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The Cost of Dirty Data in Death Care

How inaccurate or dirty data impacts your business and steps you can take to improve your data quality.
August 25, 2020

It’s believed that dirty data, or bad data, costs the US economy a staggering $3.1 trillion every year, according to an IBM survey. Dirty data is no small problem – and unfortunately, the death care industry is not immune to its effects.

If you’re using digital cemetery software, funeral arrangement software, or marketing automation software of any kind, you may have one or several databases of information; this might include family contacts, cemetery records, and so on. If this data is of high quality, you can use it to improve your day-to-day operations, communicate clearly with customers and staff, meet your compliance needs, and make informed decisions about the future of your organization. But what happens if that data isn’t of high quality?

What is ‘dirty data’?

Dirty data refers to data that might be inaccurate, is poorly structured, is duplicated, or is incomplete. The value and usefulness of your data is directly related to its accuracy. As such, dirty data can be as bad as no data at all – in fact, it could even lead you confidently in the wrong direction when it comes to making plans and decisions.

Within the death care profession, there are several ways that dirty data can cost your business.

  • Time & resources: Dirty data can cost your organization serious time and resources, most often through avoidable errors. A cemetery could have a team accidentally dig the wrong sized grave, for example, or graves in the wrong location. A funeral director could make a large and expensive order based on inaccurate information.
  • Compliance: Compliance is absolutely critical for many organizations in the death care profession. If you’re working with dirty data, your organization could be missing key compliance-related information that might only become apparent in the case of an auditing process.
  • Opportunities: Precise and accurate data can help you to optimize your sales and relationships, and to make significant decisions such as expanding service offerings. In the IBM survey mentioned above, one in three business leaders weren’t confident with the data they were using to make key business decisions. 27% of respondents said they were uncertain of how accurate their data even was.
  • Customer relationships: Dirty data can affect the decisions based on ‘big data,’ but it can also have effects on an individual basis. A funeral director or cemetery could contact the wrong family based on incorrect information, for example, or contact them at the wrong time. Families could potentially even be led to pay their respects at the wrong grave because of a shared surname in the database.

Quote "The value and usefulness of your data is directly related to its accuracy."

How do you know if your organization has low-quality data?

Put simply, anything that compromises your datasets could be bad data. These are the most common issues:

  • Inconsistent or outdated data, such as old contact details, or data that might have been stored differently across disparate software solutions.
  • Missing data, such as missing surnames, dates, or metadata.
  • Discrepancies, such as spelling mistakes or duplicate data.

4 tips for improving your data quality

It can take just a few steps to ensure your datasets are clean and accurate.

1. Invest in a ‘data detox’ through regular data maintenance.

It’s worth cleaning up datasets wherever possible on a regular basis. It might take some time for someone to go through the database and repair missing or inconsistent data, but it could have significant benefits for the organization.

2. Assess your data integrity systems & processes.

This step might include making certain online form fields mandatory so that all fresh data is entered accurately, or ensuring existing data is stored correctly. If your funeral planning software or cemetery software is outdated, consider an upgrade.

3. Train those who deal with data.

Human error can be a significant cause of bad data, so it’s crucial to ensure your staff are trained on the importance and correct handling of data. Taking a few seconds to enter information correctly could save countless hours in the future.

4. Remove data silos.

Data silos in your systems or between different systems can lead to duplicated and inconsistent data, so be sure to use a comprehensive system that creates one source of truth for the organization. Access permissions can be used to restrict sensitive or irrelevant data for specific users or departments. See also our blog Who Moved my Data? Breaking Down Information Silos in Death Care


Dirty data in your funeral planning software or digital cemetery software could be costing you when it comes to compliance, opportunities, time, and resources. With a little ‘data housekeeping’ and the right systems in place, you’ll be empowered to optimize your customer service and drive your future decisions with clarity.

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