5 Epic Data Collection Fails

By Jason Ganz on May 14, 2014

We’ve all had these moments. You cringe looking back at the blunders, or the mistakes you could have easily avoided. But if everyone has done them, is it really just human error at play? Here are our top blunders, and why they often involve more than just human error.

Photo credit: Mr.TinDC via photopin cc 

1.  Was it 45 Baker Street or 45 Baters Street?

You have workers in the field. To save time and gas, you try to send them delivery addresses via phone or radio. Only problem? The signal cuts out and your field worker can’t quite hear the address. So they go to the wrong location. You figure out the mix up, and your worker gets to the client’s house…just an hour late.

This common mistake isn’t just bad for your efficiency, it’s bad for your brand. You lost an hour of billable time, and your client’s trust. Both affect your bottom line. This isn’t due to bad workers, but a communication system prone to errors. Blame the message system, not the messenger.

2. What do you mean we don’t have it on file?

Every business has a form filled out every day. Some do an inventory checklist, others fill out safety inspections. Most days these forms are tedious, yet run smoothly. But one day, something goes wrong. Maybe it’s a fire, or a worker gets hurt. Would a fire ruin your records? If the worker threatens to sue, would you be able to find this form? Today, 70% of businesses would fail in three weeks if they had a catastrophic loss of paper due to a fire or flood. Businesses are taking a chance that they’ll stay safe.

The nature of paper forms makes them both easy to damage or lose, or hard to find. On average, it takes 18 minutes to find a paper form. Even the best businesses misplace or lose files: a recent survey found 7.5% of paper documents are lost and 3.5% are misfiled. Together, 11% are lost to businesses. Even in the best case scenarios, paper forms cost you time to find. 

3. Brian filled out the on-site fire inspection form on Friday at noon, but he also posted pictures from the Lakers game on Facebook…at 12:30

We want to believe our employees are always right where they say they are. Sometimes it can be a little too tempting to cut corners. Paper forms give you no way of knowing where they are when they fill out important forms. Can you be sure that your inspections and checklists are being completed on-site?

A number of potential problems could arise from this uncertainty. You could be missing only small issues with a worksite. Maybe that only costs you a few hours of extra work. But what if you miss a larger issue, a safety violation? That kind of gaff could leave you open to lawsuits down the road. 

4. Does 12 * 6 = 72 or 78?

Adding up numbers in the field can be a chore. But if you get it wrong, you’re in big trouble. Go too low and you’ll leave money on the table. Go too high and you’ll risk being caught and losing business. 

“Arithmetic is being able to count up to twenty without taking off your shoes.” Mickey Mouse

Doing a bunch of calculations in your head is tough any time. But when you’re in the field, trying to be quick and efficient, adding up all the numbers takes extra time.

5. Coffee Spilled and Data Lost

Sometimes, Mother Nature is not your best friend. Coffee spills, gusts of wind, messy cars, even rain can ruin a perfectly good report. With paper forms, that means all your hard work can get lost in a moment.

Mobile apps help protect your information. Whether you use a ruggedized or consumer smartphone, all of your reports are sent straight to the cloud and stay safe. Even fragile smartphones have great protective cases now. These can protect against being dropped, shocked, or landing in dirt or water. Can your paper forms give you this kind of protection?

More often than not, your work goes smoothly. You have a strong team, and get great data. But even if that fails just 5% of the time, this process costs you and your business. Most data collection failure isn’t your fault; it’s the system you use. 

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