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Best Practices for FastTax

Service Objects’ DOTS FastTax service is now more powerful than ever – particularly for areas that have multiple tax jurisdictions. This means that a few tweaks to your implementation can do a lot more of the sales and use tax calculation work for you. So here are some pro tips to elevate your tax game:

Determine where you have “nexus”

In order to hit the ground running, you will first want to look into your own business’ tax requirements. Often this is done by determining states where your business has sufficient physical presence to require the collection of sales tax, also known as “nexus”, and then charging the appropriate tax based on that information. After determining where you will need to charge tax, and what types of taxes are involved (such as sales or use tax), it is time to head over to our FastTax API.

Search for tax rates by address

FastTax gives you the ability to search tax rates by city and state, city, county and state, ZIP code, or (for Canadian addresses) by province. However, the current version also gives you the ability to search tax rates by address, using an operation called GetBestMatch.

To get the most out of your FastTax subscription, we recommend using this latest operation, which will take your address and return the best available tax rate match. This service will even go as far as returning a ZIP code level match when the specific address level information is not available. In addition to the city/state/county/special tax rates that are returned, we will provide you with information about the location’s unincorporated status., discussed next.

Account for unincorporated areas

If you are interested in properly accounting for areas within a city that are unincorporated, we have you covered. We offer a flag that is called IsUncorporated, and it will have either a true or false value. If the flag is set to true all you have to do is take the total tax rate and subtract off any existing city and city district rates. You will be left with the unincorporated address’ accurate tax rate.

With all of these pieces of information in hand, you will now able to select the rates that are relevant to your business and apply the specific sales and use tax rates that fit your needs.

Let us do the work for you

With the latest version of FastTax, you can harness a real-time tax rate lookup service based on contact addresses that are validated, geocoded, and then matched with a corresponding tax rate. This means that the quickest way to get accurate tax information is to now look up tax rates by address.

Compared with searching for tax rates by city, county or ZIP code, searching by address takes advantage of the deep-rooted integration between FastTax and our address validation and geocoding engines. This is particularly important because tax rates can vary within a municipality or ZIP code, based on factors such as incorporation status, so letting us validate and geocode your contact addresses helps us provide you with the most accurate tax rate data.

While the saying “garbage in, garbage out” still applies, this service will also do its best to correct your input to its proper form. Minor spelling mistakes, standardizations, or even non-deliverable addresses can sometimes be geocoded or corrected to provide you an accurate tax rate for your input address. In total, the combination of your predetermined nexus information and our tax rate lookup service allows for a quick and seamless workflow for your business.

As always, we are here to answer any questions that you may have. If you would like clarification on any aspect of our FastTax web service, please feel free to reach out to us. Our sales and support teams are here to find a solution that works for your business. And if you are a current customer and find a rate that is incorrect, shoot us an email and we will get the discrepancy addressed immediately.

NCOA Live Best Practices for Contact Address Validation

NCOA Live Best Practices

If you want to use our National Change-of-Address web service, DOTS NCOA Live, for contact address validation but are hesitant to dive in due to the complex nature of the service; this article is meant to set your worries aside. This blog will serve as a comprehensive guide to getting the most out of your NCOA Live subscription while addressing common questions, pitfalls, and recommended workflows. Additional information can also be found in our NCOA Live developer guide. With NCOA Live, businesses can easily update address information to maintain accurate and up-to-date contact records by accessing the USPS dataset of mail forwarding notifications.

Filling Out the Processing Acknowledgement Form

Before you can begin using NCOA Live, the USPS requires you to complete their simple Processing Acknowledgement Form (PAF) to access change-of-address data. Most of the fields in this form will be straightforward. You can look up your North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code and business address here. To ensure correct PAF filing, we recommend using the USPS lookup tool to confirm your address and some of the additional details that the PAF requires. Please see the image below for reference.

Ensure accurate and up-to-date contact address validation and maintain your competitive edge with DOTS NCOA Live from Service Objects.

Ensuring that your address has a ZIP+4 and a DPV Confirmation Indicator of “Y” will prevent any issues in the filing process.

Getting Your License Key and Service Endpoints

After successful filing the PAF, we will provide a license key and the service endpoint. These items will enable requests to the NCOA Live web service to check for change-of-addresses. Due to the flexible nature of our services, NCOA Live is accessible from almost any tool or programming language that can make a web service call. Specific coding examples for the service can be found in our developer guide’s sample code section.

We have sample code in most of the popular programming languages, including PHP, JAVA, Ruby, Python, ColdFusion, and C#, just to name a few. We can also provide customized code if needed and our Application Engineering team would be happy to answer any questions you may have about integrations and programming language-specific concerns.

