Understanding international addresses or international contact data isn’t easy. You have to contend with different languages, different addressing systems, diacritic characters, local address formatting conventions, dual language countries and text that has no meaning to you – all this for over 240 countries and territories.
Why take care of your international data? All data is the path to communication with your prospects and customers. If your customers are international, they will appreciate their direct marketing piece, emails and other communications adapted for their local language. It will set you apart from many other companies and give you the edge in today’s competitive world.
Here are a few tips that you can use to help improve how international data is held and some of the likely problems most people face.
1 Create an International Data Entry Guide
If you have anyone entering international data into your application, they will know how hard it is to get every piece of information right. Understanding customers on the phone with foreign data is difficult to translate accurately into your application or database. Providing an International Data Entry Guide will allow the users to better improve the quality of data. Remembering the infamous IT slogan: Garbage-In-Garbage-Out, every little bit of help is worth it.
What Should an International Data Entry Guide include?
Here are three examples of what would be useful to those entering data:
- Field Conventions – In this example, the Last Name field has three data entry rules. Data entry should be created for all fields, allowing users to enter good data.
||Data Entry Rules
- The full last name must be entered
- The first letter should be upper case and the rest lower case, exceptions are:
- Use of apostrophe – O’Driscol, d’Souza
- Scottish Names – McKay
- Some Middle Names – van, du, von, de la, etc.
- If an initial is entered, then this should be upper case with no full-stop
- Country Conventions – In this example, French and Dutch name formats are documented.
||Any de is likely to be lowercase, unless it starts a sentence. De Gaulle is upper case; Charles de Gaulle is lower case, or plain de Gaulle, is also lower case.
||If using first name and surname together, vans and dens are lower case: Dries van Agt and Joop den Uyl. But without their first names they become Mr Van Agt and Mr Den Uyl; Hans van den Broek becomes Mr Van den Broek.
- Recent Re-naming – Where cities or countries have been re-named or split, is useful knowledge for those entering international data. For example:
2 Create a Cheat Sheet
A full data entry guide can be daunting for some operators, so a simple one-page cheat sheet highlighting the key points will help users input the right data or least remember that international data needs more attention.
The cheat sheet should focus on the key data issues you would like your data entry staff to look at; and this could be dependent on the type of person entering the data. For example, if you have a sales person entering contact data occasionally then a comprehensive data entry guide will be more appropriate, but for a call centre operator a precise cheat sheet focusing on the only fields that they enter data into will suffice.
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