Data Quality Initiatives at Fairytale Brownies
David Kravetz' story is the stuff of fairy tales. He's the co-founder of Fairytale Brownies, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based mail-order brownie gift company that started with a $14,000 investment and has grown to sales of almost $10 million.
Kravetz has run the company's operations since its inception 16 years ago, when he and a childhood friend started the company with his mom's family recipe.
Since 2004, Fairytale Brownies has had a data quality initiative in place where it uses tools from Experian QAS, which provides customer data quality software and services. eM+C asked Kravetz about the company's data quality successes and to share some best practices.
eM+C: How were you handling data quality on your Web site before implementing your data quality initiative?
David Kravetz: We knew we needed to address the rising cost of our address correction fees. Originally we tried to deal with the problem by developing an in-house solution with our own script-based formula to detect incorrect addresses and match them to available address databases. Initially this approach worked, but as our business grew we needed a solution that could handle the volume. We decided to explore relevant data quality software providers and, after a great deal of research, we selected QAS Pro [a front-end address correction software].
eM+C: How has your data quality initiative helped your business? Has it helped you save money that you were losing on returns?
DK: We are about a $10 million, multichannel retailer shipping more than 200,000 orders annually. Because we are in the gift-giving business, timeliness is everything, and a returned package means potentially more than just a lost sale -- it means an unhappy customer. Now that Experian QAS verifies every address coming into our system before a package ships, we have assurance that we can live up to our "fairy tale promise" -- an unconditional guarantee. In addition to being able to provide a higher-level of customer service excellence, we've saved $30,000 annually in address correction fees and $100,000 in unnecessary shipping expenses.
eM+C: Can you offer our readers any best practices around data quality initiatives?
DK: First, choose the best partner for you. It's important to identify your business goals and data quality needs before looking for a solution to address the problem.
Also, recognize the customer is always right, even when their data is wrong. At first we were so excited to have a robust data quality solution that we required our customers to submit a valid address. We quickly found that many customers on our Web site just want to submit their data, whether valid or not, and be done with it. We realized that customers had a better experience if we loosened the restrictions at the point of capture to allow for invalid address entry and then followed up on the back end to rectify the bad address.
Finally, share your insight with your customers. One of the soft benefits of validating every address in our system is the ability to share the corrected information with our customers. On many occasions we've had customers thank us for bringing to their attention that an address they've been using for years simply isn't correct even though carriers can make the delivery (often with a charge to the shipper). It's that extra level of customer service that lets our customers know just how much we care -- and they love us for it.