List Watch: Keeping Up with Moving Customers

Keeping Up with Moving Customers

The U.S. Postal Service estimates that 45 million Americans move every year. For nearly two decades, the USPS’s National Change of Address system (NCOA), which includes the names of those movers, has been the best way for catalogers to keep up with those movers. This year, the Postal Service is implementing two changes in the NCOA system that may enable catalogers to better keep up with customers on the move.

By midsummer, the USPS hopes to have in place a Website that will enable new movers to log in their address changes electronically. Currently, USPS-sponsored Website (right) allows consumers to make a print-out of a change-of-address form, but they must fill out the form manually and mail it in.

The Website’s software will provide the appropriate level of customer identification validation and security, says Jim Wilson, move update systems program manager for the USPS’s National Customer Support Center in Memphis. “We’re working on finding some known or shared secrets among consumers [such as mother’s maiden name] that only their credit-card companies or mortgage banks know — information that pranksters couldn’t possible obtain,” Wilson says.

In conjunction with the site, Newton, MA-based marketing firm Imagitas will produce and mail a welcome kit to new movers, which will invite consumers to specify the catalogs, magazines, and other mail they wish to have forwarded to their new addresses.

And beginning July 1, the USPS’s National Customer Support Center will expand the NCOA database from its current maximum of 36-month movers to include those who moved within the past 48 months. By expanding its data, the USPS says that it can nab about half of those names that have been missed in the 36- to 48-month window.

Wilson says that the expanded NCOA capability could accommodate catalogers renting older lists “that may not have had recent activity.” In the past, he says, “these customers would have simply fallen off and created an undeliverable catalog situation.”

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