Author Archive

Bad Email Addresses: A Rogue’s Gallery

Once upon a time, many businesses simply lived with bad email addresses as an inevitable cost of doing business. Today this has changed dramatically, in the face of increasing costs and regulatory consequences. According to figures from Adestra’s 2017 Email Marketing Industry Census, nearly 80% of firms proactively cleanse their email marketing lists.

What can go wrong with email contact addresses? Plenty. And what you don’t know can really hurt you. Here are just a few examples of bad email addresses and their consequences:

THE FAKER: DONALDDUCK@NOWHERE.COM

You build a list of leads by offering people something of value in return for their email address. Unfortunately some people want the goodie, but have no intention of ever hearing from you again. So they make up a bogus address that goes nowhere, wasting your time and resources.

THE FAT-FINGERED: MYADDRESS@GMIAL.COM

Someone gives you their email address with the best of intentions, but types it in wrong—for example, misspelling “gmail.com” as “gmial.com”. So your future correspondence to them never arrives, with consequences ranging from lost market opportunities to customer dissatisfaction.

THE TRAP: HONEYPOT@AHA-GOTCHA.COM

Here you have rented a list of email addresses, or worse, taken them from publicly available sources. But some of these addresses are “honeypots”: fake addresses designed to trap spammers. Send an email to it, and you will get blacklisted by that entire domain—which could be a real problem if this domain is a major corporation or source of leads and customers.

THE FRAUDSTER: ZZZ1234@MISTERFRAUD.NET

Someone places an expensive order with you, using a stolen credit card—and a bogus email address that never existed and cannot be traced. Better to flag these fraudulent orders ahead of time, instead of after the horse has left the barn—or in this case, the shipping dock.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. (By the way, none of these sample email addresses are real.) But these are all good examples of cases where email validation can save your time, money and reputation.

What is Email Validation?

Think of it as a filter that weeds out the good email addresses from the bad ones. In reality, a good email validation service will examine multiple dimensions of what can go wrong with an email address—and in some cases, can even fix erroneous addresses to make them usable. But at its root, email validation takes your email contact data and makes it clean, safe and usable.
Here are some of the specific things that Email Validation can do for your business:

MAKE SURE THE FORMAT IS CORRECT

Our standard service uses server-side scripting on Web forms to check if email address data includes a name, the “@” symbol, and a valid top-level domain (TLD).

SEE IF THE ADDRESS WORKS

Instead of relying on stagnant, aggregated lists for verification, our real-time email validation checks the authenticity of email contact data instantaneously through kinetic and responsive two-way communication with email service providers (ESPs).

PERFORM ADVANCED VALIDATION CHECKS

Advanced checks can examine things such as:
• Checking if valid data exists on both sides of the “@” symbol, in both the username and the domain name
• Verifying that the domain in the email address exists and has a valid MX record associated with it
• Testing the mailbox to determine if it actually receives mail
• Detecting and flagging bogus, vulgar or malicious addresses that may be cluttering up your list

CORRECT FIXABLE ERRORS

The email hygiene component of this service identifies and corrects invalid emails with fixable errors such as typos, extraneous text, common domain misspellings and syntax problems.

Real-time email validation improves lead quality, saves time processing and pursuing leads, and protects your company from blacklists and regulatory traps. Download our free whitepaper, The ROI of Real-Time Email Validation, to learn more about bad email contact data and how email validation can help you correct inaccurate contact data and reject bogus email addresses.

Four Core Values Drive the Service Objects Team

Employee growth and wellbeing plays a pivotal role in Service Objects’ office culture and overall success. We truly believe in finding a balance between work-life and home-life, and a happy, healthy workplace is just the beginning. In fact, having a happy and healthy workplace is one of the Four Core Values Service Objects was founded on.

Service Objects’ Core Values

Much like IBM’s second President, Thomas Watson Jr., our Founder and CEO Geoff Grow believes that successful organizations are those that adhere to their strong beliefs while adapting to an ever-changing world. That is why these Four Core Values are at the heart of all we do:

  • Customer Service Above All – our highly satisfied customers make our work possible.
  • Happy and Healthy Workplace – our employees enjoy their work, which makes best-in-class products and exceptional customer service possible.
  • Corporate Conservation – every employee cares about the environment and has opportunities to take part in conservation at every level.
  • Network Excellence – outstanding network performance is necessary to delivering genuine, accurate, and up-to-date data.