Handling JobID Creation

Arguably the most challenging aspect of the NCOA Live web service is the USPS requirement that submissions for change-of-address lookups include an open JobID. The JobID links to your account and keeps track of the transactions you run. Each new JobID remains valid for one week, expiring at 11:50 pm Sunday evening. Opening a new JobID requires the following:

  1. Building an array of 100-500 addresses (100 minimum to create a job)
  2. Creating a personalized JobID (alpha-numeric string of fewer than 50 characters)
  3. Submitting the addresses, JobID, and license key to the “RunNCOA Live” operation

After submitting the initial 100-500 records for the current week’s JobID, anywhere from 1-500 records can be processed per batch. Every transaction run during that week will operate under this new JobID. At the end of the week, the JobID closes, and we update the internal change-of-address data that powers our service. The following week, another NCOA Live operation can be initiated with a new JobID following the steps listed above.

Checking for Errors and Parsing the Response

The first step to safely parsing the response is to check for any root level errors. Root level errors are largely uncommon and generally related to issues with the service or license key. If root errors appear, please don’t hesitate to contact Service Objects and we will work with you to resolve them. If there are no root level errors, you can start working with the valid response data.

The NCOA Live response returns a result with multiple nested fields. See table below for the response fields and a brief description.

RunNCOA Live Outputs

Parent ObjectChildValuesDescription
NameInVariesThe raw input name.
RawInputAddressAddressVariesThe raw input address line.
Address2VariesThe raw input address2 line.
CityVariesThe raw input city.
StateVariesThe raw input state.
ZipVariesThe raw input Zip code.
CASSInputAddressAddressVariesThe standardized address line.
Address2VariesThe standardized secondary.
CityVariesThe standardized city name.
StateVariesThe standardized state.
ZipVariesThe standardized Zip+4
USPSFootnotesVariesA concatenated string of relevant 2-digit USPS "Footnote" codes that give additional information about the input address.
NCOAMatchNameMatchVaries
The name that matched the COA record.
AddressVariesThe primary address line that the resident moved to.
Address2VariesThe secondary address line.
CityVariesThe city name.
StateVariesThe state abbreviation.
ZipVariesThe Zip+4.
CarrierRouteVariesThe Carrier Route code for the COA address.
BarcodeDigitsVariesThe PostNet barcode for the COA address.
COAFoundWhether or not a match was found in the COA data. Does not imply that a valid address could be found.
NCOAReturnCodeVariesThe USPS's NCOALink Return Code providing additional information about the nature of the COA match.
NCOAReturnCodeDescVaries
Short English description of the COA information. Longer descriptions found below.
ExtendedNCOAReturnCode(See below)USPS's Extended NCOA Return Code comprising a series of key/value strings.
DiagnosticsDiscountCode1-4A code representing discount level.
DiscountDescription(See below)An English description of the discount level.
StatusCode2-8A code representing the level of quality of the input address post-validation. Higher is better.
StatusDescription(See below)An English description of the level of quality of the input address post-validation.
ServiceFlagsVariesUSPS Service Flags output explains what additional address services were run such as RDI, eLOT, etc.
ErrorTypeVariesEnglish description of the error type. See "Error Codes" below.
TypeCode1,2,3,4Unique error type code. See "Errors" below.
DescVariesEnglish description of the error. See "Errors" below.
DescCodeVariesUnique code for the error. See "Errors" below.
JobIDVariesThe JobId sent to the service.

The response data comes back as a list of results corresponding to the addresses submitted. If specific address errors are detected at this level, they fall under our Domain Specific errors and apply to individual addresses. Reading the error’s description provides insight into why the service was not able to validate or return change-of-address information. Detailed notes about the individual error codes are available in the developer guide and can be seen in the table below.

Error Type 4: Domain Specific

DescCodeDescription 
1Job not found for this License Key.The job does not exist. Please try again with a different job id. *
2Job has been closed.The job can no longer be used. Please try again with a new job id. *
3First transaction of a job must contain 100 records or more.Please try again with at least 100 unique and valid addresses. *
4Issue connecting to NCOA engine.Please try again. If the issue persists then please contact technical support. *
5Street not found.Indicates that the street name was not found for the general area (city/state or zip).
6Address not found.Indicates that a reliable address candidate was not found. Portions of the address may be incorrect or it may be too ambiguous to return a reliable candidate.
7Street number or box number out of range.The address is invalid. The street and area appear to be correct but the number is wrong.
8Multiple addresses match.Indicates that multiple candidates were found that are equally likely given the input.
9nsufficient address data. Indicates that a reliable address candidate was not found. Portions of the address may be missing or incorrect.
10DPV Lockout. Contact Service Objects immediately.Returned for a specific type of address case known as a false positive.
11Request cannot contain more than 500 addresses. Please try again with no more than 500 addresses in a single request. *
12License Key is not linked to a valid PAF Id. Please contact Service Objects and complete a USPS NCOA Processing Acknowledgement Form (PAF) to register your license key with the service. *
13
Performing weekly NCOA data update. Please try again in a few minutes with a new Job Id.
USPS releases new NCOALink data every week and requires that we use the newest data, so we must close all jobs using the older dataset. *
14Expired PAF agreement. Please contact Service Objects. Your USPS NCOA Processing Acknowledgement Form (PAF) has expired. Please contact Service Objects to renew and continue using the service. *
15Unable to create new NCOA Job. Please try again. If the problem persists then please contact Service Objects.There was a problem creating the new job. Please contact Service Objects and notify technical support of the error. *

