8 Effective Ways to Reduce Common Data Entry Errors
“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.”
This quote is attributed to John Ruskin, English writer, philosopher and art critic of the early nineteenth century, but could well have been in reference to the operation of any industry or business in modern times.
Many well-known people have weighed in with their own views on quality. Henry Ford’s “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking” is another quote often used in connection with quality.
Poor quality can be nobody’s claim to fame in today’s hyper-competitive world and is a one-way ticket to business oblivion. Every business has to strive to deliver good quality, or quality that it has set out to deliver.
This does not mean that all similar products are identical, with a matching quality. It means operating at the highest level of quality within its defined space, and adhering to, and exceeding, the quality standards that that space has come to expect.
After all, if there is a market for Rolls Royce cars, there is also a market for (name withheld) cars.
If there is a market for first class air travel, there is also a market for economy class air travel.
If there is a market for villas and penthouses, there is also a market for two-bedroom apartments.
The world is big and wide and it takes all sorts to make it complete. In this world, each business takes up a position whereby it seeks to earn a profit by fulfilling certain needs that it has presumably identified. The position that it seeks to occupy is a combination of many variables, like price and quality, which in turn are made up of many sub-variables, and so on. From a quality perspective, it needs to satisfy the quality expectations of this unique position or space, or segment in marketing terminology.
The same is true for data entry. Reducing data entry errors is one of the most common benchmarks for ensuring good quality in data entry.
1. Set up standards and targets
It is difficult to shoot down an invisible enemy.
The same logic applies to business. If an operator does not know what needs to be achieved, how will she ever achieve it? “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” management guru Peter Drucker is reputed to have said.
In work that is done manually, through people, it is important to create a relationship that enables the employer and employed to trust each other. Letting people loose on a task creates uncertainty, not only from the expectation and delivery perspective but from the compensation standpoint as well.
Setting up standards and targets and expectations creates transparency in the relationship. Transparency builds confidence and permits the focus to be on the work rather than on the factors around it.
oWorkers has consistently delivered over 99% accuracy on client engagements across different processing systems and measurement methods. One of our key endeavours for any project is to identify the lowest level of trackable parameters that lead-in to client defined goals, and set up internal measurement and tracking systems based on them. This not only enables operators to understand deliverables, but also acts as an early-warning system which gives early indication of a drop in client output parameters, enabling us to rectify them before they impact the client.
2. Compensation based on performance for reducing data entry errors
A logical extension of setting up standards and targets is the adoption of the same targets for the purpose of compensation.
As we know, with digital technology, activities can be tracked at the minutest level, that of a keystroke. Unlike the typewriter days when the output had to be manually counted, generally in terms of words, not characters, and divided by time to arrive at speed.
The micro level tracking now possible, enables offering compensation based on performance. It keeps the good performers motivated, and creates a path for currently lower performers to strive for improvement and earn higher levels of compensation.
Since oWorkers operates with employed staff, and not contractors or freelancers like some of our competitors, we need to ensure continued motivation as well as growth of our staff. Our reward and performance management systems are geared towards transparency and fairness in ensuring each employee is compensated based on her contribution and effort.
3. Hire right
Not everyone is going to become a good data entry operator. Most companies that have a data entry component of work, operate in a certain line of business, or industry. They hire resources equipped to succeed in that industry, with their educational background and experience. Data entry is not a task they have prepared for or are interested in. If these resources were to do data entry, it is likely that instead of reducing data entry errors, they might actually end up making more.
Hence, ‘horses for courses’ should be the strategy. If data entry is a requirement, the company should hire resources who can do the job well. The other strategy, of course, is to outsource to a BPO like oWorkers who understands the kind of resources that should be hired.
Since data entry does not require any specific educational background or knowledge, operators can be drawn from the segment that does not possess any form of advanced educational qualification. This has benefits on both sides. The individuals will be able to get a job closer to their skill set while the employer will be able to hire at competitive rates of compensation.
With its deep roots in the communities where we have delivery centers, as a preferred employer, oWorkers attracts a constant flow of walk-in candidates interested in jobs. This gives us a wide choice as well as keeps our hiring costs low.
4. Automation of tasks
In any discussion on reducing data entry errors in manual data entry, efforts at converting the manual to the automated will always be of great value. Errors of different types happen in manual processes, for the reason they are manual. Human beings are thinking beings. Their attention can waver, they may be in an emotionally vulnerable state at some point, they may even be bored doing the same thing again and again. A software or machine will have none of these issues. It will faithfully, diligently, keep doing what it has been taught to do, without mood swings, without wild thoughts, without mental burnout. Even if it makes a mistake, it will probably make the same mistake again and again!
