A Lesson in Address Management
Data integrity starts with basic customer data, such as names and mailing information.
By Cassandra Carnes
Stunning graphics and special promotions are no longer the only options for grabbing customer attention through the mailstream. As personalized communication continues to expand into the mainstream, customer data gains importance.
In addition to the benefits of good data for creating smart, targeted, and relevant marketing campaigns, clean data helps reduce costs by eliminating undeliverable and duplicate addresses. Once cleansed, this data serves as a base for continued customer contact and data growth. New technologies, such as personalized URLs (pURLs) and microsites offer the next step, but it all comes down to the integrity of recipient data.
Postal Concerns and CertificationsWhere there is mail, there is the Coding Accuracy Support System, commonly referred to by its acronym, CASS. According to the USPS, the CASS system improves the accuracy of carrier route, five-digit ZIP, ZIP +4, and delivery point codes that appear on mailpieces. CASS certification is offered to mailers, service bureaus, and software vendors looking to evaluate their address-matching software and improve the quality of their ZIP +4, CRIS, and five-digit coding accuracy. The process is graded by the USPS’ National Customer Support Center (NCSC), and returned to mailers for diagnostics.
There are two stages in the CASS certification process, Stage I is optional and Stage II is required. CASS Stage I is self-test for developers to manage and diagnose performance of address matching software when applied to a CASS test address file. With the results, developers can debug and troubleshoot for Stage II. In Stage II the NCSC grades address-matching software performance by processing a test address file, which contains about 150,000 sample addresses. To receive CASS certification, participants must pass Stage II with a minimum score of 98.5 percent for a ZIP + 4 carrier route, five-digit, and LACSLink. Participants must achieve a score of 100 percent for delivery point coding, eLOT, DPV, RDI, and Perfect Address. CASS certification is valid until the end of the current annual period. To remain certified, developers must reapply for certification and meet the minimum accuracy requirements during Stage II testing. Look for CASS-certified solutions to ensure your data quality is at its peak performance.
Presorting Accuracy Validation and Evaluation (PAVE) is another certification offered by the USPS. PAVE determines the mail sorting accuracy of presort software products. The program is geared to developers. Testing is available to all companies that produce presort software. A list of PAVE-certified software developers is offered through the NCSC.
The USPS states on its Web site that over 40 million Americans change their address annually. This brings us to another important resource in address management, the National Change of Address (NCOA) database and NCOALink, which makes change-of-address information available to mailers for data cleansing, reducing undeliverable mail pieces and ultimately, cost. NCOALink data is provided by the USPS to licensees on a regular basis.
To verify address against the NCOALink, address information must be input in a standardized format that fits USPS requirements. The information is taken from the data filed by postal customers who have indicated a move. If there is a match made, the NCOALink licensee is able to update the mailing list. The USPS asserts that its full NCOALink product contains approximately 160 million records or 48 months of permanent address changes. A limited NCOALink license is also available. This limited version contains approximately 60 million records or 18 months of permanent address changes.
In addition to CASS certification and NCOALink licensing, the USPS offers a number of additional certified functions and areas. ZIP+4/DPC provides address-matching services and applies five-digit ZIP codes, +4 codes, and delivery point codes. CRIS provides carrier route codes using an address-matching process. 5-digit provides 5-digit ZIP codes using an address matching process. eLot provides the ability to assign line of travel, ensuring Carrier Route mailings are sorted to match the delivery sequence. RDI allows users to identify non-business delivery addresses, perform rate analysis, and determine the best shipping rate. LacsLink links addresses converted by the USPS 011 Emergency System to their new address. Lists of certified vendors can be found on the USPS Web site.
Software SolutionsTo get into the habit of address and data cleansing, a simple desktop software solution is a great place to start. A number of vendors offer these solutions. Here, we include a quick roundup with highlights from each software solution.
AccuZIP offers the AccuZIP6 GOLD PAVE and CASS Certified solution. AccuZIP6 features all the tools necessary to perform CASS processing on addresses, clean mailing lists, and sort mail to achieve the best postal rates. The software is designed to deliver functions such as importing files from a variety of different formats; adding ZIP +4, carrier route, barcode, DPV, LACSLink, and line of travel information; removing duplicates; merging lists, tracking undeliverables; and use Radius searching or any of over 100 integrated seach conditions for creating targeted mailings.
Anchor Computer Software
Anchor Computer Software designs, develops, and implements software solutions for postal processing, document design, and data quality. MaxCASS is a CASS Certified postal processing solution designed for address correction and standardization. The solution is integrated with DPV and LACSLink Functionality as well as add-on modules supporting USPS programs for NCOALink, ANKLink, DSF2, SuiteLink, and RDI. In addition, MaxMover is a USPS NCOALink Certified interface solution that corrects mailing lists with regularly updated change-of-address information. MaxPresort is PAVE Gold certified to support First Class Mail, periodicals, Standard Mail, and package services. View.Dat allows users to view and validate Mail.dat files. It also prints USPS required reports and tags, as well as mailshop reports. Finally, the company offers IMB Manager, which is designed to manage the entire Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB) process, working with presorted files generated by Anchor Software’s MaxPresort or any software vendor’s presort system.
