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Posts Tagged ‘Address Geocoding’

Ensuring Addresses are Accurate and Up-to-Date

“Did you know that nearly 30 million Americans move each year? Did you also know that government agencies like counties, cities, and states are required to keep accurate and up to date records of their private citizens for communication purposes?”

Service Objects is committed to helping businesses reduce waste, and identify and improve operating efficiency through data quality excellence. And according to founder and CEO Geoff Grow, you can do this using databases up-to-the-minute USPS-certified data and more to verify your contact records.

This video will show you how to use simple API and web-based tools that validate and append data to your contact information. You will learn how data quality solutions can:

  • identify change of addresses, making it easier to keep your contact records accurate and up-to-date,
  • validate addresses to maximize delivery rates,
  • geocode addresses to provide highly accurate latitude and longitude information. In addition,
  • and append census, ZIP code and county boundary data.

Bringing High Speed Internet to Rural Areas: The Connect America Fund

This is where the US government comes in. The federal universal service high-cost program – also known as the Alternative-Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM) – is designed to ensure that consumers in rural, insular, and high-cost areas have access to voice and broadband service at rates that are reasonably comparable to those in urban areas. And Service Objects is excited to help carriers find and deliver broadband internet to these hard-working rural Americans by introducing an indicator in our Address Geocode US that will let carriers know if the location is eligible for A-CAM funding.

The Connect America Fund is a win-win for everyone involved. It incentivizes the growth of rural internet access by reimbursing carriers for a portion of their costs of development, from the federal Universal Service Fund. Currently the Fund offers over 1 billion dollars annually to help defray the high cost of running fiber optic cables and equipment to sparsely populated areas, for carriers of all sizes. This can

Internet access is about much more than posting selfies to your Instagram feed. Today, it has become the engine of both commerce and human connection. The United Nations and the US both recognize that the internet has become so fundamental to freedom of expression and opinion that it is a basic human right needed for all people. But for many people living in rural areas of the United States, affordable internet access is still out of reach. According to US News and World Report, only 55 percent of rural Americans have access to broadband internet, versus 94 percent of urban dwellers.

quickly add up to a big source of income for the carriers and a great incentive to expand their coverage.

But there is a catch. To compete for these grants, carriers must submit the addresses, GPS coordinates and several other key pieces of information to the FCC. The deadline for 2016 funds is barely a month away – on July 1st, 2017 –so finding all the businesses and households located in these remote areas is not easy. Some of these addresses do not have mail service, others are just work sites such as barns or grain silos, and many are not the main address of the business. But all of these locations would still benefit from high speed internet, AND contribute to the per-address size of the carrier’s grant.

This is where Service Objects can help. Our Address Validation product can verify, correct and append address information, as fast as 150 milliseconds per record, using our CASS-certified USPS database engine. And our Address Geocode product can translate these addresses into exact latitude-longitude coordinates, with property-level match rate accuracy up to 99.8% and indicate if the location is within the funding boundaries. Both of these products can be put to work right away, as either an API for your application or through convenient batch list processing.

According to the Hudson Institute, rural broadband companies contributed nearly $25 billion US dollars to the economies of their states, were responsible for nearly 70,000 jobs, and supported over $100 billion dollars in e-commerce in 2015. And the impact of this broadband access ranges from the ability to locate manufacturing plants in rural areas, all the way to telehealth capabilities that bring top medical expertise to patients in remote areas. It is truly an enabling technology for closing the digital divide that still impedes economic growth in these areas.

Many people don’t realize that rural America was actually the birthplace of much of our modern telecommunications – long before most of us had phones, farmers would talk with each other on networks connected through barbed-wire fencing. Today, it makes perfect sense to have the online era come full circle to a population that needs and deserves the right kind of access.

Service Objects is proud to help with this initiative. We can now import the footprint of service from a rural carrier and match all eligible addresses within that area and provide the information needed to submit to the FCC. This allows the carriers to maximize funding of A-CAM and get their portion of the 1 billion dollars at stake.

