We often think of postal addresses as merely a tool to transport mail from sender to recipient. Postal addresses remain the fundamental means of contact, even with all the electronic communication channels available. When all else fails, we can always send a letter. But an accurate and current address can be the gateway for helping companies serve customers effectively and increase the organization’s value in many ways. Address information for customers, prospects, and suppliers is common in almost every enterprise. Correct, clean, and current postal address information is an essential intangible asset, like the value associated with patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
Today we will outline the many institutional benefits that companies realize by maintaining accurate postal addresses.
What is Postal Quality?
A quality address meets three conditions – it is complete, correct, and current. It is verified and standardized with CASS-certified software and updated with National Change of Address (NCOA) and possibly with a Proprietary Change of Address (PCOA) product every 90 days. Assured of address data quality, companies can confidently apply that data in other areas of the business, many of which have nothing to do with the delivery of letters and packages.
Value Added to Captured Data
Captured data is available from many sources, but internet inquiry is the most common. Visitors to your website may offer their contact information, in exchange for insurance quotes, sweepstakes entries, or other incentives. Address information also comes from trade shows, networking, and telephone inquiries. Ensuring quality of the captured intelligence is a challenge.
With APIs to connect data capture forms to real time address verification software, organizations can make sure that the address data entering their systems is correct from the very beginning. Postal information captured from a website or keyed in from a business card may be missing elements such as directionals, suite numbers, or secondary addresses. The value and usefulness of address information often improves when processed with coding software.
Duplicate Address Detection
At first glance, duplicate addresses are a mailing problem, but they are actually a data integrity issue.
Duplicate data records distort the core information on which critical business analytics are based. It may seem that a company has more customers that it does, or that the geographic distribution of customers is different in real life than what the data represents. This can affect decisions based on population density, such as physical store locations or service coverage.
Removing or merging duplicate data records is fairly easy–if the addresses conform to USPS standards. Attempting to de-dupe data files without first standardizing the addresses results in unrecognized matches. Duplicates will stay on file, providing an invalid picture of an organization’s customer base.
Addresses and Physical Travel
Transposed digits in a zip code can lead marketers to believe customers live miles away from their actual locations. An extra digit in a house number can cause mapping applications to fail. Incorrect address data can cause customers seeking directions to their nearest branch or store to be misdirected by the company website. The same issue exists with patients seeking in-network health facilities near their home, according to an online provider directory.
Obvious beneficiaries of up-to-date address data are dispatch and delivery operations. For some companies, calculating travel times between customer locations is crucial to on-time arrivals and maintaining positive customer relationships. Efficient routing using address information allows businesses to avoid excessive gas consumption, extra labor hours, and unnecessary vehicle maintenance costs.
Emergency Services/Public Statistics
One component of homeowner insurance premiums is the home’s proximity to fire stations and fire hydrants. Obviously, the insured’s physical locations are necessary for insurance companies to assess risk.
A USPS database converts postal delivery addresses to physical locations, known as 911 addresses. This function is especially important for fire, rescue, or police response and used primarily for rural-style address data. Sending emergency services to the billing address of a building could be a life-threatening mistake. High quality addresses and software accessing the USPS database make emergency dispatch more efficient in times of need.
Fees & Taxes
Where a customer lives can influence how much they pay. Mobile phone companies, for example, collect taxes from their customers on behalf of local governments. If customers move and fail to update their address, the wireless carrier could tax them incorrectly.
Insurance premiums also rely on geographic locations. Insurers can mischarge drivers who change their commute distances if the company continues assessing risk based on the customer’s old address or former work site. Other factors, such as where an auto is garaged, or when customers move to a region prone to damaging hailstorms, can also affect auto insurance premiums.
Some Firstlogic customers use their software to combat fraud. Criminals order merchandise online with stolen credit cards, directing the packages to vacant properties. They can collect the stolen goods without interference from residents and resell it to generate cash. These clever criminals sometimes provide a valid address when they place the order, then call customer service later to change the shipping address. They are betting merchants will only deploy address verification measures at the time of the order but not re-check before shipping.
Criminals use the same vacant property techniques to acquire credit cards in victim’s names. Unless businesses take steps to ensure shipping addresses are valid and occupied, they are enabling criminal activity and bear the expense for the merchandise, shipping, packaging, and labor.
Geographic segmentation is a process where marketers combine several variables to identify smaller, better-defined target groups. It helps an organization answer the following questions:
- Where (ZIP Code or marketing cluster identified by geocodes) do our customers live?
- What does living there have to do with them purchasing our product?
- How deeply have we penetrated these segments?
- Which markets provide the best growth opportunities?
Quality addresses are necessary for geographic segmentation to provide accurate results and precise geographic marketing intelligence.
Address Quality Requires Effort
As customers migrate to electronic billing, they are less likely to inform billers when they move. Unlike their experience with postal mail where the USPS may return as undeliverable, companies may never know that an e-bill customer has moved. They will continue to receive and pay bills sent via email or text. Companies engaging in electronic delivery must initiate regular address quality maintenance themselves or risk losing track of customer locations.
Your Database is an Asset
A company’s customer list is an asset, like specialized equipment or patents. Companies are often bought and sold based on the value of their customer list. Stockholders “own” these lists like they own any other asset. Value is diminished when lists are riddled with outdated ZIP Codes, misspellings, missing address elements, duplicates, and customers who moved long ago.
Address information is an enterprise resource whose value crosses organizational units. Interdependence across and between departments and functions is required to complete a successful customer transaction. Clean, updated address information helps achieve this transaction.
Firstlogic Solutions® is a provider of CASS-Certified, NCOA, and PCOA address updating and standardization software solutions. They are the leading SAP® Partner specializing in delivering Firstlogic Data Quality and SAP Data Services solutions to data-driven companies. Firstlogic Data Quality and SAP Data Quality software combine file preparation, data profiling, address quality, geocoding, data enhancement, matching, and consolidation. For over 35 years, customers have leveraged the power of Firstlogic’s data quality platform.
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