Finding the Best Data Entry Services

Outsourcing Data Cleansing, Transcription, and Enrichment at Scale

Data entry can have profound implications for the continuing digital transformation of modern business. After all, data drives so much of what organizations do, from making informed business decisions to maintaining critical records, directories, and databases. Data entry services are essential for making this possible on an increasingly massive scale.

The rapid proliferation of data and the increasing need for digitization present significant challenges for organizations across every industry. Even those who have digitized their records often need assistance to clean and structure it to be useful to modern applications. Other businesses rely on real-time data entry to deliver products and services to consumers.

Data entry services can assist with high-volume, time-consuming, and quality-sensitive work. Outsourcing the work can be a cost-effective alternative to managing a team in-house. But not all data entry services come with the same benefits. Choosing a data entry service is an important decision that will affect the outcomes you achieve with your data.

We’ve created this guide to serve as a valuable reference on data entry services, use cases, and workforce options. Feel free to bookmark and revisit this page if you find it helpful.

Finding the best data entry services

Read the full guide below, or download a PDF version of the guide you can reference later.

In this guide, we’ll cover data entry services, your workforce options, and what to look for in a data entry service.

First, we’ll explain what data entry means to organizations before exploring some of the most popular use cases. Next, we’ll look at the biggest challenges facing organizations today, as they try to keep up with the exponential growth and diversity of data types and formats.

Finally, we’ll share our tips for helping you choose a data entry service that can adapt and scale with your evolving needs. We’ll provide pointers to help you field the right workforce for the job, and we’ll finish with some frequently asked questions.

  1. Introduction
  2. The Basics
  3. Common Use Cases
  4. Options & Challenges
  5. Data Entry Service
  6. Contact
  7. FAQs

Introduction:
Will This Guide Be Helpful to Me?

This guide will be helpful to you if:

  • Your team processes high-volume or time-sensitive data that your organization depends on to deliver a product or service.
  • You have large archives of printed or scanned documents that need to be digitized and structured so the information they include can be accessed, searched, and maintained.
  • You have high volumes of incorrect, inaccurate, or inconsistent data that needs to be cleansed before it can be useful.

The Basics:
What are Data Entry Services?

What is data entry?

Data entry is the practice of digitizing data or transcribing existing data for use in a software environment, such as a database. Most data entry tasks involve the manual input of information simply by typing and transcribing, although other input devices, such as scanners and microphones, may also be used where necessary.

Data entry can be automated. For example, optical character recognition (OCR) software can decipher typed or handwritten text and translate it into editable data. Keep in mind, it has an error rate of between 5% and 20%. Automation without exception handling and quality control measures can lead to errors and inconsistencies that can have serious consequences.

That’s why data entry should incorporate data cleansing, whereby data is manually reviewed for error resolution, deduplication, exception handling, and reformatting. This is especially important for tasks such as medical and legal transcription, where errors can affect life or liberty.

What are data entry services?

Data entry services are outsourced providers tasked with the labor-intensive work of entering large amounts of data into a software program. These companies often provide related services as well, such as data cleansing and data transcription. Some data entry services specialize in an industry, such as healthcare or legal, so they better understand or have domain experience with the nuances of the information involved.

What is transcription?

Transcription is a key component of data entry. It involves extracting information from a wide range of sources, such as audio recordings, handwritten notes, and printed records, and transcribing it into a consistent digital format. Automated systems for transcribing printed text and audio, such as Otter.ai and Transcribe.me, are now widely available. However, automation lacks the accuracy required by many applications, thus it requires humans in the loop to check quality, manage exceptions, and make corrections for automation.

What is data cleansing?

Data cleansing is the process of detecting and mitigating inconsistent or erroneous records, sometimes called “dirty data.” It may include the correction or structuring of data that has been entered with errors, incomplete data, or duplicate data. Data cleansing is a critical quality control (QC) process for ensuring the validity, accuracy, completeness, and consistency across a dataset. Gartner reports that the “average financial impact of poor data quality on the organization is estimated to be $9.7 million per year.

What is data enrichment?

Data enrichment is a more advanced level of data entry that goes beyond simply typing in data into a database. Enrichment is aggregating and adding to data from a range of sources and merging it into an existing database to enhance existing processes or data stores. Data enrichment makes data more useful for the people, processes, or systems it supports. For example, enriching a sales database with fresh, accurate contact information can increase the quality of the interactions a sales team has with prospective buyers.

