There are lots of things in life that we’ve simply come to accept – paper forms that we download as a PDF, print, complete by hand, mail/fax for processing and wait (days…often weeks) for an answer.

If we’re the organisation on the receiving end of these forms – we’ve come to accept that our mailroom will be busy processing these paper documents, handwriting resembles what a spider produces after falling in an ink-well and despite our best efforts to explain what information is mandatory, a high percentage of forms will be missing required information or the phone number will have 9 digits, the date of birth is the date the form was completed ARGHHHH!!!!

It’s a bad experience for the form filler and form processor. But do you know what data entry is really costing you? I hope this article will help you calculate that cost…


  1. We don’t account for the cost of customers completing forms as we don’t pay their salaries – cost are counted when the mailed/faxed item hits the office for processing;
  2. We’ll ignore postage costs for the purposes of this calculation;
  3. We’ll allow $40 per hour as a cost for staff processing mail, performing data entry, etc (allowing for on-costs above salary such as IT, Real Estate, Payroll Tax etc.);
  4. 38% of forms received will require re-work due to missing or incorrect information*
  5. Forms will be scanned to make the data entry and paper-pushing more efficient – scanning will be at a rate of 1,500 page per hour per scanner;²
  6. Mail (envelopes) will be opened and prepared for processing (staples removed etc.) at a rate of 180 items per hour per operator; ²
  7. Data Entry on alpha-numeric values will be at a rate of 8,000 keystrokes per hour per operator. Given the accuracy rate of 98.5% on single-pass-data-entry, all fields will be blind-double-keyed to ensure accuracy even though this is more costly (data entered a second time by an operator without visibility of the first operators data with an automatic comparison to the first pass to ensure accuracy); ²
  8. Exceptions will be processed at a rate of 10 per hour per operator (6 minutes per item) – based on an expectation that exception processing will involve putting the item back in an envelope and returning it to the client. If the call centre is involved in contacting the client to correct the form, this would be a similar cost allowing 4 minutes per successful call and 1 minute for each of 2 unsuccessful call attempts; ²
  9. A Standard Application form such as a credit card application will average 250 to 450 characters for data entry purposes;
  10. Data Entry fields are based on the following standard field lengths (numbers of characters, allowing for spaces);