* This is not a billable error and it will not count as a transaction against the license key.

The flexible framework of NCOA Live’s outputs allow you to integrate the results into your application to best meet your needs. We recommend exploring the various outputs such as the RawInputAddress, CASSInputAddress, and likely the most relevant information, the NCOAMatch. Because it delivers new address information in real-time, the NCOA Live service can be easily integrated into existing workflows and databases.

Maintain Better Mailing Lists with Easy Contact Address Validation

The USPS National Change-of-Address database provides a valuable resource for organizations who depend on up-to-date contact data. NCOA Live leverages the USPS dataset of forwarding notifications with a flexible API interface to provide you with the latest address information for clients and prospects. More details on all the elements of our NCOA Live service are available in our developer guide. And we are always here to help you with any questions or integration challenges you may encounter. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today!

 

Integrating your address validation applications should be as painless as possible. A technical consultation can provide insight into the data fields submission and find connections between validated data and the goals and requirements of your business.

DOTS Address Validation 3: Understanding the Tools at Your Disposal

Here at Service Objects, we have a team of engineers standing by to help you get the most out of our data validation services. Our goal is to understand your business needs and use the expert knowledge we have gained from over 15 years in the data validation business, to help meet these needs. We provide in-depth developer guides and offer complimentary technical consultation to help your developers leverage our services in the most efficient and productive manner possible. We also want to make sure that you understand the full power and utility of our services and the best ways to integrate them. Understanding how our services work and what they return makes integration simpler and ensures you are using them optimally.

Before we get started, it is important to know that many of our services have multiple operations. These operations have been created to meet different business needs within the services’ overall purpose. For example, DOTS Address Validation 3 has eight different operations, from full address validation and correction to parsing address elements into fragments. At first, it might seem overwhelming to discern which operation is right for your needs, but once the differences are understood, we can choose the best operation to meet them. For our example, we will use the recommended operation, GetBestMatches, for Address Validation 3 as this satisfies most of our customers’ address validation needs. So, let’s dive in.

More Inputs = Better Address Verification

Because humans are not perfect, the data coming into the service can vary wildly in terms of format. Address Validation 3 takes these varying inputs, standardizes them, and then verifies the address. It also cross-references the optional input, BusinessName, with the address data provided to return the most accurate result. Address Validation 3 uses either Postal Code or City and State inputs to complete its analysis. Ultimately, the more inputs you can provide, the more cross-referencing can be performed, and the address can be corrected and validated to the highest accuracy possible.

Below are the input fields from our recommended operation, GetBestMatches. Some sections can be understood by their name alone, and others may require reading the description to get a better understanding of what they offer.

 

GetBestMatches Inputs

Name Type Description
BusinessName String Name of business associated with this address. Used to append Suite data.
Address String Address line of the address to validate.
For example, “123 Main Street”.
Address2 String This line is for address information that does not contribute to DPV coding an address. For example,”C/O John Smith” does not help validate the address, but is still useful in delivery.
City String The city of the address to validate.
For example, “New York.”  The city isn’t required, but if one is not provided, the Zip code is required.
State String The state of the address to validate.  For example, “NY.”  This does not need to be contracted; full state names will work as well.  The state isn’t required, but if one is not provided, the Zip code is required.
PostalCode String The zip code of the address to validate.  A zip code isn’t required, but if one is not provided, the City and State are required.
LicenseKey* String Your license key to use the service.
Sign up for a free trial key at https://www.serviceobjects.com/products/address-geocoding/usps-address-validation

 

Usually, your inputs are largely fixed based on the data you are collecting, but the outputs can vary based on the operation being used. Understanding the outputs available and how you want to use them ensures you are leveraging the service to its fullest extent. Below is a table showing the available output fields from our recommended operation, GetBestMatches. As you will see, some sections can be understood by their Name alone, while others may require further description to better understanding what they return. These descriptions are provided in the Description field.

 

GetBestMatches Outputs

Name Type Values Description
Addresses Address[] Varies The corrected address candidates.
IsCASS String “true” or “false” Indicates if the unaltered input address is CASS certified. See “What is CASS?” below for more information.
Error Error Varies Error object indicating why the service could not return a result. See “Errors” below for more information.

Address

Name Type Values Description
Address1 String Varies The corrected address line 1.
Address2 String Varies The corrected address line 2.
City String Varies The corrected city name.
State String Varies The corrected state name.
Zip String Varies The corrected zip code + 4.
IsResidential String “true” or “false” Indicates if the address is for a residence.
DPV* String 1-4 Number that correlates to a DPV (Delivery Point Validation) result. An indicator displaying whether or not the address is recognized as deliverable by the USPS.
DPVDesc* String Varies Explains DPV result.
DPVNotes* String Varies Number that correlates to DPV notes description. Service Objects may add or change Note descriptions, but will never modify existing codes.
DPVNotesDesc* String Varies Details about the DPV result. Service Objects may add or change Note descriptions, but will never modify existing codes.
Corrections* String Varies Number that correlates to a Corrections Description. Service Objects may add or change Correction descriptions, but will never modify existing codes.
CorrectionsDesc* String Varies Description of what was corrected in an address. Service Objects may add or change Correction descriptions, but will never modify existing codes.
BarcodeDigits String Varies The post office delivery barcode digits.
CarrierRoute String 4 chars 4 chars: 1 for the route type, 3 for the route code. Identifies a group of addresses when prepended by 5-digit Zip.
CongressCode String Varies The congress code is the congressional district number.
CountyCode String Varies The county code of the given address.
CountyName String Varies The name of the county in which the given address lies.
FragmentHouse String Varies The parsed house number of the given address.
FragmentPreDir String Varies The parsed pre-directional of the address’s street.  “North” in “North Main St West.”
FragmentStreet String Varies The parsed name of the street in the given address.  “Main” in “North Main St West.”
FragmentSuffix String Varies The parsed suffix of the street in the given address.  “St” in “North Main St West.”
FragmentPostDir String Varies The parsed post-directional of the address’s street.  “West” in “North Main St West.”
FragmentUnit String Varies The parsed unit type (e.g. “Apt” or “Ste”)
Fragment String Varies The parsed “Fragment” box, apartment, or unit number. Same as FragmentPMBNumber.
FragmentPMBPrefix String Varies The parsed type of the apartment, box, unit, etc.  For example, “APT” or “BOX.”
FragmentPMBNumber String Varies The parsed apartment, box, unit, etc. number of the given address.

 

Effective Address Validation Begins with Painless Integration

Integrating your applications with Service Objects should be as painless as possible. Our developer guides show the many different services and operations we offer while providing sample code in most of the major programming languages. And if we don’t have what you need, just ask, it is what we are here for.

Some Common Questions We See About Address Validation

Due to the broad nature of our products, the consultations we have with our clients vary depending on need. For beginners, we recommend starting with our online guide, Getting Started with Service Objects. This reference manual includes information about each of our individual services and can help guide you through your Address Validation 3 integration.

While our knowledge extends beyond the FAQ section in our developer guides, the technical questions we receive cover many topics, from 3rd party plugins to concurrency and multi-threaded applications, failover configurations, and response parsing/interpretation.

Below are some questions that we have received while helping clients integrate with our Address Validation 3 service. The inquiries arise from common business requirements and may even help answer questions you have about your integration.

 

Q: How will I know if an address that is validated is deliverable?

A: Delivery Point Validation (DPV) – The DPV codes are extremely useful in determining the deliverability of your address. They are broken down into four different codes:

DPV Code Description
1 Yes, the input record is a valid mailing address
2 No, the input record is not in the DPV database of valid mailing addresses
3 The apartment or rural route box number is not valid, although the house number or rural route is valid
4 The input record is a valid mailing address but is missing the apartment or rural route box number

 

General workflows revolve around accepting address with DPV Code 1s and discarding DPV Code 2s. The DPV Code 1 will indicate that if you sent mail to the address via the United States Postal Service, it would be delivered. DPV Code 2 means the address was deemed not deliverable, and mail would not successfully arrive at that address. DPV Codes 3 and 4 are both indicators that some piece of information was missing on the input, and you will want to create business logic to determine how these cases are handled. For cases like this, we find that many clients will prompt their end user for a corrected house number of apartment/suite/rural route box number, possibly in real-time. 

 

Q: How do I ensure my service requests are successfully processed?

A: Implementing Failover Logic – All of our sample code highlights our recommended best practices and procedures. We show how to code for service outages at our primary data centers, and how to failover to our backup servers. With that said, we guarantee a 99.999% uptime, ensuring the web services are available to you at all times. With proper failover logic in place, failing to get back validated data is a non-issue.

 

Q: I have validated all of my records, but now I want to remove duplicates. Is there an easy way to do this?

A: BarcodeDigits – This little nugget of gold hiding in plain sight. From a programmer’s point of view, the barcode is a perfect primary key for an address. The barcode digit is a unique identifier for a premise. You can use this field instead of doing difficult string comparisons against individual address fragments.

 

Q: We do direct mailings to the addresses we collect, but the shipping company places a character limit on the address fields. Can we use the Address Validation 3 service to adhere to the shipping company’s limitation?

A: Fragments – When an address is validated it is also broken up into its component parts. The parts can be used to get around shipping label limitations by piecing back together the address how you need it. For example, an address label could be constructed like the following:

Line 1: FragmentHouse + FragmentPreDir + FragmentStreet + FragmentSuffix + FragmentPostDir

Line 2: FragmentUnit + Fragment + FragmentPMBPrefix + FragmentPMBNumber

 

Q: I am getting an error back from the service and need help to interpret it. Also, where is my validated address?

A: Errors – Errors come back as their own object in code or parent object in XML/JSON. Digging into the error object fields will help you understand what went wrong with your call to the service, or why your inputs were not valid. If you receive an error object back from the Address Validation 3 service, you can immediately assume that you will not be receiving a validated address. Errors are broken into four categories:

  • Authorization – This type of error revolves around an issue with your license key. Sometimes the wrong key is being used for the service, or you may have exhausted your purchased transactions. If this happens, please reach out to our customer care (or call 800.694.6269) team to resolve the issue.
  • User Input – These occur when the input data is incorrect. Often, this error happens because a field is missing or a parameter name is misspelled.
  • Service Objects Fatal – Very rarely, if ever, will you see this type of error. Chances are we have already been made aware of the issue from our 24/7/365 monitoring services. However, please let us know if you encounter one by sending an email to support@serviceobjects.com. We support our services 24/7/365, and guarantee 99.999% uptime with our financially backed Master Service Level Agreement.
  • Domain Specific – This indicates that the service ran to completion, but the data was not valid. Each of the individual errors within the domain-specific category will help you to understand what part of the address was deemed invalid.

These are just a few tips to help you with your integration of Address Validation 3. If you would like further clarification on any of the fields or have questions about how a service will work to fit your needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our support team.

 

Types of Integrations

Searching for the proper tool to fit your business needs can be a daunting task. At Service Objects, ease of integration is engineered in as part of each of our products, ranging from seamless API interfaces to list processing services that work directly on your data files. This article discusses each of our integration strategies in detail, to simplify your research process and to help pinpoint the type of integration that will best suit your needs.

Service Objects products are created as web services. This means that any programming language that can make a web service request, can make use of our services. From programming languages like  PHP, Java, C#, Ruby, Python, Cold Fusion and many more, to CRM systems such as Salesforce, Marketo, Hubspot and beyond. Nearly all major languages and platforms can make use of Service Objects’ web services.

Below we discuss the most common types of integrations we see from our clients . And if you have a platform that isn’t listed below and would like more information on how it could tie in with our services, please reach out to us – we are happy to provide tips, sample code, plug-ins and recommend best practices and procedures.

API integration

This is our most popular option for real time validations, and allows our capabilities to be integrated directly into your software. Our services can be called via web requests either by HTTP GET or SOAP/POST, and the service response can be delivered in XML or JSON format. These protocols and output formats generally allows enough flexibility to meet  your needs. We also offer a web service description language (WSDL) file that can be consumed to auto generate the necessary methods and classes to call our various web services. If you have a specific language in mind, please check out our Sample Code page – chances are we have sample code already written for your needs.

List Processing

List processing involves sending us a list of your data to be validated. We take this list and process it through the appropriate web service and then return the results, appended to each record in your file. From there you can take the data, apply your business logic, and save it to your database.

This type of process is often the best approach for cleaning up existing data in bulk. A large export is generally easier than integrating via the API and processing it manually. However, depending on the resources you have available, both API or list processing are completely viable options and we have a number of clients that use both in concert.

We offer two convenient solutions for list processing: single batch runs for one-time processing, or automated batches. Let’s look at the differences between them:

Single batch runs. A single batch run is one of the simplest ways to have your data processed. You send us a comma separated value (CSV) file and we’ll run it against our services, append the data, and return it to you. It is perfect for cleaning up existing data. Many clients run a single one-time batch process to clean up their existing data and then implement a real time solution into their product, giving them the best of both worlds: clean existing data together with a process to ensure that incoming data is the highest quality possible.

Automated List Processing. Your data can be processed securely and automatically by uploading the data file to our secure FTPS server. Once uploaded, our system will recognize the new list to process and get to work. The input file will be parsed, run through a web service, and the results will be appended to original file. It is nearly identical to the one-time processing service that we offer, with the added benefit that you can upload files at your convenience to be processed automatically.

