Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Suppression Files

Why shouldn’t you run your “Do Not Mail” names through National Change of Address (NCOA) processing or any other address hygiene processes.

First, you don’t always know why the customer is asking that their record be flagged as such. The customer service representative will usually just take the information and then add the DNM suppression flag.

Even if the person contacting us does tell us why, that information is not usually kept in any actionable form. And to make matters more complicated, you really don’t even know who requested you not mail to that address. Is it your customer, or is it the new occupant of their old house? Often you just get an envelope with a bunch of address labels and DO NOT MAIL scribbled on them.

Another scenario that has occurred numerous times over the years is a direct result of bad data entry and variations in both the merge process and in the strictness of the NCOA match logic. When a customer or prospect receives multiple catalogs with slight variations in the address or name – but enough to not be caught by some merge systems – the customer will request that you do not mail to all of the ones that are incorrect. In a future merge you employ more sophisticated match logic and the next thing you know, you are suppressing your own buyers and hot prospects.

Yet another example is when the caller asks to suppress their old rural route address because they’ve been converted to a locatable street address. So your well-meaning operator complies. Then you process all the files through NCOA and LACS (Locatable Address Change System), change the suppression record to the new address and oops, the new address now gets suppressed by the changed suppression record.

It is important to remember that people who call or write to have a record removed from the mailing list may or may not be your customer – they could be a prospect, or just the person who now lives where someone else (your buyer or prospect) used to live. And very often, they don’t really understand what they’re asking for. They just don’t want any mail to the particular address they’re giving you. It’s left completely up to your customer service reps to try to interpret what needs to be done and take appropriate action.

Therefore, the wisest course of action is to not put any Do Not Mail suppression records through any type of corrective standardization or address integrity products, including NCOA, LACS, Cognitive Data’s IntelliDress, Group 1, Right 1, or anything else except straight format conversion. To do so is to make assumptions on behalf of the requester that are not necessarily correct, and could be incorrect…with disastrous consequences. You should always maintain the suppression record exactly as the customer gave it to you.

Matthew Morton is senior circulation & marketing manager at San Rafael, CA-based catalog consultancy Lenser.

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