The company also provides data quality solutions. MaxConvert features tools for list processing. Users can combine multiple lists of different formats, parse out names and addresses, generate list codes, and customize output in one operation. MaxDup+ provides duplicate elimination through pattern recognition techniques. The solution identifies duplicate records at an individual, household, or company level, based on specific criteria. It consolidates data from multiple records into a single survivor record. DataDialog is an all-purpose software product developed to set up complex file processes. DataDialog utilizes a wizard-driven approach to allow non-programmers the ability to create programs without the need to learn a complex script language. Anchor Software also offers its DoAlls, General Purpose Utilities, and Deceased and Prison Suppression files for more accurate data.
BCC Software, a Böwe Bell + Howell Company
Mail Manager 2010 from BCC Software touts optimized postal sorts, including a GOLD PAVE certified presort program. In addition, Mail Manager 2010 includes a Destination Summary feature to identify all qualifying destination sites and related discounts.
For database maintenance, Mail Manager 2010 allows users to add, delete, or modify records, define indexes and selectivity, and perform a wide range of global list update functions. Users are also able to create unique layouts for each list or use one master layout. The program includes data filters to convert to mixed or all upper case, remove spaces, and strip leading zeros on a field-by-field basis. Mail Manger 2010 is also able to populate the gender field based on an internal database of more than 21,000 first names.
Mail Manager 2010 users experience improved mailpiece deliverablity. The software can ZIP + 4, prepare lists for USPS-approved BCC Data Services, including NCOALink, LACSLink, and DSF2 list processing. MailManager 2010 supports PLANET USPS-approved Barcode for the USPS CONFIRM program, which tracks when and where delivery of mailpieces occur.
Melissa data offers a number of products for address verification and database management. The flagship MAILERS+4 is a postal automation and bulk mail software that adds ZIP + 4 codes, eliminates duplicate records, postal presorts, and prints either POSTNET or IMB labels and tags and other required postal forms. The solution is CASS and PAVE certified and automatically verifies mailing addresses against the DPV and LACSLink. MAILERS+4 is available in Professional and Standard packages, the difference being the maximum number of pieces each version will process per mailing.
The company also offers a number of database management tools, including MatchUp, a merge/purge solution to clean duplicates; RightFielder, which formats text data; Personator, a genderizing tool that creates salutations for personalized mailings; and StyleList, to control the formatting of data within mailing list fields.
Parascript offers a number of solutions for postal automation including address recognition and image analysis for postal automation and mail processing. Parascript helps high-volume mailers, postal operators, fulfillment service bureaus, and digital mailroom automation vendors streamline and automate the sortation of the full mainstream, including letters, flats, parcels, forwarded mail, business reply mail, and bundles. Parascript helps users recognize handwritten and machine printed addresses, locate address blocks in parcel images, automates indicia location and verification, finalize inbound and outbound mail, validate and interpret addresses, and extract information from Business Reply Mail cards to automate fulfillment processing.
Parascript’s postal automation solutions include, AddressScript CM, AddressSelect, AddressParcel, AddressLocator, AddressKey, InMailRouter, and StampVerify.
Pitney Bowes Group 1 Software
Group 1 Software offers a variety of products for enhancing and maintaining data quality. With its Global Addressing Cleaning productions, Universal Coder and Address Now, users can ensure accurate databases. The company also offers FineTune Data to combine data parsing tools and algorithms to verify, standardize, and correct address data.
The company also offers tools for customer data quality, including Aura and Profile Plus. Aura automates the process of correcting customer addresses to help companies ensure address changes are handled through a consistent and documentable process the solution reads output from address hygiene tools.
Bulk Mailer from Satori Software allows users to prepare USPS compliant mailings faster and easier. The solution is CASS Certified for address correction, PAVE certified for postal presorting, and offers real-time NCOALink service—Satori Software receives weekly NCOALink updates.
In regards to list management, Satori Software’s Bulk Malier provides address quality wizards featuring easy-to-use functionality for address correction, move updates, duplication search, as well as merge/purge. The Move Update wizard processes lists against the 48-month NCOALink data set through the Internet.
Ready to Send
Although cleansed addressing databases are vital to creating viable campaigns, it is only one part of the process. Companies with only basic customer data, such as name and address, need to take steps to grow the data with new technologies. Direct mail and email campaigns should not only target a recipient’s short-term needs. Each customer contact is an opportunity to convert clients, but also gather more information on potential clients for long-term use. Keep in mind that no matter how many names are in a marketing database, the only names that matter are those that are correct. Cleansed data reduces costs of undeliverables. Smart data reduces costs through targeting only the names you have the best chance of converting into potential clients. Once more customer information is collected, it is time to consider investing in technologies to mine data for relevant, personalized communication.
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May2009, DPS Magazine