Service Objects’ Core Values Award

The idea for a Core Value Award came to Geoff when he realized his co-workers weren’t taking their vacations seriously. He wanted to reward the hardest working employees with extra money to help them pay for their vacation expenses. The cost of living in Santa Barbara is very high, and many employees didn’t have the extra money for airline tickets and hotels.

Every employee has one vote each month to nominate a coworker they think best embodies the Four Core Values, and each quarter the employee with the most nominations is awarded $1000. Second-time winners level-up, and Service Objects makes sure those winners can cross something BIG off their bucket list (which employees share with the team when they arrive). Every time an employee wins, they get a bigger and bigger prize. Core Value Award winners have enjoyed some awesome bucket-list prizes: trips to Thailand and South America, a romantic getaway to New Orleans, a helicopter ride over a volcano, tree-house vacations, and other once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Most Recent Winner

The most recent Core Values Award winner, Travis Quine, is our Senior Network Engineer. This was his second time winning the Core Values Award. Travis is an avid motorcyclist, and he’s wanted to go to Keith Code’s California Superbike School and race his bike on a track ever since he started riding.

According to Travis, getting to shred a racetrack on a 2018 BMW S1000RR was the best part of his bucket list experience.

Travis was nominated for his patience and the support he offers his teammates while supporting our network. That speaks to why he loves working at Service Objects – he likes the people he works with and the cohesive nature of the team.

At Service Objects we believe our finest asset is our employees. The talent and knowledge they bring to the table allows us to provide exceptionally complete tools and live our values every day. Learn more about our values and history, or check out a few photos of our team enjoying their work on our careers page.

Determining Sales Tax Nexus: It’s Trickier Than You Think

If you sell products nationally, do you need to collect state or local sales taxes? The answer may be more complicated than you think.

In the United States sales taxes are levied at the state and local level, and normally need to be collected by you for sales in state(s) where you operate. (Fun fact: in other states they are often still due from the consumer, through what are known as consumer’s use taxes. The question becomes whether you, as a business, need to collect them at the time of sale.) As for these other states, your obligation to collect sales taxes depends on whether you have what is called nexus in these states.

Understanding nexus

The obvious case of sales tax nexus is when you have a physical, bricks-and-mortar sales presence in another state: for example, if I purchase a sweater online from Cincinnati-based Macy’s, they collect sales taxes for my home state of California because they also have physical stores here. But many other situations that can trigger nexus as well – here are some examples:

Employees and contractors. According to the Sales Tax Institute, having a “representative, agent, salesman, canvasser, or solicitor” in another state who is under your control, even temporarily, can create nexus. And in some states any telecommuting employee – selling or not – may trigger nexus.

Selling online. Laws are changing to recognize the huge shift in retail commerce from Main Street to online merchants. Thanks to a recent June 2018 Supreme Court decision, states now have the option of requiring online sellers to collect sales taxes for their states. In addition, more than 20 states now have what is known as “click-through nexus” for cases where you pay referral fees to in-state affiliates for sales via their web pages, usually triggered by a specified minimum volume of sales in that state.

Trade shows. If you sell products or solicit business at an out-of-state trade show – for example, by having a booth in the exhibitor hall that sells products or distributes literature to attendees – you may or may not be on the hook for sales tax nexus. State rulings vary widely, and while most differentiate between selling activities at a conference versus simply listening to speakers and eating mediocre banquet food, even one day of marketing activities can trigger nexus in some states.

When to bring in the pros

This brings us to an important closing point: determining your sales, local and use tax obligations isn’t a job for amateurs. If your business is large enough and does business nationally, it makes sense to contact a tax professional for guidance on where your business has nexus.

Once you have determined where you have nexus, you also need an automated tool to help you navigate a potential maze of state, local and special tax rates for each customer. Tax rates change constantly, and can literally vary from street to street within the same ZIP code, so this isn’t a do-it-yourself project for most businesses. Our DOTS FastTax service provides accurate, detailed tax rate data on an address-by-address basis, using an API interface that integrates seamlessly with major marketing or CRM platforms.

Want to learn more? Contact our experts to discuss your specific sales tax needs.