Common Use Cases: Data Entry Services

Data entry allows organizations to develop databases containing information relevant to their customers, products, and operations. High-quality digitization, characterized by databases with quality structured data, is the driving force behind better decision making, process automation, and machine learning.

However, for data to be valuable, it often needs to be aggregated, cleaned, and enriched. Most organizations and workers apply data entry in day-to-day work, but there’s a lot more to it than simply transferring information into a unified digital format. Data entry services can be used to complete this work without the management burden of an in-house or crowdsourced team.

Here are some of the ways industries use data entry services:

Finance

Data entry is the foundation of good bookkeeping and accounting, and it’s key to achieving consistent and sustainable financial practices. For example, many businesses have piles of invoices, purchase orders, and other transactional documents in unstructured PDF format or paper documentation. To keep a complete and accurate record of finances, it’s necessary to input the information in such documents into a database.

For example, if a bank wants to expedite loan applications from clients, data entry services would help them process handwritten applications and verify printed bank statements faster.

Learn how one financial services company outsourced document transcription and improved turnaround time from days to just minutes with 99% accuracy.

Healthcare

Specialized data transcription and cleansing services are critical in the healthcare sector,  where errors can mean the difference between health and illness. Doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, and others who work in the healthcare field need top-quality data entry services to ensure the integrity of printed or scanned health records. Any data entry services tasked with medical transcription must also fully understand healthcare terminology and be able to guarantee confidentiality and compliance with regulations that protect personally identifiable information, such as a patient’s medical history.

Many healthcare practices maintain thousands of paper pages of detailed health histories that must be transcribed for easier accessibility and to make them more useful to practitioners and patients. In the UK, for example, the average general practitioner has hundreds of thousands of pages of medical records, which must be scanned and archived according to the strict standards laid out by the British healthcare sector.

Legal

The legal sector is undergoing a rapid transformation, thanks to the digital age and mass digitization of existing paper documents into electronic form. For example, data entry and the digitization of information have given rise to electronic discovery. However, to litigate and rule on complex cases, legal practitioners must gather documents and evidence that are decades old, and they must have easy access to the right information.

Similarly, criminal lawyers working on highly complicated cases often end up working through paper trails spanning multiple decades. Conveyancers might find themselves dealing with property-related documents from long before the era of computers and digitization. 

Naturally, the need for accuracy in legal transcriptions is paramount. There’s no room for data inconsistencies and errors in things like transcriptions of discovery interviews, hearing outcomes, or court proceedings.

Learn how a data entry service helped Heretik develop software to streamline and automate legal contract review.

Transportation

Companies in the transportation sector face a growing need for data entry for many of the reasons we’ve covered, along with some unique challenges. Among the most significant is the need to simplify the management, collection, and shipment of goods by digitizing data that is included in unstructured, paper documents such as receipts, inventories, and bills of lading. Global supply chains depend on the efficiency of these processes which are improved by using digitized, structured information.

One unique use case where accurate data entry is critical is pilot logbooks. Aircraft pilots depend on the integrity of their logbooks to establish accountability and advance their careers. Pilots maintain these logbooks manually, particularly independent pilots.

A pilot logbook contains every flight a pilot has flown, including flight time, number of landings, and instruments the pilot used during approaches. Pilots also log simulator time, which help fulfill training requirements. Yet, many human resources managers in aviation consider logbook inconsistencies to be one of the most common sources of problems when screening applicants. Data entry for pilot logbooks is a common use case.

Customer service

Customer service is a primary driver of purchase decisions, alongside product and pricing. But it’s only possible to provide good customer service if a business can quickly access relevant and accurate customer, purchase, and inventory information. 

The role of data entry in improving customer service doesn’t stop at the customer support department. The digitization of mailed warranty registrations, customer support calls, and repair invoices also ease research and development, thus providing companies across every industry access to insights that can help improve their product and service offerings. 

Learn how one event planning and management company used data entry services to research and compile current online data to enrich their database and improve user experience for their customers.

Workforce Options and Challenges

There are now more bytes of data, or units of memory that store data, than there are stars in the observable universe, and that growth trend is only going to increase over time. Every organization generates increasingly enormous amounts of unstructured data from a wide range of sources to the point they can no longer keep up with demand for structuring that data.

