Posts Tagged ‘Contact Validation’

Saving More of Your Labor this Labor Day

Labor Day is much more than the traditional end of summer in America: it pays tribute to the efforts of working people. It dates back well over a century, with one labor leader in the 1800s describing it as a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” And we aren’t forgetting our friends in Europe and elsewhere, who celebrate workers as well with holidays such as May Day.

As we celebrate work and the labor movement – and enjoy a long holiday weekend – we wanted to take a look at some of the ways that we help you save labor, as you try to carve grandeur from your organization’s data. Here are some of the more important ones:

Validation and more. Let’s start with the big one. For nearly two decades, the main purpose of our existence has been to take the human effort out of cleaning, validating, appending, and rating the quality of your contact and lead data. Whether your needs involve marketing, customer service, compliance or fraud prevention, these tools save labor in two ways: first, by saving you and your organization from re-inventing the wheel or doing manual verification, and second, by saving you from the substantial human costs of bad data.

Ease of integration. What is the single worst data quality solution? The one that gets implemented badly, or not at all. One of the biggest things our customers praise us for is how easy it is to implement our tools, to work almost invisibly in their environment. We offer everything from API integration and web hooks with common platforms, all the way to programming-free batch interfaces for smaller or simpler environments – backed by clear documentation, free trial licenses and expert support.

Speed and reliability. As one customer put it, “milliseconds matter” – particularly in real-time applications where, for example, you are validating customer contact data as they are in the process of entering it. Our APIs are built for speed and reliability, with a longstanding 99.999% uptime and multiple failover servers, as well as sub-second response times for many services – so you don’t waste time tearing your hair out or troubleshooting responsiveness issues.

Better analytics. Your contact data is a business asset – put it to work as a tool to gain business insight for faster, more informed decision-making and market targeting. You can target leads by demographics or geocoding, enhance your leads with missing phone or contact information, or leverage your customer base for better decision support, among many other applications.

Customer support. We recently interviewed a major longtime customer about using our products, and when we asked them about support they gave us the highest compliment of all: “We never need to call you!” But those who do call know that our best-in-class support, staffed by caring, knowledgeable experts who are available 24/7/365, represents a large savings of time and effort for our clients.

We hope you enjoy this Labor Day holiday. And when you get back, contact one of our product experts for a friendly, pressure-free discussion about how we can create less labor for you and your organization!

 

data privacy laws

A New Data Privacy Challenge for Europe – and Beyond

New privacy regulations in Europe have recently become a very hot topic again within the business community. And no, we aren’t talking about the recent GDPR law.

A new privacy initiative, known as the ePrivacy Regulation, deals with electronic communications. Technically a revision to the EU’s existing ePrivacy Directive or “cookie law,” and pending review by the European Union’s member states, it could go into effect as early as this year. And according the New York Times, it is facing strong opposition from many technology giants including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others.

Data privacy meets the app generation

Among other things, the new ePrivacy Regulation requires explicit permission from consumers for applications to use tracking codes or collect data about their private communications, particularly through messaging services such as Skype, iMessage, games and dating apps.  Companies will have to disclose up front how they plan to use this personal data, and perhaps more importantly, must offer the same access to services whether permission is granted or not.

Ironically this new law will also remove the previous directive’s need for the incessant “cookie notices” consumers now receive, by using browser tracking settings, while tightening the use of private data. This will be a mixed blessing for online services, because a simple default browser setting can now lock out the use of tracking cookies that many consumers routinely approved under the old pop-up notices. As part of its opposition to these new rules, trade groups are painting a picture of slashed revenues, fewer free services and curbs on innovation for trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT).

A longstanding saying about online services is that “when something is free, you are the product,” and this new initiative is one of the more visible efforts for consumers to push back and take control of the use of their information. And Europe isn’t alone in this kind of initiative – for example, the new California Consumer Privacy Act, slated for the late 2018 ballot, will also require companies to provide clear opt-out instructions for consumers who do not wish their data to be shared or sold.

The future: more than just European privacy laws

So what does this mean for you and your business? No one can precisely foretell the future of these regulations and others, but the trend over time is clear: consumer privacy legislation will continue to get tighter and tighter. And the days of unfettered access to the personal data of your customers and prospects are increasingly coming to an end. This means that data quality standards will continue to loom larger than ever for businesses, ranging from stricter process controls to maintaining accurate consumer contact information.

We frankly have always seen this trend as an opportunity. As with GDPR, regulations such as these have sprung from past excesses the lie at the intersection of interruptive marketing, big data and the loss of consumer privacy. Consumers are tired of endless spam and corporations knowing their every move, and legislators are responding. But more important, we believe these moves will ultimately lead businesses to offer more value and authenticity to their customers in return for a marketing relationship.

DOTS Address Validation verifies, cleans, and validates contact data so businesses can rely on accurate data for shipping, building a database, and a myriad of other functions.

Anatomy of a Service: DOTS Address Validation 3

DOTS Address Validation 3 is one of our most popular services – for good reason! This service is robust and good at what it does. Our powerful CASS certified engine provides our customers with quick and efficient address validation. Because of the complexities associated with DOTS Address Validation 3, there can be lingering questions about what certain fields mean or even how to use it. I am one of the integration specialists here at Service Objects, and I am here to help demystify some of the key features that DOTS Address Validation 3 boasts.

DOTS Address Validation 3 Use Cases

One of the most popular ways to use DOTS Address Validation 3 is to put it directly in a web form where the user enters their address. In this case, an address can be sent to our services, verified, cleansed, and validated before it is used for shipping purposes or before it is put into a database. Based on the DPV code that our service returns, we can also indicate whether an address is missing secondary unit information (i.e., like an apartment or suite number), or if the given secondary unit information isn’t considered valid by the USPS. This DPV value can be used to relay information back to a customer to correct or add the right Secondary unit number.

If you don’t have the ability to call an API from a web form, another use case could be to collect the addresses that you acquire and submit them in bulk with an FTPS set up. Our processes will determine when a file has been uploaded and will process the records and then spit out a file with the validated data that you can use to upload back into your database

If you have a large existing database of uncleansed addresses, you are in luck! We offer large list processing that will allow you to cleanse existing databases. We are experts at running large quantities of data quickly, so we’re happy to process these lists for you to clean up your existing database.

Responses

Knowing how an API works is essential to integrating it and to using its response. One thing to note about DOTS Address Validation 3 is that if an address is invalid, then it will return an error object in the response. In other words, if DOTS Address Validation 3 returns an error, it means the address couldn’t be validated. If an address is valid or partially valid (more on that later) then it returns the address information. There are different errors the service can return that will help you troubleshoot what is occurring with the API call and determine so you can correctly handle each type of error that comes back.

 

  1. Error Code 1 – Authorization Codes

These errors indicate that something was wrong with the license key. These errors are not billable. You may also need to reach out to Service Objects if you encounter these errors in a production environment.

Error Desc Code Error Description Additional Desc
1 Please provide a valid license key for this web service There was no license key submitted to the service. Oftentimes this occurs when the URL encoding hasn’t occurred correctly.
2 The daily allowable number of transactions for this license key has been exceeded. This doesn’t apply to all keys, but some have a daily maximum transactions
3 The monthly allowable number of transactions for this license key has been exceeded. Some keys have a monthly maximum. You will encounter this value if you pass the monthly maximum
4 The total allowable number of transactions for this license key has been exceeded The overall amount of transactions has been exceeded.

 

  1. Error Code 2 – User Input

Something was wrong with the inputs. Either necessary fields were blank, or the inputs were too long.

Error Desc Code Error Description Additional Desc
1 Address and Address2 fields were too long. Together, they must be 100 characters or less. The input fields were too long
2 Address field was too long, must be 100 characters or less. The input fields were too long
3 Please input a street address. There was no Address1 or Address2 values entered
4 Please input either zip code or both city and state. The service needs either a zip code or both city and state to perform a successful validation.

 

  1. Error Code 3 – Fatal Errors

These errors indicate that a Service Objects web service is behaving in a way that it should not. If you ever see this error in a production environment, please notify Service Objects immediately.

Desc Code Error Description Additional Desc
1 Unhandled error. Please contact Service Objects. Like it says, please contact Service Objects immediately and let us know what inputs you used to create this error.

 

  1. Error Code 4 – Domain Specific

These errors occur when something has gone wrong with the validation process; usually, an invalid address. There are also more specific messages for each error you can use to help decipher the reason for the failed address validation.

Desc Code Error Description Additional Desc
1 Address not found Major issue with the address that doesn’t fit known USPS special case scenarios.
3 Multiple addresses match Several address candidates were found that are equally likely given the input.
Ex: “1 Main St” matches “1 E Main St” and “1 W Main St”.
5 Please enter a valid address number.
7 Street not found Street name not found for the general area (city/state or zip)
8 Street number or box number out of range Street name found in the area, but the given primary number is not valid for that street
12 Internal error. Returned when an unexpected error occurs while processing address, or for special address cases. This error isn’t likely to appear
14 City not found City name not found for given state or postal code
15 State not found State abbreviation not found. The input state didn’t seem to be a valid state.
17 Address not found but the region has General Delivery service Given address not found, but the region provided matches a known area that only provides General Delivery services. Mail sent to “General Delivery” with the recipient’s name may get delivered to the recipient.
21 Unable to parse address. Indicates that the input could not be parsed into address fragments.


Non-Error Response

If there wasn’t an error returned, that’s good news! It means your request has resulted in validated address information. Below is a list of all the values recommended for a GetBestMatches operation. If you are using an operation other than GetBestMatches, then some of these values may not apply. Another thing to be aware of regarding GetBestMatches is the possibility it will return multiple addresses if the input address is vague. For example, when directional information should have been included but was not. In that case, the service will return multiple addresses and let the user navigate the ambiguity.

Return Value Description
Address1 This is the standardized Address1 line of the address. This along with City, State, and Postal Code are where you will find the verified and standardized address components
Address2 The USPS doesn’t consider the Address2 field to be necessary for mailing purposes. If there is any valid Secondary Unit information sent in the Address2 input our system will pick it up and append it at the end of the Address1 field. If there is any extraneous information in the input Address2 field (i.e. “c/o John Smith” etc.) we’ll try to maintain it in the Address2 field.
City The validated city for the given input address.
State The corrected and validated state name.
Zip The validated and corrected Zip + 4 for the given address.
IsResidential A “TRUE” or “FALSE” flag will be given to indicate whether the input address is considered to be residential
DPV A value between 1 and 4. This is arguably the most important values to look at when determining what to do with an input address. The DPV value will essentially indicate the total validity of an address. Your use case may vary but here is an example of how to deal with different DPV values when a customer may be entering address information on a web form.

  • DPV 1 – The Address is in the USPS database and is considered to be a valid mailing address.
  • DPV 2 – The address is not in the USPS database. This means that this address may exist, but the USPS simply does not deliver to it. Perhaps try using an alternate mail delivery company to deliver something to this address.
  • DPV 3 – The given secondary unit information on the address is invalid, ask the user to double check the given Secondary Unit information and try again.
  • DPV 4 – The service and subsequently the DOTS Address Validation 3 service expects a Secondary Unit (i.e., apt, unit, suite etc.) but none was provided. Perhaps ask the customer if they are missing the required unit information.
DPVDesc The text value that explains the DPV result
DPVNotes Numerical notes that indicate different pieces of information about a particular address. Some of the notes can be things like: Post Office Box address, Firm or Business address, Address exists but is vacant, Military APO/FPO address etc. For a full list of these codes please visit our developer guides.
DPVNotesDesc The text descriptions that are associated with the values in the DPVNotes field
Corrections An enumerated list of codes that indicate certain corrections were made to the input address. I.e., City corrected, state correction etc. For a full list of Correction codes, please visit our developer’s guide.
CorrectionsDesc The text descriptions for the codes provided in the corrections field.
BarcodeDigits This is a value that the USPS uses to sort mail. Each deliverable address has a unique barcode digit value. A benefit of this is that users can utilize this value to dedupe records in a database. Meaning if you have several different records with the same Barcode Digit, then you can clean up your database.
CarrierRoute A 4-character string that highlights the carrier route the USPS uses to for this address.
CongressCode This is congress code that is associated with the congressional district number in which the address is located
CountyName The name of the county in which the address resides.
FragmentHouse This is the parsed-out house number for an address. i.e., 123 of 123 W Main St N. The rest of these values are typically used to reconstruct an address that has been validated. Most customers who use these values use them to reassemble an address into different fragments for cases where an application might have character limitations.
FragmentPreDir The parsed pre-directional of the address’s street. “W” of 123 W Main St N.
FragmentStreet The parsed-out street name. “Main” of 123 W Main St N.
FragmentSuffix The parsed-out suffix of the street. “St” of 123 W Main St N.
FragmentPostDir The parsed-out directional fragment of the address. “N” of 123 W Main St N.
FragmentUnit The parsed-out unit designator of the input address. Can be values like APT, STE, UNIT etc.
Fragment The parsed-out unit number of the secondary unit designator. “4” of Unit 4
FragmentPMBPrefix The parsed type of personal mailbox designator. This will likely be “PMB” or “Box”. Some addresses have personal mailboxes to which mail can be delivered.
FragmentPMBNumber The parsed-out number from the PMB designator. 4 of PMB 4.

 

This covers most of the basics of DOTS Address Validation 3. As I mentioned, because of the robust capabilities of our CASS certified engine and the comprehensive nature of DOTS Address Validation 3’s data input fields, users are sometimes confused about how to use certain fields or how DOTS Address Validation 3 can be used or integrated. If you want to learn more about how DOTS Address Validation 3, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We’d be happy to answer any follow-up questions you may have and make recommendations on how to interpret and use the results from the service.

As the GDPR ushers in a new generation of consumer data privacy controls, the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal proves businesses need to prepare.

Facebook, Data Quality, and the GDPR

With 2.1 billion active users, Facebook presents an exceptional opportunity for targeted marketing and businesses interested in harnessing the power of consumer data. In fact, there are now entire industries devoted to collecting and selling personally identifiable information. Unfortunately, the swift expansion of social media, with its tantalizing trove of consumer information, has left lawmakers playing catch up. However, that’s about to change, thanks, in part, to the scandal surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and its intersection with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), an EU law governing data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union.