If you would like more information on how we can help with Connect America Fund, send an email to communications@serviceobjects.com.

How Constantly Changing Sales and Use Tax Rates Can Impact Customer Satisfaction

For businesses engaged in commerce, it is a real challenge to stay on top of ever changing sales and use tax rates. One minor tax rate change can have a direct impact on your customers, costing your business significant time, money and resources.

In addition, the complexity of tax laws continue to increase every year, with constant changes in tax rates, and tax jurisdictions that often go beyond simple measures such as ZIP codes or municipality. And the risks to businesses for non-compliance are potentially severe.

The result from charging customers the wrong rate can have a significant impact on a business. Unhappy customers cause customer service issues, can have a negative impact on employee morale and have a substantial financial impact from processing refunds or collecting outstanding money owed.

All this means that maintaining tax compliance – particularly in today’s business environment, with everything from multiple distribution channels to e-commerce – requires planning and processes to become a smooth-running, cost effective part of your business.

Learn more about this important topic. Register for our upcoming webinar on May 23, 2017 and hear Geoff Grow, CEO and Founder of Service Objects, as he discusses:

  • What sales and use taxes are and how they are calculated
  • The concept of Nexus and when an out-of-state business is liable for collecting sales or use taxes
  • What the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement is and why it doesn’t work
  • Recent legal rulings that can affect your business
  • The important role geo-location plays in calculating rates
  • The impact on your business when your customers are charged the wrong rate
  • The benefits of leveraging a third party data provider who is an expert in providing the most accurate and up-to-date rates in the US and Canada

Can Google Maps be Used to Validate Addresses?

In November of 2016, Google started rolling out updates to more clearly distinguish their Geocoding and Places APIs, both of which are a part of the Google Maps API suite. The Places API was introduced in March 2015 as a way for users to search for places in general and not just addresses. Until recently the Geocoding API functioned similarly to Places in that it also accepted incomplete and ambiguous queries to explore locations, but now it is focusing more on returning better geocoding matches for complete and unambiguous postal addresses. Do these changes mean that Google Maps and its Geocoding API can finally be used as an address validation service?

No, it cannot. Now before I explain why, let’s first acknowledge why someone would think Google Maps can be used to validate addresses in the first place. The idea starts with the simple argument that if an address can be found in Google Maps then it must exist. If it exists then it must be valid and therefore deliverable. However, this logic is flawed.

Addressing a Common Problem

One of the biggest problems many users overlook with Google Maps and the Geocoding API is that incomplete and/or ambiguous address queries lead to inaccurate and/or ambiguous results. It is common for users to believe that the address entered was correct and valid simply because Google returns a possible match. These users often ignore that the formatted address in the output may have changed significantly from what they had originally entered.The people over at Google Maps must have realized this too as the Geocoder API is now more prone to return ‘ZERO_RESULTS’ instead of a potentially inaccurate result. However, not all users are pleased with the recent changes. Some have noted that addresses that once returned matches in the Geocoding API no longer do so.

Has the Geocoding API become stricter? Yes. Does Google Maps finally make use of address data from the actual postal authorities? Not likely.

Geocoding vs Deliverability

Google Maps does verify if an address is deliverable. The primary purpose of the Geocoding API is to return coordinate information. At its best it can locate an individual residential home or a commercial building. Other times it is an address estimator. However, not all addresses are for single building locations.

Apartment and unit numbers, suites, floors and PO boxes are typical examples of the type of address that the Google Maps Geocoding API was not intended to handle. They now recommend that those type of addresses be passed to the Places API instead, but not because the Places API can validate or verify those types of addresses. Again, none of the APIs in the Google Maps suite will verify addresses. No, it is because information like a unit number is currently superfluous when it comes to their roof-top level geo-coordinates. Google Maps does not need to know if an address is a multi-unit and/or multi-floored building in order to return a set of coordinates.

