Roses mailer nips bad addresses

The perishable nature of Heirloom Roses’ product line makes incorrect addresses even more of a customer satisfaction issue than it is for companies that sell apparel or hard goods. Though they’re packaged in special corrugated boxes, the St. Paul, OR-based cataloger’s plants don’t look too pretty if they’re delivered a week late, says general manager Cheryl Malone.

So between the unhappy customers and charges levied by parcel carriers United Parcel Service and DHL Worldwide Network for deliveries to faulty addresses — roughly $5-$10 per address — “we determined that our mistakes were costing us upward of $1,800-$2,000 a year,” says Malone.

To reduce address errors, Heirloom Roses installed QuickAddress, a program from London-based software company QAS that automatically validates addresses as reps enter the data into their computers, in June 2003. Nearly two years later, incorrect addresses now cost the cataloger no more than $300 a year.

Match game

Malone says she was sold on the product after watching an online, real-time demonstration. “I was impressed that within a matter of two or three keystrokes you would know if you were inputting correctly or not.”

Users enter the customer’s name along with parts of the address, such as the zip code or the town, to display the full address. The software is configured to instantly compare the addresses against licensed data from the U.S. Postal Service. Addresses are verified within 15 keystrokes, says Warren Ross, QAS vice president of marketing. The program also automatically generates the correct zip + 4 code for the address entered.

This address verification is particularly useful for Heirloom Roses, whose five reps not only take phone orders but also manually reenter customer shipping and billing information from its Website into its catalog management software. The QAS Batch program validates all addresses stored in the database in addition to those entering the system. It also deletes any duplicate addresses in the database and assesses near matches, such as “75 Rogers Rd., Boston, MA, 02115” and “75 Rodgers Rd., Boston, MA, 02115” to determine which address is correct, says Ross.

Heirloom Roses’ IT worker was able to install the program himself using two CD-ROMs and over-the-phone assistance from QAS. An enhanced version of the software, QAS Web, verifies addresses entered on the Website. Heirloom Roses might opt for this version in the future, Malone says.

All told, Heirloom Roses spent $16,200 on the system, says Malone. Since it also relies on the program to accurately mail 45,000 100-page catalogs each fall and at least 200 catalogs to requesters every two weeks, Malone estimates that, in addition to the parcel carrier savings, the product has allowed the company to recover $50,400 of sales that would have been lost due to incorrect addresses.

The Annual Catalog Conference, cosponsored by Catalog Age and the Direct Marketing Association, is just weeks away.

The industry’s largest event takes place May 23-25 at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, FL. So if you haven’t registered yet, don’t delay! For details visit www.catalogconference.com

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