This results in potentially valuable data going unused for business intelligence, product development, predictive analytics, and other purposes. Unlocking the value of that data requires a data entry workforce that may include automation.

Here are the main options for data entry work:

Automation

The market is exploding with solutions to automate data entry but there are always exceptions, edge cases, and errors that require human intervention. Automation solutions like optical character recognition (OCR), robotic process automation (RPA) or voice-to-text transcribers can speed data entry. However, automation like OCR has an error rate of between 5 and 20%, which reduces data quality across collections of text, or corpora. For example, OCR software can have difficulty deciphering handwriting, blurred print, and unusual characters, hence the need for manual oversight.

Indeed; every automated process will encounter edge cases, exceptions, and nuances that must be monitored, processed, and checked for quality. When applying automation, the best approach is one that applies automation and people strategically to achieve the best data-entry outcomes.

RPA solutions automate processes that previously depended on people. An RPA software bot can mimic a human worker by carrying out a task within a process. For example, RPA can use bots to copy and paste data from one system to another, replacing the process of a person doing it manually. This is often called “swivel chair” automation.

RPA technology can be useful to augment an existing solution and automate repetitive, rules-driven data entry across different systems or applications. Keep in mind, RPA can include considerable implementation time and cost.

Employees

Every organization has data entry requirements, so it might seem obvious to build a team of in-house specialists. However, even relatively simple data entry tasks tend to be labor-intensive and extremely time-consuming.

With more complicated cases, you might even need to hire specially trained staff. Building an in-house team is by far the most difficult to scale and expensive option, especially if it involves taking existing employees away from their usual roles.

Crowdsourcing

Many organizations outsource data entry jobs and other labor-intensive work to crowdsourcing platforms, such as Amazon Mechanical Turk (mTurk). It’s a cheap and highly scalable option, especially for tasks that require less skill or oversight.

Crowdsourced workers are anonymous, so it is more difficult to maintain worker accountability and may require an additional level of quality control.

Gig Workers

With the gig economy in full swing, some of the most obvious places to look for data entry outsourcing are freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr. These platforms tend to offer a wide range of services at low prices, but while there are undoubtedly many skilled people who deliver work using these platforms, their work requires management and oversight, burdens that your team will have to bear if you choose this option.

Traditional BPOs (business process outsourcing)

Business process outsourcing (BPO) is a data entry service option that many enterprise companies use. Some of the major BPO players in the data entry space include Flatworld, Axion, and Ardem. The BPO model is typically dependent on placing as many workers as possible into an office environment where they can churn out data entry work en masse.

BPOs can be cost-effective for high-volume work, but they typically lock clients into strict staffing minimums in exchange for certain pricing. This leads to contractual difficulties with scaling the work and team due to business needs. Many BPOs are plagued with poor communication between customers and their workers, which can result in reduced quality and a lack of consistency across data sets. And because BPO workers are not empowered to work remotely, disruptions can occur when employees cannot report to the office for work.

Managed Workforce

A managed workforce offers the benefits of having a dedicated in-house team without the burden of managing one. A managed workforce serves as an extension of your in-house team, augmenting their capabilities while allowing you to maintain oversight of your data entry project. A managed team is ideal for sustained, high-volume processes that are demanding and may require quality control and specialized knowledge.

Some managed workforces can scale processes quickly up or down, based on an organization’s needs. For example, Ibotta uses a managed workforce to seamlessly scale up during the holiday season to meet receipt processing demand from their customers.

What to Look For in a Data Entry Service

The best data entry services are those that strategically apply people, processes, and technology. These data entry services don’t take automation for granted or cut corners when it comes to hiring employees with the skill sets and experience necessary to deliver quality work.

Here are qualities to evaluate in a data entry service:

People

The best data entry services are operated by people who are driven by a desire to learn about your organization, your project, and how the data they enter will be used. That’s why you should look for partners who understand your unique requirements and are willing to adapt to your needs based on continuous feedback and oversight.

This is especially important for organizations with specialized requirements, such as those in the healthcare or legal industries. People who work for data entry services for these industries must be able to understand and comply with regulatory requirements, such as those that protect personally identifiable information (PII).

Process

Processes determine how a service is delivered. These govern the various workflows involved in a given project. By definition, processes are repeatable, producing consistent results to ensure a high quality and reliable throughput. That being said, you should look for service providers that possess quality certification and are willing to tailor their processes to better accommodate your goals, such as deadlines and quality levels.