Take the Service Objects address for example,

27 E Cota St Ste 500
Santa Barbara, CA 93101-7602

The Google Maps Geocoding API returns the following address and coordinates,

“formatted_address” : “27 E Cota St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA”

“location” : {               “lat” : 34.41864020000001,               “lng” : -119.696178            }

Notice that the formatted address output value has dropped the suite number even though the address is valid. Let’s change the suite number from 500 to a suite number that does not exist, such as 900.

“formatted_address” : “27 E Cota St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, USA”

“location” : {               “lat” : 34.41864020000001,               “lng” : -119.696178            }

We get back the exact same response, because they are both the same in the eyes of Google Maps.

A similar thing happens if we try the same using the Google Maps web site.

This is the result for when Suite 500 is passed in:

This is the result for when Suite 900 is passed:

Notice that 900 remains in the address.

An unsuspecting user could easily mistake the Suite 900 address for being valid if they were simply relying on the Google Maps website, and its mistakes like these that often lead people to believe that an address may exist when it does not.

The Right Tool for the Job

When selecting a dedicated address validation service here are a few critical and rich features you will want to look for:

Even with the recent updates Google Maps is still no alternative for a dedicated address validation service and choosing not to use one could prove to be an expensive mistake.

DOTS FastTax Gives More Accurate Tax Rates by Identifying Unincorporated Places

In a recent blog we discussed how to identify Incorporated and Unincorporated places. There are a number of reasons this is important, one of them being to determine accurate area tax rates. As mentioned in that earlier post, boundaries of a place do not always have clean lines. On the same street block there could be neighbors living side-by-side, who fall on different sides of that boundary. Therefore, they would be subject to a different local tax rate.

Our DOTS FastTax API is designed to calculate sales and use tax rates for a given address input. Our newest operation, GetBestMatches, now has the capabilities to determine this boundary data and return the most accurate tax rates for a given address. Leveraging additional resources available in our DOTS US Address Validation and Geocoding, we can better understand the nuances of these places, their unusual boundaries, and tax rate differences.

For example, in Service Objects’ hometown of Santa Barbara, there is an area between Santa Barbara and the nearby city of Goleta, affectionately known as “Noleta.” Although most of the inhabitants of this area consider themselves Santa Barbara residents, Noleta is considered Unincorporated when it comes to determining city tax rates.

Let’s look at another example in Phoenix, AZ.

Phoenix has a city tax rate of 2.3 percent city tax rate within the city’s boundaries. Per the image below, all locations in blue in this area are considered Incorporated and subject to the city’s 2.3 percent tax rate. However, any building within the unshaded block which includes “5601 W. Buckeye Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85043” is considered Unincorporated and therefore not subject to the city’s tax rate.

Yet another example located in nearby Mesa, Arizona — “901 N. 96th St., Mesa, AZ 85207”:

96th Street happens to be a street where boundaries differ depending on which side of the street you are on. In this case the even-numbered side of the street is incorporated and the odd-numbered side is unincorporated. The town of Mesa, Arizona has a 1.75 percent city tax rate. Therefore locations on the odd side of 96th Street actually have lower taxes because that side of the street is unincorporated and not subject to Mesa’s city tax.

These examples highlight only a few challenges businesses can experience when determining tax rates for their customers. Here at Service Objects we’re always looking for ways to help businesses provide the most accurate data. With the help of our latest FastTax operation, GetBestMatch, it’s no longer necessary to be a local in order to understand the nuances of places, their unusual boundaries, and tax rate differences like the ones above.

Contact us for to learn more

How to Identify Incorporated and Unincorporated Places in the United States

The US Census Bureau uses the term “place” to refer to an area associated with a concentrated population, such as a municipality, city, town, village or community. These statistical areas have a defined boundary and they may or may not have a legal administration of power that performs some level of government function. The US Census Bureau uses class (CLASSFP) codes to classify different types of places and areas. The Bureau currently lists 70 different CLASSFP codes; however, all places are either a legally incorporated place or a Census Designated Place (CDP).

