Early in 2005, I opened a can of "alphabet soup" to learn all those U.S. Postal Service (USPS) product and service acronyms that identify and clean up addresses. And what a learning process it was! I am an impatient person. When I turn on my computer or click my mouse, I want immediate success. That was not the case when learning about clean addresses, or address hygiene, as it's called. It's going to be difficult for many people who mail at the Standard Mail classification, including non-profit mailers, who are now being thrown into the "Move Update Pot" this November 23 and may just be caught unaware of what they are facing.
Don't get me wrong. I am glad that more attention is being paid to a very expensive
problem. Mailers are paying for print, production, data and service to mail material to people who are not at that address anymore. This practice causes the all too familiar term, "undeliverable-as-addressed" (UAA) mail at a cost of $1.856 billion dollars for the USPS to handle those 9.724 billion pieces each year! It also causes problems for the mailer wanting to communicate to the correct person in a timely manner. And if the "Or Current Resident" is used on those labels, well sure, the mailpiece is left in the mail box, but now does that cause any irritation to the current resident and promote the action to push to for a I hesitate to even write this "Do Not Mail" initiative?
So what's this soup about? Effective November 23, Standard (including non-profit) and
discounted First-Class mailers are required to verify that the person they are mailing to is still at that address using an approved Move Update process or else! Hopefully, by the time you read this, the USPS will have announced what the "or else" is for Standard mailers (since there isn't a single piece Standard postage price, and it would not make any reasonable sense to impose full rate First-Class prices!). The "or else" for First-Class mailers is to move from discounted First-Class prices to full rate First-Class postage.
This is all old hat to people who mail discounted First-Class, except the change in the timing. The addresses must be verified within 95 days of mailing and not 185 calendar days. Let me be clear on this, mailers do not begin their updating process on November 23, but on this date any business or consumer's name associated with that particular address being mailed must have been updated within the previous 95 days. For example, addresses being mailed on November 23 had to have been updated no earlier than August 20.
The newer mailers may be surprised that the Coding and Accuracy Support System (CASS) USPS-certified address matching software only starts the address cleaning but does not meet the Move Update requirement. CASS looks at the address, and not the person at the address. With approximately 14% of the population moving each year and approximately 1.8 million new addresses being added to the USPS' database each year, you can see how dynamic maintaining a clean, correct and current database can be. It is estimated that about 1.5% of your addresses will need revision each month.
Here are some "alphabet" tools you can use to meet the Move Update requirement, to keep paying the lowest postage rates:
1) National Change of Address (NCOALink) processing using the change information
individuals or a business (not the individual people at the business) give to the USPS
indicating a move is taking place. This is probably the most commonly utilized pre-mailing option. Keep in mind not everyone tells the USPS they moved. As a step up, you may want to consider using some industry tools to locate those moving people and businesses.
2) FASTforward Multi-Line Optical Character Reader (MLOCR) processing (for letter size pieces only) that are sorted at a presort vendor on their MLOCR equipment before going to the USPS.
3) Address Change Service (OneCode ACS) in conjunction with an Intelligent Mail Barcode and business entity ID, or MID as it's now called, an excellent post-mailing process to keep up with those people who move after you've run your file through NCOA.
4) Address Change Service (ACS) used with an ACS participant code and pre-printed on piece ancillary service endorsement. Another good post-mailing tool.
5) Approved on-piece ancillary service endorsement without ACS, post mailing tool however, be sure to update your file with the notices you get back.
Have some crackers with your soup, and consider these points on the side. Take the new updated address information and apply it to the primary database, if you or the mailer owns it. If you do not, you'll just be updating that address again until the point when you can no longer obtain the move information (after 48 months).
If you are renting a file, ask if the addresses meet the Move Update requirement and the answer should be (in my opinion) yes. If you get a yes, have the provider give you documentation
proving when the file was processed to be sure you're within the 95-day requirement.
If you are a mail service provider and are being told that the file does meet Move Update, you can ask that the mail owner sign form PS6014 found on the USPS' site at http://ribbs.usps.gov.
Depending on when you download it, be sure it's the updated form indicating 95 days prior to mailing and NOT the current 185 days.
Another question asked pertains to newly added addresses to a database that has been processed through one of the approved tools. A new address can "ride along" until the next update process.
I could go on and on, but the soup's getting cold. Alphabet Soup is good for you and the direct marketing industry. Eat it, or else!
Wanda Senne is National Director Postal Development (a.k.a. Postal Princess) at World Marketing. Contact her at email@example.com.