The GDPR Effect 

Though the GDPR will not take effect until May 25, 2018, if the breach of 50 million user account had happened while the law was in place, it would have resulted in a costly error for Facebook. As Austrian privacy campaigner and Facebook critic Max Schrems was quick to point out, had the unauthorized the sharing of profile data to Cambridge Analytica occurred while the GDPR was in effect, it “would have cost Facebook 4 percent of their global revenue”, somewhere in the ballpark of $1.6bn (€1.3bn).

But even before the Cambridge-Analytica story grabbed headlines, GDPR implementation was set to trigger significant changes to Facebook’s business operations. According to Reuters, Facebook faces a double-edged challenge: comply with the new GDPR rules and allow European users to opt out of targeted advertising, or violate the GDPR and face fines of up to 4% of the company’s annual revenue.  Considering 24% of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from EU users, either course of action represents a significant hit to profits for the company. And with global adoption of GDPR-type privacy protocols beginning to take hole around the world, Facebook and its social media cohorts will need to adapt to the changing consumer data landscape. 

A Global Movement

Though the EU primarily applies directly to data from EU citizens, it also controls the flow of personal data from within the EU to countries outside its borders. With US and UK legislation probable, this new era of data security means enormous changes in the way companies do business. As a result, international adoption of the GDPR’s privacy protocols is already taking hold around the world as counties begin to change their own data privacy rules. 

How Businesses Can Prepare

So how can business owners make sure they do not follow in Facebook’s footsteps? Companies entrusted with customer data must first acknowledge their responsibility in keeping that information secure. It is not enough to create a security protocol; organizations must also enforce and audit those policies. Robust and comprehensive quality analysis is also crucial, especially in light of the GDPR Article 5 mandate requiring the personal information of individuals within the European Union (EU) be current and accurate. Finally, the use of contact data, especially when it comes to combining information from different sources, should also be monitored. It is not enough to know your information is accurate; you must also make sure you are using it in the manner it was intended to be used, both legally and ethically.

The Benefits of Data Quality Best Practices

Though many businesses are still unprepared for the GDPR’s May 2018 deadline, it seems clear this latest scandal involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica will spur many businesses into action.

The good news is implementing data quality best practices to comply with Article 5 makes good business sense. It will save organizations considerable money in the form of streamlined marketing and sales campaigns, improve overall customer service and reduce the waste associated with bad contact data.

Service Objects can help you get a better understanding of the role your customer data plays in becoming GDPR compliant. Send us up to 500 records (it is a 100% secure process) and we will provide you with an overall score of the quality of each record based on fields such as name, phone, address, email, IP, and country. Get started today.

Service Objects Announces Record Breaking Number of Transactions Processed on Cyber Monday 2017

Cyber Monday 2017 was a busy day for many online retailers, including Service Objects. We were so busy, in fact, that we processed a record number of contact data validation transactions. Looking at the online shopping stats, we shouldn’t be surprised. According to numbers released by Adobe Insights, shoppers spent 16.8% more in 2017 than on Cyber Monday 2016, setting a new online record of $6.6 billion in sales.  The mobile sales record was also surpassed, reaching $2 billion over a 24-hour period.

So why did Service Objects’ break our own record? Because our contact validation services play a vital role in the online shopping process for many merchants.  We enable retailers to verify that an individual’s contact information is genuine, accurate and up-to-date. In addition, by validating a person’s name, address, phone number, email and device, businesses significantly increase package delivery rates and considerably increase their ability to detect fraudulent transactions.

In fact, some of the largest retailers in the world use Service Objects’ real-time contact validation services. While consumers were busy breaking sales number records on Cyber Monday, Service Objects’ customers processed over a million more transactions on that day than previous years, making it the largest day in our history.

And we see this trend continuing. As online shopping continues to capture a larger percentage of retailers’ overall sales every year, Service Objects will play a vital role in ecommerce by providing the ability for merchants to validate and clean their customer contact data against hundreds of authoritative data sources – all in a blink of an eye. It also doesn’t hurt that we have a 99.999% server uptime guarantee, unlimited no cost technical support and bank grade transaction security.

For more information or to test any one of Service Objects’ 23 contact validation solutions, please visit https://www.serviceobjects.com/products.

The Direct and Indirect Costs of Poor Data Quality

Imagine that your company runs an online ad for a product. But when your customer gets to your website, this product has actually been discontinued. And from thereon in, every time the customer surfs the web they are now constantly served with banner ads for this non-existent product.

This scenario really happens more often than you think. And it is a perfect example of marketing at its worst: spending your budget to lose customers, ruin your service reputation, and destroy your brand.

We often talk about data quality on this blog, but this time I would like to focus on the results of lack of data quality. In the case above, poor linkages between inventory data and marketing lead to a bad customer experience AND wasted marketing dollars. Much the same thing is true with our specialties of contact data and marketing leads: bad data leads to a wellspring of avoidable costs.

First there are tangible costs. Bad leads and incorrect customer addresses lead to specific, measurable outcomes. Wasting human effort. Throwing away precious marketing capital. Penalties for non-compliance with telephone and email contact laws. Re-shipment costs and inventory losses. According to one Harvard Business Review article, the real costs of poor data quality now exceed $3 trillion per year in the United States alone.

Then there is the part few people pay enough attention to: the indirect costs of poor data quality. In a recent piece for CustomerThink, data management expert Chirag Shivalker points to factors such as sales that never materialize, potential customers who turn away, and the subtle loss of repeat business. Whether it is a misdirected marketing piece, an unwanted pitch on someone’s cell phone, or a poor customer experience, some of the biggest consequences of poor data quality are never quantified – and, perhaps more importantly, never noticed.

Finally there is the fact that data, like your car, is a depreciating asset. Even the most skillfully crafted database will degrade over time. Contact information is particularly vulnerable to decay, with estimates showing that as much as 70% of it goes bad every year. A recent article from insideBIGDATA put the scope of this in very stark terms: each and every hour, over 500 business addresses, 800 phone numbers and 150 companies change – part of a growing ball of data that, per IDC, will swell to over 160 zettabytes (for the uninitiated, a zettabyte is one sextillion, or 10 to the 21st power, bytes). And the bill for validating and cleaning up this data can average $100-200K or more for the average organization. So an ongoing approach is needed to preserve the asset value of this data, as well as prevent the costs and negative consequences of simply letting it age.

A recent data brief from SiriusDecisions breaks down these costs of poor data quality into four key areas: hard costs, productivity costs, hidden costs, and opportunity costs. And it is not like these costs are exactly a surprise: according to Accenture, data inaccuracy and data inconsistency are the leading concerns of more than three-quarters of the executives they surveyed. Their solution? Better use of technology, combined with process improvements such as formal data governance efforts.

The people in our original example above probably had no idea what kind of lost business and negative brand image they were creating through poor data quality. And ironically, I would say let’s keep it that way. Why? Because it is a competitive advantage for people like you and me who pay attention to data quality – or better yet, build processes to automate it. If you are ready to get started, take a look at some of our solutions and let’s talk.

Service Objects Launches Newly Redesigned Website

Service Objects is excited to announce that we have launched a newly redesigned website, www.serviceobjects.com. The redesign effort was undertaken to enhance the user experience and features a new graphical feel, enhanced content and improved technical functionality. Visitors can now more quickly find information on how Service Objects’ contact validation solutions solve a variety of challenges in global address validation, phone validation, email validation, eCommerce and lead validation. Free trial keys for all 23 data quality services can also be readily accessed.

As part of the launch, Service Objects also made significant updates to its data quality and contact validation blog, which contains hundreds of posts on topics such as fraud protection, address validation and verification, data quality best practices, eCommerce, marketing automation, CRM integration and much more. New content is published weekly and visitors can subscribe to have new content and updates sent to them directly.

“The recent launch of DOTS Address Validation International and DOTS Lead Validation International has firmly established Service Objects as the leader in global intelligence,” said Geoff Grow, CEO and Founder, Service Objects. “We redesigned our website to more prominently communicate Service Objects’ expertise in the global intelligence marketplace and continue to reinforce what is most important to our customers: in-depth developer resources, guaranteed system availability, 24/7/365 customer support and bank grade security.”

New features also include three ways to connect with our services: API integration, Cloud Connectors or sending us a list.  We hope you will take a look at our new website and blog and send us your feedback at marketing@serviceobjects.com.

Bringing Dead Letters Back to Life

All right, we are finally going to admit it: there are some bad mailing addresses out there that even Service Objects can’t fix.

Of course, we’re talking about cases like illegible handwriting, physical damage, or the kid who addresses a Christmas letter to “Santa Claus, North Pole.” But even for them, there is hope – in the form of a nondescript building on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, Utah, known as the USPS Remote Encoding Center. Images of illegible mailing addresses are sent here online from all over the United States, in a last-ditch effort to get these pieces of mail where they are going.

Behind the walls of this beige, block-long building lies an optometrist’s dream: nearly 1700 employees working 24 hours a day, each scanning a new image every few seconds and matching it to addresses in the USPS database. (The same database we use to verify your contact address data, incidentally.) Most get linked to a verified address and are sent on their merry way; the truly illegible ones are forwarded to the USPS’s Dead Letter facility to be opened, and those letters to Santa get forwarded to a group of volunteers in Alaska to be answered.

According to the Smithsonian, there used to be more than 50 of these facilities all over the US. With time and improving automation, all of them have now been shuttered, with the exception of this lone center in Salt Lake City. To work there, you need to be fast, precise, and then go through more than a full week of training – and then you get put on one of 33 shifts, handling the roughly two percent of mail pieces that the Post Office’s computers cannot read automatically. That’s between five and eleven million pieces of mail per day on most days.

Of course, technology continues to improve, and USPS has become a world leader in optical character recognition for both handwritten and machine-addressed mailing pieces – even 98 percent of hand-addressed envelopes are processed by machine nowadays. In an interview with the New York Times, the center’s operations director acknowledges that computer processing could eventually put them out of business entirely. But for now, human intervention for illegible addresses hasn’t yet gone the way of the elevator operator.

Thankfully, your business correspondence probably isn’t hand-scrawled by your Aunt Mildred. And hopefully Santa Claus doesn’t show up very often in your prospect database (although fake names get entered for free marketing goodies more often than you think, and we can easily catch and fix these). So your chances of ending up on a computer screen in Salt Lake City are pretty slim – which means we can help you ensure clean contact data, and leverage this data for better marketing insight.

So for those of you who can’t spell, failed penmanship when you went to school, or have a habit of leaving your envelopes out too long in the rain, there is still hope. For the rest of you, there is Service Objects.

The Great Debate: When to Validate Your Contact Data

A famous beer commercial had people debating whether it tasted great or was less filling. A similar debate is brewing among data quality professionals: do you validate your contact data when you first add it to your marketing automation platform (MAP), or at the time you use it?

The answer to both debates is exactly the same: YES.

First, let’s look at the first argument. Validating contact data such as names, email and physical addresses and phone numbers before recording them to the MAP has several advantages up front:

Saving money.  Most of the platforms charge based on the number of contacts in your MAP.  By validating the lead ahead of time, you can avoid adding and paying for bad leads in your MAP.

Garbage in, garbage out. Putting dirty data into your marketing database skews whatever metrics or analyses you might do beyond marketing campaigns, including the all-important conversion rate. And catching bad contact information in real-time, lets you message the user at time of entry so they can correct it, preserving valuable leads and preventing possible customer service issues.

Detecting bogus names and fraudulent leads. What good is a database full of Donald Ducks and Ninja Turtles, who faked you out to get a free report? Tools such as name validation can programmatically catch and keep fraudulent contact information out of your MAP in the first place.

Avoiding penalties. Saving the wrong contact data can cost you – big time – if it violates regulations such as the TCPA and Do Not Call lists for phone numbers, or CAN-SPAM compliance and ‘spam traps’ for email addresses. Automated validation tools let you flag high risk contacts before you save them.

Finally, there is the broader question of lead quality. MAPs provide lead scoring based on how the user used the site, but may not protect you from fraudulent or bad data. Contact-level lead validation adds a quantitative value of lead quality, based on over 130 criteria, that lets you decide to fast-track a lead, put them in your drip campaign to see how they respond, or even discard the lead.

Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin. Validating lead data regularly, particularly at the time you use it, has several advantages as well.

Coping with change. Over 70% of contact data will go bad in the course of just a year. Lead validation tools can check your existing leads and then correct, update, or remove them based on the results. This saves you money by only keeping and paying for viable leads, allowing marketing to identify sources of high and low quality leads, and providing more accurate reporting.

Avoiding penalties, part 2. You logged a phone number in your MAP last year. You used it in a marketing campaign this year. What is the difference? Up to $14K in TCPA fines, if this number changed from being a landline to someone else’s cell number. Always validate phone numbers and email addresses before every campaign, to ensure TCPA, Do Not Call and CAN-SPAM compliance.

Taking care of your customers. By triggering emails or other contacts to customers who appear to have changed their addresses, using tools such as our national change-of-address (NCOA Live) capabilities, you provide better service and pro-actively avoid future service or delivery failures.

Making your IT department happy. Lead and contact validation tools are easily automated within most MAP systems – for example, Service Objects’ contact validation tools have webhooks and API interfaces you can use with platforms including Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot, Pardot, Ontraport and others.

Incidentally, that beer company never did resolve the “tastes great/less filling” controversy. Likewise, we’re going to play both sides of this debate – because it is easy and inexpensive to validate your lead and contact data every time you enter or use it. With the right automation partner, data quality can simply become one less thing to worry about in your marketing efforts.

What Does API Really Mean?

API stands for Application Program Interface. It is a way for software to communicate with each other based on specific inputs and outputs. API’s are everywhere, nearly any application in existence can use them. One API can even utilize one or more other API’s as well. What an API is has been defined and explained in any number of Google search results. What I want to talk about is what an API really is.

It is a way to reuse existing code. Writing reusable code is often a high consideration when developers write code. If you are going to need a specific functionality over and over again, why recreate the wheel? Well, that is just what APIs help developers avoid, as well as making code more understandable and enabling them to be more productive, resulting in saved time and money.

The interchangeable nature of API’s makes switching one API out for another relatively simple. The cost of improving complex segments of code is almost as simple as unplugging a broken toaster and plugging in a new one.

