industry news SME profile Monday 14 Nov 2022 @ 14:12 Why clean databases aren't just for Christmas



Latest Article By Barley Laing, the UK Managing Director at Melissa

As the end of the year looms some in the public sector invest any available end of year budget into ‘back office’ tasks, such as cleaning their user databases. This sees them cleaning the contact data on their databases – names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses of those that use their services – to ensure accurate datasets.

Importance of year round data quality

However, this isn’t an efficient way to invest precious budget. Delivering data quality is not something to look at on a seasonal or once a year basis. The reason - people move, get married and die all the time. In fact, user contact data degrades at 25 per cent a year without regular intervention, and is why predominantly 91 per cent organisations suffer from common data quality issues.

It is only by maintaining clean databases of those that use their services all year round that public bodies can avoid wasting time and precious budget on inaccurate communications, continue to provide a standout service to the public and even reduce the opportunity for fraud.

Having accurate data on users at their fingertips enables those in the public sector to obtain valuable insight, such as a single citizen view (SCV), which can be used for better targeting, including personalisation with communications. It also enables them to make informed decisions; for example, on the future of a service, or the creation of a new one.

The good news is that incorrect contact data, such as name, address, email or telephone number, can be easily fixed on an ongoing basis, often with simple and cost-effective changes as part of their data quality regime.

Address Autocomplete

A standout option as part of the cleaning process is an address autocomplete or lookup service. It immediately pulls up an accurate, correctly formatted address as the user starts to input their address data when registering for a service, for example. It’s vital in an age when many people are completing contact forms on small mobile screens where they are more likely to make errors.

And because this tool matches a name to an address, which is a crucial part of the data cleaning process, it provides address validation which helps with ID verification.

In fact, fraud will be much less likely to occur against those who have ongoing processes in place to ensure data hygiene.

The first point of contact verification of this sort can also be extended to email and phone, so that these valuable contact data channels can be verified in real-time. This ensures those in the public sector are able to communicate effectively with users, not just on the first occasion, but on an ongoing basis. 

Fuzzy matching tool to deduplicate date

When cleaning data it’s vital to ensure processes are in place to avoid duplicate data. This is commonly caused by mistakes in contact data collection at different touchpoints, and when two departments merge their data. Duplicate data is both costly monetary wise and in reputation. It adds cost in terms of time and money, particularly with duplicate printed communications, the distribution of which can also adversely impact on the sender’s reputation. The recipients will see this as a waste of public money at what is a challenging time for public sector finances. To prevent this, source an advanced fuzzy matching tool to deduplicate data and create a unified record for citizens. It’s something that will also reduce the potential for fraud.

Data suppression / cleansing

Undertaking data suppression, or cleansing, will help those in the public sector save money and protect their reputation. It will highlight those who have moved - commonly called goneaways - or are otherwise no longer at the address on your database. In addition, suppression services that include deceased flagging ensures mail and other communications are not sent to those who have passed away, upsetting their friends and relatives.

Easy to use SaaS data quality platforms

With evolving technology it’s even more straightforward for the public sector to deliver data quality in real-time and cost effectively. Today, you can pay for a licence to access a scalable data cleaning software as a service (SaaS) platform that requires no code, integration or training - simply plug in and benefit, immediately. Using a single, intuitive interface these tools provide data standardisation, validation, and enrichment to deliver high quality contact information across multiple databases.

It is time for the public sector to change their habits when it comes to cleaning data, and not only consider it at the year end when there might be some remaining budget to play with. It’s by putting processes in place and sourcing the appropriate technology that will ensure quality user data all year round. Those that do this will reap the rewards of improved targeting, better user experience, fraud reduction and efficiency savings.

About Melissa: 
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