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 ProjectJob frequency: Is this an ongoing or one-off project?
Organizing requirements, even for small one-off projects, will result in more
consistent evaluation of the offerings from various data
Here are some points to consider.
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 CriteriaResponsiveness: 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.
After requesting price quotes from data
entry services, keep a spreadsheet
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