This is the second in a series of tips from my book, Put Your Data to Work: 52 Tips and Techniques for Effectively Managing Your Database, I’ve been asked by several people which of the tips are my favorites. So this series of blog posts focuses on five of them. Each of these tips is reproduced verbatim from the book.

Tip # 36 -Search names on partial spelling, not complete spelling

For most databases, searching an individual’s name should be a relatively easy thing to do. But most users make the mistake of doing an “exact string” search on a person’s name, rather than doing a partial search. For example, my last name is spelled “Trochlil.” To search for me in most databases, however, only requires that the user type in “troch” and search from there. Even in a very large database, “troch” will only return a small number of records.

If the list is still too big, an additional step would be to enter “w’ in the first name field (since my first name is Wes) and then search. This would limit the results to just those names that have a first name that starts with “w’ and a last name that starts with “troch.’ Teaching your database users this simple trick can greatly minimize the number of duplicate records that are created in the database, as well as improving the speed of customer service.

REAL LIFE LESSON —

The spelling of my last name is relatively unusual. It’s pronounced to rhyme with “vocal’ but it is spelled with an “lil’ at the end (Trochlil). Very frequently, my name is entered into databases with an “ill’ at the end (Trochill). So when I talk to a company that is looking my name up in their database, I’ll typically only spell the first part of my last name, in the vain hope that they’ll do a partial name lookup. I rarely succeed. As often as not, my last name will be misspelled and I will have to spend several minutes arguing with the customer service rep about my last name:

CSR: “I’m sorry sir, your name is not in the database.”

Me: “Try spelling it “trochill.”

CSR: “I thought it was “Trochlil.’

Me: “It is, but someone probably typed it in incorrectly.”

CSR: “Oh. Here it is. Yep, it was misspelled.”

And on it goes…

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