In the first two articles of this three-part series on dirty data, we discussed the costs associated with undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA) mail and the various tools, technologies and best practices that exist to reduce it. We also explored ways to prevent dirty data at its source. However, there are still several more strategies to consider for vanquishing UAA and a future initiative to track the source of the dirty data all the way back to the original list itself.
The most astute mailers adopt a total address quality approach to reducing UAA. This means not only using the latest address quality tools, but also making an additional investment to leverage advanced address correction solutions such as Address Element Correction (AEC) when CASS-Certified software cannot provide a ZIP+4 Code.
AEC is a service provided by the USPS, which can correct addresses that CASS-Certified software cannot. It leverages advanced matching technology that only the USPS can provide, since it has full access to the Address Management System (AMS) database. Addresses sent to the USPS must first be processed through current CASS-Certified software and should be fully parsed with all misspellings corrected in order to truly leverage the AEC program. Also, the USPS charges $15 per thousand records, so AEC should be considered a last resort.
The USPS also provides a special add-on service to AEC for those exceptionally difficult UAA addresses. This is the AEC II service, which leverages Delivery Force Knowledge. For an additional 25. per record, on top of the AEC costs, mailers can choose to have USPS carriers look at these stubborn UAA records and use their local delivery knowledge to correct the address. This is a powerful way to leverage knowledge that only the carrier possesses and save that important customer's address before it becomes the next casualty in the fight to reduce UAA. The USPS reports that it can sometimes correct 80% or higher of the addresses sent using the AEC II process.
Other services beyond the USPS' AEC and AEC II also exist in the industry to help stop dirty data and vanquish UAA. These include services such as apartment number appending and leveraging telephone numbers to assist in reverse address lookups. According to some service providers, an average of 25% to 35% of high-rise records without apartment numbers (also known as secondary addresses) can be corrected using industry data sources. Having a complete secondary address not only helps in mail deliverability, it also helps with matching to other data sources, such as NCOALINK.
Of course, all the best solutions and services available may still not be enough to truly reduce UAA if we cannot get the corrected information back to its source. In many instances, the source of the UAA isn't with the mailer; it originates from the list broker itself. That is why the Postmaster General's Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) is now actively working on a list certification program.
Rather than certifying an entire list of addresses, the goal of a list certification program is to expand towards a methodology that certifies each address on its own. This results in a certified list comprised entirely of certified addresses, providing not only ready-to-mail addresses, but also a level of visibility into address quality that simply does not exist today. There are three key pillars that support a list certification program: pre-mailing activities, validation of a certified address, and post-mailing update activities, which provide a direct line back to the list source if a suspect UAA address is actively encountered in the mailstream. The results of this MTAC workgroup are expected to be posted in June 2007.
Looking ahead, mailers can certainly expect the USPS to continue its aggressive approach to reducing UAA mail. In February, the Postmaster General announced that the Move Update requirements will be expanding soon to include Standard mail. Also, the frequency of applying an approved Move Update method will increase from 185 days to 95 days. According to the USPS, over one million changes of address occur every week, and thus a more aggressive approach to keeping up with customers on the move is required. A Federal Register Notice will be posted soon with an implementation date to follow 18 months thereafter.
The timing of the expanded Move Update requirements seems nicely aligned with the new OneCodeACS program and the proposed pricing. By leveraging the new Intelligent Mail barcode, mailers will be able to have their address change information provided to them electronically for far less than the current ACS program. In fact, in some cases, the cost is free.
There is so much activity in address quality today, and it's no wonder considering how crucial the address is to the mailpiece. After all, if the address is wrong, then nothing else matters about the piece. The offers, the ink and the paper are all wasted if the piece never even has the chance to actually arrive to its intended recipient. Identifying and correcting the dirty data lurking in your database is the only way to truly ensure that your carefully crafted, highly targeted mailpiece is actually arriving on time and to the right recipient. It's time to start shining the light on this dirty data and taking the necessary next steps to leverage your most valuable asset.
Christopher Lien is the Director of Commercial Mail Marketing for Business Objects. Please visit www.businessobjects.com for more information.