The beauty of APIs is that they allow your organization’s developers to do what they do best. They don’t need to be an expert in everything. Often organizations can be sent on wild goose chases trying to figure out solutions that they are not experts in. At Service Objects, we want your business to continue being an expert at what you do and let us be your expert in the field of contact validation. Why attempt to do the heavy lifting of trying to solve a problem that is not in your wheel house? Without spending an enormous amount of time and money, there is little chance that you will be able to reproduce the code that another API can give you out of the box.

At Service Objects, we have been developing our services since 2001, so when someone is purchasing any of our 23 APIs, they are using over 16 years of cumulative knowledge and expertise. And on top of that, we are going to keep learning and improving on our services so that our customers don’t have to. What this means is that your organization can be using the best code available in your applications and leverage the best practices we have developed without being an expert in the field of data validation.

For more information, or to obtain a free trial key for any of Service Objects’ Data Validation APIs, click here.

Launching a New Ecommerce Site? Don’t Forget Data Quality Tools

Online commerce is huge nowadays – to the tune of over $400 billion dollars a year in the United States alone in 2017, at a growth rate up to three times that of retail in general. Barriers to entry are lower than ever, ecommerce platforms have become simpler to use and less expensive than ever, and the convenience of e-commerce has grown to encompass businesses of every size. Above all, purchasing goods online has become ubiquitous among today’s consumers.

Whether you are looking to launch a simple shopping cart using platforms like WordPress’ WooCommerce, Shopify or Magento, or an enterprise solution like Microsoft’s Commerce Server or IBM’s WebSphere Commerce, it can still be a minefield for the uninitiated. Here are some of the risks that every online seller takes every day:

Fraud. Filling orders from fraudulent sources costs you both revenue and time – and according to Javelin Research, identity fraud alone totals over $18 billion per year in the US. And the bad guys particularly love to target novice sellers.

Fulfillment. Every online order starts a chain of activities – from billing to shipment – that depend on the quality of your contact data. Credit card processing often requires accurate address data, and one misdirected shipment can wipe out the profit margin of many other sales – not to mention the reputational damage it can do.

Marketing. According to the Harvard Business Review, the cost of acquiring a new customer ranges from 5 to 25 times the cost of selling to an existing customer. This means that your contact database is the key to follow-on sales, brand awareness and long-term profitability. Which also means that bad contact data – and the rate at which this contact data decays– cuts straight to your bottom line.

Tax issues. Did you know that tax rates can vary from one side of a street to the other? Or that some states have passed or are considering an “internet tax” out-of-state sellers? Tax compliance, and avoiding the penalties that come with incorrect sales tax rates, is a fact of life for any online business.

The common denominator between each of these issues? Data quality. And thankfully, these problems can all be mitigated inexpensively nowadays, with tools that fit right in with your current contact management strategy. Some of the solutions available today from Service Objects include:

  • A suite of tools for fraud prevention, including address, email and telephone verification, lead validation that scores prospects on a scale of 0-100, credit card validation, and IP address validation – so you know when an order for a customer in Utah is placed from Uzbekistan.
  • Shipping address validation tools that verify addresses against up-to-date real-time data from the USPS and Canada Post, to make sure your products go to the right place every time.
  • Email verification capabilities that perform over 50 tests, including auto-correcting common domain errors and yielding an overall quality score – improving your marketing effectiveness AND preventing your mail servers from being blacklisted.
  • Real-time tax rate assessment that validates your addresses, and then provides accurate sales and use tax rates at any jurisdictional level.

Each of these capabilities are available in several convenient formats, ranging from APIs for your applications to batch processing of contact lists. Whichever form you choose, automated data tools can quickly make the most common problems of online commerce a thing of the past.

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!

People, Process, and Technology: The Three Pillars of Data Quality

For many people, managing data quality seems like a daunting task. They may realize that it is an important issue with financial consequences for their organization, but they don’t know how to proceed in managing it. With the right strategy, however, any organization can reap the benefits of consistent data quality, by focusing on three core principles: People, Process, and Technology.

Taken together, these three areas serve as the cornerstones of a structured approach to data quality that you can implement and manage. And more important, a framework that lets you track the ROI of successful data quality. Let’s look at each of these in detail:

People

This is frankly where most organizations fail at the data quality game: not allocating dedicated gatekeepers for the health of their data. It is a very easy mistake to make when budgets are tight, resources are focused on revenue-generating functions like sales or product development, and the business case for data quality gets lost amidst a host of competing priorities.

The single biggest thing an organization can do for data quality is to devote dedicated resources to it. This becomes an easier sell once you look at the real costs of bad data: for example, research shows that 25% of all contact records contain bad data, a third of marketing leads use fake names, and half of all phone numbers provided won’t connect. Run these numbers across the direct costs of customer acquisition, add in missed sales opportunities, increased customer care costs, and even potential compliance fines, and you often have the financial justification for a data quality gatekeeper.

Process

How much control do you have over data entry points, data accuracy, and verification? For too many organizations, the answer is none – with resulting costs due to factors such as duplicate data entry, human error, or lack of verification. And who is responsible for maintaining the integrity of your business data? Too often, the answer is “no one,” in a world where data rarely ages well. An average of 70% of contact data goes bad in some form each year, which ushers in yet another level of direct and indirect costs.

One of the more important roles of a data gatekeeper is to have processes in place to manage the touch points for your data, engineer data quality in on the front end of customer and lead acquisition, and maintain this data over the course of its life cycle. Having the right policies and procedures in place gives you control over your data, and can make the mechanics of data quality frictionless and cost-effective. Or as your teachers used to put it, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Technology

Data quality solutions range from simply scanning spreadsheets for duplicates and mistakes, all the way to automated tools for tasks such as address validation, lead validation, and verification of email or phone contact information. And far too often, the solution of choice for an organization is to do nothing at all.

Ironically, using the best available automated tools for data quality is often a surprisingly cost-effective strategy, and can yield your best ROI. Automated tools can be as simple as verifying an address, or as sophisticated as creating a statistical ranking value for the quality of a lead or contact record. Used properly, these tools can put much of the hard work of data quality on autopilot for you and your organization.

Ensuring your organization’s data quality can seem like an overwhelming task. But broken into its component parts – your people, your process, and your technology – this task can turn into logical steps that pay themselves back very quickly. It is a simple and profitable three-step strategy for any organization that runs on data.

How Much Is Bad Contact Data Costing Your Organization?

Collecting visitor and customer data through a variety of channels allows you to quickly grow your contact list. When contact information comes in, your company is provided many new opportunities to expand your business. However, receiving high-quality data isn’t necessarily a given. After all, some visitors will enter bad contact data, such as bogus phone numbers, in an attempt to limit telemarketing calls; others may think they’re being funny by entering fake names such as Donald Duck or Homer Simpson; others might accidentally misspell a street name. Even autocorrect may change a legitimate entry, and some visitors may intentionally enter a bad address in an attempt to commit fraud.

Managing the effects of bad contact data is a surprisingly large cost for many organizations, involving a great deal of human intervention as well as diluted contact effectiveness. This is one area where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – particularly in today’s era of automated contact verification tools. Whatever your touch points are with customers or prospects – including customer data, contest entry forms, phone surveys, lead generation and point of sale interactions – some data will be inaccurate, incomplete, or fraudulent.

Why Data Quality Matters

Do you really need to worry about a few Donald Ducks or Homer Simpsons in your contact database? Yes, you do! Poor data quality translates into wasted time, resources, and money. For example, if you have a mailing list of 10,000 addresses, and 10 percent of those are inaccurate, you will waste 1,000 pieces of mail — plus the cost of product and postage – not to mention the human resources involved in processing incorrect outgoing and returned mail.

Data quality from a customer service perspective is another big concern. Suppose that a customer orders an expensive product from your website, and accidentally enters their address as “2134 Main Street” instead of the correct address of “1234 Main Street”? First of all, you would ship the package to the wrong address. Not your fault, but it doesn’t matter: delivery will be delayed, the customer will have a poor experience, and you will incur re-shipping costs. You may even not get the original shipment back. It’s a lose-lose situation.

The problem is compounded when it comes to getting these customers in the first place: an estimated 25% percent of marketing contact data is bad. And according to the Data Warehouse Institute, this ocean of bad data costs businesses over US $600 billion per year. At the level of the individual company, this means that over a quarter of your sales and marketing resources are lost to bad prospects, for reasons that range from intentional fake contact data to the natural contact record aging process. In fact, Salesforce.com reports that after just one year, nearly 70% of contact data goes bad in some form as people change jobs, phone numbers and email addresses.

So how can your company avoid the challenges associated with bad data? Start by assessing what areas of your company need better data quality control. Whether you identify a single area or several areas that could benefit from improved data quality, realigning your data quality goals to hit the data trifecta can improve your bottom line, optimize your human capital and even help the environment.

To read more about this topic, download our white paper Hitting the Data Trifecta – Three Secrets of Achieving Data Quality Excellence.

What’s Dragging Your Marketing Campaigns Down?

Savvy marketers know just how important it is to capitalize on every customer lead. And as technology advances and our customer lists expand, so does the need to streamline our marketing campaigns and processes. But so many businesses are missing the boat when it comes to keeping their contact records accurate, genuine, and up to date. The reason? Poor contact record data quality.

Let’s face it, marketing platforms can only take your campaigns so far. The reality is—they are only as good as the contact records within them, leaving a lot of room for error. Yes, it is humans entering their data and we know that humans make mistakes. From something as simple as duplicate records, falsifying info, simple data entry mistakes, to aging, out of date, or lost contact records, these components contribute to the erosion of your company’s contact records.

To give you some perspective, SeriusDecisions reports that 25% of customer data is inaccurate, containing critical errors. CRITICAL! That means that you’re missing out on converting 25% of your leads into customers. That works out to be 1 out of 4 of your contact records are corrupt. The sooner you can acknowledge that contact data quality issues exist in your company, the sooner you can move towards a solution.

The Lead Form - by the Numbers
Bad Data Equates to Negative Impacts

The first step in fixing the problems is to locate the areas being impacted by bad contact record data and then pinpoint those areas within your marketing platform that need correcting. Quite simply, there are some soft and hard costs associated with poor data quality. These are the areas where you will may see and feel the effects initially (soft costs):

  • Decreased productivity from your sales teams
  • Increased costs for Lead & Customer Acquisition, Marketing Automation,
    and CRM fees.
  • Misspent marketing labor costs
  • Increased risk of regulatory fines (e.g., Do Not Call compliance, SPAM traps).
  • Increase in Customer Care efforts (resulting from unhappy customers)

Over time, these build up and begin to cause larger problems (hard costs). The major impacts being realized through increased costs and lost revenues. Perhaps you’re experiencing a high employee turnover rate or realizing that customers are walking? These consequences could be happening as a result of poor quality data.

The point is, you need to enact some cost effective measures that will identify where the bad data resides and then correct it. Once you’re back on track, you’ll want a maintenance and management system in place to keep your campaigns moving along smoothly and productively, i.e., via a data governance policy. Long story short, bad data is in your contact records and it is dragging down your marketing campaigns. But…it CAN be prevented!

Hungry for more? You can get the full picture about the impacts of poor data quality and how to prevent/improve it by downloading our white paper, “Marketing with Bad Contact Data: A Recipe for Disaster

What is a Data Quality Scan and How Can it Help You?

Marketing Automation and Your Contact Records: A Five Part Series That Every Marketer Can’t Miss (Part 5)

Putting Your Contact Records to the Test!

Now that you’ve read our series on how the quality of contact record data impacts the performance of your marketing automation efforts, we are hopeful that you better understand the importance of correcting and cleaning up these records. The next step is learning how your contact records measure up. To help, Service Objects offers a complimentary Data Quality Scan, providing a snapshot of where your data stands in real time and where improvements can be made.

DQS-ScreenHow does the Data Quality Scan work? It’s simple: we use a small sample of your data (up to 500 records), to not only find out where your data is “good”, but more to the point, what percentage of your data is bad and/or correctable. You’ll receive a data quality score for each of the five critical lead quality components.

  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Name
  • Mailing address
  • Device

Check out a sample Data Quality Scan to see how each of these components are scored and the detailed information provided.

Once you get your results, you will have an opportunity to work with a Data Quality expert (yes, a real, live person) who will help you in deciding how best to correct and improve your contact records. From start to finish,think of them as your personal guide to improving your contact record data quality.

Leave Your Worries Behind

All in all, the Data Quality Scan is here to help marketers expose data quality problems within their companies, and we know that percentage is likely to be around 25%. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to give it a try and see for yourself, right? At the very least, ongoing data validation and correction services should become a priority within your marketing automation best practices.

And finally, before we sign off on this series, I wanted to leave you with this thought: When it comes to marketing, you have plenty to worry about. Constantly verifying and updating your marketing automation contact records should NOT be one of those worries. Implementing a data governance strategy around your contact records will ensure your records are always accurate, genuine, and up to date!

If you’re new to this series, start from the beginning! Read Part 1: Make Marketing Automation Work for You

 

Contact Data Governance in Action: It’s All About Validation & Verification

Marketing Automation and Your Contact Records: A Five Part Series That Every Marketer Can’t Miss (Part 4)

Well-integrated and accurate customer data is one of the best assets marketers have at their disposal to effectively personalize and engage customers, drive conversion rates, boost loyalty and trust, and ultimately maximize sales.” (Vera Loftis, UK managing director of Bluewolf, Salesforce experts)

Bottom line: you want the very best long-term outcome for your marketing campaigns, yes? The goal is to build a sustainable marketing automation platform, and in the world of data integrity, validation and verification are the keys to unlocking its success. And really this needs to happen at the beginning— at both the point of data capture AND/OR when migrating to a new marketing automation or CRM platform. Here’s the opportunity you’ve been waiting for!

Migrating data between platforms allows for a fresh, clean start. This is an ideal time for your Data Quality Gatekeeper to launch a preemptive strike against bad data (validate and verify). Essentially, they need to make sure that migrations and the fields being imported are accounted for BEFORE importing the data, i.e., mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses can all be validated and brought up-to-date, as well as attaching demographic and firmographic information to corresponding contact records. And let’s not forget about data formatting and purging duplicate records. This is the time for remediation.

