Outdated Name Recognition Tech May Compromise Marketing Efforts
By John C. Hermansen
Accurate data is a critical aspect of any insurers or agents store of information and is a key to successful marketing and customer service. The personal names of individual clients or customers, of course, are a vital element.
Most aspects of automated business practices continuously are monitored and improved, however, the science of understanding and automating the correct handling of personal names continues to rely on a technique developed in the early 1900s.
Essentially a method for building a “key” from a string of characters, the system, known as Soundex, has been proven ineffective time and again.
The Soundex algorithm ignores common personal name variations based on culture, language, spelling variations, or diminutives. The technology fails to return correct matches that exist in databases, while at the same time returning a bulk of unrelated “false positive” matches. Yet, almost every personal name handling system in use by business today still relies on the one-size-fits-all, key-based techniques pioneered by Soundex more than 80 years ago!
This leads to a lack of integrity among business transactions, reduced knowledge of the best customers and increased risk of working with customers linked to criminal or terrorist activities. Even worse, it alienates customers and the public at large when people see how poorly these systems are at distinguishing the honest citizen from the terrorist.
Moreover, problems occur when the names on watch lists are not specific enough to identify a single individual and instead raise suspicion about a completely innocent person who, coincidentally, has the same name. Worse yet, heightened fears about terrorism have made many of us who are unfamiliar with names from other cultures suspect all people who bear names that look similar to a name on a watch list.
Most Americans simply are unaware of the way that names from other cultures operate, and therefore often make mistakes when entering names into databases, searching for them or even marking them on paper forms.
This is especially true in cases where names are stored within large databases. These repositories include government, medical, educational and even commercial records kept about individuals. Problems arise when attempting to retrieve records from those databases.
How a name is stored within data records may, and often does, deviate in form from the way it is entered at the time of query. Needless to say, this can cause serious problems with personal names as they relate to databases and automatic matching and retrieval systems.