10 Key Steps for Maintaining INTERNATIONAL DATA Integrity (1,19
By Marian Nelson
What happens to data at the entry point is critical. The way data is handled here has an impact on every later interaction with the customer or prospect.
In "Deciphering Global Code" (Target Marketing, November 2000), Sheila Donovan of Global DM Solutions explored ways to optimize data capture by "internationalizing" your Web site. Once an international format is in place, visitors enter their own data. They decide how to make abbreviations and how to fit their addresses into your structure.
For those of us working outside the Web environment, this sounds like heaven! The organizations with which I work still enter most of their international data by hand. Data comes in from a variety of sources and in many different formats. Sometimes the information is clean and easy to read or scan, such as pre-printed order forms or reply cards. Other times, data, in the form of handwritten notes or hastily scribbled corrections, are messy and hard to decipher. In some cases, they're keyed in at a call center.
International data quality is dependent on two keystones: how well your system is set up to maintain international data, and how well your staff handles the actual input.
Create a Format
International addresses are almost always longer than U.S. addresses. They simply can't be compressed into a U.S. format while maintaining the integrity of the data. If you ask your staff to abbreviate and truncate international addresses to squeeze them into an existing U.S. format, the quality of your data will be compromised.
How much space should you allow for international addresses? You can never have too much. While having unlimited space obviously is impossible, mailers have developed a de facto standard for maintaining international business records: seven lines of 40 characters each. One line is for name; one for title; one for company; two for address; one for city, state, postal code (not necessarily in that order); and another line for country.