Implementing the Right Tools

To handle source data issues upfront, organizations need to employ a powerful, automated discovery and analysis tool that provides a detailed description of the data’s true content, structure, relationships, and quality. This kind of tool can reduce the time required for data analysis by as much as 90 percent over manual methods.” (Jeffrey Canter, Exec. VP of Operations at Innovative Systems, INC.)

Now you’ve followed our recommendations and have your gatekeeping system, or data governance strategy, up and running, but perhaps you’re thinking, “what’s the best way to do regular data quality check-ups and maintenance from here on out?” Honestly, you need a systematic solution in place that you can trust and rely upon. One that will continually provide THE most accurate, genuine, and up to date data for your company. AND you will want a program that, once it’s set up and running, will allow you to get on with other important jobs. Seriously, it should be as simple as “set it and forget it”.

Look no further! Service Objects provides a comprehensive set of solutions that will validate and verify your data as it’s being migrated or captured in real-time. Let’s take a look at just some of our Data On-Time Solutions (DOTS) you can choose from:

Lead Validation: A real-time lead validation service that verifies contact name, business name, email, address, phone, and device while providing an actionable lead score.

Email Validation: Verifies that the email addresses in your contact and lead database are deliverable at the mailbox-level. This feature corrects and standardizes, while assessing if addresses are fraudulent, spam-trap, disposable, or a catch-all.

Address Validation: Uses USPS® certified data to instantly validate, parse, correct, and append contact address data, including locational meta-data and the option for Delivery Point Validation (DPV).

NCOA LIVE: Keeps your contact mailing list accurate and up-to-date with data from the USPS® National Change-of-Address database (NCOALink).

Email Insight: Appends demographic data to emails from proprietary consumer database with over 400 million contacts. Supplies you with valuable info i.e., city, geolocation, age range, gender and median income of the address owner.

GeoPhone: Gives you accurate reverse telephone number lookup of US and Canadian residential and business names and addresses.

Phone Append: Supplies you with the most accurate lookup of landline telephone numbers available.

This is quite a lot of information to digest for sure. So, how do you know “what” solutions will work best for YOUR platform? Depending on your individual needs, our free Data Quality Scan will determine where your contact data might be falling short. Then you can take steps to clean up your contact records for good.

Up next: Part 5: What is a Data Quality Scan and How Can it Help You?

Data Breakdown Happens. Know the Reasons “Why” and Protect it from the Start

Marketing Automation and Your Contact Records: A Five Part Series That Every Marketer Can’t Miss (Part 3)

Welcome back! The fact that you’re interested in improving the data quality within your marketing automation platform is apparent, so let’s look at how the data breakdown happens so we can build it back up. The goal is to find sustainable and trustworthy ways to correct and effectively manage data from here on out.

So who’s responsible for ensuring good data quality? Your IT department? If only it was that simple. The fact is, your TEAM is responsible and it starts with a company that incorporates a culture of data quality and best practices. Senior managers must do their part to integrate and maintain solid data quality policies that are easy to follow and implement. Next, marketing managers must screen and clean up new lists before importing. Finally, your sales team must practice diligence when entering customer data. And, even if ALL of these groups commit to following these guidelines in the most stringent and cautious manner, you can bet that mistakes will still happen! We are, after all, human.

Now that we’ve identified the players, we can pinpoint what makes our data corrupt:

  • Inaccurate data: either info is entered incorrectly, or it becomes outdated
  • Duplicate data: multiple accounts are mistakenly set up for the same lead, i.e., some companies do not centralize their data.
  • Missing data: some fields are simply left empty
  • Non-conforming data: inconsistent field values, i.e., using various abbreviations for the same thing
  • Inappropriate data: data entered in wrong fields

Would you agree that the four most common data fields in your lead forms are: name, email, address, and phone? According to Salesforce:

These statistics highlight just how difficult it is to keep up to date and current with changing customer demographics. It’s overwhelming, especially when you consider the rate at which data is being captured. Fortunately, there IS a better way!

InfoGraph_FormTurning Strategy Into Action

We’ve discussed how even the best and most efficient internal processes can be in place yet cannot completely wipe your data clean of corruption. Oh if only…BUT, there are additional steps you can take to continue moving in the right direction. You could implement a Data Governance strategy which “refers to the overall management of the availability, usability, integrity, and security of the data employed in an enterprise. A sound data governance approach includes a governing body or council, a defined set of procedures, and a plan to execute those procedures”. Here’s what you can do:

  • Conduct regularly scheduled data quality check-ups & maintenance scans: By work with an external source to automatically scan, identify, and update your data, you will save money and headaches in the long run. Sending in the Calvary!
  • Bump up personal accountability: Consider training your sales reps and then monitoring their data input via their login info. Like Big Brother, but less invasive.
  • Hire data quality managers: They have oversight of all data input, monitoring, and management. Think of them as Data Quality Gatekeepers – like a mini task force.

Congratulations! You are well on your way to stopping the bad-data-cycle. And the most important step in doing so is: running regular data check-ups and continued maintenance. So how do you set your business up for success? Come back for the 4th part in our series where we show you how to ensure your records are genuine, accurate and up-to-date. It’s as easy as one…two…THREE!

Be sure to start from the beginning! Check out Part 1: Make Marketing Automation Work for You

If you are interested, Service Objects provides a free Data Quality Scan that will give you insight into the quality and accuracy of your contact data. Click here to get your free scan.

Up next: Part 4: Contact Data Governance in Action: It’s All About Validation & Verification

 

Impacts of Bad Data Lead to Negative Consequences

Marketing Automation and Your Contact Records: A Five Part Series That Every Marketer Can’t Miss (Part 2)

Data integrity is beyond a doubt “the” cornerstone of your marketing campaigns. Think carefully about this. ALL company decisions, both operational and strategic, are based on the information you collect from your data. And we’ve already acknowledged that bad data exists in your marketing automation platform. So just how deep do these impacts go? Let’s dive right in, looking closely at the top two offenders: Mistrust and Costs.

Mistrust:

“If you can’t trust the data, what else will you base your decisions on? If you can’t trust the data, how much effort will be wasted checking and rechecking certain results to figure out which is correct? And how much effort will be spent in investigations, root cause analysis and corrective actions required to fix data problems?” Carol Newcomb, Consultant with SAS Data Management Consulting

It’s no joke. Mistrust happens both internally and externally. Remember in our last post we stressed the importance of establishing trust between your marketing and sales teams (internal)? Well, that same nurturing needs to happen with your vendors and customers (external). Especially since their data is tied to everything in your organization. I would venture to guess that your CRM is connected to accounting. What if, after all your hard work to gain your customer, their invoice was sent to the wrong address? It’s going to get back to you and YOU are going to need to fix it. But here’s the bigger problem: when mistakes like this become repetitive, your reps stop believing that the data in their contact records is genuine, accurate, and up to date. They oftentimes feel compelled to update their own records. What’s worse, your customers and vendors will become annoyed, being asked over and over again, from different sources, for their contact info. Savvy marketers must realize that small missteps like this can lead to bigger issues, putting your company’s reputation and brand directly in harm’s way. Left unaccounted for, mistrust will weaken your company’s foundation in much the same way that a trickle of water slowly erodes bedrock, causing irreversible damage.

This leads us to Costs:

“Most organizations overestimate the quality of their data and underestimate the impact that errors and inconsistencies can have on their bottom line.” The Data Warehouse Institute

Brace yourself…you ARE wasting money. That is, bad data is causing a loss of revenue. How many emails, direct mail, and phone calls go out on any given day? Knowing that 25% of your customer data is inaccurate due to duplicate accounts, intentional and unintentional data entry errors, lost contacts, aging contact records, there is a serious loss of productivity happening here. To demonstrate the cost of quality, let’s apply the 1-10-100 Quality Management rule by George Labovitz and Yu Sang Chang: it costs $1 to verify a record as it is entered, $10 to fix it later, and $100 if NOTHING is done, which leads to loss upon loss upon loss. And, we know that corporate data is growing at an average rate of 60% per year and climbing, so it’s all the more important to screen your data going in and then maintain and manage it over time. The takeaway: quality IN equates to quality OUT, saving you time, resources and money all the way around.

If you’re like me and enjoy a detailed checklist, you’ll appreciate the following. Business2Community has compiled a spot on list highlighting many of the consequences of bad data:

  • Lower customer satisfaction and retention
  • Loss of Revenue
  • Misinformed OR under-informed decisions
  • Dissatisfied sales and distribution channels
  • Lower productivity
  • Higher consumption of resources
  • Invalid reports
  • Failure of your marketing automation initiatives
  • Higher maintenance costs
  • Errors in product/mail deliveries
  • Increased churn rate
  • Distorting campaign success metrics
  • Higher spam counts and un-subscriptions
  • Negative publicity on social media

Hungry for more? Great! Let’s begin focusing on where to find the problems and inconsistencies so we can clean up the mess. In Part 3 of our series, we’ll get up close and personal with a lead form, how these can go wrong, and then how to correct them.

If you are interested, Service Objects provides a free Data Quality Scan that will give you insight into the quality and accuracy of your contact data. Click here to get your free scan.

Up Next: Part 3: Data Breakdown Happens. Know the Reasons “Why” and Protect it from the Start

Make Marketing Automation Work for You

Marketing Automation and Your Contact Records: A Five Part Series That Every Marketer Can’t Miss (Part 1)

Are you keeping up with the competition? If yes, then you’re likely using one of these excellent marketing automation platforms to run your campaigns:

Marketing Automation2No doubt, the planning, coordinating, and executing of your marketing efforts has never been easier. But, here’s the kicker: these platforms are only as good as the quality of your contact data.

There’s a common misconception that the quality of contact record data is automatically maintained within marketing automation platforms, but, in reality, these platforms are not built to correct contact records for accuracy nor genuineness.

Without accurate, genuine, and up-to-date contact records, even the most sophisticated and expensive platforms are handicapped from performing well. According to SiriusDecisions, it is estimated that over 25% contact records contain inaccurate or critical errors. In addition, 70% of your contact records will become obsolete/change over the year. Over time and quite systematically, the integrity of your contact records will become suspect, translating to missed lead opportunities across multiple marketing channels. So how can you decipher whether the quality of your contact records is good or bad? This is something we will look at in this five-part series.

Reaping The Benefits

Switching gears, let’s imagine that your marketing automation is working at its full potential. You’re in a position to see some serious return on investment, along with reaching other important marketing and sales goals. We’ve listed three key benefits below to demonstrate why good data is at the heart of maximizing your marketing automation performance:

  • Cutting expenses—Some marketing platforms charge by the contact record. Simply correcting or eliminating bad records will result in cost savings. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We will cover this in more detail as part of the series.
  • Increasing revenue—Handing off accurate contact records to your sales team means better contact rates and more sales, not to mention a happy sales team.
  • Accurately tracking and monitoring marketing campaigns—Good decision-making is based on good data. Accurate, measurable data is ESSENTIAL in order for these campaigns to be successful. Data needs to be precise, starting with your contact records.

Sounds so simple right? It absolutely can be, again, as long as your data is accurate, genuine, and up-to-date. And, we’ll repeat this point as many times as it takes: in doing so, you WILL save time and money!

Working Smarter, Not Harder

Think about it: managing contact records is labor-intensive, especially in a large company. Marketing and sales teams need to establish a good workflow to efficiently turn leads into profits. And as we’ve discussed, even the best resources might need a little support themselves in order to get top results. How frustrating is it to hear complaints from your sales team, time, and time again, about bad contact information, incomplete profiles, or lead rejection? As the size, speed, and values of information increase, you might soon be spiraling out of control. The last thing you want is to contribute to the poor quality of customer data which costs U.S. businesses a staggering $611 BILLION annually. Bottom line: there is no room for error. Teams must be able to trust each other and work efficiently together. Period.

So, consider this your wake-up call as we embark on a 5-part series into the realm of contact data integrity and the role it plays in your company. It’s imperative that marketing teams understand what “bad data” is and how it affects their bottom line. We’ll wrap up the series with some solutions about how you can take action and rid your marketing automation platform of bad contact data. Before signing off, here’s something to chew on until our next post:

It’s not a question of “IF” you have bad contact data, it’s a question of “HOW MUCH”.

If you are interested, Service Objects provides a free Data Quality Scan that will give you insight into the quality and accuracy of your contact data. Click here to get your free scan.

Up Next: Part 2: Impacts of Bad Data Lead to Negative Consequences

Is Email Dying?

A Quora discussion recently got us thinking about the status of email in our day and age. As a company, we know how important email is, since we verify hundreds of thousands of emails a day. It’s clearly evident to us that people are still using it. But conversations like this made us wonder if email is actually on the decline after all. There seem to be new task management tools, messaging apps, and other alternative email tools that emerge every day that promise to rid us of the need for email, but will these tools eventually replace it altogether?

It turns out that not only is email not dead, it’s actually growing. It’s the way we’re using it that’s changing. Experts predict that by 2019, the number of email accounts will increase 26% to 5.59 billion. Consider even more statistics below:

  • 88% of B2B marketers say email is the most effective lead generation tactic
  • Marketers consistently ranked email as the single-most-effective tactic for awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention
  • 42% of businesses say email is one of their most effective lead generation channels
  • 122 billion emails are sent every hour

Given these numbers, email is clearly not dying. It is more important than ever before. Anecdotal evidence supports this, too. For example, think about how you use email in your own life. You subscribe to interesting newsletters, you get your receipts emailed to you, your bills arrive in your inbox, you get alerts from your bank, you correspond with friends and family members, customers contact you via your website and their messages arrive in your inbox. The list goes on and on…

Several new task management tools that intend to “replace” email still rely on you to sign up with your email address, and use your email for updates and notifications. If anything, these new tools and services are just a way to leverage and build off of your email, but certainly not replace it. Likewise, whenever you sign up for a new service, that service requires your email address. Your email address will serve as a communications channel between you and the service provider as well as, potentially, your username.

While social media, instant messengers, and online collaboration tools offer an alternative to email, they don’t come close to the ubiquitousness of email. Just about every Internet user has an email address, but just a fraction have SnapChat, Slack, or Asana accounts.

