Warning: Don’t delay your data audit
Carrying out regular audits of company financials is commonplace; auditing your business processes for Quality Management is also key – imperative if you are maintaining an ISO qualification.
Auditing your data is equally important, as it is crucial to ensure that your campaigns remain effective, that your pipeline remains full, and that you remain lawful in terms of data protection.
Internal management and review
A vital first step to maintaining data quality is ensuring that your data entry systems are effective and are used efficiently by those working with them every day, such as:
- Sales team entering client and sales details;
- Marketing department monitoring response rates;
- Accounts team entering financials;
- Customer service personnel compiling feedback;
- Engineers reporting on equipment or faults;
- Shop staff monitoring promotion uptakes.
There may be more or less people and business functions involved, depending on the nature of your business. Whichever teams and individuals are tasked with gathering and entering data on your customers, prospects and business – the importance of carefully checking and accurately adding details must be stressed.
Once you are confident of the data entry processes, there are a few internal checks you can do on your own data. These checks are most often achieved by exporting your data to Excel (unless your systems include tools to achieve the following tasks):
- Checking for common spelling mistakes;
- Identifying and removing any placeholder text such as ‘unknown’ or ‘don’t call’ in the name or other fields;
- De-duplicating records by sorting by a unique identifier (such as email address) and removing any records where the details are the same;
- Profanity checking to ensure inappropriate language has not been entered.
External independent audits
Internal maintenance on an ongoing basis is vital. Also, using the expertise of a Data Marketing company prior to any large campaign, mailing or analysis activity is recommended.
A professional external audit offers a more in-depth and thorough review of your data and will highlight any accuracy issues, which may be caused where data has become out of date, or result from errors during data entry. Additionally, external audits can highlight any missing information such as address or phone number details; also where information may be available for marital status, gender (B2C) or company size, sector (B2B) and more.
Following data audits
Subsequent to your own audit and an external audit you may decide to undertake a cleansing process to improve your files’ data quality, or you may have discovered your data is well-maintained internally and does not require updating.
The most obvious benefit from cleansing the file, if required, is the money that can be saved by not mailing to inaccurate customer or prospect details, as well as protecting and improving your brand perception by generating more accurate communications.
In instances where cleansing is ultimately required, the areas where issues are highlighted may also help you to determine how and where they are arising during data entry. For example, if name spellings were an issue this may be tied back to the sales team; if this was present only in a particular geographic area it may identify a training requirement for one particular Regional Sales person.
- Have you successfully used auditing in the past?
- What sort of issues have you identified?
- What is your experience of external data audits?