I've been learning a lot about data for a recent but ongoing assignment. Mostly it's about the importance of data quality and making sure it's accurate before direct mail marketing campaigns and so on. Since we moved house nearly three years ago now, it's amazing, and really irritating, how much mail comes here for people who've lived in the house before us. Some of them I've never heard of, but I assume they must have been here at some point. There are lots of horror stories floating about the web about people receiving inappropriate mail for loved ones who have passed on, which is really hurtful for them.
It all comes about because of bad data which can be avoided if businesses have the right technological tools and expertise. Did you know that it's possible to get records of the deceased or people who've moved on removed from databases automatically. You just have to use the right software applications to 'clean' the data.
The same goes for duplicate records too, even where the name or address is not recorded in quite the same way. I did know about this before because in the late 1980s I got a job in the marketing department of a major accountancy firm which had been responsible for adjudicating the share applications for the UK's first big utilities' privatisation, British Gas.
The team developed something called 'fuzzy matching' technology to make sure that any fraudulent attempts to get more than the share allotted for each individual would be thwarted. Apparently quite a number of dastardly people put in multiple applications with slight variations in names and addresses to get a larger foothold on the register of shareholders, thinking they'd make lots of easy money from it. Of course my firm was proud of the part it played and we marketers were required to blow the trumpet. Nowadays 'fuzzy matching' has a much wider application, but that's how it all got started.
Data quality goes right across the board in the business world too. But getting inappropriate mail is the aspect that affects most of us at home. And do you take note of the senders and vow never to do business with them? Do you tell your friends about it, too? That's a good way for a business to get a bad name. I wonder how much potential business is lost that way.