In part one of this three-part series about dirty data, we discussed the costs associated with undeliverable-as-addressed mail and why this dirty data continues to linger in so many databases. We also talked about some of the various tools available to mailers to keep addresses complete, correct and current.
After identifying these tools, however, the most common questions we hear from mailers tend to fall into one of two categories: "What if we have an address that cannot be corrected using these tools?" and "Are there any best practices about how others are applying these tools that we can consider to help us improve our address quality?"
An Address Quality Foundation
Keeping your addresses complete, correct and current is best achieved by establishing a foundation of data cleansing solutions and best practices in address quality. The address quality foundation can be best visualized as a pyramid of solutions.
1. The foundation starts with CASS Cer-
tified software. This is the technology
that provides the ZIP+4 Code, which
is crucial for using the other address
2. Validation tools such as LACSLink,
DPV and AEC II ensure that the ad-
dress is truly deliverable.
3. Update tools like NCOALink,
ANKLink and ACS help you keep up
with customers on the move.
The reason that a pyramid works so nicely to visualize these tools is that each product builds upon the efforts of the preceding product. For example, DPV and LACSLink require a ZIP+4 coded and standardized address in order to determine if the address is truly deliverable. The CASS Certified software is what provides this crucial ZIP Code. NCOALink in turn needs a validated input address in order to effectively make a match to a USPS-filed change of address.
Best Practices in Address Quality
As we mentioned earlier, a ZIP+4 Code is crucial in order to unlock the power of the address quality foundation. But what if you have an address in which CASS Certified software is unable to correctly apply a ZIP+4 Code? It is here that we turn to best practices in address quality.
In 2006, the Postmaster General's Mailer Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) put together a document containing the top best practices in address quality. The document, prepared by workgroup 97, contains 27 suggestions for improving address quality anywhere data is touched, stored or moved throughout a company. This document is available for download from the USPS Rapid Information Bulletin Board System (RIBBS) at http://ribbs.usps.gov/files/mtac/annual/.
The implementation of best practices in address quality can range from low-impact to high-impact and with an associated cost of low to high (see Figure 1). As illustrated on this graph, implementation of address quality practices typically comes at a high cost. Address maintenance, for example, is an ongoing practice that often requires an investment in not only tools and technology, but also assigning a data steward to ensure data quality. While the investment may indeed be high, the return on investment can also be significant. According to the USPS, over 20% of the mail it receives is undeliverable-as-addressed. Just imagine how response rates of marketing campaigns could be improved if all of the pieces arrived!
Stopping Dirty Data at Its Source
One of the most effective ways to vanquish undeliverable-as-addressed mail is to stop the dirty data at its source. Preventing incomplete or incorrect addresses from entering a database not only reduces back-end processing, but also helps efforts such as matching and consolidating data and improving business decisions.
According to a survey of information workers (those who deal with data as a part of their daily work duties) conducted by Harris Interactive in June 2006 in the
that later turned out to be wrong due to
information they need to confidently
make business decisions
work week verifying the accuracy and
quality of the data they use to make
decisions in their jobs
The benefits of stopping dirty data at its source can have a dramatic impact. A major telecommunications company recently reported that by implementing DPV validation into their order entry system, they reduced their undeliverable-as-addressed mail problem by over 30%. This not only improved their mail delivery, but it also improved customer satisfaction and their cash flow.
The effective elimination of dirty data requires not only a defensive approach, but an offensive strategy as well. Investing in tools, technologies and best practices can yield a positive return on investment and benefits.
In our final part of this three-part series on address quality, we'll explore what is being done to improve address quality even further upstream. MTAC has been working on a new "List Certification" recommendation that has the potential to revolutionize our industry providing "ready-to-mail" addresses for "just-in-time" mailings.
Chris Lien is the Director of Commercial Mail Marketing for Business Objects. Visit www.businessobjects.com.