• November 25, 2002
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Data Cleansing and a Ho! Ho! Holistic Customer View

We're heading into the busiest mailing season of the year. The holiday season is upon us and with it comes Yuletide carols, gifts, and inaccurate direct mail. According to the United States Postal Service (USPS), 5.4 billion mail pieces in 2000 were undeliverable due to data inaccuracies. Obviously, this diminishes the efforts of sales and marketing campaigns and hampers customer service capabilities. Perhaps hardest hit by faulty data this holiday season will be retailers. According to analytics expert Sheryl Kingstone, an analyst with Boston-based Yankee Group, even retailers that use CRM solutions are not getting the maximum return on their investments because of faulty data. "The 360-degree view of customers is not there yet, because organizations are still suffering from garbage in, garbage out," Kingstone says. Still, data cleansing companies like QAS Limited say it is not too late to clean data. Last week at Comdex, in Las Vegas, QAS announced an upgrade to its QuickAddress Pro software in version 3.0 designed to help organizations correct their customer address data and save money in labor and mailing costs. QAS aims to prevent address inaccuracies and speed the data entry process by offering improved pick-list functionality in the form of a drop-down list of address options used throughout the address retrieval and verification process within its QuickAddress Pro v3.0. Informational prompts have been added to bring the correct address to users, which should reduce the errors typically made by both customer service representatives and by the customers. QuickAddress Pro is based on licensed address data from the USPS, ensuring that all addresses entered are verified against USPS data. Version 3.0 is available for Windows 95/98, Windows NT/2000, Client Server and Unix platforms. The company competes against data cleansing companies like Experian, Ascential Software, and Group 1 Software. Group 1, which has its roots in analytics, already has capabilities to address what some insiders call the fat-finger rate, says Ken Chow, vice president of business development and e-commerce at Group 1 Software. In other words, Group 1's solution uses a real-time system that asks customers if they are sure that the data they are entering is correct if their entries seem invalid. The data can also be referenced instantly against the USPS codes. But avoiding the holiday hassle means getting an early jump on data quality and breaking down the silos that exist within each organization. "The information obtained in many organizations is still siloed and not clean. That's why CRM has not delivered on some of the high expectations you might think," Kingstone says. "If you're able to make a commitment to manage customer information and understand customer data, that will be the catalyst for success."
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