CRM integration

If you currently use one of the major customer relationship management (CRM) or marketing automation software platforms like Salesforce, Marketo, Hubspot, or others, chances are that our services integrate with it and we likely have sample code or plug-ins for themEach platform has its own level of customizability but they almost universally offer some variation on a plugin, api, or exposed interface to integrate with. Contact us to learn more about integrating our capabilities with your specific platform.

Whether you develop an API interface for your current software, use batch list processing, or integrate our capabilities with your CRM or marketing automation platform, Service Objects is with you every step of the way with support, sample code, tutorials, and the experience that comes with serving nearly 2500 customers. Get in touch with us today and see how easy it can be to integrate best-in-class data quality with your own applications environment.

The Evolution of Service Objects’ Phone Service

Since 2001, Service Objects has been building and providing data validation services for mid to enterprise level businesses. One of our first data quality products focused on phone numbers and the services we could supply around them, including validation, look-up and reverse look-up services.  Over these 17 years, our data quality products have evolved considerably.  Whether this is in response to changes in technology, legislation, internal desire and (especially) customer needs, our products are much better for it.

We thought it would be fun to take a quick walk down memory lane and see where we started and ultimately how these services have evolved.

Early years…

We got our start with compiled phone data sets.  These lists were compiled by buying and aggregating lists of phone data from third parties. These data sets allowed us to translate phone numbers into exchange info, and return information on the provider and consumer, including; provider or contact name, city, state, zip, and line type.  Obviously, this aggregated list data worked but we found that the data quickly degraded and grew stale.

Once we saw the issues with this static, compiled list approach, we moved into scraping various sites and aggregating fresher data. The scraping helped to supplement the ever-aging compiled data sets. This newer approach provided fresher phone data than straight compiled data but was still prone to errors.

The Landline era…

Having had success early on, we were able to invest in relationships with Telecoms and companies that work with Telecoms. This provided us with accurate and up-to-date information surrounding landlines.  At this point, landline data was common and most businesses were guaranteed to be listed using landlines.  On top of that, a large portion of the residences still owned landlines.  Having data for the two markets allowed us to cover a large majority of the Telecom space. With only landlines to consider, it was simpler to provide a solid landline only service, which we called Geophone.

The move to Mobile and VOIP…

With the wide-spread adoption of cell phones, there has been (and continues today) a significant shift away from landlines for residences to cell phones. The same came be seen with businesses and their adoption of voice-over-IP (VOIP). In both cases, data for these has been more challenging to attain. Early on, mobile device information was very hard to come by and we were required to take a step back data-quality-wise to precompiled sources for some of the alternative phone types.  It was a challenging time for us to provide the most accurate and update contacts around these types of phone numbers. We did our best and with the addition of these new phone types and our Geophone Plus service(GPPL) was born,  built as an extension of the functionality of the original Geophone web service.

Ported numbers…

More recently, porting has also become more common.  Porting telephone numbers simply means maintaining your number across carriers and line types. Mobile carrier to mobile carrier is common but in some cases, even landline to wireless carriers. During this era, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was initialized. The threat of harsh TCPA penalties for calling mobile numbers created the need to know, with confidence, who companies were calling and on what phone type. From this need, our Geophone Plus 2 (GPPL2) was born. The data, like carrier info, phone type, subscriber name and ported date made the service highly desirable. Not only for companies looking to adhere to the TCPA regulations but also for business looking to gain competitive advantages in their respective industries.

New challenges…

As technologies progressed, new forms of phone types emerged. Identifying Google numbers, Skype numbers and other portable VOIP providers became more important. These new technologies brought along with them new potential for fraud. Users could easily sign up for VOIP numbers and use them maliciously or fraudulently and then abandon them. In addition, the identification of fax numbers, robo-callers and prepaid phones have become more important. To address this growing need, we upgraded our Phone Exchange product to Phone Exchange 2 (PE2).  It was built upon the existing functionality of our Phone Exchange service and extends the service’s capabilities to address these new Telecom technologies, as well as detecting and validating international numbers

Going forward…

Every day, we strive to add new data sources to enhance our phone and contact data sets and help identify other potential fraud sources. Our commitment is to keep providing these excellent services and features while accurately appending new data points that link names and addresses to their phone numbers. Some of the extended features are currently being worked into the Geophone Plus 3 web service that we will be launching in early spring. This includes features such as demographics information about locations and people, emails, and business information.

In addition, we will continue to respond to our customers’ needs, advances in phone technology and new legislation as it comes down (like the EU’s upcoming GDPR legislation) to help further improve our products.

The Struggles with Deprecated Services

The word “deprecated” is thrown around frequently in the software development world. It is used to indicate a product or service that is either not going to continue being maintained or it is going to be sunsetted. Often times, when companies roll out a new product or API they decide to give their users a heads up that the older operations are going to be deprecated. This prompts the users to update to the latest version to take advantage of the latest and greatest features that the company is offering.

Marking a service to be deprecated is a warning to the users of the product or service that it will no longer be supported and it is highly recommended to upgrade to a newer, supported service.  Here at Service Objects, we don’t particularly like the practice of deprecating services.  Although we don’t rule it out completely, our mission is to maintain support for our legacy services. This is because we understand that it takes time, resources, and money to integrate with APIs. The time it takes for developers to integrate, test, and deploy new code inevitably costs money. To help solve the issue of legacy services falling behind the advancements, we keep our core code separate from the individual service outputs. A fixed set of output fields enables us to provide our clients with peace of mind that the service they have invested their time and resources into won’t change beneath their feet.

A clear picture of this concept can be seen in our DOTS Address Validation services. We have DOTS Address Validation 1, 2 and 3. The 3rd iteration is currently our primary and most robust address validation service yet. It has the latest and greatest in terms of available output fields. Even though Address Validation 3  is our latest version of our address services, both DOTS Address Validation 1 and 2 are actively supported.

The reason we are able to maintain these is due to the fact that the share a core address validation code set, which is continuously refined to return the most accurate and up to date data available.

By choosing our services, you can rest assured that the service you integrate will not be left to be put out to pasture in the future  and will continue to push to provide you with the best data, regardless of which version of the service you are using.

We invite you to get started testing any of our 23 data quality services today.

DOTS Address Validation vs. Google Maps: What’s the Difference?

Many of us use Google Maps to quickly verify that a location exists or give us an idea of what that location looks like. However, there is a common misconception that it will validate that the address found is correct and deliverable. So although Google Maps is an extremely powerful lookup tool, it will not validate addresses nor does it include the robust features and support included with our DOTS Address Validation-US service. To jumpstart your understanding and dispel some standard misconceptions, let’s explore some of the differences in our Address Validation service and Google Maps.

What Does DOTS Address Validation Do?

Although Service Objects can verify and validate many contact data points such as name, phone and email, our specialty is address validation. For us, addresses consist of business names, address fields, cities, states, and postal codes. Our USPS CASS Certified address validation service is designed to improve internal business mail processes and delivery rates by standardizing contact records against USPS data.

It’s All in the Documentation

Our Developer Guide is a great place to start for an in-depth breakdown of the service and response features for Address Validation. It is extremely useful while integrating and can be used as a reference guide as well when learning more about the information each output field conveys.

24/7 Support When Your Business Needs It Most

With the amount of information provided in the results, it is common to have questions along the road to understanding each of the outputs. Our team is here to help you in this process and provide 24/7 technical support. We can be reached by phone (805-963-1700), email and even live chat on our website. “Best Practice” and “Step by Step Tutorial” blogs are also posted on a regular basis.

Deliverability is Key

One of the biggest misconceptions about Google Maps and Address Validation is the ability to determine DEVLIVERABILITY. Beyond correcting and standardizing an address, our advanced algorithms and wide-reaching data sources allow us to determine if an address is deemed deliverable by the United States Postal Service. The service response will contain a Delivery Point Validation (DPV) indicator of 1-4 that can be used based on specific business logic. A DPV score of 1 indicates a perfectly deliverable address whereas a score of 2-4 indicates missing or incorrect inputs in the address field. The corrected address, component fields, and extra information such as the DPV indicator, residential delivery indicator (RDI), vacancy flags and more will be included and can be leveraged in your workflow.

Primarily, the locations that Google Maps will mark aren’t necessarily mail deliverable. There is a lot of leniency within the Google algorithms that allows for guess work to be made. Although Google can put a pin on the map for a given input address, it does not mean that a postal carrier will deliver mail at that location. However, if DOTS Address Validation marks a location as invalid, you can be sure you are getting genuine and accurate information.

When Is Google Maps Useful for Address Lookup?

With all of that said, Google Maps should not be discounted in its ability to investigate a location. If the image data was captured recently it can be used to understand why our service marked an address the way it did. A prime example of this is an address marked as having a “street number out of range.” By checking Google Maps data and cross referencing our service response, more light can sometimes be shed about that address location.

While you can use Google Maps to potentially confirm if a location exists, it is imperative to use robust validation tools like DOTS Address Validation to ensure any mail your business sends can actually be delivered, saving time and money.

 

If you have any questions about validating, verifying or appending addresses, or any other contact data points including name, phone, email and device, feel free to contact us.

Service Objects’ Application Engineers: Helping You Get Up and Running From Day 1

At Service Objects, one of our Core Values is Customer Service Above All. As part of this commitment, our Application Engineers are always available to answer any technical questions from prospects and customers. Whether users are beginning their initial investigation or need help with integration and deployment, our Engineers are standing by. While we continually make our services as easy to integrate as possible, we’d like to touch on a few common topics that are particularly helpful for users just getting started.

