We can all recount those horrible moments when we realise a mailing has gone wrong. If you are lucky the job hasn’t left the building, but invariably the first you know about it is when you receive that dreaded, irate call from the client. Then comes that sickening feeling while you retrace the steps of the job only to find the error occurred in data preparation. During a particularly high pressure week, one of the data processing team accidentally sorted the surname column of a data file independently of the other columns and every mailer was sent with an incorrect surname. With many mail producers these high impact errors can have huge financial consequences and cripple the reputation of the company.
So why do they happen and how can they be avoided? This Lean DM article considers how to reduce the frequency and likelihood of errors within the data processing function. We also consider the opportunity to transform data services from a back-office cost into a differentiating ‘order winner’ for your mailing business.
A False Economy
It is all too common for mail producers to not charge independently for data services and therefore keep staff and investment in software to a minimum. The data team are resourceful and find ways to process data on the cheap using a mixture of off the shelf software, data processing widgets and online services. The mailing house saves money on software, but jobs take a long while to process and the pressure on the data processor to be infallible eventually fails often with catastrophic ramifications.
Getting jobs wrong is a sure fire way to lose clients. However, there are a number of best practices to reduce the likelihood and frequency of these errors.
- Formalise data processing requirements upfront, especially for complicated or repeat jobs. Which client files do we need to suppress against? What level of deduplication is required? Should we PAF enhance the data and to what level? These could become a simple job sheet or using Cygnus data processing software; these requirements can be saved as templates to dramatically reduce processing time and opportunities for human error.
- Develop a default data screening process to highlight suspect records. Profanities, deceased words and celebrity names can be seen as faults of the mail producer.
- Regularly update software and resources such as sortation files, PAF data and suppression files. A simple schedule or weekly routine with as step to help maximise the quality of the mailing file.
- Use a single software application such as Cygnus for all data processing tasks to reduce the complexity of data processing and reduce the errors that arise from moving data online, offline and through multiple software systems.
Absolute volumes of direct mail are in decline so forward thinking mail producers are looking for alternative ways to grow their businesses. Some of the larger mail producers and many innovative mailing houses have turned to data services as the answer.
Instead of treating the data processing department as a cost centre, consider moving these services to the forefront of your sales message.
- Make sure your sales people know what data services are available. From suppression screening to overseas address checking, if they know what is possible they can ask the right questions and find opportunities for data services.
- Educate clients about the importance of data quality. Share Lean DM insights such as ‘70% of consumers expect their data to be right every time’ and make sure they know how you can ensure quality.
- Handle the returns for clients. Recent research from The Software Bureau highlighted each piece of returned mail costs marketers an average of £4.02. By highlighting these hidden costs and managing the process is a great way of differentiating your business from competitors.
- Actively market the service to clients and prospects. A simple services data sheet that goes out with every proposal can be a simple and effective way to highlight the services you offer. Or why not download and share parts of the Lean DM presentation available from The Software Bureau.
Cygnus from The Software Bureau
Free Introduction to Lean DM
Error reduction and increasing revenues for data services is just one component of Lean DM. To learn more, why not download your free 30-page guide from The Software Bureau. Should you wish to arrange a demonstration of Cygnus or undertake a free trial, please contact us.