How Accurate is Your Customer Database?

Jonathon Wolfe - April 16, 2012

customer list bounce rate

The customer list: A critical asset that’s always in flux.

For any business, your customer list is one of your most valuable assets. Without an accurate customer list, you can’t communicate with your customers — you can’t upsell, renew contracts, ask for referrals, or even solicit feedback.

However, no customer list is perfect, and no customer list is static — mistakes are made in collecting customer data, and as people switch jobs, email addresses start bouncing. Left alone, the quality of your customer database will always erode.

Use benchmarks to estimate your customer list quality.

Once you accept that your customer list is imperfect, it’s time to figure out what percentage of your customers you’ve lost the ability to contact.

The most straightforward way to do this would be to send an email to each and every last customer, track the bounce rate, and if they respond, ask them if they are, in fact, one of your customers*. Of course, such a global email blast isn’t the most tactful way to contact your customers, which is where benchmarking yourself against other companies can be useful.

customer list bounce rate

Since TechValidate’s clients – large and small technology vendors – use our content creation platform to communicate with their customers, we get a unique insight into how accurate their customer databases are. Often the data is great, but some of our clients’ customer lists have plenty of room for improvement.

We’ve sifted the data from over 1,000,000 unique recipients and come up with some customer-list statistics aggregated across all of our clients. Some key findings:

  • Overall Average Bounce Rate: 15% (keep in mind, that’s 15% of customers, not prospects.)
  • There is a high variation in customer list quality from company to company — from 1% bounce rate to 30%.
  • Most Bounced Job Title: Storage, Server, Network Admin (18%)
  • Most Bounced Industries: Telecommunications Equipment (19%), Computer Hardware (18%), Media & Entertainment (18%)
customer bounce rate by industry

Click to enlarge.


  • List hygiene matters. Tracking any bounces in emails sent to your customers, and using that data to update your master database, are key to keeping your list accurate. Read more on list hygiene here.
  • Factor in an estimated bounce rate in all metrics that depend on your customer list size. Whether you’re projecting revenue, renewal rates, or any other metric based on your customer list size, make sure your projections are right-sized by assuming that some percentage of your customers can’t be contacted. Otherwise, you’re in for some negative surprises when you can’t contact ~15% of those customers.
  • Customer list attrition varies from company to company and industry to industry. From our data, we see the highest bounce rates among IT professionals and in the Telecommunications, Hardware, and Media industries.

* You’d be surprised how often people who vendors think are their customers say they have no relationship at all to the vendor, but that’s a topic for another post.

Jonathon Wolfe

Jonathon Wolfe is VP of Product at TechValidate. He leads all aspects of TechValidate product design, functionality, and user experience. You can follow Jon on Twitter at @tv_jon.

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