Email is alive and well, and it’s effective. However, email marketing is suffering from a common ailment you need to be aware of: bad data. For example, 88% of users admit to entering incomplete or incorrect data on registration forms. This is troubling for many reasons, but especially due to the fact that a recent study found that 74% of users become frustrated when websites display irrelevant content. How can you personalize your marketing and create a better experience when the data users give you is junk?

Junk data, indeed. Whether users type the wrong address by mistake, check the wrong boxes in your web forms, or fail to notice that auto-correct has changed their entries, this bad data means your marketing and customer outreach efforts will fall flat. It’s hard to make a good impression when you’re addressing them by the wrong name or sending mail to a non-existent address.

In contrast, when you capture correct data in lead forms and on eCommerce sites, not only will your marketing automation and CRM platforms have correct data in them, you’ll also be able to personalize their experience with your company and brand.

In a world where personalization can make a customer feel welcome and appreciated, you need to get good data — even if that customer actually provides you with incorrect data.

Service Objects can catch bad data and clean it in real time with our data quality tools. These data validation tools instantly compare entered data against a massive database containing millions of verified phone and address records, automatically validating, correcting, and appending the data to ensure that you have current, accurate information. Check out how cool cleaning data is with the email validation slider below. Here we show an example of a bad email address in, and it’s corrected version out:

(Slide back and forth to view Before/After)

Email isn’t going anywhere, but if you want to ensure deliverability of your messages, you need good data. Our data quality validation tools are a must for any business that communicates with leads, prospects, and customers using email.

Get a free trial key today and see just how easy it is to clean bad data.

Why We Geek Out Over Name Validation

What’s in a name? Everything — especially if you’re trying to connect with customers and prospects. If you’re emailing, mailing, or calling someone and you have her name wrong, you’ve already lost her.

The Importance of Name Validation APIs

Name validation is becoming increasingly important in the modern world where social media and the Internet allow for a faster-than-ever propagation of bad data. For example, as people opt into various offers, it’s not unusual for auto-correct to change their entries, for a typo to occur, or for the person to enter a bogus name. On other occasions, a name that looks fraudulent and is labeled as such, could really be a legal name. This is the case for this man who legally changed his name to Fire Penguin Disco Panda:

Fire-Penguin-Disco-Panda

Companies wanting to avoid potentially embarrassing situations like putting a bad name on a piece of mail, or removing a perfectly good contact with a name they think is fraudulent, should consider using a service like DOTS Name Validation, an essential ingredient in marketing automation, business databases, CRMs, and the like. Not only does name validation perform helpful changes such as parsing names into individual fields, fixing the order of names, and returning the gender of the individual, our name validation API runs a variety of checks to ensure the name isn’t a bogus, celebrity, or vulgar name.

Updated Name Validation Scoring Algorithms

We recently pushed a major update to our name validation service, including many international names as well as massive improvements to our scoring algorithms. Our name validation database now has almost 5 million first and last names in it.

Our scoring algorithms are where the service truly shines. Even when we get an obscure name that we are not sure about, we look to our algorithms to separate the unknown from the bad. This is where our team likes to geek out. We enjoy thinking of new ways to combine results to identify complex names.

Here’s Where We Get Geeky

We love to get creative with our name validation service. We spend time pouring through lists of celebrities, vulgar names, and any crazy goofy thing we can think of.

What are some of the things we are interested in? We love unusual names. For example, should we consider the names Anakin and Khaleesi as valid now that people are actually naming their babies after these characters? And you can imagine the fun we’ve had talking about Anita Bath and Warren Peace.

We track a lot of vulgar and goofy-type potential names, but what about alterations to those? For example, we might nail the name Hugh Jass, but what about similar names like Hue Jass, Hugh Jazz, Hou Gass, or Hue G. Azz? What if someone submits the name Bob Ba$$? Could we figure out that the intended name should be Bob Bass?

What if a name is submitted that should not be a name like “House on the corner” or perhaps the name of a business instead of a person? These sorts of things can be tricky to identify in an automated system, but our team lives for solving these kinds of problems.

We let our inner geeks out so that we can anticipate and flag bogus, prank, and unusually challenging names. Though our name validation software uses algorithms to score and validate data, they’re powered by both artificial and human intelligence.

The True Cost Of Bad Data In Your Marketing Automation

Inbound marketing and marketing automation platforms promise to make your marketing more effective, and they have the potential to live up to that promise. However, reality often tells a different story — especially when bad data plays a starring role.

Marketing automation platforms like Eloqua, Hubspot, Marketo, and iContact are great tools that can help you connect with your leads and customers. But they are just that, tools. The idea of marketing automation tools is promising, but poor execution and bad data will limit your success.

The Cost of Bad Data

You pay for every contact residing in your marketing database. If your data quality is bad, you are wasting time and money. Data quality suffers for several reasons. Some data starts out clean before going bad due to address or phone number changes. Meanwhile, it’s not uncommon for users to enter bogus information into lead and contact forms. For example, 88% of online users have admitted to lying on online contact forms.

Bad email addresses mean your messages never arrive as intended; the same is true with bad postal addresses, plus you’ve just wasted money on postage or shipping, and bad phone numbers waste your sales and marketing team’s time calling bogus numbers. Improving the data accuracy within your marketing automation platform could save a ton of money.

How much money is at stake? It’s more than you may realize. Applying Deming’s 1-10-100 rule, it costs $1 to prevent bad data, $10 to correct it, and $100 if it is left uncorrected1. So, if you had just 10 bad records, that would be $1,000 wasted. Chances are, you have far more than 10 bad records in your marketing automation software. Approximately 10 to 25 percent of B2B contact records contain critical errors2.

Moreover, using bad data has a cascading effect on the organization. Not only are you expending valuable resources to capture leads, each lead, whether good or bad, takes up a “seat” in your marketing automation plan — with each seat costing money.

The cost to contact bad leads is real. Some of the more obvious costs include printing and postage cost for direct mail and outbound calling, which average costs are about $1.25 per attempted call. Even email costs money, albeit not much (roughly $0.0025 per email), but this adds up over time if left uncorrected.

There’s More to Data Accuracy Than Cost Savings Alone

PrintLooking beyond obvious costs, it is important to understand the cascading impact of bad data on other areas of your business.  For example, even though you are using the latest and greatest real-time CRM or marketing platform, if the data is bad, your CSRs will begin to doubt the effectiveness of the platform. This can lead to a lack of confidence in your data, poor morale, and poor performance.

Another example is the impact on your marketing intelligence reports and decision making. Marketing to bad leads will result in “false-negative” data. Since these leads do not respond (because the data quality is bad), your marketing campaigns’ performance will be dragged down.

If you don’t like to throw money away, cause undue stress on the team, or make decisions based off of bad data, improving the data accuracy of your marketing automation software can go a long way toward solving these problems. If that’s not compelling enough, consider this: clean records improve contact conversion rates by 25 percent2.

Service Objects can help ensure that the promise of marketing automation becomes a reality in your inbound marketing strategy. Our data quality tools correct and improve the data in marketing automation platforms, resulting in better performance. Benefits include reduced cost per lead and cost per sale, more reliable performance data, increased contact rates, increased response rate, reduced cost to contact, and more sales.

Isn’t it time you banish bad data from your Marketing Automation Platform?

Sources:

1 siriusdecisions.com/TheImpactofBadDataonDemandCreation.aspx

2 deming.org/index.php?content=61

Revealed: 4 Fresh Lead-Generation Tools for Closers

Are you looking for fresh lead-generation tools to help boost sales? Do you have a rock star sales team already, yet know your sales force could close even more contracts if they had access to better leads? There are excellent new resources being developed for business owners and marketers thanks to entrepreneurs within the lead-generation sector. Following are four you might want to investigate if skyrocketing sales and happy customers are on your must-accomplish list:

OptinMonster

OptinMonster offers a WordPress plugin for lead-gathering. You can create custom exit forms for your site to capture email subscribers for your business. Features include A/B testing capabilities, conversion tracking, and page-specific target messaging. If your business is using WordPress as its content management system, OptinMonster is definitely worth investigating.
(optinmonster.com)

Right Hello

Right Hello generates leads for businesses using a proprietary algorithm. Once qualified leads are generated, Right Hello helps connect you with potential customers via personalized emails and social media interactions. Your sales team doesn’t have to worry about discovering high-quality leads and can instead focus on closing sales with satisfied customers.
(righthello.com)

ProspectWise

If you want to close more deals with businesses in your local area, ProspectWise is worth investigating. ProspectWise offers data on local businesses, obtained by having paid prospectors visit businesses. In addition to obtaining business cards from each establishment, lead generations sleuths interact with owners and staff to understand the needs of each company. Data is then passed onto ProspectWise customers capable of fulfilling the required needs of local business owners.
(prospectwise.com)

Sparta

Sparta offers a handy platform to help turn your sales staff into supercharged lead-generation dynamos. You can create custom competition challenges for your staff to gamify the lead-generation and sales-closure process. Run multiple challenges at the same time for different departments and have team members compete against rival departments.
(spartasales.com)

These are just four of numerous tools being developed by entrepreneurs within the lead-generation sector. Discovering fresh resources for your sales team can help increase sales while igniting team camaraderie at the same time. Will you be considering any of the above-listed tools for your sales force?

While generating leads is important for your business, making sure they’re accurate and up-to-date is even more so. All the leads in the world won’t help you if their contact information is incorrect. Be sure to clean your newly sourced leads with Lead Validation before importing them directly into your CRM to effectively reach your customers.

Why Credit Card Fraud May Double In The Next Few Years, And How To Protect Your Business

The United States is finally catching up to its European neighbors in terms of adopting the more secure EMV chip credit and debit cards. EMV, which stands for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa, is considered less vulnerable to credit card fraud than magnetic stripe cards because their embedded, encrypted chips cannot be copied by counterfeiters. Despite the ongoing shift to EMV chip cards, projections point to a doubling of credit card fraud from about $3.1 billion to over $6.4 billion in 2018.

How is this possible? Fraudsters will have fewer opportunities to clone cards with illicitly placed magnetic readers, so counterfeit cards will likely become less prevalent. Just as bankers, merchants, and consumers shift to EMV chip cards, fraudsters will have to shift to other devious means of committing credit card fraud. One area prime for fraud involves “card not present” (CNP) fraud.

CNP fraud takes place when someone uses someone else’s credit card to pay for a transaction but does not physically present the card to the merchant. For example, when placing an order over the phone or online. It doesn’t matter if the card has a secure chip or not if the card is not present to be scanned and verified. So long as the fraudster has the credit card’s number, billing ZIP code and CVV (Card Verification Value) number.

CNP fraud is expected to displace the gains made by EMV chip cards, nearly dollar for dollar. This happened when Canada adopted EMV cards a few years ago. According to the Canadian Bankers Association, counterfeit card fraud went down from $245.4 million (CAD) in 2008 to $111.5 million in 2013. At the same time, CNP fraud increased from $128.4 million in 2008 to $299.4 million in 2013.

How to Prevent CNP Credit Card Fraud

An article on the subject posted on Pymnts.com offered a three-pronged approach to prevent CNP credit card fraud:

  • Tokenization, which makes stolen data useless 
  • Behavioral analytics, which helps in making authorization decisions 
  • “3-D secure,” which adds another layer of security such as a PIN or password 

Take CNP one step further by using order validation tools to verify customer information and detect signs of potential fraud. For example, DOTS Order Validation will produce an overall quality score based on inputs such as customer and credit card details.

Order Validation cross-validates data against seven distinct contact validation services such as BIN Validation, Address Validation, and Phone Exchange. Mismatches and risk factors (such as if the cardholder’s name is bogus, the shipping and billing addresses are different, or the card is a gift card or from a country of high risk) are immediately flagged before the transaction reaches the payment gateway. Using the quality score and warnings from our Order Validation API, you’ll be better able to detect potential CNP fraud before it happens.

Canadian Address Privacy Concerns

Canada has several privacy laws regulating the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information in the course of commercial activities. Under Canada’s private sector privacy laws, personal information is not allowed to be passed back and forth across the border unless the individual is notified. As alarming as this may sound if you’re a Canadian business using a US-based address validation service to validate customer addresses, rest assured that this is NOT an issue with Address Validation since address data does not fall in this category. 

Canada’s federal Personal Information Protection and Electronics Document Act (PIPEDA) applies in all provinces that lack their own substantially similar legislation. Currently, British Columbia, Alberta, and Québec all have substantially similar legislation covering private sector privacy issues. In general, personal information is defined as “information about an identifiable individual.” 

Service Objects has many clients in the US and Canada who call our real-time APIs to validate both USA and Canadian mailing addresses in order to improve deliverability rates and cut waste. Because privacy is always a concern whether there’s a law in place or not, they’re right to wonder if using address validation infringes upon their customers’ privacy. Rest assured, it does not.

We do not see or store the data in any way  

Among the finer points of the law is the distinction between “transfer for processing” and “disclosure.” According to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, PIPEDA does establish rules governing transfers for processing. A transfer for processing is a “use” of the information; it is not a disclosure. Assuming the information is being used for the purpose it was originally collected, additional consent for the transfer is not required.” 

Thus, if you originally collected address information for delivering a product your Canadian customer ordered, having a US-based address validation service process that address to verify its deliverability is a use — as intended. It is not a disclosure. And again, we never see or store the data.

If you need to validate a Canadian or US address and want extra assurance that you are not compromising your customer’s privacy or running afoul of Canada’s private sector privacy laws, you could simply pass only the address. There’s no need to pass a name with the address.

We understand — and share — your concerns about customer privacy. It’s an issue we take seriously and proactively address.

Try out DOTS Address Validation – Canada 2 for free for 30 days and let us know what you think:

Self-Learning Validation

Have you ever asked Siri to remind you to buy a certain product the next time you’re at the store, call your mom, or fetch the latest movie times? Technology that was once the realm of fantasy has made its way into your hands, and it’s getting smarter every day. Here at Service Objects, smart technology is integral to our business. Our validation services may not be as personable as Siri, but they’re even smarter.

Our email validation service currently keeps tabs on over 2 million domains each day, and that number continues to grow. The more data our email validation service collects, the smarter it becomes. We like to say that the service is “self-learning” because, with additional data, it can make better decisions about the integrity of an email address. Moreover, the email validation service can tap into this data to predict mail server behavior. 

