Posts Tagged ‘Business Solutions’

Get the Most from Direct Mailings with Quality Data

data-quality-mailersYou cannot expect a good response from the direct mail aspect of your campaign unless you are working with good quality data. It doesn’t matter how good your material is; even if you have brilliant design and text that delivers your offer in its best possible light. Unless your database is clean, you’ll be wasting money.

What Can Go Wrong

Have you checked for duplicates? If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of multiple copies of the same mailing, you’ll know how off-putting this is.

Have you checked incorrect addresses and put your data through suppression files to weed out people who have moved, or are now deceased? Imagine how you’d feel if you received mail addressed to a loved one you’ve lost, encouraging them to use your services or buy your products. It’s bad enough to have to deal with mail for a person who previously lived in your house. Then if you were that person and the mail finally reached you by a roundabout route far too late for you to do anything about it, you probably wouldn’t be too pleased.

The idea is not to alienate loyal potential customers, but to make them consider their next purchase with you or take whatever other action you suggest.

The chances are that if you have one or two of these errors, your data will be littered with them because it hasn’t been cleaned. You certainly won’t get the response you are looking for. The income you generate could be drastically reduced and your marketing budget will not pay for itself.

How to Avoid Those Pitfalls

Cleaning your data correctly can be costly and time consuming unless you have the right tools for the job. An investment in data quality web services will quickly pay for itself.

If you buy a list, find out first if it has been cleaned of duplicates and address checked. Do not just accept this as fact – subject it to your own merge-purge software before you use it. It’s far better to treat all data at the point-of-entry to your system rather than try to clean it up later.

You can often get access to data cleansing services for a trial period so you can test it with your data before you commit. Another viable option is to send the data to a reputable data quality vendor and have your lists cleansed, standardized and returned ready to go.

When you Have Data Quality

If you can trust your data you’ll save the associated costs wasted on sending items that are undeliverable, or sending multiple copies to the same address. Postage costs are rising significantly and it’s unnecessary to spend more than you must. Furthermore you will protect your brand’s image, which can suffer by an apparently careless mailing. And of course, you can expect a much better return on the costs of your campaign.

Who’s Your CDQO (Chief Data Quality Officer)?

Your company likely has a CEO, COO, and CFO. It might even have a CRO and a CISO, but does it have a CDQO (Chief Data Quality Officer)? Just as executive, operational, financial, risk management, information security, and other vital functions must be appropriately managed, the same is true of data quality. Improving data quality can increase profits, reduce costs, improve customer satisfaction, and much more, yet few companies think to appoint a CDQO.

Taking ownership of data quality

data quality officerWho should be responsible for data quality in your organization? That’s a tough question. Some might think IT should be in charge of data quality. After all, IT sets up the database and configures the systems used to access your company’s data. Others may suggest that the marketing department should take ownership of data quality. After all, marketing is in charge of mailing lists and lead management. Maybe it’s an administrative function or a project for customer service to tackle. While virtually every department uses and is affected by data, there’s a tendency to think of data quality as someone else’s job. Thus, no one is specifically in charge of it.

Why data quality matters

Not taking data quality seriously could prove to be a costly mistake. Data quality affects everything from employee productivity and customer satisfaction to your bottom line. For example, each time a mailer or shipper is returned as undeliverable as addressed, an employee must stop what he or she is doing and investigate. This may involve calling the customer back to get the correct address — and apologize for the shipping delay. If the returned item is “just a promotional mailer,” an employee might toss it in the trash rather than attempt to correct the address. Both scenarios cost the company money. In the second scenario, the company will lose money with each subsequent mailing unless someone steps up and validates that address.

Data quality isn’t just about cleaning up addresses and phone numbers. For example, if fraudulent orders are a problem for your company, the ability to verify data in real time improves data quality and alerts you to potential fraud. Data validation tools can correct misspelled addresses and typos as well as identify suspicious mismatches between a customer’s IP address, credit card, and other contact details.

Not only does data quality impact employee productivity, customer service, and your bottom line, it can also affect decision making. Your executive team relies on data to make decisions. However, if that data is not accurate, genuine, or current, those decisions can’t possibly be the best decisions for your company.

Data quality impacts the entire organization, for better or for worse. Yet few CDQOs exist. It is essential to manage data quality at the executive level and then empower the entire team to take ownership of the quality of the data that they generate and/or encounter.

How to prioritize data quality in your organization

Start by putting one of your C-level executives in charge of data quality. From there, schedule a demo with Service Objects. We can help you improve data quality with our easy-to-use contact validation APIs.