Cyber Monday is Coming. Is Your Business Ready?

In 2017, Cyber Monday sales reached an all-time high – and trends show that we may see another record-breaking year. Service Objects broke its own record last Cyber Monday with the most transactions in a single day. Why were our data validation tools so in-demand? Because excited customers rushing to score online deals make lots of data entry errors. Capturing authentic contact data helps businesses avoid mistakes in the ordering and shipping processes and prepares them for future opportunities, like marketing campaigns and additional sales.

Data validation services enhance data quality in real-time by identifying and correcting inaccuracies. For example, order validation not only verifies that an order is legitimate, it also corrects and appends contact data like name, address, email, and phone number using up-to-date, proprietary databases. Cross-referencing IP, address, phone, email, and credit card information helps every aspect of your business – from making ordering and shipping efficient to helping flag identify fraud and verifying email addresses for future communications.

Data Quality at Point of Sale

Validating an order at point of sale helps smooth out transactions for customers by suggesting more accurate addresses and updating typos. Adobe Insights reported that Cyber Monday sales grew 16.8% from 2016 to 2017 reaching $6.59 billion, $2 billion of which were completed on a mobile device. Because we make five times more mistakes on mobile than desktop, fat-fingered typos and autocorrect issues are becoming more prevalent.

Order Validation can also help prevent fraud in real-time by verifying that customers are legitimate through cross-checks of contact data, IP address, and credit card information. These verifications can flag suspicious activity related to identity theft and high-risk prepaid cards, which helps avoid related chargebacks. Fraud hurts businesses through lost product, money, and hours managing the fallout – the best way to avoid those costs is through preventative measures, like validating orders before shipping.

Data Quality and Order Fulfillment

With last year’s record sales came unprecedented shipping demand, and shippers like UPS struggled to meet delivery expectations all over the country. Customers anxiously awaiting their packages took to Facebook and Twitter to air their grievances, but while UPS was the bottleneck, many angry tweets were directed at vendors.

Given the rising trend in Cyber Monday sales over the years, it’s likely this year will bring even more orders, shipments, and delivery-related problems. Using a CASS certified address validation service, like the one incorporated in Service Objects’ DOTS Order Validation API, can help ensure that your shipping addresses are correct and deliverable. The service can be implemented to help customers self-correct inaccurate information before submitting their order, or can be used post-transaction to ensure accuracy by finding issues and suggesting corrections before shipping.

Customer Service Benefits from High Quality Data

The holidays are a stressful time, and shoppers have hard deadlines when ordering gifts in November and December. According to the National Retail Federation, 38% of consumers expect free two-day delivery when making online purchases. Address verification helps meet these expectations, cutting down on service inquiries for delayed packages. Order Validation also validates email addresses and phone numbers, ensuring notifications reach shoppers and giving your customer service representatives everything they need to communicate effectively.

Precise contact data saves your customer service team time troubleshooting and appeasing upset callers, strengthens your relationship to promote repeat business, and helps you manage your reputation. And, in the off-chance that something does go wrong, your team will have the most up-to-date order information to handle the call and assure your customers that you care.

High Risk Days Require High Quality Data

Data quality plays an important role in managing the risks of high-volume transaction days like Cyber Monday. The best way to ensure contact data doesn’t get in the way of your biggest sales day is by validating and verifying transactions with a service like Order Validation. You can even try it out today with a free trial key.

The Benefits of Email Marketing

Few marketing channels share the power of email. It is immediate, urgent, personalized and inexpensive. And according to the Direct Marketing Association, it has the highest ROI of any marketing channel: an amazing 4300%.

Here are some of the key benefits of good email campaigns:

  • The cost per contact of email is extremely low compared with other channels.
  • Email is easily personalized by customer, market segment, or demographic.
  • Email marketing is much kinder to the environment, versus using natural resources such as direct mail.
  • Your email assets can help you make more informed decisions, develop more effective marketing strategies and strengthen customer/prospect relationships.

That said, your email marketing strategy is only as good as the quality of your email list.

The Importance of Data Quality and Email

The allure of email has always been its scalability: with one press of the “Return” key, your message can go out to dozens, hundreds, or even millions of people. Once you absorb the cost of acquiring email contact data, the costs of its re-use are minimal. So once upon a time, not that many years ago, marketers simply accepted a certain percentage of bad or misdirected email addresses as part of the process.

