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Addressing Addresses

Online, Real Time Address Management Should Be Part of Your Business Processes.

Addresses are important to you and your customers. Your customer want to get what they order. You want to only have to send the product or bill once, fewest return possible, less cost. Your business processes, especially those which are customer facing such as CRM, provide opportunities to cross-sell, up-sell and ensure the highest levels of customer care. Introducing online, real time address management into your business processes creates significant operational efficiencies and enhance your customers’ experience with every interaction.

According to a recent study in Europe 35 percent of companies clean their address data once a year. Over a third of companies say they never run their address data against suppression or preference files. These practices increase costs and reduce customer satisfaction with an organization.

When implementing an address management strategy, there are many things to consider.
• Where and when in your business processes should address quality be managed?
• How is address quality judged in your organization?
• What is the data currency that supports the address management systems?
• What tools should you use?
• What address quality functions will benefit your organization and how to ensure that you capture these benefits?

Whether in sales, marketing, credit, distribution or customer service your employees need efficient and accurate address information to optimize the service that they provide to your customers. The best and most efficient way to ensure that everyone in your organization has accurate address data is to get it right from the very beginning.

What Functionality Should an Address Management Tool Provide?
Your address management tool should, at the very least, provide Canadian and US postal address correction and searching functionality. Data capture efficiencies, such as finding a complete address based on just a postal or zip code and a street number should be fully supported. It should also provide context sensitive searches based on any partial, free-form address information. This allows users to drill down to a complete, accurate address based on incomplete and inaccurate input data. The ability to automatically correct invalid addresses and to suggest a list of valid alternatives is very important.

Transformationing addresses to meet different needs is becoming increasingly important. The ability to format your address data to meet diverse internal and external business requirements allows you to simplify your address data management while fully supporting your systems and processes. Depending on where you operate, you need to fully support languages used in addressing (English, French, Spanish etc.) and common scripts used for addresses (Latin, Japanese, Hindi etc). Keep in mind that in many jurisdictions, support for multiple languages and scripts if often expected. Similarly, the ability to work with either accented or non-accented characters may be important. Watch out for limitations imposed by internal systems associated with address support.

The Traditional Approach: Back End Batch Processes.
One of the most important things you need to know about your customer is where to find them. Waiting to get the address right means waiting to do the job right The traditional approach to address data quality management involves entering address information into back-end systems. Then cleaning it up afterwards in a batch mode. This method is very costly and labor intensive. It also has the potential to negatively impact on your customers’ experience through delays in your processes…

The Way Ahead: Online, Real Time Address Data Capture
Good address management tools ensure that the address data is of high quality and consistently formatted from the moment it is captured. What’s more the right tools simplify the address capture process by reducing key stroking for CSRs and simplifying customer self-service user interfaces.

Getting the address data right and getting it early requires tools that are flexible, robust, and easy to implement in your environment. Are your online systems Internet-enabled with a service oriented architecture yet? If not, when will they be? Sooner is better than later?

The address quality tools need to give you the flexibility to quickly deliver powerful address quality features now and into the future. Tools that support a broad variety of technologies and platforms and which are designed to be easy to integrate with your systems will allow you to give your employees what they need to get your customers’ addresses right the first time. Quick, seamless integration, flexibility for the future and an attractive ROI are all important things to consider when choosing the tool that is right for your organization. The ROI should include: number of returns or reduction thereof; any costs for second handling restocking and such; improvements to customer service speeds; reduction in call or transaction times for both the call center staff and the customer doing it on line; judgement on the value of an increased one and done rates.

Setting Course for the Future
Implementing an online, real time address data capture mechanism requires building integration logic and may require enhancements to existing address capture screens and processes. The benefits, however, are enormous.

Any decision about address management will be heavily influenced by your current systems. What platforms do the systems run on? Do you have the ability to customize your systems or are they controlled by a third party? What technical standards does the organization have for in-house systems?

Web services offering address management allow you to implement a robust and scalable enterprise solution in a distributed, web-based environment deployed on an intranet or the Internet. Web services use standards-based XML SOAP technologies, which dramatically reduce complex security and systems management issues. With a web services-based address quality tool, organization are able to deploy online address data capture and processing functions quickly and easily.

Whether or not a web services-based solution is right for the organization, look for an address quality tool that runs on all major platforms so that all of your address processing applications are served, even if they run on disparate systems. This is also good insurance against any future system migration.

Transformation is becoming an essential component of address management. Address accuracy and standardized format is critical for most postal services for delivery and mailing discounts .It is also important to be able to handle the data input/output in various formats. External third parties always require the address in an alternate format. For example, if you need to provide an address to a credit bureau your success “hit” rate and costs will be significantly affected by your ability to match their input requirements.

The Benefits of Deploying an Online Address Management Tool.
Online, real time address quality implementations will provide the following benefits to your organization:
• Significant data capture productivity improvements, including reduced key stroking, drill-down address searching, and the elimination of back-end error processing.
• Allows staff to focus on customer service, rather than on fixing customer service problems caused by bad address data.
• Real-time address validation, correction and searching capabilities ensure address confirmation at the point of customer interaction, eliminating the need for costly error detection and correction processes.
• Give your customers a trouble-free experience.
• Ensure that the systems within your organization have accurate, consistent address data.

Online, real time address quality implementations deliver these benefits more quickly than other address quality implementation approaches. ROIs exceeding 100% are easily achievable if you choose the right address quality tool and integrate it into your front-end address data capture processes.

Conclusion
As Yogi Berra once said “Yes it is OK that people move, but they should be allowed to take their address with them”.

In order to operate an efficient and profitable organization which offers its customers a high quality customer experience, you need to have a solid address management strategy and the tools and processes to implement this strategy. This allows you to stay focused on your customer rather than on operational and customer service problems. Each year, 20% of your customers’ addresses change, requiring about 70 keystrokes per record. This represents substantial manual involvement in mundane but vital data management tasks. Using a tool that reduces this effort and ensures that problems are caught before they can impact your customers will make you and your organization more efficient and successful.

Finding the right tool and an address quality partner you can trust is worth the investment many times over. There are vendors that have met the address accuracy requirements of various national post offices. Examples include Canada Post’s SERP, or the USPS CASS program. When looking for an address data quality partner, your first stop should be the approved vendor list at the post office in your country:

Canada: http://www.canadapost.ca/offerings/address_management/pdf/serp-e.pdf
USA: http://www.usps.com/ncsc/ziplookup/vendorslicensees.htm
UK: http://www.royalmail.com (search for “Solution Directory”)
Australia: http://www.austpost.com.au/BCP/0,1467,CH2404%257EMO19,00.html

Michael Boorman, Nova Marketing Group

The preceding article was written by Michael Boorman. Please let us know what you think of this article by sending us your comments to [email protected].

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