For the most part, print/mail service providers are at the mercy of their clients regarding the accuracy of the data they receive. Companies that print and mail transactional documents can't verify a customer ID number, the kilowatt hours used during the month, or a patient's health insurance deductible balance. They can, however, inspect the accuracy of a mailing address and even make corrections if necessary. This makes the postal address a unique data item — with properties that service providers can exploit for the benefit of their clients.

For people in the mailing business, the first address quality advantage that comes to mind is deliverability of the physical mailpieces. That’s extremely important for documents like bills, notices, and insurance claims. When delivery is delayed because of forwarding by the US Postal Service or letters are returned to the mailer, the impact on the organization that generated the mail is always negative. Handling incidents of late or undelivered mail can be costly in terms of employee time, research, and re-mailing costs. The relationship between your clients and their customers can suffer when mail doesn’t get delivered.

Most print/mail service providers are already doing all they can to correct mailing addresses before they deposit mail with the USPS. They standardize address elements, add ZIP+4 codes, and apply intelligent mail barcodes. Your operation also probably processes files received from your clients against the USPS NCOA address change database so you can route mail directly to people who have moved.

Those actions are necessary to remain in good graces with the postal service and qualify your mail for discounted postage rates. If low rates and postal rule compliance are your only objectives, then simply fix the addresses before you print them and do nothing else.

Marketplace Differentiation

There’s nothing wrong with this approach—except that everyone does it. Low postage rates and address correction are on the list of services of every print/mail service provider with whom your company competes. When everyone offers the same service, your clients don’t distinguish one from the other. They can easily move their work somewhere else with little disruption to their operations. If you really want to stand out and encourage your clients to stick with you year after year, start thinking about other ways postal addresses affect your clients. Use your ability to validate, correct, and enhance address data to add value to your services.

Addresses Not Just for Mailing

Companies use address information for all sorts of reasons besides mail and package delivery. Find out what those are and offer to help your clients ensure they are operating with accurate data. By correcting addresses and then enhancing the data with more information, like geocoding coordinates, you can help your clients operate more efficiently.

Here are some functions that rely on postal addresses or geographic location:

· Accurate taxation for sales and excise taxes

· Driver routing and dispatch

· Nearest branch or store locator

· Event promotion

· Service territory alignment and staffing

· Residential/commercial property identification

· Single family/multi family home classification

· Congressional voting district alignment

Opportunities for Mail Service Providers

Recognize the value of data with which you have a great deal of experience and knowledge. Instead of correcting the same addresses month after month, change them permanently. Set up a system with your clients to help them update and enhance the address information stored in their source databases with new data you can supply. Address quality is a billable service on its own, but it can also spark ideas for new direct mail applications you can handle for your clients.

I know many print/mail service providers don’t really want to be in the data business, but address data is different. You have the tools to improve address quality and your staff works with address data every day. Your clients, however, have probably not invested in address quality software. They may not be aware of the impact that inaccurate postal addresses have on the non-mailing areas of their businesses. Address quality enhancement is an opportunity to raise the value of your services and strengthen the relationships you have with your clients.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps his clients meet the challenges they encounter in document operations and creates informational content for vendors and service providers in the document industry. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, send a connection request on LinkedIn, or contact Mike directly at