BUSINESS MANAGEMENT: Good Data, Good Business

When Waste Companies don't address the importance of quality customer data, they reduce cash flow and send profits to the trash. One of the leading revenue barriers in the waste industry is incomplete and poor quality customer data. But it is possible to break through this roadblock.

According to the U.S. Census, 43.5 million Americans changed residences in 2000 and inevitably, many new waste management accounts were established. With so many people moving annually, the task of maintaining accurate client information can be challenging and expensive. But companies can keep records up to date themselves or hire a data service provider, which can boost billing and collections resolution, reduce costs, and improve customer service.

When hiring a data service provider, keep the following five questions in mind. If all are addressed, you will see a reduction in labor and costs and an increase in revenue and efficiency.

  • What's important to know about the quality of the data?

    One primary consideration is the integrity of the data source. Most providers are committed to distributing only the highest quality information and will disclose up-front where their information originates. Providers who work directly with telephone companies are the most reliable source for accurate telephone and mailing contacts.

  • How comprehensive is the data?

    A good data service provider should provide geographic coverage for more than 99.5 percent of available telephone listings among the estimated 110 million U.S. households. Be sure they offer contact information for residential, commercial and government listings. In addition to standard listing information, look for non-listed and non-published listings.

  • What is the update frequency?

    The key to an accurate, high-quality database is the frequency with which it is updated. With 800,000 changes in contact information occurring nationwide every day, it is vital that providers update their databases daily. Average customer contact databases are approximately 50 percent accurate, and many call center systems recognize less than 40 percent of incoming callers.

  • How does the service maintain the quality and “findability” of its data?

    Most providers ensure that data is accurate, up-to-date and “clean” through features such as cleansing algorithms, which prevent duplicate records, and address enhancement methods that standardize listings. A quality data service provider should use search algorithms to effectively “match” customer data with accurate contact information, or show a match score or confidence level in the results of a search. Other enhanced features should allow searches for similar names and the ability to find information even if certain elements were entered incorrectly.

  • How does the data service fit into a business' process and systems?

    A good data service provider should use the latest technology to integrate existing systems. Examples include Web interfaces for manual searching, integrated services to allow real-time, direct, system-to-system interface and a batch service to process data for customer database cleaning. Service providers also should be able to develop specific solutions to facilitate easier access.

  • In today's waste management industry, finding a reliable data service provider is as crucial to the success of a business as any other traditional component.