Avoiding Mistakes in a Multichannel Environment

Sep 05, 2006 8:21 PM  By

What can a low-scoring – or no-hitter – baseball game teach us about doing business in a multichannel world? Although some fans may claim such games are boring to watch, a no-hitter game reinforces that the winners are often the ones who make the fewest mistakes. While fundamentally sound pitching and fielding may not offer fans the opportunity to catch a lot of home-run balls, it is often one of the smartest ways to play the game.

Error avoidance is smart in business too. Recent research by Dynamic Markets shows that 77% of American businesses admit to losing revenue to simple data errors. Data problems have a deep impact, costing U.S. firms on average 7.3% percent in lost revenue.

Think about how much of your business is dedicated to correcting errors. If a customer calls to order a baseball glove and the order arrives on time without any problems, how many of your employees “touch” the process? Not many.

Now think about how many people get involved when something goes wrong. Let’s start with the phone call. How much time does your contact center representative spend going back and forth with customers verifying the correct spelling of street names? What happens when a package gets lost in the mail or the wrong item arrives? What if, just as the call concludes, inaccurate data are settling in to your company’s database? Now transfer the ordering process to your Web channel, where the problems associated with mistakes are magnified as there is no human involved to double-check customer data in real time.

How much of your time is spent fixing mistakes, and more important, how can you avoid them?

First, measure. Determine the scale of the data quality problem in your organization. How much are you spending on delivery service surcharges for incomplete addresses? How many complaint calls do you receive, and how much time is spent on each one? How much staff time is spent researching bad data with a phone call or a phone book? In many organizations, these metrics are surprisingly difficult to find, but they are worth uncovering.

Next, verify. Before any byte of data enters your customer database, check it against a third-party data source. If it’s an address, verify the spelling and address formats. This will help you avoid duplicate records and ensure that the baseball glove reaches your customer. For verification to work well, it should have two qualities: It must work in real time, and it must be easy to use. Contact center staff and online shopers simply won’t use slow, cumbersome verification systems.

Finally, measure again. Compare the before-and-after scenarios. You should see a significant reduction in phone time, delivery surcharges, resources spent researching data, and the volume of returned baseball gloves.

Avoiding mistakes, while boring, is a winning strategy in baseball and in business. As a multichannel merchant, you should aim to understand the source of the errors and then implement the technologies and processes needed to improve operational efficiency. Doing so will ensure that your company plays a “no-hitter” game every time.

Frank Days is vice president of marketing at QAS, an Experian company. He can be reached at