Incorporated Place

The US Census Bureau defines an incorporated place as a geographic area with legally defined municipal boundaries under the laws of the state in which it is located. Incorporated places are established to provide governmental functions for a population, typically with elected officials and the means to provide local municipal services such as water, sanitation, schools and police departments.  Each state has its own requirements for incorporation that typically include population and land area thresholds. 

Census Designated Place (CDP)

A Census Designated Place (CDP) is the statistical counterpart of an incorporated place. In general, CDPs are not legally incorporated under the laws of the state in which they are located, nor do they have elected officials to serve governmental functions.  Municipal services for CDPs are normally provided by either the county, a minor civil division (MCD), or by a nearby incorporated place.  A CDP is also commonly known or referred to as an unincorporated place.

Identifying Incorporated and Unincorporated Places when Geocoding Addresses

The DOTS Address Geocode US service makes use of various datasets from the US Census Bureau. This data is compiled and organized into detailed street level data and place wide boundary data. The street level data allows the geocoding service to know which side of the street the address is on. This lets the service know which block the address is on and it is helpful in some edge case scenarios where an address may fall on the edge of a boundary.

901-n-96th-st-mesa-az-85207

The street level data lets us do many things but it’s not always complete and it doesn’t always give us the whole picture. In some cases, there are addresses that reside in the outskirts of an area, outside of the incorporated boundaries. These locations are in the unincorporated areas of a minor civil division (MCD) or county. Detailed data for these unincorporated areas is often lacking, usually due to a combination of low population density and large land areas.

1022-w-calle-tuberia-casa-grande-az

After the coordinates for an address have been determined, the service can then use them to determine if they fall in an incorporated place, unincorporated place, or outside of any place boundary and in an unincorporated area. This not only works for addresses in the outskirts of an area but for other situations as well.

Sometimes there are small pocket communities that appear to be within a larger city area but they are not actually a part of it.

5601-w-buckeye-rd-phoenix-az-85043

The US Census Bureau says that the boundaries of a place should be considered organic, as they can shrink and grow. In some cases, the boundaries of a place will not cleanly stop on the edge of a street or block. Sometimes the boundary will dissect part of a road or block partway, dividing neighboring structures.

14802-n-78th-ln-peoria-az-85381

Overall, there are many challenging scenarios that can arise when it comes to geocoding an address and determining if it is unincorporated or not. However, using the right data with the right tools and expertise means that we can overcome these challenges to provide accurate and reliable results to our clients.

3 New Features to Service Objects’ Validation Services

Here at Service Objects, we are constantly working to improve or add useful features to our services so we can continue to be an industry leader in providing our customers with quality data. We are always on the hunt for new data sources, new operations and new ways of leveraging existing information for the benefit of our customers.

Here are some recent ways we’ve improved our services:

Associating PO Boxes with Post Office Addresses

We added a feature to our DOTS Address Validation 3 service to be able to provide post office addresses that are associated with PO Boxes that get validated through our service. If a PO Box is validated through our service, we’ll be able to provide the address information of the post office  (or multiple post offices; it can return multiple addresses) that may be associated with that PO Box. This is activated on a customer by customer basis as some may not want that information present in their current implementations. If this is something you would like to see in your implementation of DOTS Address Validation 3, let us know and we’ll authorize it for you.

Portable VOIP, Prepaid Wireless Number Data

Our phone validation services (DOTS GeoPhone Plus 2 and DOTS Phone Exchange) can now recognize Portable VOIP and prepaid wireless numbers. This new data can help recognize when a caller may be using services like Skype or Google Voice numbers. Recognizing these types of numbers can be one of the first steps in preventing fraud.

Legislative Data

Have you ever wondered what legislative districts may be associated with a particular address? If so, you are in luck! Our DOTS Address Geocode –US service can now provide Senate and House of Representatives chamber codes for addresses that receive a street level match in our GetBestMatchV4 operation. These codes can be used to look up current representatives for a particular address.

If you want to learn more about any of these features mentioned above, please contact us as we would love to tell you more about how these enhancements can impact your business. We are always in the process of adding new features to our services, so if there is something you would like to see, don’t hesitate to let us know!

