What is the biggest new challenge in your job? For IT, marketing, sales and other areas of the organization, the answer is rapidly becoming customer service and experience. Match that with the fact that customer expectations are getting more and more difficult to meet, and you have a lot of overwhelmed people trying to become more customer-centric.
Data verification is the process of checking various categories of data for completeness, consistency, and accuracy against a trusted source. In this blog post, I am just considering contact data verification, which is all about the customer. With verified customer contact data, your organization can better:
And once you’ve verified your contact data, you can apply data enrichments to further enhance the data’s usefulness.
Your customers interact with your brand via many different touchpoints, which is referred to as the customer journey. Like most journeys, there is a beginning and an end. What may not be so obvious is that both the beginning and end depend on high-quality customer data that’s verified as accurate and usable.
Interaction at all points of the customer journey requires good communication. Verifying the quality of your customer contact data at acquisition and at all points of retention is the first step you need to take toward customer-centricity and gaining a view into the total customer relationship across channels, touchpoints and lines of business. Everyone in marketing, sales and customer service deserves to have their applications driven with clean, consistent and trusted customer information.
Today, the categories of information you can collect about a customer are robust and detailed, including demographic information, preferences, browsing histories on your site, social accounts and more.
With all this data comes a lot of opportunity. However, companies in different industries and markets have their own concept of which categories of customer data are most valuable. For example, a retailer is more likely to collect and use information about customers’ social networking contact information. Meanwhile, a B2B manufacturing company is more interested in knowing the revenue and industry of their customer accounts.
In every business that has customers, however, postal addresses, email addresses and phone numbers are the most basic parts of a contact record. If these three pieces of data are not valid, they can create consequences for organizations acquiring and retaining bad postal addresses, email addresses and phone numbers. Let’s look at what kinds of costs are associated with each.
1. Risks of Not Verifying and Correcting Invalid Postal Addresses
For a customer placing an order, an invalid postal address creates a negative experience when the order never arrives or goes to the wrong destination. Correcting this information before it makes it into your systems – and into your distribution center for shipping – is a best practice for ensuring a positive customer experience. Customers have high expectations around ecommerce order delivery. Meeting or exceeding these expectations is essential for brands to get right, especially when competing on customer experience.
The problem becomes exponentially more difficult when customers reside in a different country – or their written language differs from your own. It’s complicated for customer service representatives and marketers to feel confident that a postal address is correct when the format is unknown to them.
When the language and character set are different than your own, it makes this issue even more difficult. In the day and age of international ecommerce, customers expect (regardless of the country) that the correct order will arrive the first time – without fail. In particular, companies in regulated industries like banking, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, for example, could face fines from failing to send privacy notices and other statements to their recipients.
2. Risks of Not Verifying and Correcting Invalid Email Addresses
An invalid email address creates problems for a brand in the form of a higher bounce rate for email marketing. High bounce rates can create a risk for brands when their email sender reputation is threatened. A bad sender reputation along with poor email hygiene can lead to blacklisting issues, which are costly and time-consuming to overcome.
When a brand is blacklisted, the email it sends goes to the recipient’s spam folder and never arrives at its destination. With email marketing demonstrating one of the best ROIs in the business, this inability to reach customers can be costly in terms of lost sales and blocked communication.
In the digital age – and especially in this new age of engagement – even for non-marketers, there is a customer expectation that communication will be consistent. With email addresses changing at a rate of almost 23% per year, it becomes difficult for every corner of the organization to trust that the contact data they rely on is accurate.
3. Risks of Not Verifying and Correcting Invalid Phone Numbers
A customer’s phone number has many uses for businesses in different industries. Making a call to a customer can help resolve a customer service issue or create a touchpoint for sales prospecting. You may also need to send a confirmation text for an appointment. In any case, when a business needs to reach a customer via phone, an invalid number is costly – whereas a valid number is extremely valuable.
For example, imagine what happens when your customer service department needs to relay an urgent message, but has an invalid phone number. The representative must spend extra time when the response is, “I’m sorry, but you have the wrong number.” That representative must try to locate a new number or use another form of communication to gain this contact data. In these circumstances, solid data quality practices will allow your business to reliably contact customers, regardless of the method of communication.
For more detail, download our ebook, The Business Case for Contact Data Verification.
Valid email addresses, phone numbers and postal addresses are so valuable to businesses that verifying these pieces of contact data should be a major focus within all industries.
Customer data can be collected from employees, applications, web forms, in-store at point-of-sale, in online shopping carts, trade shows and many other points of acquisition. Existing data is retained in CRMs, internal applications, or even manually updated spreadsheets. At each point of acquisition, data needs to be verified before it goes into any of these systems to be retained and used for future customer communications. Once verified and corrected, the data needs to be accessible throughout the organization – rather than contained in scattered sources that can’t talk to each other.
A brand’s digital customer experience is often tied to acquiring valuable customer information via a web form of some kind. Here are a few common examples:
This customer interaction is an opportunity for brands to verify and correct contact data while the customer is still engaged and can make corrections. The value of this moment cannot be underestimated.
While correcting a rejected form online can be a burden to some, what if you could turn that experience on its head? What if instead of a customer filling out a form and being told that a piece of the data they entered was incorrect, the form was smart enough to offer a correction?
Figure 1: Bad Contact Data
Figure 2: Verified and Cleansed Contact Data
A better customer experience would be to identify that the customer mistyped too many letters in @gmail.com. The form could auto-correct the error and prompt the customer to verify the corrected information. This makes it much easier on the customer – and is just one benefit of real-time data verification.
Once you begin thinking about acquiring data in every channel to create positive interactions along the customer journey, you will gain more value from every customer communication. This value doesn’t need to stop at your department either. In fact, to be customer-centric, your entire organization should make data quality a priority.
More and more, the marketing department is responsible for customer service interactions and customer experience. Marketers are moving from branding and creative activities to the science of data and measurement.. Marketers are moving from branding and creative activities to the science of data and measurement.
If marketing leaders want to be successful addressing this new challenge, the first step toward improving the customer experience and creating positive customer interactions is great contact data. The key is to: Collect, verify and cleanse data at all customer touchpoints before it enters your systems.
It is also important to note that like all data quality processes, this is not a onetime task and must be repeated on a regular basis. Customer communication that reaches its intended recipient begins with valid, actionable email addresses, postal addresses and phone numbers. This is not just true for marketing teams, but for all areas of the business.
If you would like to learn more about data verification, read Contact Data Verification Strategies for Marketing and Sales. You’ll learn how to keep your marketing and sales programs communicating with the right people via the right channels.