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When good info goes bad
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4 Min Read

When Good Info Goes Bad: The Real Cost of Human Data Errors

At 2:45 pm on May 6, 2010, Wall Street essentially had a heart attack. In just minutes, the stock market plunged 1000 points, for reasons traders, analysts, and business media could not explain. The “flash crash” wiped out $1.1 Trillion of investor dollars and even though most of that was quickly regained, it left the market badly shaken.

What happened? It appears that a single keystroke error was to blame. The letter “B” was inserted in a sell order instead of the letter “M”. Billion was input where Million should have been and it triggered a ripple effect through the automated financial markets. Costly errors in the events business might not have as many zeros as that epic fail, but when it’s your event or your exhibitor who has to deal with a problem caused by a keystroke mistake, it can seem just as bad.

Today a surprising amount of venue managers and event organizers still work with separate CRM, operations, and financial systems that either require them to manually enter data multiple times, or have one-way information flow from system to system that can get out of sync. The result is costly – and often embarrassing – errors that stem from bad or out-of-step event detail data.

But how acute is this problem? How exactly does it bleed energy and money from your organization? There are several ways in which poor or manual information flow can hinder your events business.

the-flawed-human-element

The first issue is the cost of having a mistake creep into your information systems, customer orders, service or operation orders, or billing. You are particularly vulnerable if you have any manual “double-entry” of data from system to system.

The (Flawed) Human Element

If you take the average benchmark of a 1% error rate in manual data entry, what does that mean in your business? How many records or fields are your employees entering into the system each day? If you now consider that 1 of every 100 instances is likely erroneous you’ll get a sense of your exposure. Now multiply that mistake (and add subsequent ones) for every time information is moved from one system to another. It is not uncommon for event administrators to operate with systemic data problems that constantly need to be monitored and cleaned up – as just “part of the job.”

Human ability to catch or avoid errors within data sets is inherently flawed. In a controlled study in 2009 at UNLV, 215 students were given 30 data sheets that contained six types of data to process. With only visual confirmation of data correctness the students made an average of 10.23 errors. However, when double entries were automatically checked for matches by an automated system, that average dropped to 0.38 mistakes. And when information is only pulled from a single unified database, requiring NO double entry or data migration, there is virtually zero chance for human error.

The $1-$10-$100 Rule

A common business concept is the 1-10-100 rule. This rule-of-thumb model illustrates the hard costs to an organization chasing mistakes and that failure to take notice and correct mistakes escalate in cost the later they are realized.

It costs: $1 to verify the accuracy of data at the point of entry, $10 to correct or clean up data in batch form, and $100 (or more) per record if nothing is done – including the costs associated with low customer retention, and inefficiencies (source: totalqualitymanagement.wordpress.com).

In other words, a shared database prevents the time and costs of rekeying and verifying information entered into separate disconnected systems. A single database for CRM, exhibition management, and financials also eliminates costly and embarrassing mistakes that are created with disconnected systems.

The Cost of the Safety Net

A common element of cost burden that is often overlooked is all of the structure, staff time, and process put in place to make up for error, which occur within a disconnected or loosely connected information system. Common quality assurance issues include:

  • Quality Control Costs: Costs of QC systems/staff to detect and correct errors. Some customers also engage in-house staff to sample and confirm the quality of the BPO vendors’ output.
  • Downstream Error Costs: Costs incurred in downstream processes because of errors caught and corrected before the end-customer is affected. As an example, a midsize event organizer manually process approximately 5 to 10% of its exhibitor order data due to common errors as data moves from their order-taking process to billing.
  • Uncaught Error Costs: Costs incurred in remediation steps once an end-customer is affected by one or more errors. For example, if an incorrect AV order is issued, the customer may call to complain about the mistakes and the staff will have to immediately offer a fix – regardless of whatever else they are doing and often with limited options.
  • Soft Costs: Hard-to-quantify and not immediately evident costs that are incurred due to back-office errors. Soft costs may include: lost revenues due to low customer satisfaction, operational losses due to bad decision-making based on erroneous data, or regulatory risk caused by incorrect processing or recordkeeping.
  • Billing Error Costs: When information must be manually updated in several databases, changes and details fall through the cracks. This very often leads to smaller items or change orders not getting reflected in the final billing, with that potential revenue forever lost.

Hobbled Staff Efficiency

There is a tremendous amount of wasted staff time within inefficient information systems. Take, for instance, the workflows associated with show or exhibition organizers. Changes to exhibitor contact information, booth preferences, floor plan placement, payments, etc. happen routinely throughout the event management process. Disconnected systems can only push information one way, from one stand-alone database to the next application in the chain. These databases get out of sync when staff has to go back to update information, re-communicate the new details to multiple departments or individuals, and verify that the details are correct (and not lost or ignored).

staff-inefficiencies-from-data-issues

Juxtapose that with organizations that operate off a single database and a united system. Seamless event management systemscan provide a single customer ID number and a single customer order number to help track changes from the sales funnel to the show floor. Applications that share a single database can also pull information back and forth throughout different stages of the process.

Audit your staff and processes to determine how much time is spent on entering and re-entering data into your systems. In terms of efficiency, single database systems give staff the ability to enter new information once and have it immediately available to all departments in real time. It eliminates the need to go back and reconcile data in multiple systems and drastically reduces errors.

In a recent survey, Ungerboeck Software customers who transitioned from multiple stand-alone systems to a unified Ungerboeck solution reported saving three to ten hours per week, per user. That time savings can either offset costly overtime hours, or be put to better use selling or taking care of clients.

By eliminating the need for duplicate data entry and data reconciliation across multiple systems, you drastically reduce the administrative costs – and the chances for headache inducing, embarrassing customer moments. You’ll also increase employee satisfaction as your events teams spend less time behind their desks and more time doing the jobs they love – meeting with customers and planning exceptional events.

How do you think your business could benefit from a unified event management platform? Want to learn more? Click here to set up a consultation.