Data Duplication – Dumb and Dumber

So I call the bank/ phone company/… to ask a question about my latest statement, for example, and  I get a voice mail prompt to enter my account number. After several more auto-queries (and often quite a few expletives), I get a human on the other end of the line. The first question they ask is…”What is your account number?”

I go to the office of my doctor/bank/repair shop to request service of some kind. I’m invariably asked to fill in a form on which I enter my name, address, phone number, etc. … all information I have already given to the doctor/bank/repair shop innumerable times.

So what’s wrong with this picture? Why are we perpetually regurgitating, re-writing, re-keying the same data over and over again? After all, this is the 21st century and most businesses have a customer database of some kind or other. And as every data manager knows all too well, each time a data set is re-entered, the likelihood it will be mis-keyed, or equally exasperating, duplicated in the system increases exponentially.

So how do our members feel when they register for an event, purchase a book or volunteer for a committee and we ask them to enter their name, address, phone number, … AGAIN? While many associations have developed member log-ins to pre-load this information for online transactions, there are a surprising number who have not, and very few have addressed this issue for onsite transactions. I suspect that most of us have struggled with this issue, but because the true cost of the problem (unproductive hours spent by members and staff re-entering data that already exists in the system as well as unproductive hours spent by staff de-duplicating re-entered data…not to mention the member frustration/ill-will generated by the duplicative effort) is difficult to calculate, we haven’t done the cost-benefit analysis that might justify the development of a viable solution.

This problem is especially vexing for association chapters, few of which have the data systems to effectively capture and report this information. Even more distressing, very few associations have developed a unified data system that provides their chapters an operative portal through which they can access, update and extract member data in anything approaching a useful manner. Consequently, members have an even more exasperating data experience when interacting with their chapters.

Are there solutions out there? Absolutely! I have, in fact, been to a doctor’s office where they handed me a form with my contact information pre-printed. (Of course they then handed me a HIPPA form with all the contact information fields blank!!!). I’ve also been to a bank where I received a set of documents that had most of the contact information, account numbers, etc. pre-printed. It can indeed be done. We just need to get a better handle on the cost of not addressing the issue. I suspect when we do, data systems vendors will find their phones ringing off the hook!