Today this is no longer the case. As people’s in-boxes have become flooded with spam, and marketers compete more than ever for busy peoples’ eyeballs, the quality of your email contact list has become extremely important. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

TIME AND MONEY

As email lists continue to grow and expand, the human costs of processing bad data and updating contact lists continues to grow as well.

BRAND IMAGE AND CUSTOMER REPUTATION

Mis-directed email is almost universally unwelcome and perceived as spam, which in turn affects the public reputation of your brand and organization.

WASTED EFFORT

When someone provides a bogus email address such as “HowdyDoody@nobody.com,” particularly in conjunction with other contact information, adding them to your list of leads potentially wastes marketing resources in all of your channels.

REGULATORY COMPLIANCE

Laws and regulations such as the US CAN-SPAM act or the European Union’s General Data protection Regulation (GDPR) restrict unsolicited email marketing nowadays, with potentially severe penalties.

LOST MARKETING OPPORTUNITIES

Send unwanted email to the wrong address, and you could be blacklisted from an entire corporate domain— losing access to all of their prospects and customers. These last two reasons are especially important, because bad data now has the potential to do real harm to your business. And all of these factors add up to a future where more accurate and careful email marketing has become an increasing necessity. Email lists are a valuable business asset, but data quality— particularly authenticity and accuracy—always wins out over quantity.

That’s where real-time email validation comes in to separate the good emails from the bad ones.

An advanced email address validation and verification service, such as Service Objects’ DOTS Email Validation, uses sophisticated algorithms and dozens of rules and tests to instantly weed out invalid email addresses. It will also cross reference proprietary data for known bogus emails or spamtraps. Every email validation system should also check for the following:

  • Email address syntax
  • Individual domain specific mailbox rules
  • Improbable names (vulgar, famous, bogus, or suspicious keystroke sequences)
  • Mail exchange record of domain is valid and accepting mail
  • SMTP server for domain
  • Mailbox is accepting mail (when possible)

Want to learn more? Download our free whitepaper, The ROI of Real-Time Email Validation, to explore how to get the most profitability and customer engagement from your email marketing. The strategies presented will not only improve your response rates and effectiveness, they will help protect your organization from a host of issues including fraud, blacklisting and regulatory concerns.

Garbage In, Garbage Out – How Bad Data Hurts Your Business

The old saying “garbage in, garbage out” has been around since the early days of modern computing. Code for operator error or bad data, the adage implies that the output of a program is only as good as the input supplied by the user. With more data being collected, stored, and used than ever before, data quality at the point of entry should be a top priority for all organizations.

Now that data is informing more aspects of our businesses, it’s not difficult to imagine a future where data accuracy is vital. Think of delivery drones, which have been tested all over the US and UK in recent years. If a contact’s bad address information goes unchecked, it could feed a drone the wrong coordinates resulting in misdeliveries and lost products.

Data quality affects every aspect of your business, from sales and development to marketing and customer care. Yet a 2017 survey by Harvard Business Review found that “47% of newly-created data records have at least one critical (e.g., work-impacting) error.” So, what constitutes garbage input? It depends on the data and how it enters your system.

What Is Bad Data?

Of course, there are many kinds of data an organization may choose to collect, but here we will focus on one of the most critical – contact data. This includes a contact’s name, address, phone number and email, all of which are crucial to marketing, sales, fulfillment, and service.

Some common issues that make a contact record bad:

  • Inaccuracies like bad abbreviations or missing zip code
  • Typos caused by speed or carelessness
  • Fraudulent information
  • Moving data from one platform to another without appropriate mapping
  • Data decay as contacts move, get new phone numbers, and change positions

So, how does a bad contact record make it into your database?

Contacts entering their data online, whether downloading a whitepaper or ordering a product, are usually the first to commit a data quality error. Filling out an inquiry form on a mobile device, rushing through a purchase, or providing inexact information (such as missing “West” before a street name) are all examples of bad data leading to inaccurate contact records.

Your sales and customer service team can compound poor data quality by manually updating information that looks incorrect and making mistakes in the process. Good business practices can help mitigate operator error, but if a record was poor to begin with that likely won’t matter – you already know what happens to garbage when it ages.

