How to Audit Your Service Bureau
Your service bureau plays an important role in your company’s operations. But dealing with it effectively requires a great deal of trust.
No doubt you wonder, for example, if your service bureau selected appropriate names, or if a high percentage of duplicate names were found. Files sent from a catalog company to a service bureau never are completely clean. For instance, there may be duplicates, NCOA changes may not have been applied back to the housefile, or some records may contain invalid addresses.
One of the main reasons catalogers use service bureaus is to identify and fix such problems, and to get their files in good condition for mailing.
You face many challenges when auditing your service bureau. Let’s say the size of your buyer file in July was 480,000 compared with a file size of 400,000 a year ago. Is this correct? Would you know if you were missing 10,000 or 15,000 buyers?
There are many factors to consider when estimating file size, making it difficult to identify small variances. That’s when you rely on a service bureau to run the necessary processing to provide accurate counts. But if it says your current housefile is within 5 percent of your estimate, do you accept it as correct? How do you know if you’re missing buyers, or if your segmentation, hygiene, selection and suppressions are being processed correctly?
With auditing, you can get to a level of satisfaction. Following are some steps to take to ensure your housefile is being processed accurately and to your written specifications (note that all instructions and specs for your service bureau must be in writing).
Six Steps to Take
1. Require your service bureau to give you record samples with counts by drop type (e.g., NCOA drops, invalid state/ZIP code, foreign records), as well as input/output counts for every step of the process. Do this only when and where it’s possible for the service bureau to drop records for one reason or another. Typical steps to audit include: