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“How to Guide” on Address Validation and Corrections

In this “How to Guide” learn the best practices for validating ship to addresses and the critical importance of where address cleansing should take place. By implementing address verification tools you will save money not only in transportation costs but also customer service costs while improving the delivery rate on orders. The result is better customer satisfaction by simply ensuring you have the correct address before shipping.

If your company has been plagued with address corrections, delayed deliveries, returned shipments, or missing packages then your company can benefit from address cleansing software. These issues can add up to costly expenses for your company not only in additional freight charges but dissatisfied customers. This “How to Guide” will cover common questions and how you should approach solving address problems.

What options are there for address software?

Addressing software is available from many 3rd party companies, of which most use the U.S. Postal Service CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) certification for verifying addresses and checking addresses against the U.S. Postal Service AMS (Address Matching System) available on CD/DVD-ROM or through APIs.

The U.S. Postal Service is the authority for deliverable addresses and extends beyond just letters/packages sent through the mail and assigning the carrier route information for automation and sortation discounts. If you are shipping small parcels via UPS, FedEx, or other carriers this can also be a benefit to avoid address correction charges and delayed deliveries.

Addressing software is offered most commonly through an online API/XML solution or actual software that is installed on a server on your company’s network and updated on a regular basis.

What is the difference between address validation and address correction?

Depending on the software used some only validate the city, state and zip code. Other software will go further and also validate the street information. Most software is available for US or US/Canada addresses.

Address validation software will take an address and look at the street level information, city name, state abbreviation, and zip code. It will make sure that all abbreviations (i.e. ST, DR, AVE) are correct and that the address meets one of the variations allowed (i.e. ST PAUL or SAINT PAUL). It will also make sure the zip code matches for the city and state.

Address correction software goes a step further than validating the address and actually will attempt to correct the address. It will look at the range of street numbers available; it will correct the street name and abbreviations used; it will match the city, state and zip code combination; and it will assign the zip + 4.

Do I need both?

It depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you only want to make sure the address passes the verification step and if it is rejected have a person handle it manually, then you can get by with address validation software.

If you are looking to add intelligence to the process and want to either have the software automatically correct the address or provide suggestions, then you will need address correction software.

What is the price of address cleansing software?

Pricing for addressing software varies greatly and most commonly is charged on a per transaction basis, meaning that for each address that is cleansed you pay a transaction fee (i.e. $.05 per address). It is worth checking with each of your carriers because they may offer to cleanse your database for free if you provide them the addresses in an Excel spreadsheet or comma-delimited file. Also some carriers such as the U.S. Postal Service have APIs Tools that you can connect directly to and check the address.

Another important tip to keep cost at a reasonable level is to flag the addresses once they have been validated and corrected. If you receive an order from the same company 2-3 times per month, there is no need to keep performing the check on their address. At a minimum you should check addresses every 6 months to 1 year and always perform the check when the customer changes their address or when you get a new customer.

Where should the address software be implemented?

For many companies their decision is to have the software perform the address validation and correction at the time of shipping. This can be successfully done; however, it is not the best place for many reasons:

• If the shipper is given the choice from a list of corrected addresses they may be in a hurry and just pick the first one and often this can be the incorrect address.

• If the address cannot be corrected, the shipper must take the time to set aside the package and get someone to attend to the problem – this can cost valuable time when the shipper is trying to get all the orders processed before the driver comes to pick up the packages.

• If the address correction is done behind the scenes of the shipping software, there may be alterations to the address that could still cause the package to be delivered to the wrong place –software intelligence can’t be 100% correct when deciding if it is the correct city, state and/or zip code. It may be a combination of mistakes that can only be fixed by a human.

If you are going to utilize addressing software, put it where the root of the problem will occur:

• Behind your web store at the time the customer is checking out and confirming their order

• In the order entry screen for customer service and sales to verify the correct information at the time they are taking the order from the customer

• For fulfillment projects where an external file is imported

If for some reason the address needs human intervention now you have time to contact the customer without delaying the shipment of their order.

In summary, address cleansing is an invaluable tool to any company that ships. As online e-commerce business continues to grow, it can save thousands of dollars on address corrections and improve overall customer satisfaction. The ROI is well worth the investment.