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Posts Tagged ‘Address Validation’

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.

Your Business and The Holidays: A Christmas Carol

Christmas is, of course, a major religious holiday celebrated around the world. And also one of the busiest and most profitable times of year for your business. But do you know how it first got that way?

Many people credit author Charles Dickens and his story A Christmas Carol with helping Victorian England, and later the world, see Christmas as a time of gift-giving and family connection. His mid-1800s story focused on how a lonely miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, learned to avoid the fate of his partner’s eternal torment when the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come taught him to focus on what really matters – other people.

With apologies to Dickens, we feel that the three ghosts of Christmas have a valuable modern-day lesson to teach us about creating a happy holiday season for everyone, in the middle of your biggest crunch time. (Fair warning: it involves data quality.)

  • First, the ghost of Christmas Past showed Scrooge what life was like once upon a time at the holidays, when employees were happy and the company took good care of everyone – before Scrooge eventually presided over a joyless, high-pressure workplace. Just like what happens when your own performance pressures put data quality on the back burner, something a recent executive survey showed as being a major concern.
  • Next, the ghost of Christmas Present warns Scrooge that unless he changes his priorities, his neglect of others will harm people like the humble Bob Crachit and his ailing son Tiny Tim – much like your business can ruin the holidays for your customers when bad contact data causes service failures.
  • Finally, the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come paints a grim picture of a world where Scrooge is dead and no one cares – the same way that people turn away from your business and never return when you don’t deliver what you promise.

What do these lessons have to do with your own holiday rush season? Everything.

You see, most people in most businesses focus on doing their individual jobs, like entering orders or shipping products. But what about the greater mission of making sure that everyone gets what they need from you, particularly at the holidays? Too often, that is someone else’s job. Which means it becomes no one’s job. And service failures, such as packages that never arrive or contact information that isn’t correct, just become a fact of life that gets tolerated by everyone.

The ghosts of Christmas taught Scrooge that he had to learn to care, or face the consequences. The same is true for you and your business at the holidays. And the best way to care for your customers – particularly when things are at their busiest – is to put processes in place that make sure the customer comes first.

At Service Objects, we help the holidays go smoothly with tools that range from simple address validation – fueled by up-to-date real-time data from the United States Postal Service and others – all the way to complete order verification capabilities that authenticate customers and guard against fraud. We can even append information such as phone numbers to your contact data, to help you keep in touch with people, or gain geographic and demographic insight that lets you serve people better in the future. All through automated processes that run seamlessly in your applications environment.

The lesson for Christmas, then and now? Don’t be a Scrooge. And let the holiday season be a time when your business shines for everyone.

Character Limitations in Shipping Address Fields – There is a Solution

If you are using an Address Validation service for shipping labels, then you may occasionally run into character count limitations with the Address1 field. Whether you are using UPS, Fedex, ShipStation or any other shipping solution, most character limits tend to range between 30 or 35 characters (some even as low as 25 characters). While most addresses tend to be under this limit, there are always outliers that you’ll want your business solution to be ready to handle.

If you are using a DOTS Address Validation solution, you are in luck! The response from our API not only validates and corrects bad addresses but also allows you to customize address lines to meet your business needs.  Whether you are looking to have your address lines be under a certain limit, want to place apartment or unit information on a separate line, or customize the address line in some other way, we can show you how to integrate the Address Validation response from Service Objects’ API into your business logic.

Below is a brief example using our DOTS Address Validation US 3 service to demonstrate the fragments that are returned in a typical valid response:

FragmentHouse
FragmentPreDir
FragmentStreet
FragmentSuffix
FragmentPostDir
FragmentUnit
Fragment
FragmentPMBPrefix
FragmentPMBNumber

If you are worried about exceeding a certain character limit, you can programmatically check the Address1 line result from our service to see if it exceeds a particular limit.

Check the Result – Not the Input

There are two obvious reasons you should check the result of the service instead of the input.   First, you want to use validated and corrected addresses on your mailing label. Second, the input address may be too long before validating but post-validation, the corrected addressed could meet the requirements and no customizations are needed to fit within the character limitations.

With this understanding, if the resulting validated street address in Address1 line is over the character limitation, then your application can go about splitting up the address in ways that best suit your needs.

For example, let’s say you have a long address line like the following:

12345 W FAKE INDUSTRIAL ST NE STE 130, #678

This is obviously a fake street, but it helps demonstrate some of the different ways you can handle long address lines. In the example, the address ends up being around 45 characters long, including spaces. The service would return the following fragments for this address:

Fragment House: 12345
FragmentPreDir: W
FragmentStreet: Fake Industrial
FragmentSuffix: St
FragmentPostDir: NE
FragmentUnit: STE
Fragment: 130
FragmentPMBPrefix: #
FragmentPMBNumber: 678

With this example, one solution to reduce the character limits would be to move the Suite and Mail Box information to a separate address line, so it would appear like so:

12345 W FAKE INDUSTRIAL ST NE
STE 130, #678

You may need to fine tune the logic in your business application from this basic algorithm, but this can help you get started with catering your validated address information to meet different character limitations.

