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Mother’s Day 2017 – Estimated Spending to Reach $23.6 Billion

While Mother’s Day is all about the Moms in our lives, it’s an even bigger day for retailers. This year the National Retail Federation estimates Mother’s Day spending to reach an all-time high of $23.6 billion; roughly $10 billion higher than 2010. The traditional gifts of jewelry and flowers, along with personal services are predicted to contribute the most to this increase. Needless to say, with Mother’s Day only a few days away, businesses are experiencing a busy week, especially in ecommerce.

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, 30% of Mother’s Day shopping is to be done online this year. Most ecommerce sites have already experienced an influx of orders over the last few weeks. With an even bigger rush coming in now from typical procrastinators (like myself) who will take advantage of two-day delivery from retailers like Amazon. Online shopping has become even more convenient with the addition of mobile shopping. With thousands of easy to use mobile apps offering gift cards for anything from dinner to spa treatments, redeemable right on the recipient’s mobile device, digital sellers have definitely made Mother’s Day purchases easier than ever…even for the most ardent procrastinators.

Unknown to most, data quality solutions are quietly working behind the scenes contributing to a smooth and happy Mother’s Day for businesses and celebrants alike. Data quality solutions have made processing increased online holiday orders, restaurant reservations, and mobile app purchases more efficient and safer than ever. By leveraging tools like our Address, Phone and Email Validation services, our clients ensure that their customer contact information is complete and accurate while also identifying malicious fraud before transactions are completed. Our data quality tools give businesses more time to focus on providing memorable experiences for their customers and achieving their revenue goals on the busiest of holidays, including Mother’s Day.

Whether our clients are experiencing or still preparing for a busy Mother’s Day, our data quality solutions will be running smoothly in the background for them the entire time. If your business needs any assistance now or before the next major holiday contact us.

The Letter that Continues to Arrive

Before moving to my current home, making sure I completed a change of address form with the Post Office was on the top of my “to do” list.  Although most mail received these days is typically coupons and business advertisements, I looked forward to receiving the first piece of mail with my name and new address on the envelope. What can I say… I appreciate the little things in life.

Well, the first time I checked the mail I found a letter addressed to the prior resident. As I had recently filled out my own change of address form at the post office I understood it would take some time for each other’s information to be updated and anticipated this would continue happening for a bit. As expected, I began receiving mail addressed with my name soon after. However, years later I’m still getting the same letter from one particular storage company for the prior resident.

Cost of Just One Letter 3

At first, I tried writing “Not at This Address,” “Moved, Left No Forwarding Address” and “Return to Sender” on the letters. After a couple months I realized this did not work. The next thing I tried was calling the storage company. I thought the human element of speaking to someone over the phone and explaining the situation would resolve the case of this never ending letter. This also did not work and actually seemed to make it worse.

As I mentioned previously, the bulk of my mail (like many other people) consists of coupons and advertisements addressed to “current resident” which are seemingly impossible to stop. Along with these, the never ending letter from this storage center started taking the excitement out of checking my mail. For a few years, checking the mail monthly instead of every few days became the routine. Every month, my mailbox was filled to max capacity with mainly junk and of course a letter (or two or three) from the storage center. Unfortunately there are some draw backs to checking your mail so infrequently. I eventually learned that if the mail does not fit in your box it is sent back to the post office which is how I missed a wedding invitation and a few birthday cards. Needless to say I went back to checking my mail more frequently and simply continued sending back the storage company letter hoping they’d eventually run their customer database through a National Change of Address (NCOA) service.

While this situation was obviously annoying, I also wondered how much this letter alone must be costing the storage center. At this point, I estimate receiving about 100 copies of the same letter equating to:

  • $46 in just postage, each has a $0.46 First-Class stamp
  • 100 wasted envelopes
  • 100 wasted pieces of paper
  • Ink for each letter
  • Wasted time/salary of the person(s) at the storage center responsible for mailing
  • Wasted time for the mail sorter(s)
  • Wasted gas and time of the mail carrier(s)
  • A big Headache for me over the last few years
  • Possible frustration for the last tenant who still hasn’t received this letter (I’m assuming it’s a bill which is even worse if they are incurring additional costs all this time)

Ultimately, this also damaged the reputation of the storage company. This mail discrepancy gave me a glimpse into their lack of customer service, organization and concern for our environment. By simply implementing an address validation check in their processes this entire scenario could be avoided. What’s worse is imagining how many other letters they are sending to the wrong address.