What Is the Cost of Bad Data?

Much like garbage, bad data only gets worse over time.

Poor data quality can cause an organization’s sales team to waste time and effort chasing bad leads. According to a 2018 study by SiriusDecisions, B2B databases contain between 10% to 25% of critical contact data errors. That means up to 1 in 4 leads could have bad phone or email information attached, so follow-up communications may never reach the intended contact.

The customer service department loses time and money first in dealing with unhappy customers – even if they provided poor contact information, they’ll still blame your business for a package that never arrives. Additional time is spent troubleshooting problems and clarifying bad information, leading to major inefficiencies and frustration.

Overall costs to businesses include reputation related losses that occur when upset customers take to the internet to air their grievances. Time is lost due to the hidden data factories that arise within an organization when individuals working with bad data take it upon themselves to make “corrections” without understanding why or how the data is incorrect. Lastly, poor data robs a business of the ability to take full advantage of business tools like marketing, sales automation systems, and CRM.

How Can My Business Fix Bad Data?

Tightening up business policies around collecting and managing data is a start, but implementing data validation services will help ensure your data is as genuine, accurate, and up-to-date as possible and keep contacts current through frequent updates. Contact data validation can be integrated in a number of ways to best meet the needs of individual organizations, including:

  • Real-time RESTful API – cleanse, validate and enhance contact data by integrating our data quality API’s into your custom application.
  • Cloud Connectors – connect with major marketing, sales, and ecommerce platforms like Marketo, Salesforce, and Magento to help you gather and maintain accurate records.
  • List Processing – securely cleanse lists for use in marketing and sales to help mitigate data decay.
  • Quick Lookups – spot-check a verbal order or cleanse a small batch.

Service Objects’ validation services correct contact data including name, address, phone number, and email and cross-checks it against hundreds of databases to avoid garbage input. The result: cleaner transactions and more efficient processes across all aspects of your business.

Contact our team to determine which of our services can help you collect and maintain the highest quality data and kick the garbage to the curb.

Customer Service Week: More Than a Week to Us

This week, October 1-5, was Customer Service Week: a nationally-recognized event first proclaimed by the US Congress in 1992. It was designed to recognize the work of customer service professionals in the United States – over 2.5 million nowadays, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – and educate people about the importance of customer service in business.

This is always one week where you hear a lot of people talking about customer service. Let’s be honest, if you were to ask any business leader whether customer service was important to them, they would all reply “of course.” But to us, good service is a little like a good athletic performance: it isn’t just an attitude you can summon on command, but rather the end product of having the right culture and practices every day.

As part of our Customer Service Week, our own team made a list of traits that define our approach to customer service, using the letters of S-E-R-V-I-C-E O-B-J-E-C-T-S as a guide:

This is actually a pretty good summary of who we are. Let’s look at how these terms break down in terms of our approach to our customers:

Data Ninjas: This was our favorite. We’re good at what we do, and we take lots of pride in our expertise. We aren’t the only company in this space, but we’ve provided enterprise-level data quality solutions for over 15 years – and everywhere from our development team to our 24/7/365 technical support, people have a healthy “ninja” mentality about being experts and continually learning.

Customer, Friendly, Exceptional: Let’s face it, customer service tends to have this smiling-person-with-headset stereotype. But if you’ve worked with us, you’ve probably noticed: we really are pretty friendly, with customers and each other. Whether it is our knowledgeable, low-pressure approach to sales, our technical professionals, or even (in all immodesty) our marketing team, you can tell that we like each other – and like working with you, too. This starts with being a cool place to work, and also springs from supporting people to do the right thing with our customers.

Accurate, Precise, Exact: Every great company has a fanaticism about something. With us – being in the data quality business – it is accurate results. People depend on us to provide accurate leads, contact data, tax rates, and a host of other real-time, mission critical information. So much like the bakery that goes the extra mile to make the perfect croissant, getting it right every time is our particular fanaticism.

Innovative, Creative, Advanced, Insightful: This industry doesn’t stand still, and we have a lot of fun leading the curve with new tools and capabilities. This year alone, for example, we have rolled out everything from API and service enhancements to our bundled Address Insight capabilities, as well as educational white papers and articles ranging from GDPR compliance to email marketing.