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Same-Day Delivery Possible with Verified Addresses

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there is an all-out war happening in the online retail arena. Retail giants Amazon, Barnes & Noble, eBay, Walmart, and Target are all beginning to offer same-day delivery of goods. You read that correctly: consumers in select markets today can order goods online and, with varying restrictions by merchant, can expect to receive the package later that day. Amazon offers the service for orders processed by noon to be delivered by 9 pm that night, and at a premium of $5.99 for Amazon Prime subscribers, $9.98 for non-prime customers, and $0.99 per additional item. Barnes & Noble already offers same-day shipping in Manhattan, but has partnered with Google Shopping Express to expand their reach; they charge $4.99 per order, but users may sign up for a 6-month trial membership to Google Shopping Express to take advantage of the service free.

This is a significant development for online retailers because a major advantage that physical shops have over their virtual competitors is the fact that they can satisfy customer needs more immediately. Although online shopping allows more opportunity to save money, there are often items that you simply cannot wait two days to have delivered. For instance, if a company runs out of printer paper or ink, the urgency can be great. Therefore, as same-day delivery from your favorite online retailer becomes more prevalent, the declining popularity of brick and mortar stores will continue to trend downward.

Same-Day Online Delivery

You too can provide same-day delivery

If you are an online retailer, this industry trend should have you considering ways to speed up your shipping or delivery options. Your customers may be interested in your online offerings, but are they willing to take their business elsewhere if they come across another merchant with comparable inventory, competitive pricing, and faster delivery.

If your business can afford to offer same-day delivery, one option to enhance the deliverability of your shipments is to geocode your customers’ addresses. For instance, confirming the latitude and longitude of your customer’s shipping address will ensure exact point of delivery and help you evaluate cost associated with each transit. By adding latitude-longitude validation to your address validation processes, you avoid delays, and your customer will be pleased to receive their package quickly.

Same-day delivery is still a young and growing retail trend; even Amazon doesn’t offer coverage in most of the U.S. If your online store can’t offer same-day delivery yet, you can at least ensure a faster delivery method and aim to provide free shipping. One way to ensure the fastest delivery possible for a “free shipping” offer is to use an address verification service. When you verify, standardize and cleanse addresses before a shipment goes out, two benefits occur: 1) you can reduce the amount of undeliverable packages, and 2) customers receive their packages faster.

With the proper tools in place to validate and map customers’ addresses, you can confidently offer your customers speedy and accurate delivery.

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Time to Size Up Your Shipping Carrier Options

With several shipping companies to choose from and each one offering a wide range of services, it can be difficult to determine which one offers the best compromise between service quality and cost-effectiveness. Two of the world’s largest shipping companies, FedEx and UPS have recently announced upcoming changes to their pricing models, and these changes are set to come into effect in January, 2015 and December, 2014 respectively. Following its rival FedEx, UPS also plans on changing their pricing structure to take into account package dimensions rather than just weight, and this will impact around two thirds of ground shipments, almost certainly resulting in increased shipping charges for companies which use their services.

Measuring package

While the changes aren’t likely to pose a problem for companies shipping small goods, they will have a significant impact on those shipping large goods ranging in weight. Fortunately, companies have been given plenty of time to reconsider their shipping carrier options, and for those shipping larger packages, the US Postal Service will likely be a better option, since it continues to charge primarily by weight rather than by dimensions. Although there might appear to be plenty of time for companies to prepare for the changes, it is highly advisable to start reconsidering shipping plans immediately, since it can take some time to find the optimal solution for your particular business.

Not only does the USPS continue to charge by package weight more so than size – it also works in conjunction with certain address validation services. Address validation helps to reduce shipping costs by ensuring that packages get delivered to the right place. With address validation, companies will be able to avoid the additional expense of reshipping fees in the event of parcels going astray. Another welcome result will be increased customer satisfaction, and companies will be able to reassure their customers by letting them know that they are using address validation to make sure that their deliveries are properly taken care of.

Good communication between your company and your customers is also critical. Missing or late deliveries are a major nuisance, and many consumers won’t give a company a second chance in this regard, so there is all the more reason to maintain clear communication and choose a dependable service provider for your shipping needs.

Offering free shipping is another important factor to consider. More than half of online retailers now offer free shipping to their customers, and in order to remain competitive, your company should do the same. However, in light of the upcoming pricing changes with FedEx and UPS, it is time to reconsider your shipping options so that they remain cost-effective while still being able to provide a reliable service.

USPS works in conjunction with DOTS Address Validation-US, a CASS-certified address verification service which helps to ensure that your shipments arrive at the right place. All USPS address data is built into DOTS Address Validation-US, allowing companies which use USPS to streamline their shipping procedures and save money for both themselves and their customers.

