CATEGORY: Data Quality, Profiling & Augmentation
REVIEWER: Ted Shelly, senior consultant for International Masters Publishers.
BACKGROUND: International Masters Publishers is a global group of companies specializing in publishing high-quality educational, entertaining and inspiring information and ideas on popular subjects around the world. We are direct-to-consumer marketers and currently operate in nearly 30 countries and many languages. Our recent expansion has brought us to Asia, beginning with Japan.
PLATFORMS: IBM Z/OS, CICS and DB2.
PROBLEM SOLVED: With more than 50 million names in our global customer base, it is vital for us to be able to accurately and rapidly search for customers by name. Consumers notoriously do not keep track of their own account numbers and will make inquiries and place new orders using only their names and addresses. High-quality customer relations are only possible when we can pull together all the information we know about the customer. This kind of search facility is also important in detecting credit risk or fraud. We faced a daunting challenge as we began to move into Asia. The multibyte character sets used by the languages in the region would not function with our existing search capabilities. We needed something that could deal with the intricacies of Japanese characters and names that would also work with our existing infrastructure.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The SSA-NAME3 CJK (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) product from Search Software America is specifically designed for name and address searches in the three primary Asian markets. It is a callable module and toolkit that is supported on a number of platforms, including the mainframe. We created a module within our customer service application which, in turn, called SSA-NAME3 CJK, passing it a name and address and receiving back a set of possible matches. The product uses an index of keys based on first and last name to find all possible candidate records. Another series of calls returns a probability score for each potential match. This score is based on all relevant information known about the new potential customer and the information we have in our database name, address, telephone number and other identifiers. In the online system, a list is displayed of the potential matches that have a score which exceeds a preset minimum. The display shows each potential match with its score, with the highest scoring match shown first. The customer service agent can then verify directly with the customer that we have indeed found his or her account records. Similar functionality is available in a batch process. The threshold levels can be more exacting, and any ambiguities are treated as exceptions that must be manually investigated.
STRENGTHS: The flexibility and accuracy of the product provided the functionality we needed without compromise. Search Software America has a deep understanding of the process of name searching and also of the unique requirements of Asian information. The SSA-NAME3 CJK capability to tune and refine the search process allowed us to find the right information quickly, without returning spurious "hits." Performance met our requirements, both online and in batch.
WEAKNESSES: Like any software product, flexibility comes at the price of complexity, and SSA-NAME3 CJK is somewhat difficult to implement. Expert help is recommended.
SELECTION CRITERIA: There are few products on the market that provide name search capabilities for Asia. We considered products from other vendors, but they did not directly support our platform. We could have used a distributed system, in which the search was done on another platform with the results returned to our mainframe application, but performance was an important consideration. We had already been using SSA products in other markets for name searching and were confident of the quality we could achieve.
DELIVERABLES: With SSA-NAME3 CJK operating in the background, we can process new orders quickly and accurately determine whether we have a new or repeat customer. We are also in a better position to detect attempted repeat orders from customers whose credit ratings may leave something to be desired.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Support was excellent. We had access to the SSA personnel we needed to implement the product on a tight deadline and to achieve the quality and performance we needed.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is generally good; however, because our environment (Japanese IBMHOST) was the first of its kind, expert assistance was required to fill in some gaps.
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