Effective, Authoritative, Global: This is the part of our service reputation we eventually grew into. When our CEO Geoff Grow first started this company in 2001, to correct contact addresses and reduce the waste stream of direct mail, few people envisioned Service Objects as the global company we are now. Today we serve over 2500 customers – including major firms like Amazon, Microsoft, Verizon and American Express – and proudly wear the mantle of an industry leader.

These are some of the reasons that every week is Customer Service Week for us, and why we have built so many long-term partnerships with customers. Last but not least, let us know what we can do to serve you too!

The Role Data Quality Plays in Master Data Management

Enterprises are dealing with more data than ever before, which means that proper information architecture and storage is crucial. What’s more, the quality of the data you store affects your business more than ever nowadays. This goes double for your contact data records, because you need the most accurate and up-to-date lead and customer data to ensure that marketing, sales, and fulfillment all run smoothly.

Master Data Management, or MDM, involves creating one single master reference source for critical business information such as contact data. The goal of MDM is to reduce redundancies and errors by centrally storing records, as well as increasing access. No matter how well organized your database might be, the quality of its data will ultimately determine the effectiveness of your MDM efforts.

Why is Master Data Management Important?

Organizations look to MDM to improve the quality of their key data, and ensure that it is uniform and current. By bringing all data together in a hub, a company can create consistency in record formatting and ensure that updates are available company-wide.

MDM sounds simple in theory, but think of how (and how much) information is created and collected within an entire organization. Let’s take a single customer contact as an example. Over the course of a month, John Smith provides information to your company in three different instances:

  1. First, he is an existing customer of your services division, and his data exists in their customer records.
  2. Second, he visits your website and downloads a whitepaper, getting added to your marketing department’s database of leads.
  3. Third, he calls the sales team for one of your specialty products, and gets added to their database of contacts.

In a typical organization with departmental “silos,” John Smith is now part of as many as three separate databases in your company, none of which have a longitudinal view of his relationship with you as both a customer and a lead. Worse, slight differences in contact records could even turn John into three separate people in a master database. If each of these touch points get assigned to different automation drips and your sales reps are calling and emailing, you have a real disconnect in your efforts and a high likelihood of spamming your contact.

Having good data collection and storage practices is the first step to a good MDM program, but that alone may not solve John Smith’s problem. Ensuring the data he provides is correct, current and most importantly consistent at the point of entry is what guarantees that the best quality contact information is stored as master data. Implementing a lead validation service could help solve this issue at the point of entry by cross-validating each contact record with multiple databases in real time, facilitating accurate merge/purge operations later.

Lead validation not only corrects and appends contact data, it can also feed into your CRM and automation tools to help you further qualify your leads, so your sales team is only dealing with the highest quality information and pursuing genuine prospects. Once your prospects become customers, their contact data records will be passed on to other departments to complete any transactions – and through your MDM they will also have the most up to date and accurate information to conduct their business.

The Costs of Poor Data Quality

In a 2018 study conducted by Vanson Bourne, 74% of respondents agreed that while their organizations have more data than ever, they are struggling to generate useful insights. Some say this is because they are not effectively sharing data between departments, but only 29% of respondents say they have complete trust in the data their organization keeps.

Every aspect of your organization can be impacted by poor data quality, especially if your contact data is lacking. If 71% of your sales team feel that their lead information is bad, how effectively can they do their jobs?

Here are just a few of the ways that bad data can hurt your business:

  • Marketing – sending marketing materials to existing customers for discounts for new subscribers, spending extra money creating mailers for addresses that don’t exist
  • Sales – Multiple sales reps calling the same lead, the same sales rep calling the same lead multiple times, wasting time on bogus leads
  • Order Fulfillment – bad or incomplete address data causing failed deliveries and chargebacks
  • Accounts Receivable – sending invoices to incorrect addresses or old business contacts, billing addresses not matching credit card records
  • Business Development – making bad decisions for growth in a particular market based on inaccurate data

Each of these issues could be solved by creating a master data management system and making sure it is only fed validated contact data from the point of entry. Further, frequently updating the MDM system by validating name, address, phone, email, IP, and other key pieces of information ensures that each data record is as current as possible.

