By Chris Hotham Carroll
What are the most important things you do to keep your business running smoothly? You may be thinking of having a solid training program for your employees or being financially fit. Maybe you thought of the point-of-sale and inventory software systems that you utilize. Or perhaps you prioritize communication as the most integral facet of your organization.
All of these aspects are incredibly important, but don't overlook the significance of data integrity.
Simply put, data integrity is collecting and maintaining accurate and complete information. We've all heard the news stories of companies that have experienced data breaches due to malicious intent, hardware failure, and viruses, but what about the seemingly small errors that prevent you from delivering the service your business lives and dies by? Your employees are the first line of defense in keeping your information safe and accurate, and it's vital that they're aware of the importance of data integrity.
For instance, misspelling a client's name or address, or inaccurately recording a credit card number may seem like a small issue, but over time, careless errors like these may add up to your company's reputation being tarnished. Having a customer receive an invoice with their name or address misspelled simply looks unprofessional, and not having a correct credit card number means your company is now spending unnecessary time—and therefore, money—trying to collect payment. How embarrassing to explain to a customer who is relying on you to get all the little details correct.
These common errors cause additional difficulties in accurate reporting. If an established client's name is entered inaccurately, it most often will create a duplicate record. This can cause significant problems with billing and collections, but it also creates inaccurate reporting of accounts receivable and growth of accounts over time, as well as any chauffeur or reservationist notes regarding client preferences (if one system). Moreover, if you are in an industry that is highly regulated, you may find yourself failing audits due to poor records.
Poor data integrity can quite literally be a matter of life and death. For example, in the healthcare industry, errors in documenting symptoms and medications or transcribing failures may cause injury or even death. In the chauffeured ground transportation space, things are hardly that dire, but your business may be damaged irreparably in the long term. If your company is perceived as careless when inputting your passengers' data, they may begin to wonder if you're just as lax when it comes to storing and protecting it, too—which can have a negative impact on both your reputation and your bottom line.
Here's how to get a handle on your company's data:
1. All entries into the system of record must be complete and accurate.
If you do not have guidelines for your employees, create them and hold your staff accountable. Do not assume that your employees know and understand the importance of data entry.
2. The information should be concise and easy to understand.
If your business maintains customer profiles, there may be common requests noted within their accounts. Standardize these notes or labels and be sure that everyone having access to records understands these clearly and uses them regularly.
3. Any changes to the system of record should be noted with a date, time, and name.
Whenever information is updated, require employees to note the date/time/name as well as the reason for change or edit. Holding them accountable for changes they're putting their name on will help ensure they're paying attention to even the smallest detail.
4. Once you put data entry standards in place, be proactive with ongoing training.
It is common for employees to become lax over time. Be sure to follow up and follow through. Maintaining documents that outline the proper procedures for data entry should assist in keeping everyone on top of them.
5. Conduct routine data audits.
Assign a responsible party (or staff member) to perform scheduled audits. Principally, they should be looking for missing information, corrupted information, and duplicate information.
Running a business is hard work, and keeping up with day-to-day demands can be enough to fill any owner or CEO's schedule. It's easy to overlook small tasks or routine maintenance that we all know pile up. Take control of your data and increase your customer satisfaction and profitability. [CD0418]
Chris Hotham Carroll is director of operations for the LMC Group. she can be reached at chris@LMC.group.