For example, let’s say a large company obtains a new domain, example.com and begins issuing employee email addresses with that domain. When our email validation service first encounters an @example.com email address, it has minimal data to work with and will need to examine other data points as part of the email validation process. Once the example.com domain has been validated, future @example.com addresses can be processed more quickly. For example, if someone accidentally enters @exemple.com, our email validation service will have already learned the correct spelling of the domain and will be able to correct the spelling immediately.

Predicting mail server behavior is another area where our self-learning validation technology shines. For example, spammers often use disposable or temporary domains to spam mail forms in websites and mail servers directly. Spammers know that ISPs use sophisticated spam detection tools in an attempt to prevent spam from landing in their users’ inboxes. Thus, spammers obtain disposable IP addresses and domains, burning through them quickly as a means of circumventing spam detection. 

In theory, this would work. After all, new domains and IP addresses haven’t been blacklisted yet, allowing spammers’ messages to go through. Though the IP addresses and domains may change, the spammers’ behaviors, and other signature factors, often do not. As a result, even if a spammer uses a fresh IP and new domain, our self-learning validation service can promptly identify the spam attempt. 

All of this learning takes place behind the scenes — for your benefit.

 

Service Objects and the Hack-a-thon

What is a Hack-a-thon?

The term “hackathon” (or “hackfest,” “codefest, or “hackday”) combines the words hack and marathon. In other words, a caffeine-fueled frenzy of innovation. Though coding is a common hackathon task, these events, which can last from a single day or an all-nighter to more than a week, aren’t just for hacking. Hackathons can be used to solve a critical problem, to learn, to brainstorm new and innovative ideas, or even in support of a cause. Companies like Facebook, Google, Shutterstock, and AT&T are among the many notable companies that use hackathons. Here’s how we use hackathons here at Service Objects.

Every Day Hackathon Mentality

Innovation is important to Service Objects, so much so that we are given tremendous freedom to continually innovate our products. Innovation is part of our jobs to the point that every day is essentially a hack day. However, we also have to juggle our day-to-day tasks and other responsibilities. It dawned on us that starting our own hackathons would allow us focus on innovation in a more focused and more collaborative manner.

Service Objects’ Hackathons

So far, we have held two hackathons and are looking forward to our third one in the next month. Every other month, we set aside two solid days for our hackathons.

We block off the engineering area of the office using police tape to block off the hallway leading to our area. Though our area is located in a quiet, isolated corner of the building, having a physical blockade reinforces the message that we’ve already shared with the rest of the company: Do not disturb! Everyone knows that we are not to be interrupted unless it’s an emergency. Even then, one point of contact is assigned to handle the case, allowing the rest of the team to continue hacking.

The police tape also puts us in the right frame of mind. We know that when we enter the hackathon zone, we are entering an area where we are encouraged to step outside of our comfort zones. We have no set rules other than to build something we think will help the company and its customers. For example, our internal applications group might try their hand at interesting new services and functionality while the R&D team could create an internal app that they think would benefit the company in some way.

Though we’ve only held two hackathons to date, we’ve already generated some useful ideas such as:

.   The identification of unincorporated locations of a city

.   A new way to collect business data

.   A new fuzzy matching algorithm for our email validation service

.   A potential way to identify telemarketers from a phone number

The entire team looks forward to our hackathons. While we get to innovate daily, our hackathons allow us to come together — without interruption —  specifically to ask “What if?” and push ourselves outside of our comfort zones. We enter the each hackathon with the knowledge that anything is possible, and we conclude each one with a fresh set of ideas for the betterment of our company.

Then and Now: How Data Has Changed the Shopping Experience

Remember when Amazon first came along? That was 20 years ago in 1995. That same year, eBay arrived — and shopping as we formerly knew it was about to change dramatically. PayPal arrived in 2002, addressing concerns about online payments. Despite the Dot Com Bust and the Great Recession, online shopping is alive, well, and continuing to evolve. What’s shaping the online shopping experience today? Data.

How Data Impacts the Shopping Experience

Amazon is the perfect example of how data collection can impact the shopping experience. Let’s say that you’re searching for a new kitchen gadget, a pizza cutter, on Amazon. One of the pizza cutters you’re interested in looks good, and Amazon helpfully suggests a pizza pan and a pizza stone to go with your purchase. Yes, Amazon wants to sell more products to you, but these aren’t random upsells; they’re suggestions built upon real data and presented to you under the “Frequently Bought Together” section.

If you scroll down the page, you’ll also see “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” and “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed” sections.

Meanwhile, whether you buy the pizza wheel or not, Amazon will keep that data on file. When you log in to Amazon in the future, expect to see related suggestions and recommendations. The more data Amazon collects about you, the more personalized your shopping experience becomes. You’ll also start to notice more relevant email offers.

Online retailers also use data to determine the ideal reorder point for items such as laundry detergent, shampoo, ink cartridges, and other consumables. Again, we can thank data for optimizing these recommendations.

Data also impacts pricing — potentially in real time. For example, algorithms can be used to set prices based on demand, inventory levels, and other factors.

Offline retailers use data, too. The last time you swiped your rewards card at the drugstore, your purchase was captured and associated with your account. The next time you shop at that particular chain, your receipt may contain coupons related to your past purchases .

How Data Impacts Package Delivery

The packages that ultimately arrive, whether ordered online, via a catalog, or over the phone, are also affected by data. This may start at the point of sale and continue on in conjunction with the shipping carrier. For example, an online retailer will likely use address validation to verify the accuracy of your address and correct any errors such as a misspelled street name or transposed ZIP code. From there, the closest fulfillment center will be selected to ensure a timely delivery. Once the carrier gets involved, data will be used to determine the most efficient and cost-effective delivery route. As the saying goes, they have it down to a science — in this case, data science.

 What’s Next? 

Expect even more sophisticated data collection in the future. For example, some retailers are using location-based tracking and Web beacon technologies to track your movements in a store, detect your presence, and present you with instant offers. Omni-channel fulfillment is also hot, and data collection can help retailers to provide a seamless shopping experience across all of their channels. For example, when you check out at a department store, the clerk may be prompted to suggest a particular product based on the items you’ve previously looked at on the company’s online store.

We’ve come a long way since 1995. What will shopping look like 20 years from now?

The Anatomy of a Great Contact Record

contact-verificationMany of us work with databases containing row after row of contact records. We tend to think of these databases as a whole, oftentimes referring to a contact database as a “list.” While you may care deeply about the database’s quality and health overall, have you ever considered its health on a more cellular level? Let’s dig into data quality at the record level and figure out what a great contact record really is.

From a contact verification perspective, a great contact record contains five specific pieces of information. In all cases, this information must pass (or be corrected / flagged) several tests such as:  

  • Is it spelled correctly?  
  • Is it complete? 
  • Is it genuine? 
  • Is it current? 

The information contained within a great contact record are:

  • Name – Obviously, every contact record should have a name. However, do you have the contact’s full name? Is it real or is it bogus such as “John Hancock”? Is it vulgar? Is it the name of a celebrity? Is the name, as supplied, separated into individual data fields or is it a long string of text that’s difficult to work with? Name validation tools run various checks to weed out bogus contact information as well as parse names into their appropriate data fields such as: prefix, first name, middle name, last name, and suffix. In addition, name validation can suggest alternate spellings or related names.   
  • Address – Again, each contact record should have a valid shipping and/or billing address. USPS address validation standardizes and corrects addresses as well as provides you with additional insights such as whether the address is a post office box, an occupied residence, or an occupied business.    
  • Phone Number – Great contact records also include accurate phone numbers. However, it’s not always clear whether a supplied phone number is the contact’s home, business, or mobile phone. Reverse phone lookup and phone validation tools can be used to determine the validity of a given phone number, find out who it belongs to, identify the line type (such as landline, VOIP, or mobile phone), and more. Phone append tools are a type of contact verification that can find and append appropriate phone numbers for a contact record lacking this information.  
  • Email Address – Email addresses are also important for truly great contact records. However, it’s not uncommon for users to transpose letters or submit bogus email addresses in an attempt to keep spam at bay. Email verification can correct common domain misspellings and syntax errors as well as return detailed insights as to the address’s authenticity. 
  • IP Address – IP addresses provide geographic information related to a user’s Internet connection. This information is crucial in preventing fraud. For example, if an e-commerce customer claims to be in Los Angeles but the IP address reveals a Russian address, that’s a warning sign that the order could be fraudulent. IP address validation also identifies the use of public or anonymous proxy servers which are often used by criminals. 

From a business perspective, a great contact record contains all of the same basic information that our contact verification software validates. After all, you’ve gathered that information for specific purposes. A great contact record is one that has also been recently validated by appropriate contact verification tools. For example, if you have a mailing list, a great contact record is one that contains the required information and has recently undergone USPS address validation. 

Contact verification helps to ensure that your contact records are current, accurate, complete, and authentic — in other words, great!

Origins of Contact Data

You have a database filled with contact information. Great! However, before you launch that next direct mail campaign, you may want to do some preliminary contact verification. Depending on where your data came from, your database could have a serious case of the poor data quality blues. How your data fares in terms of data quality depends on where it came from, how old it is, and how long it’s been since the list underwent address verification.

So, where did your contact data come from? Generally speaking, you can either have first party, second, or third party contact data, or a mix of the three.

What is First Party Data?

First party contact data is contact data provided directly from your customers and prospects. For example, when a customer orders a product from your website and supplies you with his or her name, phone number, email address, and shipping address. While presumably genuine and accurate, contact verification is still recommended for verifying first party data due to occasional typos, autocorrect errors, spelling errors, mistakes, and even concerns about fraudulent orders. In addition, due to frequent address changes, plan on using data quality software to verify and correct contact information on a regular basis.

What is Second Party Data?

Second party contact data is data sourced from indirect channels such as via a partnership with another business. Here’s how Retargeter.com describes second party data: “…somebody else’s first party data.”

Like first party data, contract verification is important. While this data is presumably “clean” because your partner’s customers and prospects provided it directly, mistakes and errors are common and should be corrected and all addresses standardized. Data quality software makes this a snap. Plus, when was the last time your partner ran address verification on its list, and how old is that data? Again, you’ll want to run both an initial address verification check as well as cleanse the list on a regular basis to ensure you have the most current contact information possible.

What is Third Party Data?

Third party data, as the name implies, comes from a third party. It is generated externally from your company, and often aggregated from various sources. In fact, providers of third party data are frequently referred to as “data aggregators.” For example, when you buy demographic data or a mailing list from a data aggregator, that data is third party data. Though third party data has its place, it’s not necessarily as trustworthy as first party data. It really depends on the source.

Depending on the source, and depending on whether or not the data aggregator uses data quality software of its own, third party data could be filled with inaccurate contact information. Contact verification is an absolute must to clean up this data before you use it.

The Importance of Using Data Quality Software for Contact Verification
No matter how high quality your data may have been originally, as contact and demographic data ages, its quality degrades. People sell their homes and move away, business professionals move from one company to another, cities rename their streets, and so on.

So, a few mailers will come back as undeliverable; what’s the big deal? It’s not a big deal if you have a small list and are willing to manually correct addresses, but it becomes a big problem as your list size grows.

Service Objects’ real-time address verification API instantly corrects addresses and reduces costs, helping to ensure that your marketing dollars are well-spent and that you messages reach their intended audience. Whether you have first, second, or third party data, don’t you want that data to be current and accurate? Sign up for a free trial key and recover from the poor data quality blues.

24 Hours to Improving Your CRM

24-hour-contact-verificationSo you’ve invested in a customer relationship management (CRM) software and implemented its use across your business organization. Like any investment, a CRM deployment takes time to yield a positive return. What’s within your control, however, is the speed by which you get to that sweet ROI point. Here are four effective tips to instantly boost your CRM initiative.

1. CRM Education and Training for Employees

Enabling business organizations to systematize and synchronize customer data, manage targeted customer interactions, and give employees access to customer data through numerous platforms and devices. According to Gartner, “CRM will be at the heart of digital initiatives in the coming years.” In addition, “Hot areas for CRM investment include mobility, social media and technologies, Web analytics and e-commerce.”1

However, you won’t reap the benefits of a CRM deployment unless your employees–the very people who will be using the system to interact with your customers and persuade them to buy your product or sign up to your service offering–do not understand how your chosen CRM solution works. Employee training is crucial. A fast way to go about educating your employees is to first identify the tech-savvy ones and to have them comprise the pioneering batch of your CRM trainees. These formally trained employees can then be delegated to teach their colleagues.

2. “Social” CRM

Make sure to integrate your company’s CRM with the different social media platforms. By doing this, your employees can just as easily append a new customer’s email address, as well as automatically uncover social media profiles that are related to that email address. If your sales reps, for example, can view what your customers frequently post on their social media accounts, then they can better position their offers.

3. Lead Follow Up

It is costing your company a lot of money to house and maintain customer data on your CRM. So, ensure that your employees are reminded to follow up on solid leads and to nurture those showing promise. A CRM makes this easy because an employee has access to timely customer information, history, and preferences, as well as current price lists and other product data. Your employees also have quick and easy access to email templates that can be touched up and sent depending on need. So, there’s really no excuse not to follow up regularly, because a CRM makes touching base with leads an effortless task.

In addition, a CRM builds accountability among your employees. Their user logins are reflected on their every customer interaction, enabling them to see which ones still need a slight nudge toward a sale.

4. Standardized and Verified Customer Information

The success of your CRM initiative is largely dependent on the quality of your customer data. You cannot formulate good business decisions, let alone foster meaningful interactions with your customers, if you are working with dirty data replete with customer name misspellings and incorrectly entered addresses. Imagine having your employees send email messages containing salutations that refer to customers in a wrong gender. Also, think about the time and money wasted in sending messages to email addresses that were inadvertently mistyped.

Keep in mind that a CRM is a digital tool–albeit a high-performing one–and you have to wield it properly to get the most out of it. Your CRM is only as good as the customer information it contains and the employees leveraging such information. The latter you can address via appropriate CRM training sessions. As for contact verification, you have data quality services to help you. Because customer data is constantly changing (people move to new addresses, etc.), hiring someone to manually clean, verify, and update your customer information database may not be a cost-effective move. Contact verification can be automated via a suitable data validation API. Data quality services like Service Objects’ name, phone number, address, email address, and IP address validation solutions keep the information in your CRM always current and reliable.

