper management (in other words, funding) to ensure that it remains up to date; and
  • Offering an inaccurate picture of your customers and poor ROI if your data isn’t clean.

Such serious database issues can hinder your business, with 40 per cent of your database decaying each year and 65.3 per cent of businesses stating that ‘ensuring data is accurate and up-to-date’ is their biggest business challenge. Basically it’s essential then to have a strategy in place for maintaining your database.

Whose job is it anyway?

Many companies are maintaining their database on an ad hoc basis. According to Capscan’s 2012 ‘Data Quality Insight Report‘, 40.9 per cent of respondents said that their business didn’t have a company-wide data quality management strategy in place. And it gets worse: 14.4 per cent thought that it was a CEO/MD’s responsibility to ensure data quality. But 19.2 per cent stated ‘no, it should be the CIO’s!’

Such a disjointed approach can create multiple database issues – non-standardised record entry processes, duplication, inaccuracies and more. To ensure that your database is managed properly, it needs someone to act as its champion.

Employ a manager to oversee the data quality management process. It will be their job to maintain the database to the highest possible standard with audits being carried out at least twice a year. Alternatively, hire in a data provider to carry out regular expert maintenance work to take the weight off your shoulders. Also, deploy database management techniques to bust these following database bugbears:

1. Clone wars

Remove duplicates from your records – sending out materials to the same person or company more than once costs money and makes your company look unprofessional and disorganised.

While time and labour intensive, spotting and removing duplications should be seen as a top priority.

2. MIA

The danger of data entry is that certain details can be left out; such omissions could be down to human error, someone being in a hurry or just plain sloppiness, but the net result is the same – missing information that harms your company. Plug the holes in your records now or pay the price later when a vital piece of information is unfindable in your database.

3. Consistency crisis

Ensure you have a standardised entry system in place for your database and that employees who are delegated data entry tasks have full training on how to use it. Also underline to employees how poor data entry can impact on ROI, response rates – and ergo, their own jobs.

Everyone should enter and format data in the same way – including first names, last names, postcodes, and more. The end result? Your records are unified and there is no margin for time and money wasting errors on sendouts. Alternatively, hire a data provider to comb through your database to spot missing data or formatting issues.

4. Be gone ‘gone-aways’

Customers and prospects move house, businesses fold or change premises; all impact on your database by:

  • Wasting your marketing budget on ‘dead’ records;
  • Decreasing your direct mail campaigns’ ROI; or 
  • Damaging your brand.

Use suppression files to weed out dead leads; these allow you to compare your existing records with a continually updated database of country-wide records and flag which records should be scrapped or updated. There are several competing suppression lists available to buy, which can cause confusion so hire a reputable data provider to take on the process for you – or offer guidance on the best list for your company’s needs.

5. Be legal

It’s essential that all records on your database are data privacy compliant – or you could find yourself in hot water with the Information Commissioner’s Office to the tune of up to £500,000…

If telemarketing to customers or businesses, all records must be checked against the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS) to ensure you have the prospects’ consent to receive unsolicited calls. For email marketers, check that customers or prospects details meet current UK legislation.

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