With USPS address quality initiatives about to go into effect regarding new rules for standard mail, it cannot be overstated how important it is from a productive business standpoint to have updated addresses - irrespective of postal regulations and automation discounts - as necessary and useful as they may be.
Approximately 24% of the nearly 200 billion pieces of mail the Postal Service handles each year have address inaccuracies. These address inaccuracies can mean non-delivery, slowed delivery, returned mail and mail delivered to the wrong address. A significant amount of Standard mail never arrives at all! Not only are postage, printing and processing wasted, the opportunity to sell a product or contact a customer is missed.
The following Laws of Postal Address Quality from Neopost/Hasler illustrate simple improvements you can make in your customer information and fulfillment procedures, with benefits ranging from "hard dollar" savings to "soft number" benefits such as customer relations. Regardless, the benefits will positively affect nearly every aspect of delivery and customer communication.
The 10 Laws of Postal Address Quality You Can't Ignore
#1 The Law of Escalation
"The farther the customer or prospect transaction progresses, the more expensive it becomes to correct the address information."
The Law of Escalation focuses on the time, resources and simple hassle of ensuring Customer X's information is valid throughout the organization. These costs and consequences, such as the residual effects of shipping a product or brochure to an incorrect address, can be staggering.
#2 The Law of the Hard Dollar Discount
"Address correction is a necessary first step for taking advantage of most postal discount programs."
Correcting lists with CASS Certified address correction software, using an accepted Move Update method, and then presorting with a complementary postal presort product will result in a lower postage bill, perhaps as much as 35%. Address correction technology is affordable, easy to use and should be part of your corporate culture.
#3 The Law of the Hunter
"Captured information has some value in its original state. It has far more value in a processed state."
Salespeople hunt for prospects, then qualify these leads. The value and usefulness of address information is heightened when it is processed with CASS Certified software and a Move Update method such as NCOALink. We "clean" the data by correcting misspellings and standardizing address elements and a "add ingredients" by filling in missing address components. Data "hunting" is the first step in creating a responsive database. Address updating and standardization is the next.
#4 The Law of the Unfulfilled
"An organization's ability to fulfill orders and literature requests is directly related to address quality."
Using the web or direct mail to initiate orders or requests for information are fundamental marketing processes. However, problems arise when the address on the article is incorrect or incomplete. Something as simple as an inaccurate, outdated postal address can undermine our work, our plans and our progress.
#5 The Law of Speed
"The speed that mail is delivered is directly dependent on the quality of the address."
There is a mindset that all documents require immediate overnight delivery. Yet, if the address is incorrect or outdated, expect some type of delivery delay. Residing on your desktop, easy to use CASS Certified address correction software is one tool available for database integrity. Instantly, the address is matched against the United States Postal Service's file of all deliverable addresses and validation of the keyed address is attempted. Move Update processing enhances the benefits of address standardization.
#6 The Law of Precision
"The accuracy of mail delivery is directly dependent on the quality and completeness of the address."
Corrected address information moves letters through the mail stream faster because the Postal Service doesn't have to "guess" the delivery point. An apartment building, for example, might have a "default" address for the building; however, the "delivery point" is that address plus the apartment number. Without it, there is a chance of miss-delivery. Move update processing checks for those on your list that have moved, ensuring the right person, gets the right direct mail communication. Speed is important: Precision is critical.
#7 The Law of Duplication
"Duplicate address detection success is dependent on the degree of address standardization."
Duplicate mailing remains one of the most visible problems in direct mail communication.
Today's powerful, intuitive duplicate address detection, or "matching," software looks for patterns and phonetic similarity between addresses, personal names and business names within and between your databases. You simply delete one of the records and move on. Multiply this over the expanse of your lists and databases and the savings can be astounding.
#8 The Law of Foundation
"Verifying and validating customer data is a fundamental business practice that impacts and enhances an organization's value."
The value of your business comes from its assets vs. liabilities, infrastructure, intellectual property and business practices, or lack thereof. Ensuring you have an accurate, qualified customer mailing list is also of inherent value to your organization. It is a key conduit to retaining loyalty and interest and is truly foundational to business retention. Through it, you will have demonstrated a uniform business rule and a sound business practice, and also have shown how it directly impacts not only the day-to-day operations, but also the increased worth of your business.
#9 The Law of the Asset
"An organization's customer list is one of its most valuable assets. Address correction and validation increase that value."
Sometimes companies are bought and sold on the basis of their customer list and little else. The value of this asset, however, is diminished if lists are riddled with outdated ZIP Codes, misspellings and missing address elements. Address information is an enterprise resource and asset whose value crosses organizational departments and functions, with interdependence for all of the elements required to complete a successful customer transaction. Clean, updated address information is an organizational asset that helps complete this transaction.
#10 The Law of Standardization
"Standardization of postal address capture' directly increases data quality."
The results CASS Certified address correction software and a Move Update process is dependent on the raw address information presented. For example, an address record in which the city does not match the state and the state does not match the ZIP Code is probably too problematic to be accurately corrected.
Capturing address information at the source in a systematic, standardized method increases data quality and eliminates the cost associated with making corrections later. Defined data collection increases the effectiveness of address correction software and other address enhancing processes such as National Change of Address (NCOA). Standardization is a powerful tool for management when developing marketing plans, budgeting and general business strategy.
BONUS LAW: The Law of Customer Service
"A correct and updated address positively impacts the customer service experience."
A customer address is an integral part of a business value chain. Many customer contact points involve the postal or shipping address as an important element of customer data. Any breakdown in delivery could be viewed as a breakdown in the business value chain and a less than positive customer experience.
Michael Maguire holds an M.B.A. from