After further research, I found out anyone can submit a change of address form at the post office for prior tenants by making a note that they did not provide a forwarding address (the online form requires a forwarding address to submit). I’ll be heading to the post office today to fill one out. If that doesn’t resolve this, I also learned storage centers eventually auction off your items if you don’t pay your bills. Although I don’t want the prior tenant to lose their personal items, I’ll be glad to stop receiving these notices.

Until then…

If your business needs help avoiding unnecessary costs, resources and headaches associated with outdated customer information including name, address, phone, email and more contact us!

Big Data – Applied to Day to Day Life

With so much data being constantly collected, it’s easy to get lost in how all of it is applied in our real lives. Let’s take a quick look at a few examples starting with one that most of us encounter daily.

Online Forms
One of the most common and fairly simple to understand instances we come across on a daily basis is completing online forms. When we complete an online form, our contact record data points, like; name, email, phone and address, are being individually verified and corrected in real time to ensure each piece of data is genuine, accurate and up to date. Not only does this verification process help mitigate fraud for the companies but it also ensures that the submitted data is correct. The confidence in data accuracy allows for streamlined online purchases and efficient deliveries to us, the customers. Having our accurate information in the company’s data base also helps streamline customer service should there be a discrepancy with the purchase or we have follow up questions about the product. The company can easily pull up our information with any of the data points initially provided (name, email, phone, address and more) to start resolving the issue faster than ever (at least where companies are dedicated to good customer service).

For the most part we are all familiar with business scenarios like the one described above. Let’s shift to India & New Orleans for a couple new examples of how cities are applying data to improve the day-to-day lives of citizens.

Addressing the Unaddressed in India
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, India is the second most populated country in the world with 1,281,935,911 people. With such a large population there is a shortage of affordable housing in many developed cities, leading to about 37 million households residing in unofficial housing areas referred to as slums. Being “unofficial” housing areas means they are not mapped nor addressed leaving residents with very little in terms of identification. However, the Community Foundation of Ireland (a Dublin based non-profit organization) and the Hope Foundation recently began working together to provide each home for Kolkata’s Chetla slum their very first form of address consisting of a nine-digit unique ID. Beside overcoming obvious challenges like giving someone directions to their home and being able to finally receive mail, the implementation of addresses has given residents the ability to open bank accounts and access social benefits. Having addresses has also helped officials identify the needs in a slum, including healthcare and education.

Smoke Detectors in New Orleans
A recent article, The Rise of the Smart City, from The Wall Street Journal highlights how cities closer to home have started using data to bring about city wide enhancements. New Orleans, in particular, is ensuring that high risk properties are provided smoke detectors. Although the fire department has been distributing smoke detectors for years, residents were required to request them. To change this, the city’s Office of Performance and Accountability, used Census Bureau surveys and other data along with advanced machine-learning techniques to create a map for the fire department that better targets areas more susceptible to deaths caused by fire. With the application of big data, more homes are being supplied with smoke detectors increasing safety for entire neighbors and the city as a whole.

FIRE RISK | By combining census with additional data points, New Orleans mapped the combined risk of missing smoke alarms and fire deaths, helping officials target distribution of smoke detectors. PHOTO: CITY OF NEW ORLEANS/OPA

While these are merely a few examples of how data is applied to our day to day lives around the world, I hope they helped make “Big Data” a bit more relatable. Let us know if we can answer any questions about how data solutions can be applied to help your company as well.

From Hello Operator to Hey Siri – Accurate Contact Data Has Always Been Crucial

Fueled by our desire to communicate with one another, no matter distance, the telephone has undergone extraordinary technological enhancements since the first test call on March 10, 1876. Today, the average wireless phone even functions as a portable computer offering a multitude of ways to communicate. Although phone technology dramatically changed over the last 141 years and continues to change, one aspect of placing a call remains vitally important: accurate contact data.