Service Not Available: USPS Mail Delivery is More Limited Than You May Think

Postal delivery trucksResidents in many smaller towns and rural areas in the United States do not receive residential mail delivery from the USPS. They’re living off the grid, the postal grid, that is.

In communities such as Davidson, NC, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, and Jackson Hole, WY, USPS does not deliver mail to home addresses. Shippers like FedEx and UPS usually deliver packages to peoples’ doors, but the USPS does not.

In some cases, like in Davidson and Carmel-by-the-Sea, the decision against mail delivery was made locally to encourage community building. With everyone checking their mail at the local post office, they’d have to interact with each other. Carmel-by-the-Sea has been doing this for more than 100 years. According to the city’s Chamber of Commerce, a newcomer attempted to get residential mail delivery service about 10 years ago and was promptly labeled an “agitator.”

In Davidson, a delivery route is available to disabled residents. Mail delivery routes are also available to homeowners associations and retirement communities outside of the original town’s boundaries, but only to clustered mailboxes.

In other cases, cities and towns lack delivery routes because of USPS policies. For example, in Jackson, WY and Mammoth Lakes, CA, regular and heavy snowfall make it virtually impossible to deliver mail.

Rural mail delivery frequently involves a central set of mailboxes located along a rural path. These mailboxes tend to cover a large area; thus, they are rarely close to residents’ actual homes.

In 2013, the USPS changed one of its residential delivery policies. For all newly established addresses, instead of delivering to the door or a curbside mailbox, mail will only be delivered to central mailbox clusters. These can be located far from a person’s actual residence. These clusters also make package delivery tricky since the mailbox address is different from the property address.

Here at Service Objects, we are constantly looking for new addresses that don’t fit nicely into a simple box. If the USPS doesn’t deliver to a given address, it doesn’t mean that the address isn’t real or valid for FedEx and other shipping services. Our competitors often ignore tricky outlier addresses such as those that technically don’t exist, at least according to the USPS.

We understand that a lot of people are living off the postal grid, either by choice or by USPS policy. We excel at finding these addresses and dealing with their intricacies. These are the types of challenges that push us to improve our address validation software for even better accuracy.

Lost Deliveries Equals Lost Revenue

Service ObjectsGetting Your Mail Delivered

In 2014, the United States Postal Service reported that 4.3% of all mail was ‘Undeliverable as Addressed’ (UAA). At first glance, this doesn’t seem too bad, BUT this seemingly small percentage can become a very expensive issue, having a negative impact on your business. Looking at the big picture, this translates to over 6.6 billion pieces of UAA mail, costing the USPS $1.5 billion a year. What’s more, UAA mail cost the entire mailing industry over $20 billion in 2015.

Think about the number of packages, mailers, documents, and invoices that you send out on a daily basis. How many Undeliverable As Addressed mailings do you experience daily, monthly, yearly? As reported by the USPS, it is likely around 4.3% of mailings. And that number doesn’t account for 3rd party courier services like UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc.

To help illustrate the hard and soft costs associated with of UAA mail, let’s take a look at a couple examples.

Mail-Order Catalogs

You might think with the advent of the internet, mail-order catalogs would have become obsolete by now. On the contrary, catalogs are a healthy part of omnichannel marketing and with over 11.9 billion mail-order catalogs mailed in 2014, they do not appear to be going anywhere.

In fact, direct mail outperforms digital channels by a long shot, with 3.7% response rate on a house list and a 1.0% response rate on a prospect list. By comparison, all digital channels combined, only achieve a 0.62% response rate. The real power shows up when marketers combine direct mail WITH digital marketing. As Kurt Salmon discovered, over 58% of online shoppers say that they browse catalogs for ideas, and 31% have a retailer’s catalog with them when they make an online purchase.

“For example, during one calendar-year period, we observed that Internet-only customers of one specialty retailer placed orders of $80 on average, whereas catalog customers’ average orders totaled approximately $90.”

