It’s not unusual for marketers and mailers to see 5% of their mail categorized by the USPS as “Undeliverable as Addressed” (UAA). For customer and prospect lists that aren’t well managed, this number continually creeps upward. Companies generating UAA mail waste money on printing materials, postage, and labor-but that’s not all.
Returned mail is expensive to handle and a potential security risk. It’s a big problem for most marketers and mail centers and they typically have no time to manage it. They mail repeatedly to the same bad addresses and add trays of the returned mail to a pile that is growing in a neglected corner of the production facility where the mail is accessible to any number of employees, vendors, and visitors.
Returned mail processing is a “when you have time” task with no resources dedicated to the important chore. Mail centers do not consistently address this manual project and the volume continues to grow. Nearly every mail service provider and in-plant mail operation accumulates stacks of mail trays filled with yellow-stickered returned mail.
Perhaps the most expensive aspect of UAA mail is the impact to an organization when they lose contact with their past, current, or potential customers. The lost revenue can be substantial.
It pays to prevent undeliverable addresses from making their way into mailing files in the first place.
What Causes UAA?
The USPS identifies 20 different conditions that cause mail to be undeliverable, including:
- Not Deliverable as Addressed
- Unable to Forward
- Forwarding Order Expired
- Insufficient Address
- Attempted, Not Known
- No Such Number
Software deployed before mailing can correct many of the circumstances that result in undeliverable mail. In cases where the data isn’t sufficient for the software to correct addresses, companies can mark the records for further research and strip the bad data from their mailing files.
The Mailer’s Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) published a comprehensive report on UAA mail, including pre and post mailing best practices. You can read the complete report HERE.
Prevent What You Can
A consistent address cleansing effort can stop a UAA nuisance from progressing to a customer communications disaster. Address validation tools like Firstlogic’s Address Correction and Encoding (ACE®) and Mover IQ® national change of address software products are readily available. These software programs inspect mailing addresses, spot likely undeliverables, and either correct the addresses or flag them so marketers and mailers may drop the records from upcoming mailings.
Marketers and mailers will always deal with some UAA mail. Rigorous pre-mailing address processing can’t catch every instance where the USPS is unable to deliver the mail, and sometimes companies must generate mail they know will be returned. Regulations in industries such as finance and insurance require companies to send mail to a customer’s last known location, even if the recipients have moved and filed a change of address notice with the US Postal Service. Pre-production analysis of a mailing file can identify such cases, allowing the company to contact customers and secure permission to change their addresses of record. In the absence of an allowed address update, however, companies are forced to send the mail anyway.
How the USPS Handles UAA Mail
UAA mail handling by the post office depends on the mail classification and any endorsements or services chosen by the mailers.
The USPS does not return UAA Marketing Mail to mailers unless they specifically request such service and pay for it. The postal service can supply new addresses electronically, but if mailers haven’t enrolled in the USPS Address Correction Service (ACS), they will never know which addresses in their Marketing Mail files are undeliverable.
First Class mailers may opt to enroll in the USPS Secure Deduction program. The Postal Service will destroy the undeliverable mail using government-level shredding methods and supply mailers with electronic address correction information. Organizations using Secure Destruction avoid the expense of dealing with the physical aspect of returned mail, including the security risk of stockpiling trays full of envelopes containing confidential information.
UAA is Inevitable, But the Impact is Manageable
UAA mail drives up mailing costs for all mailers. The USPS spends over a billion dollars each year to handle undeliverable mail. They pass these costs along to mailers in the form of higher postage rates. Besides the production, distribution, and handling costs described above, the US Postal Service may assess postage penalties to individual mailers should they neglect their responsibility to update addresses. Exceeded thresholds measured on each entity’s Mailer Scorecard can trigger retroactive postage discount disqualification-an expensive situation.
Rather than invoking address quality measures only occasionally, organizations should consider the overall impact of bad addresses to their organizations. Include address quality in enterprise-level strategic data quality plans.
For more information on UAA mail contact us at firstlogic.com.
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