Originally, the telephone was sold in pairs of two with a single connection to each other. Since these early telephones were directly connected to each other, phone numbers were not yet required. However, with the invention of the switchboard in 1878, callers could connect with many other subscribers leading to the establishment of phone numbers consisting of a few digits. By 1910 the U.S. population grew to 92,228,496, over seven million of whom were phone subscribers. To accommodate so many users the length of the phone number increased.  For the majority of the 1900s, whether using a candlestick, rotary or push button phone, the telephone operator manually connected callers by switchboard and without accurate contact information to start with callers could not be properly connected. As the pool of subscribers grew further, alphanumeric numbers were introduced and used through the 1960s. This format consisted of two letters representative of location (name of the village, town or city) of the central office that the phone was connected to, followed by numbers.  Although fewer miscommunication between callers and operators occurred with the use of alphanumeric numbers, having accurate information to begin with was still imperative.

Jumping forward to today, various devices ranging from wireless phones, computers, tablets, and even televisions can be used to place calls. Somewhat reminiscent of telephone operators, virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa can even be used to connect to someone by dictation which is how a four year old boy recently contacted emergency services to save his mother’s life. Although a phone number is still required for most devices, platforms such as Skype and FaceTime also use email address as unique identifiers to connect callers. While new types of contact information like email are being used more commonly, once the information is entered into the calling device you don’t need to remember it again. With just a few taps on a screen or a simple phrase, “hey Siri, call mom,” the call is initiated.

Whether placing a call now or 141 years ago starting with genuine, correct and up to date contact data is essential for reaching each other by phone. As forms of contact data continue to evolve with technology, our validation tools will as well to ensure your business communications are as fast and easy as possible.

We Won’t Let Storm Stella Affect Your Data Quality

A macro-scale cyclone referred to as a Nor’easter is forecasted to develop along the East Coast starting tonight and estimated to continue throughout Tuesday. In addition to typical storm preparations, have you ensured your data is also ready for Storm Stella?

Although we cannot assist you directly with storm preparations (water bottles, canned foods, batteries, candles, backup generators, blankets…etc) we will always ensure the integrity and reliability of our Web services. Since 2001, we’ve been committed to providing a high level of uptime during all types of conditions including storms, even Nor’easters. All of which comes down to: redundancy, resiliency, compliance, geographic load balancing, great data security, and 24/7 monitoring, contributing to our 99.999% availability of service offerings with one of the industry’s only financially backed service level agreement.  We take great pride in our system performance and are the only public web-service provider confident enough to openly publish our performance reports.

To ensure you are fully prepared for this storm in particular, it is important to note that our primary and backup data centers are in separate geographic locations. If an emergency occurs, you can re-point your application from our production data center to our backup data center.

The failover data center is designed to increase the availability of our web services in the event of a network or routing issue. Our primary data center hostname is: ws.serviceobjects.com and our backup data center hostname is wsbackup.serviceobjects.com.

You can also abstract the actual hostname into a configuration file, in order to simplify the process of changing hostnames in an emergency. Even in the case where your application handles failover logic properly, an easy-to-change hostname would allow your application to bypass a downed data center completely, and process transactions more quickly.

For most clients, simply updating their application to use our backup data center hostname should immediately restore connectivity. Your existing DOTS license key is already permitted to use our backup data center and no further actions should be needed.

Many of our clients with mission critical business applications take this action of configuring for failover in their application. We are available 24/7 to help with best practices and recommendations if you need any assistance before, during or after the storm!

Medical Data is Bigger than You May Think

What do medical centers have in common with businesses like with Uber, Travelocity, or Amazon? They have a treasure trove of data, that’s what! The quality of that data and what’s done with it can help organizations work more efficiently, more profitably, and more competitively. More importantly for medical centers, data quality can lead to even better quality care.

Here’s just a brief sampling of the types of data a typical hospital, clinic, or medical center generates:

Patient contact information
Medical records with health histories
Insurance records
Payment information
Geographic data for determining “Prime Distance” and “Drive Time Standards”
Employee and payroll data
Ambulance response times
Vaccination data
Patient satisfaction data

Within each of these categories, there may be massive amounts of sub-data, too. For example, medical billing relies on tens of thousands of medical codes. For a single patient, even several addresses are collected such as the patient’s home and mailing addresses, the insurance company’s billing address, the employer’s address, and so forth.

