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Three Steps to Selecting the Best Data Entry Service

Whether its keying in a hundred hand-written contest entry forms or transitioning a hundred thousand electronic documents, at some point many businesses consider hiring a data entry service to get information into a useable format. With over 500 data entry services based in the U.S., there are many right--and wrong--choices available. Here are three steps to managing the process:

Define the Project
Organizing requirements, even for small one-off projects, will result in more consistent evaluation of the offerings from various data entry companies. Here are some points to consider.

  • Job frequency: Is this an ongoing or one-off project?
    Number of records and number of fields per record: Along with other criteria, prices are ultimately based on the number of keystrokes.
  • Input format of raw data: Are the original documents paper-based? Handwritten? Bubble forms? Or Web-generated?
  • Output format: Will it be an image only? Optical character recognition? Or another file format?
  • Degree of accuracy required: Many data entry companies offer at least two accuracy levels--a basic level in the 90 percent range and a second, more expensive, two-pass level in the 99 percent range.
  • Turnaround time: Although all jobs are guaranteed to be turned around in a specific amount of time, faster turnarounds are generally more expensive.
  • Logistics: Does paper need to be transported or scanned? How will electronic files be transmitted?
  • Once the parameters are defined, preferably in a written document, the search for providers can begin. For large or complex projects, data entry companies may provide their own assessment documents to help them bid your job.

    Where to Find Data Entry Service Companies
    Typing data entry services in an online search engine is a logical place to begin. Individual and aggregator listings--both organic and sponsored--will appear. Industry trade associations and chambers of commerce are also good sources for affiliate services. Other possibilities include paper or online business-to-business phone directories as well as recommendations through personal and professional networks.

    Selection Criteria
    After requesting price quotes from data entry services, keep a spreadsheet to compare:

  • Responsiveness: How long did it take the data entry company to make its first contact? If additional follow up is required, was it prompt?
  • Professionalism: Was the representative pleasant, a good listener, knowledgeable, and receptive to new business?
  • Match: Is the data service company able to provide all the services requested in the timeframe and format needed?
  • Price: All services being equal, are prices in the ballpark? For outliers, are there additional services or bargains to be had?
  • References: Be sure to speak with at least one reference from each of your top three choices. Although references by definition will be positive, there is often much to be learned from asking how long the reference has been using the data entry service provider, what it does best, and what could be improved.

  • Although intuition is often a strong and accurate guide for decision making, a process such as the one described above can go a long way toward making an informed selection of the best data entry service provider based on business needs.


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