Back to Basics – Watch how you do your lookups

I was checking into a hotel last week, only to discover that they could not find my reservation. The confirmation number I gave them also yielded nothing. As the woman at check-in searched and searched for my reservation, she suddenly looked up at me and said “Oh, do you go by Wes?” I replied that I did. “I couldn’t find you because I was searching for ‘Wesley,'” which is what is printed on my ID and credit card.

This is a very common problem when searching in a database. Too often users search for the entire name (what database geeks call “exact string match”) rather than searching for just part of the name (“partial string match”). In my case, in most databases, if you search on the last name “troc” and the first name “w” (assuming the database automatically adds a wild card at the end, as most do these days), you’re very likely to come up with my name, almost regardless of how it has been spelled.

So be sure that you and your staff are searching the database in a manner that’s likely to help them find the record they need more quickly, and will minimize the likelihood of duplicate records being created. You can learn more here.

Oh, and as it turns out, the hotel had booked me for arriving the night before. But all ended well, as they still had a room at the same rate for the night I needed it.

About Wes Trochlil

For over 30 years, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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