So We Have Duplicates in our Database -
What’s the Big Deal?

GUEST-BLOG-ICONToday’s blog post is written by Erin Madden Ramirez, Senior Data Specialist, Patron Technology.

All Databases have duplicate records. It’s just a fact of life. But is it a matter of life and death?

About two weeks ago I dropped off a prescription at my local pharmacy. Later that day, I went to pick up my prescription and it wasn’t there. Not only was it not there, they couldn’t find any history of it in my pharmacy record.

Long story short, the prescription was under a duplicate record in the pharmacy’s database. My record name is Erin Madden Ramirez, but the name on the written prescription was simply Erin Ramirez and the tech created a duplicate record. Now in a medical situation, duplicate records ARE a matter of life or death. A serious drug interaction or allergy could go unnoticed.

But duplicate records in an arts organization’s database aren’t a matter of life and death, are they? Well, not literally, but metaphorically? Yes, they are. Think about it this way…

You’re trying to sell tickets. You’re trying to solicit donations (a different type of sales process). Good customer service is a key to being successful at both. And with duplicate records, you may not know that Mr. Jones is a major donor and needs to sit on an aisle because he’s 6’5”. You may not realize that Mrs. Smith absolutely cannot sit next to Mrs. Andrews at special events because of a feud that started in high school. I could go on and on. Essentially, duplicate records damage your relationship with your patrons–the lifeblood of your organization. And that IS a matter of (metaphorical) life and death. The perks of maintaining a duplicate-free database are numerous. More accurate segmenting of your email lists? Check!  Saving on direct mailing postage? Check!

So what should you do?

  • Establish a policy that users must execute at least two searches before creating new patron records. Perhaps email address followed by first name-last name.
  • Establish a process to review new patron records on a regular basis (preferably weekly at the least). Merge any duplicates you discover. This is especially important for patron records created by online sales or online donations.
  • When you find duplicates during the course of your regular business, merge them right away!
  • Install an app such as Clouddingo (approved for use with PatronManager!) to help you prevent entering duplicates on an ongoing basis
  • Noticing an overwhelming number of duplicates? Create a case with support and an awesome data specialist will help you review and merge your dupes.

What are your policies for preventing and cleaning up duplicates? Has there been an instance where having duplicate records in your database has hurt your organization in any way?

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