It was college application season again, and thus the humongous pile of paper on my desk beckoned to me to extract the relevant information for our college recruitment database. The entire admissions process rested on this seemingly mundane task. If my coworkers and I failed at this data entry, our conversations with prospects would quickly go sour:
Why did this phone number lead to a fax machine?
“You guys called me yesterday”
“But I sent my test scores months ago”
“Um…my son is 11”
Whether you’re selling a household product, business resource, or 4-year degree program, data entry is pivotal. Duplicate or insufficient information is extraordinarily costly. In 2016, IBM determined that inaccurate data took $3.1 trillion from the US economy that year.
Data helps us know where and how to invest our resources, but because those resources are limited, it can be tempting to make shortcuts as we manage increasing and potentially intimidating amounts of data. What steps can we take to minimize errors in data entry like duplicates, inaccuracies, or duds?
Always Check for Duplicates
When presented with a new set of data, one of the wisest first steps to take is to check for duplicates in your database. Duplicates can not only lead to obnoxious or awkward customer interactions, but could also potentially cost thousands of dollars to correct.
While it may cost you a little bit of extra time and effort (though not much if your data entry predecessors did their job,) it will save you a lot in the long run
Automate as Much as Possible
Entering data manually is never fun for anyone, even if it is essential. But you want to limit the need for busy work as much as possible. Taking the time to set-up automation can dramatically increase both the quality and quantity of your data.
For example, you can use DialSource to log calls and follow-up information to Salesforce without your sales reps needing to spend their on data entry. Instead, they can move onto the next call.
Use Primary Identifiers
Harvard Business Review calls primary identifiers the “backbone” of data management. Essentially, a primary identifier is any unique, but easily identifiable and searchable piece of data that allows you to gather a company’s information efficiently. It also makes it quick and easy to find the company’s entry in your databases.
Company names are vital pieces of information, but often don’t serve well as primary identifiers. For example, an entry for IBM could end up under duplicate or insufficient profiles if it is identified as “IBM” in one instance and “International Business Machines” in another.
Instead, choose a primary identifier that is less prone to varying interpretation. Harvard Business Review recommends URLs as an ultra-specific unit of unique information databases can quickly recognize.
For individual contacts, details like phone number, email, or any kind of ID number can also serve as efficient identifiers, though you must always be wary of any duplicates that may arise.
Clean Up Current Data
“Scrubbing data” doesn’t have to have sinister applications. It is extremely important for teams to be working from a unified sets of contacts and the data therein.
The first step is typically eliminating any duplicates and synthesizing that information into one profile. Make sure all information is up to date, especially contact information. Identify the most crucial pieces of data, so that you can hunt down any that might be missing.
Anything as small as a misspelling can make accurate data entry and lookup nearly impossible, so taking the time to clean up current data has huge ramifications. Just like it’s easier to find the necessities after you clean house, it’s easier to find what you need to conduct business once you clean up your current data.
Merge Data from Different Sources
You want to make sure the data that you have gives you a cohesive, “360 degree view” of the customer in order to use that data to its full potential. This means that your data will likely come from a myriad of sources in order to get a more complete understanding of the customer at hand.
Salesforce explains that it is best to strive to “combine interactions and transactions,” even including social platforms, to deliver an “all-encompassing, relevant” picture of the client as you construct meaning from the (hopefully) accurate, detailed data sets.
Ultimately, data entry is more than a corporate chore. It is the backbone upon which the rest of business is built, and how it continues to operate. It can be our best friend, or our worst enemy, depending on how we use it. To put it plainly, with great data comes even greater responsibility.