Network Issues

Are you are experiencing networking issues while making requests to our web services? It is a very common problem to face where outbound requests are being limited by your firewall and a simple rule update can solve the issue. When matters extend beyond simple rule changes, we are more than happy to schedule a meeting between our networking team and yours to get to the root cause and solve the issue.

Understanding the Service Outputs

Another common question revolves around the service outputs, such as how they should look and how they can be interpreted. From a high level, it is easy to understand what the service can provide but when it comes down to parsing the outputs, it can sometimes be a bit trickier. Luckily there are sets of documentation for every service and each of their operations. Our developer guides are the first place to check if you are having trouble understanding how individual fields can be interpreted and applied to your business logic. Every output has a description that provides insight into what that field means. Beyond the documentation, our Application Engineering team is available via multiple channels to answer your questions, including r email, live chat, and phone.

 Making the Move from Development to Production

Eventually everyone who moves from a being a trial user to a production user undergoes the same steps. Luckily for our customers, moving code from development to production is as easy as changing two items.

  • The first step is swapping out a trial license key to a production key.
  • The second step is to point your web service calls from our trial environment to our production environment. Our trial environment mirrors the exact outputs that you will find in production so no other code changes are necessary.

We understand that, even though we say it is easy, making the move to production can be daunting. That is why we are committed to providing your business with 24/7/365 technical support. We want the process to go as smoothly as possible and members of our team are standing by to help at a moment’s notice.

We have highlighted only a few broad cases that we have handled throughout our 16 years of providing genuine, accurate, and up-to-date data validation. Many technical questions are unique and our goal is to tackle them head on. If a question arises during your initial investigation, integration, move to production, or beyond, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

The Power of DOTS FastTax

What is DOTS FastTax?

DOTS FastTax web service provides sales and use tax rate information for all US areas based on several different inputs. The operations that are offered within FastTax take input parameters such as address, city, state, postal code. The service also provides an operation that will take your Canadian province and will return the proper Canadian tax rate information.

How can it be used?

At its core, FastTax is an address to tax rate lookup system. You provide the service with a location and it will return the tax rate or rates for the given area. From there you can use this data in conjunction with your own business logic to easily determine the proper tax rate you should be charging. A common use case is for online retail companies that need to determine the rate to charge for an order. Rates vary greatly depending on where the client is located and if the company has a sales tax nexus in that state.  Nexus, also known as sufficient physical presence, is a legal term that refers to the requirement for companies doing business in a state to collect and pay tax on sales in that state. Calculating the proper rate is as easy as determining where your company has nexuses and then performing a tax rate look up via the FastTax web service. These two steps can be done programmatically, thus streamlining your business workflow.

What makes FastTax so powerful?

It may seem like a simple task to take an address and perform a lookup on a tax rate database. In theory it is just identifying a location and then finding the relevant tax rates for it. However, in reality there are many more factors that need to be accounted for to ensure the tax rate being returned is accurate, up to date, and truly relevant for the input address. It is in these aspects where Service Objects’ FastTax goes above and beyond. On top of our tax rate databases that are actively maintained to provide the latest and most accurate tax rate data, our operations benefit from the other services we specialize in. Namely, our address validation and address geocoding services.

How does FastTax go above and beyond?

Through the use of our address validation engine we are able to take an input address and determine its correctness as well as standardize it into its most useable form. Having an address corrected and standardized allows us to more accurately match the location with its corresponding tax rate. On top of address validation, our use of geocoordinates and spatial data allow us to identify boundaries between areas. This could be the difference between charging the proper rate for an area or misidentifying it and missing rates such as county, country district, city district, or even special district rates. Another extremely important distinction that geocoordinates allow us to make is for areas that are unincorporated. FastTax provides an “IsUnincorporated” flag when an address is in an unincorporated area. This allows for your business logic to correctly tax this address by removing any city or city district rates.

FastTax in action

To see the power of FastTax in action it helps to take a look at Google Maps. Let’s take the city of Littleton, Colorado. In fig.1 the city perimeter is outlined in red and its contents shaded in. The Google Maps result shows the officially recognized city limits. Comparing that to the pin shown in fig.2 it is clear that the address in this example falls beyond the city limits. Technically it is identified as part of the city of Littleton but is part of an unincorporated area. Tax rates for this address need to properly account for this geospatial and city boundary information. FastTax excels in identifying these areas and can provide the “IsUnidentified” flag to indicate this address falls into its own special case. With the indicator flag in hand you can properly account for the difference in tax rates.

See how FastTax can help your business. Sign up for your free trial key or send us a list and test up to 500 transactions.