1 Gartner Press Release, Gartner Says CRM Will Be at the Heart of Digital Initiatives for Years to Come, published February 12, 2014, http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2665215

NPS and Customer Success Go Hand-In-Hand 

Service Objects recognizes that our success depends on our customers’ success with our products. This is at the heart of our recently launched Customer Success Program. But, how do we know if our program is working? We ask — and we measure success using what’s known as a Net Promoter Score (NPS). 

customer-success

With a solid Customer Service Program in place, NPS scores invariably rise. By benchmarking success and regularly revisiting those NPS scores, companies can quickly find out where they stand.

Our Customer Success Program at a Glance

Officially launched in October 2014, our Customer Success Program features intensive customer support during the first 60 days — complete with a dedicated Customer Success Manager, two scheduled check-ins, programming and best practices consultations with engineers, and usage and strategy reviews. These check-ins, consultations, and reviews are strategically timed, allowing customers the opportunity to get acquainted with the product before more in-depth guidance is offered. After the first 60 days, we provide ongoing customer support featuring quarterly check-ins, 24/7 emergency response, courtesy testing keys, extended trial keys, and more. This program is included with all annual contracts.

What is NPS and Why is it so Important?

The Net Promoter Score is based on the concept that customers fall into three categories: Promoters, Passives, and Detractors. NPS is a numerical value on a scale from 0 to 10 derived from customers answering the following question: On a scale from 0 to 10, with ‘0’ being ‘very unlikely’ and ’10’ being ‘extremely likely,’ how likely are you to recommend the company, product or service to a friend or colleague? 

NPS Scoring: 

  • 9 – 10: Promoters (loyal enthusiasts who refer others and continue buying) 
  • 7 – 8:   Passives (satisfied customers, but not terribly enthusiastic)
  • 0 – 6:   Detractors (unhappy customers who could share negative experiences with others) 

nps-equationThe percentage of detractors is subtracted from the percentage of promoters, resulting in the company’s Net Promoter Score which is expressed as a percentage.

Below are a few examples of companies with the highest NPS scores in their industries for 2014: 

  • USAA (Banks & Insurance) — 81% 
  • Apple (Technology – Tablets) — 66% 
  • Kaiser Permanente (Health Insurance) — 40% 
  • Pandora (Entertainment)  — 56% 
  • Amazon (Online Shopping)  — 64% 
  • Southwest Airlines (Airlines) — 62% 
  • Westin (Hotels) — 59% 
  • DirectTV (Cable/Satellite TV) — 34%   

As you can see, brands known for high customer satisfaction rates are well represented on this list. Scores in the 60s through 80s are considered quite high. According to The Net Promoter Community, average companies have NPS scores of just 5 to 10 percent, and many companies (including entire industries) actually have negative NPS scores.

Service Objects’ NPS Score

NPS-customer-serviceService Objects’ customers have an opportunity to provide this feedback whenever we interact with them such as during upgrades, downgrades, and after technical support inquiries. Our NPS score is 70%, putting us within just a few percentage points of customer service behemoths such as Amazon, Apple, and Southwest Airlines. 

Our NPS score tells an important part of our story. However, while the numeric score is meaningful, the anonymous comments from our respondents are invaluable. They reinforce our strong commitment to customer success. 

Below are just a few of the many comments we receive:

  • Easy to set up and easy to use. 
  • You have a fast, easy-to-use service and your customer support has been very responsive. 
  • Super customer service and communication. 
  • The response time to support inquiries is great. Also I can’t think of a time that there has ever been any downtime with Service Objects services. 
  • I’ve been a customer since 2006. Your product and support have always been excellent. 
  • Solid implementation, high up-time and prompt customer service responses. Way to go guys! 
  • A very quick professional response unseen in most companies. Polite staff and quick resolution despite time differences. 
  • You have a powerful web service and your customer service has been extremely responsive and very helpful. 
  • Only a 9 because no one gets a 10!!
  • The whole team was very responsive in working with us to determine and price the appropriate solutions for our company. 
  • Value – good data at an appropriate price. 
  • Convenience – Data Tumbler is fast and easy. 
  • Customer Service – very responsive. 

With comments like these and an NPS score that puts us in good company, we think we’re doing a pretty good job. That said, there’s always room for improvement, and we’re continually striving to make your experience with Service Objects a resounding success!  Please always feel free to send us an email or call and let us know what we can do to improve your experience.

Happy Holidays! 

Sources: 

CustomerGauge, Net Promoter News: 2014 US Net Promoter Benchmarks at a Glance, – http://customergauge.com/news/2014-net-promoter-benchmarks/

 

Why It’s Easier to Succeed With Contact Validation Than You Might Think

contact-validationYou’ve heard of all the benefits of contact validation, but yet something’s holding you back. Whether you’re unsure about how to implement contact validation with your existing systems or concerned about the potential cost, rest assured, it’s easier to succeed with contact validation than you might think. Here’s why:

Various contact validation APIs are readily available.

The type of data you can validate with contact validation software includes everything from names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses to credit card BIN numbers and demographic data and more. Whether you need to pinpoint the exact physical location of your customers for accurate deliveries, would like to learn more about your customers, want to reduce your mailing costs, or want to validate transactional data for signs of fraud, there’s a contact validation product that can do it.

APIs are easy to integrate into existing systems and web forms as well as third party software such as Salesforce.com, Oracle DB, and Drupal UberCart.

For example, Service Objects APIs work with most common web form types including Java, PHP, .NET, and others. Sample code is provided for many programming languages. In addition, Service Objects has a team of experienced engineers who are happy to help guide you through the XML integration process. If you use SalesForce.com, Oracle DB, Microsoft CRM 2011, Microsoft Office, Microsoft SQL Server, or Drupal UberCart, integrating contact validation into your existing solution is a simple matter of installing a plugin; there’s no programming required.

You can get up to 500 free API test validations to try before you buy.

If you’re not sure that contact validation is right for your organization, one way to find out for sure is to try it for yourself. Service Objects offers a free trial key for each of its contact validation APIs, allowing you to validate up to 500 contacts before making a decision.

Once configured, contact validation happens in real-time.

The hardest part is deciding to embrace contact validation and implement a real-time contact validation solution, and that’s really not all that difficult. From there, your contacts will be validated at the point of entry. You’ll never send another expensive mailer to “Homer Simpson” at 123 Main Street again because the API will recognize that name and address as bogus the moment it’s entered.

Contact validation quickly pays for itself.

Contact validation has a fantastic ROI. For example, if 15 percent of the addresses in your mailing list are undeliverable and you mail 10,000 letters a month, you’d be paying for supplies and postage for 1,500 letters each month. Assuming you’re paying 44 cents in postage, that’s at least $660 each month in wasted postage. Contact validation can also reduce fraud, improve deliveries, and improve productivity, all of which have a positive effect on your bottom line.

Finally, Service Objects includes its “Customer Success Program” with its annual contracts. Dedicated account support, engineering and application support, courtesy testing keys, and a 24/7 emergency response work together to ensure your contact validation success! So what are you waiting for? Start your free trial today and see for yourself just how easy it is to succeed with contact validation! 

contact-validation-trial

 

When & How to Best Use Batch Cleanup

Updated from original post The Business of Batches, published 04/02/09

We are often asked, “What is the difference between integrating an API versus running a batch?” Running a batch through one of our contact validation services involves sending your data as a CSV (comma separated values) or Excel file to us for a one-time cleanup. In contrast, programming an API into your application or database will allow you to cleanse, standardize, and correct data as it comes through, in real-time.

real-timeThere are many options to combine both batch and real-time methods for optimal, up-to-date data quality. If you have an existing contact or customer database, it’s a good idea to start with a batch cleanup; that way any incorrect or incomplete data already lurking in your database will be fixed and updated. While you’re prepping your batch, you can also begin integrating the contact validation API that best fits your needs. However, if API integration is not an option, we often recommend an auto-scheduled FTP batch that can run nightly, weekly, monthly, or by increments of a designated number of transactions. Frequent or real-time use of our web services is the best way to ensure your contact information is accurate, up-to-date, and genuine.

Here are more common questions and answers regarding batch vs. real-time API validation:

Can I order a batch for any of your services?
With the exception of only a few services, the majority of DOTS services are offered in both API and as batch processes.

Is the data different?
The data returned is exactly the same, only the manner in which it is received is different:

  • Real-time APIs return the data via the Web in an XML string using standard Internet protocols.
  • Batches are manually processed most commonly in CSV or Excel formats. The data output is the same as the APIs, it’s just appended within the file.

What is your pricing for batch services?
Each batch we process has a $125 batch handling fee per file, while API services have a one-time set-up fee of $95, which is waived with an annual contract.

How do I send in my batch to be processed?
Just send your batch file to your friendly Service Objects client rep, or use the online batch upload on our website.

DOTS batch services are a convenient, fast, and easy solution for quick cleanup of your existing contact and customer data. Once you’ve scrubbed your database clean, integrate the API to keep your database in tiptop shape with the most genuine, accurate, and up-to-date data available!

Connecting the DOTS: It Starts With a Name

New video series Connecting the DOTS featuring Jim Harris of Obsessive-Compulsive-Data-Quality explores name validation and it’s important role in ensuring data quality excellence within your organization.

The most personal of personal data is a person’s name, which is why the most impersonal thing, is getting a person’s name wrong. When our names are entered into databases, either by ourselves, or others, we want interfaces that can parse and validate our names, and be able to differentiate the authentic from the invalid and fraudulent. Your business is dependent on the quality of your contact data, and when it comes to contact data, it starts with a name.

DOTS Name Validation is a real-time API web service that parses names into individual data fields, fixes the order of names, and returns the gender associated with the first name. With name verification, companies can instantly weed out legitimate contacts from bogus ones, stopping fraudulent names at the point-of-entry. Make sure that your contact records contain correct names by using DOTS Name Validation 2 to verify accuracy.

Jim Harris OCDQ BlogJim Harris is a recognized data quality thought leader with over 20 years of enterprise data management experience. Jim 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.

What’s in a (First & Last) Name?

Little known fact: William Shakespeare was an accomplished data quality expert before he hit it big as a playwright. In fact, data quality was an underlying theme of many of his plays.

romeo-julietName validation, for example, played a central role in Romeo and Juliet where, in the family feud of fair Verona, the Capulets and Montagues were sworn enemies. This was bad news for the budding relationship of Juliet Capulet and Romeo Montague. If an unacceptable family name be the cause of such calamity, what could the young lovers do? Perhaps a little strategic data cleansing? “Deny thy father, and refuse thy name,” suggests Juliet to Romeo. “Or, if you will not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”

After realizing that parting with their family names would be such sweet sorrow, Juliet ponders their predicament more philosophically. “What is Montague? It is not hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man.” Furthermore, she semantically argues, “what’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Shakespeare’s other line of work was much more pragmatic. What’s in a name? Prefix, first name, middle name, last name, and suffix. To parse or not to parse was often not a question since many sources of contact data do not separate names into those individual data fields. What is Montague? Romeo’s last name. Further name verification can determine the gender most commonly associated with the first name, identifies possible nicknames and related names (including Bill, Billy, Will, and Willie for the so-called Bard of Avon), and assesses the likelihood a name is fake (even outside of Verona, the name Juliet Capulet-Montague probably merits suspicion).

If the validity of the names Montague and Capulet had not been so fiercely debated, the story of Juliet and her Romeo would not have been a tale of woe. The blogger protests too much, methinks. One thing is certain, however. Name validation is essential to preventing your business and its contact data from becoming star-crossed lovers.

Jim Harris of 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.

 

Why Google Maps Isn’t a Good Substitute for Address Validation

Updated from March 2010

What is the difference between Address Validation and Google Maps?

Deliverability, deliverability, deliverability. Okay, there are a few others, but that’s the big one. Just because Google Maps places a marker on a map when you input an address, does not mean that you can deliver mail there, nor that a property even exists at that marker.

Take the following “address”:

4130 Calle Real Santa Barbara, CA 93110

View Larger Map

As you can see, Google Maps says this is a valid address and puts its marker next to an empty field with no buildings. As you’d expect this is not a deliverable address and will be returned to sender.

The reason for this discrepancy is that Google Maps is not an Address Validator, it is a Geolocation Estimator that uses addresses to aid in its estimation.

Imagine two people each holding a ruler with the numbers 1 – 12 printed on it. One of them is blind-folded. If they were asked to point to the number “6”, how would each one go about it?

The one who could see all the numbers would just find the 6 and point to it. The one who was blind-folded would probably guess that 6 was printed right in the middle of the ruler and point there.

But what if the ruler was missing the number “6”? Well, the person who could see all the numbers would state that the number was invalid, and the blindfolded person would point to an empty space in the middle of the ruler.

Google is blindfolded. They know street names, and the numbers on the endpoints, but very little about the numbers in-between. Often they assume a continuous and evenly-spaced number line and point to where they’d guess your number is.

Admittedly, this is an extreme example. But what it demonstrates primarily is that Google Maps does not have a strong knowledge of valid primary numbers within street segments and therefore cannot be used to determine deliverability of an address. The only thing that can reliably determine deliverability is a CASS-Certified Address Validation Engine that can match an address against the USPS database of valid addresses.

 

Tor Infographic: The good, the bad, the anonymous.

Press Release Read on Service Objects

Service Objects released today a whitepaper entitled “Tor: The good. The bad. The anonymous. Finding the Balance of Anonymity.” The paper provides a user-friendly explanation of the complicated Tor network – giving readers a new understanding of what Tor is, how it works and how it can impact Internet users and online retailers. Download Whitepaper Here!

Tor: The good. The bad. The anonymous.

Getting to the Inbox – Five Important Features of Email Validation

Each year over 25% of email addresses in a company’s customer or contact database become obsolete. The reasons are numerous: people switch jobs, change email providers or unsubscribe from a mailing list. As your email list goes out of date, you run the risk of dramatically increasing bounce rates, putting your company at risk of being black-listed by ISPs.

