Undeliverable as Addressed (UAA) mail is any piece of mail that cannot be delivered and must either be forwarded, returned to the sender, or treated as waste. Three of the more common causes of UAA mail are unreported moves, bad address quality, and addresses where the intended recipient is deceased.

The War on UAA Mail presentation at NPF in 2011 showed that the percentage of UAA pieces in the mail in 1988, 2004, and 2010 was 4.71%, 4.74%, and 4.11% respectively. More recently, the UAA mail study (posted on RIBBS) and the July 2014 audit report from the Office of Inspector General show that the percentage of UAA mail increased in 2013 to 4.28%.

It is no wonder that with the volume of UAA mail staying at about four percent, the expense of UAA mail has not changed much in the past 15 years. UAA mail still represents about $1.5 billion of annual costs reported by the USPS. What is not reported is the overall cost to the postal industry for UAA mail is exponentially greater.

The USPS and private industry have made tremendous efforts in combatting this war on UAA mail, and it would seem that these efforts have resulted in stabilizing the UAA front. The USPS has developed many weapons to combat UAA mail, including ZIP + 4, DPV, NCOALink, CASS, MASS, ACS, LACS, DSF, AEC II, AEC, Ancillary Service Endorsements, ANKLink, SuiteLink, and the Intelligent Mail barcode. Private industry has developed software that can activate and manage these weapons for swift and timely delivery. Private industry has also developed its own set of address quality weapons, including Proprietary Change of Address (PCOA), Proprietary Address Correction, and multiple types of suppression services.

Currently, the war on UAA mail seems to be at a standstill, and no matter what is built, there seems to be very little improvement. The war on UAA mail is now squarely in the hands of mailers who have all of these powerful address quality weapons at their disposal but need to use them.

Unreported Movers
Approximately 40% of all movers are not listed in the NCOALink database due to not filing a move with the USPS. Another large percentage of movers are in the NCOALink database, but software cannot make a match due to strict Postal guidelines that require an exact match before identifying a move.
PCOA uses various private industry datasets to augment the NCOALink lookup and identify more movers. These datasets originate from publishers, catalog houses, insurance companies, credit bureaus, mail order firms, banks, and various other sources where the data is captured. Only by combining PCOA with NCOALink can we ever hope to find these movers and reduce this part of UAA mail.

Address Quality
Proprietary Address Correction uses referential consumer data to correct addresses that have been identified as undeliverable during the Delivery Point Validation (DPV) process. The USPS will not allow pieces that failed DPV to qualify for automation rates due to the high probability that they will become UAA mail. Today some mailers continue to send pieces that failed DPV processing even though they cost more and are less likely to get delivered. A simple solution that has proven ROI is to aim Proprietary Address Correction service at these bad addresses to correct them. One such services, Address Resolution Service (ARS), has been shown to turn 30-50% of DPV failures into automation-rate, high-quality addresses. Using a service like ARS in conjunction with DPV will significantly lower UAA mail while directly putting money into the mail owner's pocket.

Deceased Addressees
Any good address quality process starts with address data housekeeping. Using a merge/purge process to suppress duplicate addresses and unnecessary mailpieces followed by a suppression service that removes unwanted mail will greatly reduce UAA mail.

For example, sending mail to someone on the Direct Marketing Association's "Do Not Mail" list will likely result in a "Return to Sender" notice (UAA mail). Sending mail to a deceased individual will also result in a wasted message and is one of the more common causes of UAA mail. The private industry's suppression services uses social security information, DMA data, and other data sets to remove pieces that have little impact to the mail owner and would likely result in UAA mail.
Over the years, there have been many good address quality weapons that have been built by both private industry, and the USPS to battle UAA mail. It is now up to mailers and mail owners to make sure they are using all of the weapons at their disposal.

Bill Jamieson is Senior Product Manager, BCC Software.