How Nectar governs member data quality

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on November 26, 2008

How Nectar governs member data quality

The UK-based loyalty services company, Loyalty Management Group (LMG), develops, owns and operates various retail customer loyalty programmes (including Nectar), has employed software from Trillium Software to help ensure the accuracy of contact details for Nectar points collectors.

When LMG deployed Trillium's technology, data quality was the main goal. The company aimed to provide Nectar's campaign and business managers with greater control over data, and the ability to accurately mail over 10 million new cards to collectors.

To join Nectar, shoppers complete paper-based forms available in stores or received through mailings. They can also apply online or by phoning a call centre. LMG's Nectar membership database today holds details of tens of millions of opted-in households.

"Data is our business and its accuracy is fundamental to maintaining the trust of collectors and our compliance with the UK Data Protection Act," said Louise Cantrill, campaign services manager at LMG. "Collector trust, data accuracy and compliance are what attract partners to Nectar for their customer acquisition and retention campaigns."

The Nectar database is one of LMG's most valuable assets. Since the scheme was launched, data quality processes have always been essential to maintaining collector data integrity.

In the early months of Nectar, with huge volumes of applications flowing in, LMG's approach to data quality was simple, yet adequate. It expected its data capture agency to ensure name and address data in application forms or letters was accurately coded. Additionally, LMG had embedded the Trillium Software System, TS Quality component in its own systems, including in real-time for online and call-centre applications. However LMG used just the basic capabilities of the tool such as to ensure that at enrolment, addresses matched to UK Postcode Address File (PAF). At this time, data quality was considered to be a technical issue and processes and procedures were entrusted to internal IT specialists.

By 2004, millions of households were collecting points, and both retail and service partners were making as many as 50 extracts a month from their Nectar databases to gain intelligence to guide campaigns.

"With the success of Nectar, and the ever increasing importance of our collector database to sponsors, management recognised data integrity assurance as essential good business governance," said Cantrill. "We decided that we needed closer business control, made business management responsible for data integrity rather than IT, and took over data cleansing from our data capture house."

One of LMG's early actions was to engage a business-oriented data quality steward to review existing processes and propose new policy. "Data quality processes at capture were reasonably good," recalled Andrew Bridges, data quality and supplier manager at LMG. "Now the brand had proven itself, ensuring ongoing integrity required more rigid maintenance, processes and procedures."

LMG defined a need for a more systematic approach to spotting issues in records, and identifying duplicates. Suppression management needed to become routine rather than an ad-hoc manual activity. Business users, enthusiastic about taking responsibility for data integrity, also sought automated data enhancement, such as adding missing information like initials, forename, gender or salutation.

"Ultimately, to fulfil our objective of business ownership of data quality, we needed to provide business users with a data quality toolset they could use for themselves," said Bridges. Guided by Bridges, the company opted to use the Trillium Software System more comprehensively, both in its collector enrolment processes and upon its Oracle production database. Supported by Trillium Software Professional Services, LMG also defined, tested and implemented a more extensive and rigorous set of business rules.

To allow it to better understand the nature of its data and expose issues within it, LMG also invested in TS Discovery, the data profiling and analysis component of the Trillium Software System. As well as spotting common problems LMG could eliminate through further tuning of TS Quality to its business rules, the company has been able to set up various action routines in TS Discovery. For example, where mandatory information is found to be missing at the point of registration, a process is now in place were an exception letter is sent asking the collector(s) for the missing information. Given the varied quality of source data, LMG is understandably proud that, by late 2007, some 96% of records were considered 'PAF perfect'.

Data quality for LMG may now be a standard process as regards Nectar registrations and maintaining ongoing data accuracy. But there are also 'non-standard' projects where good data quality is essential too. For example, LMG uses the same system to help partners match their own customer databases with the Nectar collector database. "For certain campaigns, our partners might want to know which individuals are on both their own customer database and on the Nectar database, or which customers are common to both," said Cantrill.

Back in 2007, in a multi-million pound re-brand and card renewal exercise, LMG mailed new cards to over 10 million people, to replace cards that were then up to five years old. For each collector, a personalised card needed to be produced, then mailed with a pack to their latest address. There being a long production lead time, cards were printed over a three-month period, each individualised with the collector's name and membership number. Close to the actual mailing date, up to date name and address data was used to produce a mailing pack for each person. Cards and packs were then matched to create the final personalised mailing.

"In that recard mailing, in the weeks between extracting data for the ten million card print run and the data for the mailing pack information, there were 300,000 suppressions on the grounds of data latency," said Cantrill. "The Trillium system enabled us to identify these suppressions, saving us around £150,000 in production and mailing costs."

LMG reports that the benefits of excellent data quality processes are integral to the success of its operations, and that considerable savings have been made through maintaining low rates of returned mail. But, perhaps more significantly, the Nectar programme's effectiveness and popularity would be undermined if collector data lacked integrity, leading to a loss of faith with both collectors and partners.

At the latest count, Nectar has 23 points partners, and approximately 50% of all UK households participate in the programme. To date, Nectar has given back nearly £1 billion worth of rewards to collectors and, on average, 19 Nectar cards are swiped every second of the day.

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