Each year roughly 4 billion mail pieces are destroyed due to poor address quality. Software is essential for ensuring your mail piece arrives where and when it should. There are many address quality solutions and vendors in the postal industry. Choosing the right one for your business is not a trivial task but can be simplified with a few suggestions.

Start with USPS Certified Software
CASS certification is required to qualify for the best USPS discounts. More importantly, it provides a minimum performance benchmark for all address quality software. The USPS RIBBS website (https://ribbs.usps.gov/files/vendors/cassn01d.TXT) provides a list of 49 CASS-certified software vendors and 78 CASS-certified products. Fortunately, the list contains some more information that can help.

This CASS list contains a platform field that you can use to reduce the number of products down to a specific operation system platform that matches your production environment. Linux shops should be cautious here, as the list of software may include Windows software that works through a Windows emulator rather than natively on Linux. This platform field can also be used to find solutions that use the most advanced 64 bit platform architecture.

This CASS list contains 11 data product certification levels (ZIP4, CR5, 5D, LACS, SUITE, ELOT, DPV, DSF2, RDI, National, and State). One quick way to weed out the wheat from the chaff is to pick software and vendors that are certified for the most options.

Making an investment in address quality should include a change of address solution through NCOALink. There are lists of certified NCOALink vendors on RIBBs that can be combined with the CASS list above to continue narrowing down the search for the best address quality solution. https://ribbs.usps.gov/ncoalink/documents/tech_guides/CERTIFIED_LICENSEES/

You will have to decide whether to use a Limited Service Provider (18 months of data) or Full Service Provider (48 months of data) or both. By choosing a vendor that supports both LSP with ANKLink and FSP processing you get the full benefits of 48 month data but at a fraction of the cost.

Consider the Vendor In my last article, "Only You Can Win the War on UAA Mail," I mentioned private datasets that can augment the postal datasets and give a much better chance at a successful delivery and response. My advice is to look for vendors that can support both postal and non-postal data lookups (proprietary change of address, proprietary address resolution, and suppression lookups). In addition, look for software that will identify waste or mistakes in your address list. Software with a good duplicate removal and merge/purge tool can pay for themselves very quickly. If your company does manual address entry, look for a software that can correct an address at the point of entry.

Understanding the security risk that your company can bear is critical when purchasing an address quality solution. In theory, an on premise solution will offer the most security, followed by services and cloud solutions. Do not pass sensitive contact data to a vendor if you do not trust their processes for ensuring your data is secure.

Look for a vendor that has customer support written into their DNA. Being able to reach out to a qualified support person who understands address quality is a real benefit. If your software vendor has a professional services team and experience integrating address quality solutions, you should be able to benefit from their experience to help improve address quality workflow efficiency. Pre-sale support is an indicator of post-sale support. If your sales person is responsive and knowledgeable, it is a good signal that the support team is as well. To find the vendor with the most loyal customer base, ask for referrals that most closely match your business and interview these customers.

Benchmark the Software At this point you should have narrowed down your list of software and software vendors to a handful of choices. Comparing these choices based on cost and benefits is the next step.

There are a range of prices in the market place for address quality software. Be aware of purchase price, renewal price, option prices, and integration/disintegration costs. Make sure these costs are in alignment with the value that the software provides and are not out of line with other similar featured products.
Performing a trial run of the software before purchasing is critical. Key performance indicators for address quality software include speed, match rate, accuracy, and volume. Average address quality software can process at around 1 million records per hour. Higher quality software will move the needle up to over 10 million records per hour. Processing speed is dependent on the system architecture so make sure you benchmark each address quality software using the same hardware.

Software that can make a higher five-digit match rate will help save significantly on postage. I have seen large volume mailers save millions by upgrading to an address quality solution that improved their match rate by as little as three percent. Be careful that a higher match rate does not negatively impact the accuracy of the match. Fortunately, CASS certification sets a minimum standard for all address quality software. However, do your own side by side comparisons and make your own determination for which software provides the highest accuracy.

Lastly, make sure your benchmark includes a stress test. A robust address quality software should be able to handle high volumes of data for a long period of time without failing. By stressing the software you can tell a lot about the overall quality of the solution. If the software fails elegantly and does not destroy any data, this is a good sign that the software was well designed. On the other hand, if a failure results in corrupted data then you should be concerned.

Finding a robust address quality software and software vendor will undoubtedly add value to your business. My suggestions above simplify the buying process by using the information that is easiest and quickest to obtain to narrow your search first. This will give you more time to perform benchmark testing against a small handful of solutions. Hopefully, this buying strategy will help you choose the best address quality software and software vendor for your business when the time comes.