A data entry service should be prepared to learn about your goals and help identify the key steps required to achieve them. There must be an established consensus for quality control and throughput on all tasks related to the project, which also means there must be clear instructions and ways to communicate and collaborate. Processes should also consider how work is reviewed and how success is measured.

Technology

Technology includes the tools a data entry service uses to help people perform their jobs efficiently and streamline processes for easier tracking and auditing. These may include basic data-entry tools, such as spreadsheets, or they may include more advanced tools, such as Grooper or RingLead’s Capture.

The best data entry services will be able to use your technology and recommend others for your use case. They also should provide technology to facilitate direct communication with a project manager or team leader for the data entry team. This communication is critical for ensuring your data entry work is completed accurately, that changes can be made to your process as needed, and that you can leverage any helpful feedback from workers about the tasks involved in your work. 

When choosing a data entry service, be wary of those that put too much emphasis on the role of automation. On the other hand, you’ll also want to avoid working with providers that use outdated technology, which can stifle efficiency, increase delivery times, or expose your data to unnecessary security risks.

CloudFactory

At CloudFactory, we represent the opportunity in the middle, between in-house and outsourced teams. We strategically apply people, processes, and technology to ensure high-quality data entry and better outcomes for you.

You can hire and manage your own team or throw the work to a traditional BPO, crowdsourcing, or gig workers. Or, you can choose CloudFactory for a managed, vetted team that operates as an extension of your own.

Are you ready to speak to a data entry workforce expert? Find out how we can help you.

Let’s Talk

Frequently Asked Questions

Data entry services are offered by companies that handle the labor-intensive tasks of entering data from one system into another or transcribing printed or scanned documents into editable text. However, there are many different types of data entry, such as audio transcription, data enrichment, and data cleansing. While data entry is often considered a low-skill task, a lot of projects, such as those in healthcare or finance, require specialized industry knowledge or thorough onboarding and training practices.

Data entry is an important part of many customer service operations. These processes may involve manually entering customer data into a customer relationship management (CRM) system or transcribing printed or scanned customer records into a database. Other customer data might be collected over phone calls or during virtual conferences and events. Often, this information must be transcribed and structured to make it useful for analytics and other uses.

Almost every industry can benefit from transcription services, but they tend to be most valuable in finance, healthcare, legal, journalism, and academia. Transcription services are vital for transforming things like audio and video recordings into structured forms that are searchable and can be used to glean insights for analytics and business intelligence, for example. In many of these applications, sole reliance on automated transcription simply doesn’t deliver the quality required.

Transcription services vary greatly in terms of cost, so it’s impossible to give an answer that applies across the board. Basic audio transcription, for example, might cost between USD $0.50 and $2.00 per minute, where specialized services will inevitably cost more. Some projects, such as those involving medical or legal transcription, have rigorous quality control requirements and can be more expensive. Also, services that charge by projects or milestones are usually more expensive than those that charge by the hour. Data transcription services may conduct a preliminary analysis of your project to get a better understanding of the scope of work and costs involved.

There are many ways to outsource data entry services, and each one has advantages and disadvantages. Some of the most common approaches include crowdsourcing through platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk or traditional business process outsourcing (BPO). While these models can work for simple, non-critical projects, quality-sensitive data entry work is better handled by a managed workforce that stays in communication with your team and can flag or resolve quality issues.

Axion is a business process outsourcing (BPO) firm that provides data entry services to clients in the U.S. While this model can be a highly scalable approach, there is minimal oversight of workers and provision of quality control, as is the case with most traditional BPO models. If quality and industry knowledge are key project requirements, consider a managed workforce that can communicate with your team and resolve quality control (QC) issues.

Transcription services convert speech from audio or video recordings into text. This process is commonly automated using technologies like natural language processing (NLP). However, many applications require greater accuracy than automation can provide, especially in the case of medical or legal audio transcription. Sometimes, as with these cases, it is important for workers to understand the nuances specific to your industry. 

Medical transcription services convert voice-recorded medical reports and consultations into editable text. These services surged in popularity during the  COVID-19 pandemic, when the use of telehealth services increased. Medical transcription is typically more demanding than other forms of transcription because it requires compliance with patient privacy regulations (e.g.,HIPAA), and high accuracy in data entry work.