You may be surprised to learn that just three key fields in your customer database will contain most of the mistakes in your file. They are the name, address and date fields. This information often is entered by people not trained in data accuracy and is subject to mangling when reformatted. Why do these fields deserve your attention? Because mistakes will cost you in undeliverable, wasted materials, postage and lost sales.
Name Field: Names are subject to phonetic misspellings and typos. Even if they’re wrong, they’re still deliverable. However, an incorrect name does little to build a relationship with a customer and can result in lost sales. Getting them right the first time is your best option: Check for existing records for repeat customers, and have your sales reps spell names back to callers or have Web users confirm their entries. If you cannot check names as they’re entered, you can check your file against tables of common first and last names to fix most misspellings and switch first names entered in the last name field and vice versa.
Address Field: Mistakes in street addresses occur because the sales or service rep doesn’t hear the address correctly or because prospects and customers enter their own addresses incorrectly online. Also, a common result of reformatting your file into a comma-delimited format is the loss of the leading zeros on Northeastern U.S. ZIP codes. These mistakes can be fixed through address standardization by USPS-approved software or your service bureau.
Date Field: Dates entered by untrained people or transformed by data processing can become unusable. Your RFM model will not work with nonstandard sales dates. Setting a filter in your data entry system can catch most of the bad entries. Work with your IT department or service bureau to standardize dates into a month-day-year numeric format.