“The most important thing a company can do to protect themselves from being added to SPAM lists is to ensure the deliverability of every email address they have,” states Emanuel Fuentes, Software Engineer at Service Objects. “By regularly validating email addresses in their systems, companies not only maximize the potential of existing relationships, they also reduce inefficiencies in their processes and reduce waste of time and resources.”

Five important features to look for when selecting an email validation service:

  1. Does the service perform error checking on both sides of the @ sign – both in the user name and the domain name. TIP: Look for a company that eliminates invalid email addresses like “test@test.com,” which appears to be a legitimate email to many services.  Sophisticated algorithms can help weed out these addresses.
  2. Does the service verify that the domain in the email address exists, and has a valid MX record associated with it
  3. Does the service perform a test at the mailbox level, and determine if that mailbox actually receives mail
  4. Does the service detect and flag bogus or malicious addresses that may be cluttering up your inbox
  5. Does the service provide  a free trial so that you can test for yourself and verify the actual match rates

An email validation service like DOTS Email Validation will help protect your business by identifying possible issues, allowing you to address them before sending out an email blast.

Safeguard your business against SPAM violations by ensuring your emails are delivered – every time.

Addition of 103 Million Contacts Improves Contact Validation Accuracy

New Enhancement Will Improve Your Contact Data Accuracy for Reverse Phone Lookup and Lead Enhancement and Scoring.

Traditional consumer data sources such as Directory Assistance are offered by typical industry vendors to lead aggregators, retailers and company’s dependent on contact information, as a way to improve match rates and viability of collected contact information. This way of improving contact data is becoming less and less of a viable solution by the day. These Directory Assistance dependent sources suffer from weak, incomplete and missing contact data (see examples below). The problem continues to worsen due to the ongoing shift in land line vs mobile phone usage, long update time-frames for carrier client data, and limitations on use of carrier client data.

What can you do?

Service Objects offers a number of web service based products that utilize numerous public and proprietary data sources containing over 400 million phone records, and utilize a proprietary scheme of cascading logic to resolve caller identification data as a way to maximize match rates and contact data accuracy.

We now take the next step in helping you improve your contact data.

Service Objects has improved the accuracy of DOTS GeoPhone, DOTS GeoPhone Plus, DOTS Lead Enhancement Plus and DOTS Lead Validation web services with the addition of important new name and address data. These services are now utilizing a proprietary database of verified consumer records with enhanced and alternate name and address information. This new database contains 103 million contact records.

This new database allows Service Objects DOTS Web Services to enhance phone lookups by accurately overlaying missing elements such as name and critical address fields such as apartment, suite, floor, and unit numbers, onto partial contact records.

This important addition of data greatly improves the completeness and accuracy of contact data information. See the example below.

Example of Enhanced Contact Validation Using Expanded Data

Example: Improved Accuracy and Completeness

Without the enhanced data providing expanded and verified name information and the addition of the actual apartment number this contact data is confusing at best and probably useless for the purposes of lead creation, retail shipments, postal contact or any application that needs name and contact data integrity.

These DOTS Web Services enhancements are now an integral part of the products as of May 2011 and available for you to enhance your contact data.

Facebook Email Addresses: A Boon for Email Validation Systems

Recently, Facebook announced a new email service that allows Facebook users to seamlessly integrate personalized Facebook e-mail accounts with their Facebook profiles. This “social inbox” concept links together SMS, IM, and e-mail into a single platform. The product provides you with an @facebook.com e-mail address that links to your profile. For instance, my Facebook account is: http://www.facebook.com/geoffrey.grow, so my Facebook email would be geoffrey.grow@facebook.com

This will be a boon for e-mail validation, in that the new Facebook messaging features will allow validators (like us) to link Facebook e-mail addresses to Facebook accounts. Pseudo-anonymous e-mail addresses (like pilot193@gmail.com) have always been a challenge to businesses; linking Facebook email addresses to profiles will aid in weeding-out unrelated contacts and fraudulent transactions. Linking together e-mail, Facebook accounts, SMS, and the contact, in other words, linking together the channels, will improve visibility into online transactions, and is a win-win for all parties (except the bad guys).

Posted by: Geoff G.

Does Email Validation Help Catch Bogus Email Addresses?

A lot of people ask what an email validation system really does and if it really helps catch bogus email addresses.

The short answer is, it weeds out good email addresses from bad. However, all email validation systems are not created equal. Some help and others don’t.

A standard method is to use server-side scripting on Web forms to verify that emails are input correctly; it’s easy to defeat this method though by simply typing in anything@whatever.com.

With a standard email validation system, this example passes muster because it has a name, an @-sign and a TLD (Top Level Domain. Ex. .com, .org, .net): Not so with an instant, advanced email validation Web Service. If you’re in e-commerce, or any business that’s dependent upon correct email information, you’ll need more than server-side scripts to weed out bogus email addresses.

An advanced email validation Web service uses tricky algorithms to quickly identify bad information within email addresses. Think of an email validation Web service as an online x-ray device that sees through an email address’ basic structure to identify shortcomings that are not obvious by mere observation.

While standard email validation falls short in identifying bogus email addresses, advanced email validation goes the extra mile and does a pretty thorough job. An email validation Web service checks for things like: does the domain really exist? If it does, does it have rules for allowable domain names? Can it contain numbers, vulgar terms? Does the mailbox even exist within that domain? What about the SMTP server?

Two Types of Online Fraud Everyone Can Do Without

DOTS Telephone Verification Steps Up Site Security

The threat from computer crimes and other online security breaches has barely slowed, never mind stopped, according to a recent survey of 538 security professionals in U.S. corporations that was conducted by the Computer Security Institute and the FBI’s Computer Intrusion Squad.1

One such crime is online identity theft, and the two most popular ways to carry it out is though Phishing2 and Pharming3. Phishers bait you using provocative fake emails that send you to fake sites, and are successful because there is still a large part of the Internet population that is unaware of their tactics. Pharmers gather unsuspecting victims by redirecting legitimate URLs to bogus sites.

Armed with the information they harvest from consumer inputs, Phishers’ and Pharmers’ activities account for billions of dollars a year in online fraud. Companies today can play a key role in protecting their customers and themselves by fending off agents of these Phishers and Pharmers; stepping up site security and making it more difficult for them to use their ill-gotten information.

Counter online crime by integrating a live telephone verification service that communicates directly with the person interacting with your site. During a transaction, after (s)he enters his/her phone number into your Web form, the service calls or texts back with a Personalized Identification Number (PIN) that (s)he must then enter into the form before continuing on. This checks to see if the phone number is working and correct. At this point, fraudsters generally fall out. They thrive on impersonating others and doing things that can’t be traced, so, most likely, their input phone numbers will be fake and they won’t be able to complete their transactions.

Take extra measures. To guard against those that try to trick the system by using others’ phones, Service Objects’ DOTS Telephone Verification goes even further by building in optional operations you can use to identify the caller or validate the information your contact types in.

Customize your security system. You can deploy one or several operations depending on the conditions you set. For example, if you know that there is a high rate of fraud coming from a particular region, you can flag calls coming in from that region, and before delivering a PIN, without delay, check the input phone number against the listed name associated with it. You might also decide to check the contact’s geographical location or other information, such as address listing, to verify that the person placing the call is who (s)he says (s)he is.

If a phone number doesn’t match up to the person interacting with your site, set a condition and create another step in your verification process requesting further information. If the contact is truly a customer, then compliance should be no problem; but if (s)he is up to no good, this is probably where (s)he will abandon his or her mission.

CONCLUSION:

As long as the Internet exists and people continue to do business online, Phishers and Pharmers are not going away. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Internet users are duped every day. You can help protect your customers and your company by thwarting these fraudsters’ attempts to use the information they harvest from unwitting consumers.

Step up the security on your site by verifying phone numbers with a live telephone verification service that not only communicates directly with each person that interacts with your site, but also has the capacity to validate that his or her information is correct.

Verify and validate: a powerful combination that helps keep your online customers and business secure.


For more information about DOTS Telephone Verification, please visit: //www.serviceobjects.com/products/phone/telephone-verification


1 Excerpt from Computerworld, http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/62002/Security_Statistics_

2 Phishing is a method of “baiting” users to give up personal information by sending out legitimate looking emails that contain links that go to fake sites designed to look equally as legitimate as the emails. Phishers are impersonators claiming to be legitimate companies (banks, popular shopping sites, etc.) in order to scam users into giving up private account information. Phishing, in a way, is similar to fishing with a net. Phishers throw their “nets” out, bait users to enter, and eventually drag in an adequate percentage of victims.

3 Pharming is more insidious in that it doesn’t just rely on bait to gather and harvest users’ personal information; even the most Internet savvy user may unwittingly become a victim. Pharmers operate by re-directing Internet users to bogus Web sites— even if they type into their browsers the exact address of their banks or other online services. So basically, someone believing that (s)he is interacting with his/her bank is actually providing the pharmer with his/her bank information, social security number and/or other private information that can be used to perpetrate a bevy of offline as well as online criminal activities.

LeadsCon 2010… Its all about Quality Leads

I am out in Las Vegas attending LeadsCon 2010. THE Lead Generation Conference. After day one, the event is off to a great start. What I have noticed is that throughout the sessions, a recurring theme is Quality.

Quality Data. Quality Leads. Quality relationships between lead buyers and lead sellers.

I couldn’t agree more. The internet is rife with bad data and bad leads. And passing off this bad data as a “lead” is one of the key reasons for friction between Lead Buyers and Lead Sellers. So what is the answer?

“Keeping honest people–honest.” Contact validation is a critical component in this process. Whether you are a lead buyer or a lead seller, contact validation can help ensure the validity and contactability of a lead. By looking at a variety of data points for each contact, Lead Validation will help determine whether or not a lead should be accepted, rejected or reviewed.

The skinny on the benefits:
Lead Sellers- Improve your standings with buyers by increasing your percentage of valid/actionable leads. Demand higher price point per lead.
Lead Buyers- Only buy the leads that are the highest quality and likelihood of contactability.

Visit us on the web to see how our Contact Validation solutions can help you ensure the leads you are buying or selling are really going to drive more business to your bottom line.

Posted by: Gretchen N.

Why Cross Checking is Important When Using a Contact Validation Web Service

I have been working with web services for over 6 years now and have helped many companies both big and small to resolve their frustration with the online world of bogus lead chaos and bad affiliate programs.

With all of the information and services available to help validate your inbound leads you need to make sure that it is doing more than just a simple check for validity. There are a lot of Lead Validation services out there claiming that they are the best, but let’s really ask ourselves, what are they doing that is so unique? How will they really be able to assure you that they are catching your bad leads?
Good Question.

Direct Mail Marketing Isn’t Going Anywhere Yet

While many industry experts are calling 2010 the year that will “kill marketing as we know it”, some feel that we shouldn’t be so quick to write off some of the good ole’ tried and true methods. I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal that further convinced me. The article, “Firms Hold Fast to Snail Mail Marketing” talks about several companies who made a shift away from their direct mail campaigns and found their business suffered direct losses from eliminating this type of communication with their customers and targets.

Direct mail marketing can still prove to be a very effective way to reach customers and prospects. Especially for small businesses with a unique offering who are looking to stand out and continue a dialog with their audience. I think the main issue with Direct Mail though is that it needs to be done smartly, with consideration that people are constantly being bombarded with messages, offers and promotions through other mediums. Direct mail should not equal waste. It should not be a waste of time for the recipient, environmental resources or budget dollars.

Businesses who plan to use Direct Mail as a part of their marketing efforts in 2010 might consider committing to make their campaigns more effective and less wasteful by putting in place “greener mail” initiatives. Each year, the US postal service attempts to deliver billions of pieces of mail that will never reach their intended recipient due to being undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA). Using tools that verify and standardize addresses is a quick and cost effective way to reduce the impact of direct mailings.

Posted by: Gretchen N.

The Business of Batches

We often hear the question, “What is the difference between your Batch services and your Real-Time XML Web Services? Hopefully these key points will help shed some light on the matter.

Can I order a Batch for any of your services? With the exception of only a few services, the majority of DOTS Services are offered in both Real-Time XML and as Batch processes.

Is the data different? The data returned is exactly the same, only the manner in which it is received is different:

1) Real-Time Services return the data via the Web in an XML string using standard Internet protocols.

2) Batches are manually processed most commonly in CSV (comma separated values) or Excel formats. The data output is the same as the Real-Time Services, it’s just appended within the file.

What is your pricing for Batch services? Batch pricing is identical to its Real-Time counterpart – simply use the same pricing tiers that are on the Web site. The only difference in pricing can be found in the setup fees. Each Batch we process has a $125 batch handling fee per file, while Real-Time Services have a one-time set-up fee of $95.

How do I send in my Batch to be processed? Justsend your Batch file to your friendly Service Objects representative or use the online Batch upload tool on our Web site which can be found here.

DOTS Batch Services are a convenient, fast, and easy solution. Contact us today to see how we can help scrub your database clean of bogus information.

Thank you for reading this week and I hope that I have answered all of your questions!

Will E.

When the Going Gets Tough the Tough use DOTS Web Services

With the economy amidst a downfall you need to exercise your budget, right? Service Objects can help you lean down expenses and keep moving forward with DOTS Lead Validation.

Efficiency is key in this day and age, and what directly attributes to efficiency? Streamlining and Automation!

Can you tell just by looking at your leads which ones are HOT and which ones are BAD?

Add up all the money you are spending on the cost of incoming leads, marketing campaigns, and sales team follow-ups. It quickly adds up, especially if your HOT leads are becoming weak during your qualification process. What a waste of time, energy, opportunity, and most of all money!

What if you had instant visibility into your leads? Imagine immediately calling to follow-up with a lead while their interest is still fresh. There would be no doubt that you would easily increase sales and efficiency. dunbell1

DOTS Lead Validation will do all the work for you within milliseconds! You will instantly know if the lead is a business or consumer, if their telephone number, mailing address, email, and IP number are valid, and if that lead is worth your time and money.

As proof that DOTS Lead Validation works, check out our Web site, we are HIRING not firing, because we are doing well despite the recession. Why? Because DOTS Lead Validation works for us too 🙂

strongarm2 So, keep your business focused on strong leads during tough times. Get strong and get going with DOTS Lead Validation!

Thanks for reading this week,

Ericka J.