This data must be collected, validated for accuracy, and managed, all in compliance with rigorous privacy and security regulations. Plus, it’s not just big data, it’s important data. A simple transposed number in an address can mean the difference between getting paid promptly or not at all. A pharmaceutical mix-up could mean the difference between life and death.

With so much important data, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Who’s responsible? How is data quality ensured? How is it managed? Several roles can be involved:

Data stewards – Develop data governance policies and procedures.
Data owners – Generate the data and implement the policies and procedures.
Business users –  Analyze and make use of the data.
Data managers –  Information systems managers and developers who implement and manage the tools need to capture, validate, and analyze the data.

Defining a data quality vision, assembling a data team, and investing in appropriate technology is a must. With the right team and data validation tools in place, medical centers and any organization can get serious about data and data quality.

How Can Data Quality Lead to Quality Care?

Having the most accurate, authoritative and up-to-date information for patients can positively impact organizations in many ways. For example, when patients move, they don’t always think to inform their doctors, labs, hospitals, or radiology centers. With a real-time address validation API, not only could you instantly validate a patient’s address for billing and marketing purposes, you could confirm that the patient still lives within the insurance company’s “prime distance” radius before treatment begins.

Accurate address and demographic data can trim mailing costs and improve patient satisfaction with appropriate timing and personalization. Meanwhile, aggregated health data could be analyzed to look at health outcomes or reach out to patients proactively based on trends or health histories. Just as online retailers recommend products based on past purchases or purchases by customers like you, medical providers can use big data to recommend screenings based on health factors or demographic trends.

Developing a data quality initiative is a major, but worthwhile, undertaking for all types of organizations — and you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Contact Service Objects today to learn more about our data validation tools.

Marketers and Data Scientists Improving Data Quality and Marketing Results Together

In the era of big data, marketing professionals have added basic data analysis to their toolboxes. However, the data they’re dealing with often requires significantly deeper analysis, and data quality (Is it Accurate? Current? Authentic?) is a huge concern. Thus, data scientists and marketers are more often working side by side to improve campaign efficiencies and results.

What is a Data Scientist?

Harvard Business Review called the data scientist profession “the sexiest job of the 21st century” and described the role of data scientist as “a hybrid of data hacker, analyst, communicator, and trusted adviser.”

The term data scientist itself is relatively new, with many data scientists lacking what we might call a data science degree. Rather, they may have a background in business, statistics, math, economics, or analytics. Data scientists understand business, patterns, and numbers. They tend to enjoy looking at diverse sets of data in search of similarities, differences, trends, and other discoveries. The ability to understand and communicate their discoveries make data scientists a valuable addition to any marketing team.

Data scientists are in demand and command high salaries. In fact, Robert Half Technology’s 2017 Salary Guides suggest that data scientists will see a 6.5 percent bump in pay compared to 2016 (and their average starting salary range is already an impressive $116,000 to $163,500).

Why are Marketers Working with Data Scientists?

Marketers must deal with massive amounts of data and are increasingly concerned about data quality. They recognize that there’s likely valuable information buried within the data, yet making those discoveries requires time, expertise, and tools — each of which pulls them away from their other important tasks. Likewise, even the tried-and-true act of sending direct mail to the masses can benefit from a data scientist who can both dig into the demographic requirements as well as ensure data quality by cross referencing address data against USPS databases.

In short, marketers need those data hackers, analysts, communicators, and trusted advisers in order to make sense of the data and ensure data quality.

A Look at the Marketer – Data Scientist Relationship

As with any collaboration, marketers and data scientists occasionally have differences. They come from different academic backgrounds, and have different perspectives. A marketer, for example, is highly creative whereas a data scientist is more accustomed to analyzing data.

However, when sharing a common goal and understanding their roles in achieving it, marketers and data scientists can forge a worthwhile partnership that positively impacts business success.

We all know that you’re only as good as your data, making data quality a top shared concern between marketers and data scientists alike. Using tools such as data validation APIs, data scientists ensure that the information marketers have is as accurate, authoritative, and up to date as possible. Whether pinpointing geographical trends or validating addresses prior to a massive direct mail campaign, the collaboration between marketers and data scientists leads to increased campaign efficiencies, results, and, ultimately, increased revenue for the company as a whole.

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