Business Process Improvement, How-to Guides, Postage and Mailing

Address Cleansing and the USPS Mailer Scorecard

FSSI logo Michael Ouellet on January 11, 2021

Person sweeping with a big manilla folder in the background that says customer data

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to optimize your marketing strategies. One of the most beneficial ways to do this is by address cleansing your customer mailing database.

According to an Experian Data Quality survey, over 32% of address data that businesses have is inaccurate. This incorrect data can harm your ROI indicators and also contribute to wasted postage costs. Most importantly, it means that it’s possible over 30% of the information you mail out is not reaching the people that it needs to.¹

We’ll also cover the USPS Mailer Scorecard, and what it means for helping you manage and reduce postage costs, fees and the overall performance of your mailings.

If the topic of address cleansing isn’t your specialty, don’t worry. We have a Mailing Terminology Glossary that should help!


What is Address Cleansing?

Address cleansing is a process that helps audit and improves the quality of the address data collected by your company. The results include better efficiency when mailing, enhanced data for mail sorting, reduction in postage costs, and better return on campaign and marketing investments.


What is Address Quality?

Address quality is pretty simple and boils down to 3 things. The data reaches Total Address Quality when it meets 3 criteria. When the data is complete, when the data is current, and when the data is correct. Data accuracy is critical, especially in the case of mailers. Delivery information is only as good as the quality of the address data. There are many reasons you may have incorrect or outdated addresses in your database. Your intended customers might have moved, made a mistake in providing their address initially or given a format unrecognizable by your system. These simple inaccuracies lead to undeliverable mail and postage fees that could have been avoided with an address cleanse.


Why Mailers Should Care About Address Quality?

Even in this digital age, direct mail is an extremely effective tool, and billions of mailers are sent out by marketers every year with great success. To maximize this success for your business, the leads you are engaging with through the USPS® and the overall mailing industry must be accurate. Undeliverable mail not only causes problems for your company in terms of waste and data inaccuracy but also puts a significant strain on the postal system.

Even more critical than wasted marketing efforts are the implications for companies that deal with bills, invoices, letters and notices. These types of mailed content are often confidential and of high priority; making sure that they are not going to be returned or undeliverable is of the utmost importance with these sensitive and vital documents.

Whether you do a manual or automatic audit of your database, in-house or with address cleansing services, the results will be a measurable improvement for your business.


Address Cleansing Glossary
These are some important postal terms to know if you are looking to improve the address quality of your mailings and improve your Mailer Scorecard.

What is Move Update Compliance?

The USPS® changed its method for verifying address quality with the launch of Move Update, designed to reduce the number of mailpieces that require forwarding by matching the address records with USPS® change-of-address requests. The Move Update standard affects high-volume business mailers who need to prove their mail is compliant to avoid incurring additional fees. On the other hand, this means businesses that keep their database up-to-date and accurate will continue to enjoy existing presort mail discounts.

The ultimate goal is to improve visibility and quality metrics from a USPS® level and ensure address quality while reducing returned and undeliverable mail. Unfortunately, over 6 billion pieces of mail were returned and forwarded in 2019 alone, costing businesses around $3 per piece of returned mail. Those fees add up to thousands for companies with large mailing lists.²

With the tumultuous year we’ve had, many savvy marketers are expecting more moves and changes of address from their customers. With the higher threshold and assessment fees, it’s a perfect time to prioritize accuracy when it comes to your customer address data and to consider partnering with a mail service provider to assess your current customer address database.


