Years ago, I gave some money to the American Red Cross. Then, because I realized that there are always disasters and always a need, I decided to give to them monthly. I set up a recurring donation on our credit card so I could set it and forget it.
Except I couldn’t. Because they called me 2-3 times a month, every month, to ask for donations. While I likely wouldn’t have minded a call twice a year asking for additional funds, and may have even donated, 2-3 calls a month was both frustrating and began to feel a little insulting. Finally, I said to a call center employee “I give monthly and these calls are so frequent it’s starting to make me feel like you don’t think I give enough. I’m not going to stop donating but I’d really love to receive fewer calls.”
It was then the call center employee looked up my name and found that I was on multiple call lists at the Red Cross, likely due to my multiple previous donations. This is a great example of a poor data management system leading to an inconsistent message. The message they routinely gave me ranged from “Thank you so much” to “Would you ever consider working with us?”. This can be both confusing and frustrating to your customers.
I was reminded of this when days after I got a flu shot, my health system called to say “Our records indicate you have not gotten a flu shot.” One of the major messages they give to patients is that all of our doctor’s visits are merged into one master record so that any doctor we may visit has access to all our medical information. Yet their reminder belies the fact that there is either a lag in their data updates or their data systems are not working correctly.
The truth is, data is often a pain to cleanse but it affects all of us. Whether you keep a database, a newsletter list, or a handwritten address book of clients, that data will go out of date. It will inhibit your ability to reach out to people in the future to let them know of new products and service you’re offering.
It’s not glamorous. In fact, data cleansing is sometimes downright boring. It can be a great place to outsource work if you can write a clear set of instructions for a contractor. Still, glamorous or not, we’d recommend sitting down at least monthly to review your data so that your marketing messages are going out to the right people AND you don’t assume they have taken actions you think they have not.
Data cleansing is no one’s favorite job but it’s essential for a clear marketing message.