Telecommunications can still help fill data gaps

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Telecommunications can still help fill data gaps
Telecommunications can still help fill data gaps

In this age of multimillion-dollar CRM programs and equally expensive targeted prospect and customer contact strategies, the perils of missing or incorrect contact data can be costly. Compiled lists and response lists are the traditional “go-to” sources, but more marketers, who demand higher accuracy and sell-through, are seeking “hard-to-find” data sources – particularly as regulation and suppression erode the completeness and availability of existing data sources. There is too much opportunity lost, and waste being generated, by neglecting the integrity and completeness of contact data.

Even with self-reported data, there are mixed results on accuracy.  People don't always tell the truth — especially on the Web — and data entry errors at the point of collection also can occur. The only way to know the accuracy of existing data append sources is to test them, and to test them periodically (or even regularly) against new data sources. 

For three decades, telephone data have been a superb method for reverse appending postal address data, as well as providing and confirming telephone contact information. However, the completeness of telephone data as an “all-knowing” reliable source has been changing. According to the FCC, the total number of landlines is now dropping 7% per year, while wireless and broadband telephony is growing by 10% and 22%, respectively. Further, approximately 35% of land lines are non-published and/or unlisted, with a growth rate of 24% annually in these types of listings. Nonetheless, telecommunications data are still among the best sources for timely, accurate business and residential listings. Additionally, connect and disconnect information from the nation's more than 4,000 telephone companies, where available, is still perhaps the best indicator of new move data within the United States.

My recommendation to clients is to take the net non-matches from standard telecommunication sources — White Pages, Yellow Pages and directory assistance, for example — and set that data aside. Next, secure non-self-reported wireless and VOIP data from various proprietary sources. Then, perform a matching exercise between these two files – voila, we have a new data source to fill in much of the gaps. Legally, there are restrictions on using such data, but it is permissible when verifying existing customer relationships —remembering to honor any internal suppressions — authenticating identity, and conducting reverse postal appends. 

Of course, sourcing hard-to-find data presents the classic business trade-off – price vs. value. Compiled data are less costly, but have less recency, and therefore less accuracy – so it is perhaps the optimal solution for the budget-conscious. Telecommunications data are more costly but are highly accurate. Hard-to-find data, also from telecommunications sources, are more costly still — but they enhance the overall value of data, particularly as CRM programs may experience increasing incidence of inaccurate contact data.  

Peg Kuman is the CEO of Telematch. Reach her at pkuman@telematch.com.

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