USPS Mailer Scorecard

The Mailer Scorecard is the U.S. Postal Service’s effort to assess mail preparation and whether the mailer earned the workshare discounts that offset the costs for the Postal Service to handle it. The Mailer Scorecard provides a dashboard view of the results of the letter and flat mailing activity with the Postal Service over a calendar month. The USPS Mailer Scorecard consists of five sections:

  • Mailer Profile – This tab provides a summary of volume by mail class, eDoc types and total revenue in a month.
  • Electronic Verification – This tab provides results from Full-Service preparation requirements, Move Update compliance and presort preparation requirements.
  • eInduction – This tab provides an overview of the number of containers on eInduction and the number of eInduction validation errors.
  • Seamless Acceptance – For mailers participating in Seamless Acceptance or Seamless Parallel, this tab provides an overview of the verification results including undocumented nesting/sortation, delivery point validation, etc.
  • Service Performance Measurement (SPM) – For Full-Service mailers, this tab provides an overview of the number of mailpieces that were excluded from measurement due to one or more issues.

Mailer Scorecard Scoring and Updates

The Mailer Scorecard will be updated monthly using color codes to address areas of concern: Green, Red, and Yellow.

Each month all mailings are combined to create scores, and areas of improvement will be color-coded in Green,
Red, and Yellow:

  • Green – Percent metric value has improved by more than 5% from the previous month
  • Red – Percent metric value has declined by more than 5% from the previous month
  • Yellow – Exceeds threshold established by the USPS

Tools to Help Improve Address Quality

Depending on your database’s size, you could choose to do a manual cleanup in-house, but even with smaller companies, this route is typically not recommended.

Partnering with a print-mail service provider who uses address verification software is optimal for ensuring mailing address accuracy.  Address verification software, more commonly known as an address verification API, is designed to catch any missing or inaccurate entries in your database, as well as verify the validity of all addresses against an official USPS® national database, known as the NCOALink. NCOALink providers are licensed by the USPS.®

This process can enhance your data quality by filling in the missing gaps for zip codes and converting five-digit zip codes to nine digits for increased speed and accuracy. All of these benefits add ease to correcting common mistakes in address formatting without costing you the labor hours of having it done manually.

The Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) is a certification process used by USPS® to evaluate the accuracy of address correction software. Working with a CASS-certified provider ensures that your address data follow formatting and requirements and is in compliance with USPS® standards.

In addition to having a company or service help manage your address cleanse and data verification, you can also work with a company like FSSI to implement address auto-completion and improve your data quality collection methods.


Improving Address Quality and Cleansing Customer Databases
eReturn mail from FSSI helps you improve address quality and keep your company up to date with Move Update compliance.

FSSI’s Return Mail Solution, eReturn Mail

At FSSI, we’ve prioritized staying updated and informed on all avenues related to data validation and address hygiene. We offer a solution to help reduce your undeliverable mail, inform you about your address data and keep you up-to-date with Move Update compliance. Our solution is eReturn Mail.

  • Using a proprietary program, FSSI matches USPS® data with its database so there is no manual processing needed
  • Through FSSI’s Unique Piece Tracking (UPT), we provide you with data on all mail that was returned in a convenient easy-to-read electronic file, removing piles of physical mail to sort through
  • Data is formatted so you can quickly and easily manage customer addresses and make real-time updates
  • Quickly identify and contact customers to get updated information and avoid postage fees from the USPS®
  • Satisfy Move Update compliance by streamlining the review process and addressing cleansing practices to keep your customer data up to date
  • Secure Destruction enables you to instruct USPS® to destroy all “Undeliverable As Addressed” mail and forward all “Change of Address” mail to your customers

Whether you choose a service or manual approach, there is nothing but tangible benefits available to those who choose to utilize address cleansing. Not only will you save time and money, but you will also keep your communications moving as planned to reap the benefits of recaptured business opportunities and an improved customer experience.


FSSI

FSSI is a print and mail service provider with over 40 years of experience with address cleansing and helping companies with their communication strategy. Our longstanding relationship with the USPS® enables us to develop customizable solutions to streamline the mailing process and enhance the quality of your company’s customer databases. Call 713.436.3300 to see if outsourcing your company’s mail is right for you.


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Sources:

¹ https://www.marketingcharts.com/digital-50897
² https://www.pitneybowes.com/content/dam/pitneybowes/us/en/shipping-and-mailing/address- management/19_PBCS_02698_Return_Mail_White_Paper_web_JUNE_2019_FINAL.pdf