With its partnerships with technology companies around the world, oWorkers has the ability to leverage technological innovations for delivering on client projects. Data entry is no different. With the support of these technologies, oWorkers looks out for opportunities to automate hitherto manual data entry tasks executed on behalf of clients.
5. Implementing validation rules
Software continues to advance. Even with regard to manual inputs that are needed by software programs, they continue to evolve to minimize the incidence of human error.
Validation rules fall in this category.
At each point manual data entry is needed, many systems are able to instal checks to ensure that the data entry being done is within expected boundaries. If there is a field for a mobile number which is 10 digits long, most systems can be made to reject any entry that is not 10 digits long. If the number should start with an 8 or a 9, it can even reject entries that do not meet this rule.
Mistakes are still possible, but their scope reduces substantially. If an inadvertent error happens which is not accepted by the system, the person doing the entry is likely to re-enter it more carefully.
With a leadership team that possesses over 20 years of hands-on experience in this area, oWorkers is equipped to implement available technology solutions like validation rules to good effect, to ensure superior client outcomes.
6. Reducing data entry errors through process control
While humans try to do it right, mistakes creeping in is also human. Humans are needed to do certain tasks because only humans have the intelligence to understand, interpret and carry out tasks based on certain input material.
Though a large part of the work done by humans is accurate, a few errors creeping can compromise the integrity of the database. Of course, the criticality varies with the task and project.
Process controls can control a significant portion of such errors. The two most common process controls used by organizations are:
- A second level check on the work done by an operator. This can be layered based on the operator’s history of errors; the better the quality, the lower the percentage of work checked.
- A process known as ‘double key data entry’ wherein two operators do the same work. Only if they differ from each other the need arises for verification of the input.
Of course, a second level check or doing the same work twice cost money. The process control implemented needs to be evaluated based on the impact of errors. In some projects, a certain percentage of errors may even be acceptable.
oWorkers, like several other BPO companies, retains an Internal Quality team. This team is independent of the delivery team and monitors their performance as an independent reviewer. It also develops and implements process improvements and controls. This team also acts as the eyes and ears of senior management and keeps them informed on developments in the process. This allows senior management to step in and take charge when the need arises.
7. Work environment is important
The work environment that you create and provide to your data entry staff should reflect the importance of the task. A distraction-free environment that is clean and well maintained, hygienic, with adequate provision of basic necessities like washrooms, breakout areas and eating spaces, would enable the staff to focus on their work rather than worrying about the other things.
If the environment is full of distractions where anything goes, will perhaps communicate the same message to the employee about the work she is doing. This could be counter-productive to the company’s efforts at reducing data entry errors.
oWorkers prides itself on the work environment in their physical office spaces, spread across three different geographies, widely considered as the best in the business for BPO operations. Our workspaces are conducive to producing work of the highest quality. Even for people who prefer to work from home, the technologies we use make their environment relatively distraction-free.
8. Run pre-validation checks
Once input sheets and other material get distributed across your team of data entry agents, it will come back together as data that has been input into the target system. If there are inconsistencies in the input form received, it will be difficult to identify them, as they have already been distributed. These inconsistencies will manifest themselves in the form of errors in the output.
Running some basic manual checks before the process of data entry is started could potentially go a long way in reducing data entry errors.
There is really no defined process for this step. It could be as basic as a supervisor or manager eyeballing the entire set of information to ensure that there are no internal inconsistencies. For example, the mobile number that appears in the second column in the first few sheets, should not be replaced by the date of birth in the next few and moved to the third column. Such inconsistencies will create issues, and errors, in the process.
oWorkers engages with the client for a deep understanding of each project. Going a level deeper, there is an ongoing communication with the client that reduces the scope for errors and rework.
oWorkers as outsourcing partner
Many of the challenges that data entry presents can be handled with the right approach as detailed above.
Many of the challenges can also be solved by engaging oWorkers as a partner and outsourcing data entry related work to them. oWorkers has been delivering BPO services for over 7 years to global clients and are well placed to meet your requirements as well, including reducing data entry errors.
oWorkers focuses its work on its core strength, data related BPO services. It has been identified and awarded as one of the top three data services providers in the world.
Our transparent pricing mechanism gives a choice to clients to choose from dollars per unit of output based or dollars per unit of resource-based pricing. Many of our clients from Western Europe and the US report savings of almost 90% after outsurcing work to oWorkers.
Your work enables oWorkers to employ more people from the less privileged sections of society and give them an entry ticket into the digital economy.