Rivers and Lakes are a metaphor for data hygiene

Rivers and Lakes

Nature has many systems, including the rivers that feed and drain the major lakes of the world. Both influence each other a great deal, particularly in terms of the effects of things like upstream and downstream pollution on their entire ecosystem.

If you replace waterways with databases, a similar situation exists with your contact data. The lake is the central repository for a company’s contact records of prospects and customers, while the rivers are the different ‘streams’ of data feeding the lake such as web page lead capture, third party lists, trade show signups, or call center data entry – or the processes that eventually use this data. The goal is to keep your lake, and the rivers that feed it and drain from it, clean and accurate at all times.

Just like in nature, effective data hygiene requires looking holistically at this entire system. Let’s explore how this works for most organizations.

Step 1: Managing the inflow

Your contact database is most likely “fed” by a number of different sources: direct customer input from web sites, internal data entry from different departments, and more. Each of these “rivers” represents potential sources of error and bad contact data, ranging from spelling errors to bogus leads and orders.

Here, the solution is to engineer contact data validation into each touch point of your data entry process. Tools such as Service Objects’ address, phone and email validation products can be incorporated right into your CRM, marketing or business automation platform via API interfaces, to verify and correct problems at the time of entry. We even have bundled services that will give you a quantitative rating of lead or order quality in real time, to reduce fraud and invalid contacts.

Step 2: Managing the “lake”

Data hygiene concerns don’t end by simply managing the inputs feeding the “lake” – the lake itself must also be maintained on a regular basis because contact data is never static. Over 30% of your contact data goes bad every year as people move, change jobs, retire, or get new contact information.

This means that periodic data validation of existing data is critical to update changes, remove obsolete contacts and get rid of duplicates. In addition to our regular validation tools, we also offer direct access to the USPS’s continually updated change of address data, through our DOTS NCOA Live product.

Step 3: Managing the outflow

One other important part of the contact data ecosystem is making sure the data is accurate as it flows out of the database for its intended use.

Why is this important? First, there are often regulatory issues that require compliance at the time of use, with potentially severe financial consequences for non-compliance. Take the US Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), for example – it has strict per-call penalties for unwanted marketing calls to wireless phones. If you call a number that was once OK, but now has changed hands to someone who hasn’t opted in, you would be in violation – and many corporations have faced multi-million dollar settlements over this issue.

Second, there are the human and financial costs associated with marketing to bad contact data, which may have changed since your last validation and/or been incorrect or fraudulent to begin with. Validating this data at the time of use helps make sure all of your contacts are accurate, genuine and up-to-date.

More than an analogy

For us, the link between ecology and data quality isn’t just a metaphor: it is part of the reason we are in business. Our company was founded nearly two decades ago by an environmentalist-at-heart for the purpose of reducing the waste stream from inaccurate direct mail. So as we help you clean your “lakes and rivers,” we are still helping to save actual lakes and rivers as well. (You can find out more about our commitment to the environment here.)

In both nature and your business data, paying attention to the entire system is critical to success. We can help, including expert technical advice as well as a free trial license key – and you can test drive our products right on our web site, to see what works best for you. Want to learn more? Contact us to discuss how we can help your business ecosystem run smoothly and profitably.