Many corporations are looking overseas for continued business growth in both consumer and business markets. Now, more than ever, customer contact data is a vital corporate asset. Inaccurate addresses have a wide reaching negative financial impact and damage customer relationships.

    When an organization places the responsibility of global addressing on the shoulders of mailing and shipping managers, it can seem like an unwelcomed burden. However, with the right strategy and planning, mailing and shipping managers can address the global market while developing a valuable career skill.

    Just because the data is foreign does not mean that the process is foreign. Every experienced mailing and shipping manager has a core set of practices they follow and robust knowledge of domestic addressing. Successfully managing global address data requires a similar logical process.

    While the specific steps for developing a core set of best practices vary by industry and business size, I’ve outlined a few steps that will get your on your way.

    Develop File Quality Acceptance Standards for Multiple Data Sources

    If you receive data from multiple sources, it is likely that you receive multiple file formats, and the data quality varies widely. Establish a minimum set of criteria that each file must adhere to. For example, make sure that each field name is labeled appropriately.

    Identify your key markets and develop a top 10 list of countries. Determine if the top 10 countries uses postal codes and provinces. Then, set a standard that files must contain these elements, or at a minimum, be 85% populated with the appropriate type of data in the designated field. More specifically, if Canada is one of your top markets, the file should contain a two-character state and a six-digit alpha numeric postal code.

    Identifying and Troubleshoot Poor Quality Incoming Data

    It is difficult to flatly reject a file from a client, business partner, or member of your company. You can soften the blow of the rejection by specifically identifying why you rejected the file. For example, your statement could be something along the lines of, “We are unable to process your file. The Argentinian records do not meet our minimum standard. More specifically, Argentina has an eight-digit alpha numeric postal code, and your file contains all zeroes in the post code field.”

    Creating Business Rules for Exception Processing

    With today’s highly automated, API driven systems, problem data can sometimes enter the process undetected. Errors and issues are not identified until the data has entered the system and been mailed or shipped. If possible, build in some upfront checks for incoming data. Again, going back to the postcode examples, try to write code that checks for the presence and format of required data on input. For example, it should check for alpha/numeric postcodes instead of just alpha postcodes and the presence of provinces in certain countries.

    If you have the opportunity to review a file manually, take out your list of top 10 countries and audit the input file. Check for the presence of key elements such as province and postal code. If the file is missing a high percentage of these elements, it makes sense to ask for a replacement.

    Understanding Language and Cultural Idiosyncrasies That Affect Address Data

    In the US, the term PO Box rarely requires explanation. In Germany, the same item is called Postfach and is abbreviated PF. Understanding key address elements is vital to understanding global address. Research the terms and develop a list. You can visit the websites of postal administrations or use something as simple as Google Translate to develop a list of key address elements.

    Educating Your Team about the Dos and Don’ts of Global Address Management

    One of the most important things to teach your staff about global addressing is that ignoring problems does not fix the problems. Make it a rule that undeliverable mail and parcels are collected, entered into a file, and analyzed. It is best to track these issues in a robust system that will allow you to mark the original mailing or shipping record. However, if this type of application is not available, keeping a simple Excel sheet will help you identify recurring problems by country, data supplier, shipping method, etc.

    Addressing the global market is not as difficult as it may seem. Keep in mind that even if the data is foreign, common sense best practices are not. Apply similar logic and quality used in US processing to managing global data and you will see a reduction in undeliverables and increased productivity.

    Sheila Donovan is President of Global DM Solutions and specializes in global contact data management and marketing. She can be reached via email at