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Solving the Case of the Undeliverable Address

As I recently experienced, a valid address is not always an accurate address. Businesses rely on valid addresses to ensure deliverable mail, save costs associated with returned mail, and reduce paper waste. If you doubt its environmental impact, consider this Earth Day fact: Undeliverable mail adds an estimated 300 million pounds of paper waste to landfills every year.

Undeliverable As Addressed Mail

Furthermore, an address validation service for US addresses can not only tell you if an address is valid and deliverable, but also whether the address is a residence or a business, and if the address is currently vacant or returning mail. That additional information could be a clue that a deliverable address is involved in fraud (e.g., when such an address is provided as the billing address by a customer opening a new account).

In the binary world of address validation, undeliverable addresses are cold cases left unsolved. And the amounts of unsolved, undeliverable case files are piling up. According to a study by the United States Postal Service (USPS), 6.9 billion pieces of mail annually are undeliverable-as-addressed.

An address can be rendered undeliverable for multiple reasons, including missing spaces, missing house numbers, and misspelled street names. While CASS-Certified address validation tools perform USPS verification and correction in an attempt to overcome such issues, the standardization process must follow the strict rules about what is an acceptable match. This can mean that an address that could have been fixed with a bit more information and effort will be rejected.

One way to crack this cold case open is to warm up to the idea of using an alternate route to get to a deliverable address. Specifically, by using other contact data points connected to the address to search and cross-reference other databases to generate a line-up of address candidates. By identifying the best candidate, along with an indication of match quality, this approach could locate a deliverable address that would not be found following a strict USPS check.

Thankfully, there is now a new detective working the case of the undeliverable address using exactly such an approach. DOTS Address Detective, is a new tool for salvaging and fixing fatal addresses that do not pass USPS verification and would otherwise be discarded.

Geoffrey Grow, CEO of Service Objects, explained that DOTS Address Detective is a real-time API web service that “…takes address validation to a whole different level, coupling our database of authoritative names and phone numbers along with our industry leading CASS™-Certified address validation to augment address data and make it USPS compliant.”

Service Objects encourages its customers to try this new service for free to test if any of your unsolved address mysteries can be resolved.

Jim Harris OCDQ BlogThis post comes from guest blogger Jim Harris of Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality. Harris is a recognized data quality thought leader with over 20 years of enterprise data management experience. Harris is a freelance writer, independent consultant, and Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality (ocdqblog.com), a vendor-neutral blog about data quality and its related disciplines.

Prepping For The Holidays – Read on Business 2 Community

‘Tis the season! With these three proactive tips, online retailers are sure to secure a profitable holiday shopping season. Believe it or not, Cyber Monday is only DAYS away and predictions of a record-breaking Cyber Monday have been giving the online retail community a lot to be excited about. Recently reports that 53% of U.S. adults have plans to shop on Black Friday with 72% doing it right from the convenience of their computer means online holiday shopping will actually start before Cyber Monday. So get ready Internet storefronts – get ready, and get ready now. Read Full Article Here.

Genuine, Authentic and Accurate Data… What’s the Difference?

At the heart of our data validation suite is our company’s mission: Deliver the most genuine, authentic and accurate data as possible to our customers. Often we’re asked to clarify the differences between “genuine, authentic and accurate” data.

This is how we explain the differences between these three very important data validation points:

Example 1 – Accurate Data

Mike Wilson visits your website and fills out a registration form. When Mike enters his address, he inadvertently types in “123 Mian Strt” instead of “123 Main Street. This is an example of data that is NOT ACCURATE even though Mike Wilson is a real person and meant to enter his valid information. Accuracy issues with mailing address data waste an exorbitant amount of time and money in postage and printing. With the most accurate data, companies reduce wasted mailing costs, paper and resources.

Example 2 – Authentic Data

Mike Wilson visits your website and fills out a registration form. When he enters his address, he types in 123 Main Street, Los Angeles, CA. While the information and address that Mike entered is technically accurate, our web services confirm that the address is a large parking lot, and Mike’s IP address is in another country. Further, the bank identification number tells you that this is a prepaid gift card which may be a red flag as well. This Mike Wilson is NOT authentic. Data authenticity is a critical step in detecting and preventing fraud data and orders from entering your systems.

Example 3 – Genuine Data

Mike Wilson visits your website and registers with the name Mickey Mouse. He enters the address 1313 Disneyland Railroad, Anaheim, CA. This is an accurate, real name and address; however, it is definitely NOT genuine. When people use bogus, vulgar or celebrity names in lieu of their genuine information, they have no place in your contact database.

Making sure that your data is genuine, authentic and accurate is one of the most vital components in data quality excellence.

If you have questions about data validation, feel free to call us we’re happy to talk!