The cost of poorly addressed mail is absolutely staggering, says Michele Salmon, a consultant with San Rafael, CA-based consultancy Lenser. Marketers should be taking advantage of the many tools that have been developed for cleaning addresses before mailing.
Sophisticated matching and cleansing products that will correct the city, state, ZIP combination and apply a ZIP+4. The National Change of Address (NCOA) processes and updates records of people who have moved. (Note: NCOA does not change bad addresses of those who have not moved.)
But even with all of this technology, marketers still generate tons of undeliverable as addressed, or “UAA” mail, Salmon says.
To ensure correct hygiene, marketers should consider the following:
1. Always capture the customer’s mailing address – clarify with “where you receive your mail.” If the customer has a different address for UPS or package delivery, then capture that as a separate “Ship to” address and add a “no mail” flag if it is not a USPS deliverable address.
2. On phone orders, teach your staff to always ask for the spelling of all names–first and last names, street name, and be sure to confirm the city, state and zip code combination. Make certain that your staff knows the correct two letter state code abbreviations. Misspellings and miskeyed city, state, zip combinations account for a huge portion of missed matches, even with current zip correction routines.
3. Ask every customer if there is an apartment or suite number for the street address. Many folks do not volunteer this information because “The UPS driver knows where we are…” etc. But NCOA will not allow an update match if you do not have an apartment number for a record that needs one. Tests conducted by the U.S. Postal Service indicate that apartment addresses have the highest rate of non-delivery for Standard Mail.
4. Make every effort to capture the customer’s full first name – not just the initial – as NCOA will not allow a match to be made on an individual’s move without it. An estimated 15% or more of postal customers move every year!
5. Capture all street suffixes such as Rd., Ave., Blvd. and any directional elements such as NW or SW. Absence of these important address elements account for a large portion of misguided or non-codable mail. For example, the city of Atlanta has more than 40 different streets with the word “Peachtree” in the address.
6. Always place the primary delivery address directly above the city, state, ZIP line. Place the secondary address (apartment, c/o, company name) above that. Postal addresses are read from the bottom up.
7. Double-check all data entry before filing it into the database. Once its entered, a data entry error tends to take on a life of its own, much like an insidious virus. Double-check all data before and after any data conversions.