Reconciling CACTUS Data

When a computer reseller wanted to round out a catalog mailing last year, the analysis group director told the analyst to include the ship-to contacts without holding the mailing up for hygiene or merge/purge. The director did not realize that in the company’s recently merged SAP system the sold-to account information was often used to create a shipping label. This left the ship-to account fields open for sales reps’ notes. He learned about data reconciliation the hard way when 40,000 copies of the catalog were returned as undeliverable.

“Executives who have not been involved with customer file management offhandedly assume merging files and producing customer counts and mailing lists takes only a few keystrokes,” says Bill Singleton, president of Singleton Marketing, an Algonquin, IL-based database marketing consulting firm. “Sitting down with them and showing them a handful of examples is often the only way to demonstrate how serious the issues are. Even then, unless they have had a mailing disaster happen in front of them they might not pay much attention or want to spend the time and money to fix the files.”

According to Singleton, marketers would be well served to take the CACTUS approach when it comes to data:

* Complete–all name, address, and order history elements are present.

* Accurate–the data match reality and the way customers describe themselves.

* Consistent–use the same field sizes and ranges of values in marketing as in finance and sales and in sold-to as well as ship-to addresses.

* Timely–available when needed and up-to-date. * Usable–available to the people who need access with an efficient, friendly interface. * Secure–compliant with privacy policies and laws and backed up in case of catastrophe.

The mailing disaster mentioned above could have been prevented by complete, consistent, and secure customer records, Singleton says. Duplicates and undeliverable records would have been identified and purged. Some catalogs would not have been mailed, but the firm would have been able to find other names to mail or to just sit on the postage savings.

Both internal and external files have to have these characteristics to support efficient and productive mailings and operations. This is true whether the files are customer and rented prospect files or are being combined into a common system after a corporate merger or takeover. Some address elements can be verified in processing, particularly for consumer files.

For more on reconciling multisourced data, see the May 15 issue of CATALOG AGE.

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