Extensive market research helps us see just how important mail-order catalogs are to many businesses. Unfortunately, of the 11.9 billion catalogs mailed in 2014, 476 million catalogs went undelivered. For companies that rely on catalog marketing, deliverability does have an immediate effect on their bottom line.

To provide more context, consider the following scenario.

A large retail clothing company is sending out millions of seasonal catalogs to their house and prospect lists. The costs to design, create, print, and mail these catalogs is substantial but they know that customer order values increase by 15% when they have a catalog in hand.

Unfortunately, recent sales reports indicate that the company’s response rates have dipped about 1%. After some inquiry, they discovered that 4.3% of their catalogs came back as UAA, and therefore did not reach their targets. They have suffered the direct costs of printing and postage and the indirect costs of a lost sales opportunities.

To correct this problem, they implemented some simple address validation tools and were able to reduce their UAA rate, thus saving on these costs and immediately getting back on track.

Return to sender stamp on envelopeUndelivered Invoices & Packages results in Decreased Cash Flow & Unhappy Customers

Your relationship with your customers is everything. And a key part of customer service is “knowing” not only who your customers are, but also where they reside so that their deliveries are consistently getting to them. And, when you have loyal, happy customers, you maintain a steady cash flow.

Along those same lines, customer invoices must be delivered on time, every time, in order to avoid unnecessary operational costs.

Companies whose invoices are not received in a timely fashion will experience a direct impact on their:

  • Accounts Receivables Department: requiring additional time to call on customers or clients when invoices are not received
  • Finance Department: affecting accounts receivable, aka, interrupting company cash flow
  • Mailroom Operations (if applicable): spending time researching and in most cases resending statements/invoices and adding additional postage costs

But, by taking steps to validate their mailing addresses, they increase their chances of maintaining their customer relations. Ask yourself this question: How many times will a customer “tolerate” inadequate service, such as undelivered packages or invoices, before they decide to cancel their business altogether?

So how can you correct and streamline your customer lists for address accuracy while also keeping them current?up-to-dateness? It starts with plugging in Service Objects’ DOTS – Address Validation solution to verify, validate, and correct undeliverable mail.

Solutions, Solutions

To significantly increase the deliverability of your mailing lists, Service Objects offers a number of solutions that will help validate and correct your mailing addresses. All of our services can be accessed through our real-time APIs and/or using our batch process.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  • DOTS Address Validation – US, can instantly verify, correct and append address information against our CASS-Certified USPS address verification database. Some companies choose to append latitude/longitude and demographic information, in which case, we recommend DOTS Address Validation Plus. Using either of these services, the majority of your addresses will be verified and corrected, and ready for mailing.
  • DOTS Address Detective uses real-time “fuzzy” logic to complete missing data points in the address and then verified against our CASS-Certified database. Great for incomplete and hard to validate addresses.
  • DOTS NCOA Live service, keeps verified and corrected addresses up-to-date. This is built on the USPS National Change-of-Address database (NCOALink).

Think Globally

  • DOTS Address Validation – Canada, covers 15.7 million addresses in all 10 provinces and 3 territories and validates both French and English addresses.
  • DOTS Address Validation – International, verifies, corrects, and appends addresses outside the United States and Canada. Covers over 250 countries, dependent areas and territories. Addresses are corrected to the unique requirements of country’s postal address formats and cultural idiosyncrasies.

Whether it’s a direct marketing mailer campaign, confidential documents, packages, or customer invoices, you need to count on successful deliveries every time.

So get it right the first time by using the most genuine, accurate, and up to date customer address information available. As it relates to your bottom line, there is no room for error. Plain and simple, Service Objects Address Validation solutions can help you reach your mailing goals!

Service Objects is the industry leader in real-time contact validation services.

Service Objects has verified over 2.5 billion contact records for clients from various industries including retail, technology, government, communications, leisure, utilities, and finance. Since 2001, thousands of businesses and developers have used our APIs to validate transactions to reduce fraud, increase conversions, and enhance incoming leads, Web orders, and customer lists. READ MORE