Troubleshooting The 6 Most Common CSV Import Errors

CSV Import Errors Got You Down? Read On!

May 5, 2022

Importing a CSV file can be a total drag. You get an error (or a series of errors), and you don't know why. To understand where these errors come from, you need to explore the reasons when and why these CS‎V import errors occur in the first place. They usually happen during some of the most critical data transfers, like when you're gathering information to complete your tax return or importing new customer data into your CRM. In this article we'll discuss troubleshooting the 6 most common CSV import errors.

Companies often provide their clients with instructions on how to format their CSV files correctly—or just give them a template to use. However, customers aren't as tech-savvy as they might need to be to complete the file transfer successfully. Offloading the task of importing a CSV file onto the client adds considerable friction that could damage the customer experience. Your goal should be better customer onboarding, and offloading the onus of the CSV file transfer does not aid in that goal.

While there are a number of solutions to CSV import problems, the best way to get to know what's going on is to understand where these errors come from in the first place. You might encounter a file size issue, a data translation error, a matching error, a value error, a formatting error, or a missing data error.

Let's take a look at some of the most common CSV import errors to understand why they occur:

1. File Size Issue

This is probably the most common error when it comes to importing CSV files. The file size can be too large, making it difficult for the system to process it. The file might also be too complex, with too many columns or rows, or the data may consume too many fields.

You can solve this issue by breaking the data down into smaller chunks—or by reducing the number of columns and rows in your CSV file.

2. Data Translation Error

This error usually crops up when there are special characters in the data, like apostrophes, commas, or dollar signs. This can be a problem because it can prevent the system from reading the data properly.

Importing data with different encoded characters can also cause this issue. Different systems often read and interpret data differently. They may use specific character encoding that can sometimes differ from the one used to create the CSV file.

3. Matching Error

This problem usually happens when the fields in the CSV file don't match the fields in the destination table. For example, the CSV file's column headings might be different from the ones in the table. Or, the values in a specific field might be stored in a different format in the CSV file. Other common issues are the complete absence of column names in the CSV file or the columns being in the wrong order.

4. Value Error

This problem happens when the value in a field is too long or too short. For example, if the field in the destination table can only store values up to 10 characters long, and a value in the CSV file is longer than 10 characters, it will shorten the value to 10 characters.

Another reason this happens is related fields having conflicting data, such as two different dates for the same event or two different product prices. This can also occur when the related field is missing a value in the CSV file.

5. Formatting Error

This error usually appears when the data in the CSV file is not formatted correctly. For example, dates might be in the wrong format, or phone numbers might not have the correct number of digits.

This type of error can also occur when there are extra spaces between values or characters in the data.

To avoid problems like these, it's important to make sure that you have a standard format for all your data so that all information will appear the same across all fields.

6. Missing Data Error

This error happens when there are missing values in the CSV file. This is a problem because it can prevent the system from reading the data properly.

Missing data can also cause import errors when the destination table is set up to expect a specific format for the data. For example, a shipping file may be missing required fields such as shipping method or address. This can be solved by pulling in data from another system or contacting a client to get the missing information.


CSV importing errors can be frustrating and difficult to troubleshoot. But by understanding where these errors come from, you can take steps to prevent them from happening in the first place. It can seem like a good workaround to offload the troubleshooting of CSV importing errors onto the client, but this can result in a poor customer onboarding experience and damage your brand. It's best to take on the responsibility of transitioning CSV files smoothly yourself. And if you do encounter an error, you'll be better equipped to solve it quickly and easily through the experience you develop by serving multiple clients.

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