How to Clean My Data?
Q: I worry that my customer database is out-of-date. I may have outdated addresses and I know that sometimes the data entry folks don’t input the info correctly. Are there any tools that can help fix my database, before I send mailings to them?
A: Absolutely! There are many tools available for both large and small mailers alike that will clean up your files. In fact, the U.S. Postal Service has sold licenses to several data processing firms that allow them to use USPS info to help clean up mailing lists. Here’s an overview of file clean-up services:
- National Change of Address (NCOA): This is a file of movers who’ve filled out a change of address form at their local post office. While extremely valuable, it’s important to note that a good percentage of moving consumers and businesses do not take the time and effort to submit this form.
- Supplementary Change of Address services: Many of the NCOA service providers also compile additional sources of address changes (such as those provided by magazine publishers or cataloguers). Additionally, many of the NCOA suppliers have developed programs where they are able to identify more Nixies (bad addresses) even if they cannot provide you with the current address. These types of services can be an excellent addition to the USPS NCOA service.
- Delivery Sequence File (DSF): Another USPS product offered from a handful of large data processing firms, DSF is a file of every delivery point in the country. You can use this tool to understand simple deliverability of your address data. Additionally, you can obtain a better understanding of your address data by examining DSF flags around address type (i.e.: commercial, residential, vacant, and seasonal addresses).
- Locatable Address Conversion System (LACS): Yet another USPS offering—this process converts rural route addresses to a physical street address, enhancing the deliverability of that address.
- Address Standardization and ZIP Code Correction Processes: he leading service bureaus, over time, have fine-tuned these processes. Through rigorous editing of input addresses, they are able to maximize the number of records where a ZIP+4- code can be applied. Additionally, they can often employ services that correct elements of the address or append apartment numbers if this data is missing in your input file. Additionally, there are software products readily available in the marketplace that you can purchase and perform these steps internally.
As you can see, there are quite a variety of tools out there. That’s the good news! And, they’re usually not that expensive of a proposition (even better news). With the right application of the data cleansing services, you can rest assured that more pieces will be delivered to your customers.