In today's environment, the old saying – “Decisions are no better than the data on which they’re based” – becomes even more critical. Having massive amounts of data is not enough to make actionable decisions: You must dive deeper. In order to build proactive, data-driven environments, you first must gain a better understanding of your data sources. With this newfound intelligence, your existing data can be leveraged to strengthen assets across your organization – including CX, fraud, marketing, operations, and many more departments.

Once an organization views the data, they can begin to analyze, monitor, gain insight, and understand the benefits of near real-time visibility. Here are some examples of this real-time data's most significant impact. Let's focus on the marketing department.

Marketers know that the response rate is the crucial metric to a campaign's effectiveness. One of the best-known ways to enhance response rates is by combining marketing (or direct) mail with digital channels. On the physical mail side, this starts with the unique data gathered by monitoring every mail piece and building a more robust attribution model to target prospects and achieve an optimal response. Next, turn your postal data into actionable insights that let you precisely trigger and coordinate campaigns through other channels — email, text, geocoding, tv ads, etc.

By applying insights and analytics to the data, you can identify trends in timing, frequency, and customer response, allowing for fine-tuning of future campaigns and, just as importantly, detecting potential problems. Issues and delays in the supply chain or USPS network have the potential to significantly impact an entire campaign's success. For example, one of the techniques used by mailers is managing delivery to specific in-home dates. Our clients, in various industries, focus on specific days for delivery to gain the best response. Credit cards are sent for delivery after the weekend and before major holidays, while others focus on lower volume days of the week, so the piece has less competition in the mailbox. Without data, predicting the ebbs and flows of the evolving USPS network becomes a dangerous game.

Did you know? Calculating a mail piece's location is only a part of ensuring campaign effectiveness. A clean database of your customers’ physical addresses is critical to the effectiveness of a campaign – or really any type of direct outreach. Among the many factors that contribute to undeliverable mail, uncaptured address changes are a sneaky but surefire way to damage your KPIs. These changes can significantly impact whether or not your customers get your offer or critical mail piece in their hands. Making an effort to achieve the highest levels of address data quality will provide higher customer satisfaction, improved campaign response, and lower operational cost (by handling less returned mail).

Let's start by discussing a term that no one ever wants to hear: data decay.

Gartner says that every month, around three percent of data becomes decayed globally, which is terrifying for any marketer who needs to ensure every piece of mail gets delivered.

Data quality degrades over time, and data can lose its integrity as it moves across any number of various systems. The elimination of undeliverable mail – AKA the most-hated hindrance of the postal industry – is a hefty, but necessary challenge. One to 1.5% of the US population moves every month, dramatically impacting the accuracy of a customer database. When a mail piece is delivered to the wrong address, arrives late, or is entirely lost, the impact is felt enterprise-wide: missing revenue and opportunities, regulatory compliance and service agreement issues, negative customer impact, and increased activity in areas of fraud. Access to real-time data empowers you to take immediate action and proactively resolve delivery issues. The overall cost of bad data is an astonishing 15% to 25% of revenue opportunity for most companies (based on recent research by Experian plc, James Price of Experience Matters, and Martin Spratt of Clear Strategic IT Partners Pty. Ltd.). Just look at Gartner’s figures – poor data quality is costing organizations an average of $12.9 million yearly, at least.

Numbers aside, the most significant impact remains the loss of future customers. Every poor customer service experience generates a ripple effect on customer retention. Whether you are a credit card company, insurance company, telecom, big box store, or agency — the more data, the better. If you’re wanting to create a better customer experience and more data for future use, increased visibility into every data point in your organization should be your goal.

More and more companies realize that competitive advantage lies in using data and analytics to optimize the customer experience and control long-term costs. You may think you have all the necessary information, but the reality is that there is still valuable data you are missing.

The challenges in data continue to grow. It may seem overwhelming, but taking the first initial steps towards better data quality will make all the difference.

Sidebar: How can you strengthen assets across your organization with your existing data? Leveraging the Postal Service's Intelligent Mail Barcode (Imb), mailers can track each mail piece as it moves through the USPS network. This barcode is used on letters, flats, parcels, trays, sacks, and pallets to enable the USPS and mailers to monitor the movement of mail from induction delivery. As of 2013, the USPS requires using the IMb as a prerequisite for receiving Full-Service Automation discounts and participating in specific programs and promotions. The IMb allows mailers to monitor the movement of mail throughout the postal network. It has become much easier to anticipate when the item will arrive. This allows organizations to adjust activities triggered by the mail's delivery, such as staffing call centers or preparing for in-store traffic. In addition, with the introduction of Logical Delivery Events, there is now even more data, providing a higher probability that the mail piece was delivered and allowing for communications using other channels like email, social, etc. The IMb offers a wealth of information about a direct mail campaign which is critical for targeted customer communications.

Dean DeCencio, GrayHair’s Vice President, Business Development, works closely with many of the largest US companies advising on how postal data can translate to meaningful insights that can help resolve their business issues and improve processes across the organization. With a passion and advocacy for the mail industry and almost 30 years’ experience in supporting the needs of large enterprise mailers, he leads account teams to manage the short- and long-term needs of his clients. To reach Dean, email him at or connect with him on LinkedIn.