At my job, data quality has suddenly become an issue. For years we have ignored this question, even though we knew that our data quality was poor and resulted in less than optimal customer service. Our salespeople, for example, are often very frustrated. They feel that it is embarrassing and unprofessional to meet a customer and give them incorrect information. This happened because our systems simply did not handle the data correctly. Nevertheless, we just said for years that it was not a major problem, as we were not worse than anyone else in our business. We were not better either.

All of a sudden we have decided that our data quality should be improved. Our marketing division finally got tired of having 20 percent of our mailings returned for incorrect customer addresses. Somehow they were not pleased either to see that the average age for our customers is 335 years. Fifteen percent of our customers have default birth date 00000101, as we do not know the real date. This is enough to screw up the average completely. Furthermore, according to our systems, 25 percent of our customers do not have a sex. They may have sex, though. And we have customers paying, but we do not know for what product. This is at least a dream-situation; customers that simply pay, period.

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