Finally, one major cost of poor data quality – and a key reason for the growth of MDM – is the compliance risk as new data privacy and security regulations have emerged in recent years. For example, the European Union’s recent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the US Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) both have severe penalties for unwanted marketing contacts, even when such contact is inadvertently due to data quality issues like bad contact data or changed phone numbers. Accurate, centralized data is now an important part of compliance strategies for any organization.

Trends in Master Data Management and Data Quality

The competitive advantages of consistent centralized data – together with the advent of cloud-based tools for data quality – have made MDM a growing trend for organizations of all sizes. Moreover, David Jones of the Forbes Technology Council predicts that increasing regulation and the rise of cybersecurity risks are converging to change the way data is managed at the business level. We now live in a world where things like validating contact data, rating lead quality, verifying accurate and current phone or email data, and other data quality tools have now become a new standard for customer-facing businesses.

Today, adding a contact data validation service to your processes before storing master data will improve overall data quality and increase efficiencies among all of your teams. Service Objects offers 24 contact data validation APIs that can stop bad data from undermining your master data management system. Want to learn more? Contact our team to see which API is best for your business type.

Data Quality and the 2020 Census

We talk a lot on these pages about how data quality affects your business. But once in a while, we also feel it is important to look at how data quality affects society as a whole. And one of the best examples of this in recent memory is the upcoming 2020 United States Census.

Every 10 years, the United States goes through a demographic headcount of its inhabitants. The results of this survey are pretty far-reaching, involving everything from how the Federal government allocates more than $600 billion in funding to who represents you in Congress. But this year, for the first time ever, technology and data quality loom among the biggest issues facing the next Census.

2020 Census Data Quality Doubts

These concerns are serious enough that the American Academy of Family Physicians, a healthcare advocacy organization, recently introduced a resolution entitled “Maintaining Validity and Comprehensiveness of U.S. Census Data” that has now been accepted by the American Medical Association together with other healthcare groups. It breaks down a number of data quality concerns currently facing the Census, including the following:

  • This will be the first year that a majority of responses are planned to be collected online, introducing possible sources of data error.
  • Sampling and data quality errors may disproportionately affect vulnerable populations subject to health care disparities, such as minorities and women.
  • In addition to human and data errors, there are concerns that mistrust of technology and privacy may prevent some people from completing the Census survey.
  • Above all, there are concerns over the impact of scaled-back funding for the 2020 Census, together with the departure of its director, in terms of how this will affect preparations for new technologies and survey methods.

Where Data and Politics Converge

It isn’t just stakeholders like healthcare providers who are raising a red flag about the next Census: the government itself shares many of the same concerns. In its 2020 Census Operational Plan, the U.S. Department of Commerce points to data quality as one of its key program-level risks, stating that “If the innovations implemented to meet the 2020 Census cost goals result in unanticipated negative impacts to data quality, then additional unplanned efforts may be necessary in order to increase the quality of the census data.”

This is a case where political issues also intersect with data concerns: in addition to the ongoing battle over funding levels for the 2020 Census, others have raised concerns over a proposed new citizenship question that is potentially a hot button for areas with large Hispanic and immigrant populations. According to the Brookings Institute, both of these issues may have far-reaching impacts on the quality of this next decennial Census, and recently the Attorney Generals of several states drafted a joint letter raising these as potential quality issues.

The Impact of Contact Data Quality

Finally, in an area near and dear to our hearts, the 2020 Census serves as an example of where contact data quality will have a huge impact on both costs and quality – because many addresses change over the course of a decade, and the current practice of canvassing non-responders on foot (up to six times) can be costly, time-consuming and error-prone. In 2015 the government responded to this issue by conducting address validation tests across a limited population sample, and to be fair, they must also contend with many non-standard locations (such as people living in basements, illegally subdivided units, or homelessness). But clearly, accurate address validation and geolocation will loom larger than ever for the census of the future.

These concerns are examples of some of the potential social impact of data quality issues, as society bases more of its decisions and funding choices on collected data. At a deeper level, they point to a world where data scientists may even ultimately have as much impact on these social issues as politicians and voters do. Either way, technology is playing more of a role than ever in social change.

The takeaway for all of us – in business, and increasingly in life itself – is that our world is increasingly becoming data-driven, and paying strategic attention to the use of this data is going to become progressively more important over time. And in the near future, this will include making sure that every American is accurately and properly counted in the next Census.