In most cases, the following can be used in Address line 1:

  • FragmentHouse
  • FragmentPreDir
  • FragmentStreet
  • FragmentSuffix
  • FragmentPostDir

And the following in Address line 2:

  • FragmentUnit,
  • Fragment
  • FragmentPMBPrefix
  • FragmentPMBNumber

PO Boxes

There is an important exception to be aware of – PO Boxes. It is necessary to determine if the address is a PO Box to avoid applying the above logic to this type of address. It is simple to determine if the result is a PO Box by checking the DPVNotes field returned from the Address Validation service.  PO Boxes typically will fit under character length limitations but some organizations choose to rebuild addresses from fragments regardless of field length.  If this is the case and you have a PO Box, then the fragments to rebuild the PO Box are:

  • FragmentStreet
  • FragmentHouse

Highly Customizable

The examples above may require some fine tuning to meet your business requirements but hopefully they have also demonstrated the highly customizable nature of the address validation service and how it can be catered to meet your address validation needs.

If you have any questions about different integrations into your particular application contact our support team at support@serviceobjects.com and we will gladly provide any support that we can!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Opportunity and Peril

Do you sell products online? If you do, you have a great opportunity in front of you. An opportunity to boost revenues, increase market share, and create visibility for your business. Or an equally great opportunity to drive away customers, damage your brand, and lose money to fraud.

This opportunity comes once a year, in the form of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday shopping period. Using figures from Adobe Digital Insights, Fortune Magazine noted that Cyber Monday 2016 was the biggest online shopping day in US history, with sales of $3.45 billion – a jump of 12% from the previous year. The traditional post-Thanksgiving shopping day of Black Friday came in a close second, with $3.34 billion of online sales in 2016, putting it on track to eventually surpass Cyber Monday as shopping channels continue to blur.

The good news is that both Black Friday and Cyber Monday each represent more than three times the volume of a normal online shopping day. And beyond sheer sales volume, these holidays traditionally draw new or annual shoppers online – people who are openly searching with an intent to purchase, with a great opportunity to discover your brand and become long-term customers.

Unfortunately, it is also open season for fraudsters. Online e-commerce fraud increases sharply during the holiday season, with fraudulent transaction rates reaching a peak of 2.5% versus a normal rate of 1.6%, against an average transaction value in excess of $200. The rise of chip-enabled cards has pushed even more fraudulent activity online in recent years, with online fraud attempts rising by 31% between 2015 and 2016. And there are risks associated with your legitimate customers as well, where problems such as missed deliveries or incorrect contact information can lead to problems ranging from lost business to poor social media reviews – particularly in the spotlight of the holidays.

Here is a quick guide to making the most of your customer opportunities this holiday season:

Screen out the bad guys. Prevent fraudulent transactions by using multi-function order verification to check for things such as address validation, BIN validation, reverse phone lookup, email validation, and IP validation, returning a measure of order quality from 0 to 100 that you can use to flag potential problem orders before they ship.

Execute orders correctly. Use address validation to verify and correct shipping information against up-to-date USPS, Canada Post or international address data, to ensure every order goes to the right place on schedule.

Keep your contact data working for you. Did you know that 70% of contact data changes every year? Validating and correcting this data every time you use it in a campaign preserves this valuable contact information as a business asset.

Target your marketing. Validate the legitimacy of your marketing leads, and check for appropriate demographics such as income and geographic location, to make your outreach for the holidays as efficient as possible.

Thankfully automated data quality solutions that can be engineered right in your API, or run as convenient batch processes with your existing data, can make optimizing the value of your contact data a simple and cost-effective process. And in the process, make Black Friday and Cyber Monday a little less scary – and a lot more profitable.

Unique US and Canadian Zip Code Files – Now Available for Download

Customer Service Above All.  It is one of our core values here at Service Objects.  Recently, we’ve received several requests for a list of the unique zip codes throughout the US and Canada.  By leveraging our existing services, we’ve made this happen.  We are now offering both the US and Canada list as a free downloadable resource.

So why is Service Objects providing this data? Our goal is to provide the best data cleansing solutions possible for our clients. Part of this means using our existing data to provide our users with the data they need. While other data providers might charge for this type of information, we’ve decided to make it freely available for anyone’s use. These files can be used for several purposes, such as pre-populating a list of cities and states for a form where a user needs to enter address information. The County and State FIPS information is widely used in census and demographic data or could be used to uniquely identify States and counties within a database.  Additionally, the given time zone information can be used to determine appropriate times to place calls to a customer.

Where to Download

This link allows you to access a .zip file containing two CSV records.  One CSV contains the US information, the other is for Canada.  The files indicate the month and year the records were created. Toward the middle of each month, the data in each record will be updated to account for any changes in US and Canadian postal codes.

What Other Information is in the Files?

Both files will have postal codes, states (or provinces for Canada) and time zone information.  The Canadian zip code file will be much larger in size with over 800K records. This is due to Canadian Postal Codes generally being much smaller than US Postal codes. Where a US postal code can sometimes encompass multiple cities or counties, a Canadian postal code can be the size of a couple city blocks or in some cases a single high-rise building.

The US file has information for all United States postal codes including its territories. This file will also include the county that the zip code lies in. There will be County and State FIPS numbers for each of the records to help with processing that information as well.  The US file will be considerably smaller than the Canadian file at only 41K records.

In making these files freely accessible, our hope is to make the integration and business logic easier for our users. If you’d like to discuss your particular contact data validation needs, feel free to contact us!

Now or Later? When to Clean Your Marketo Database

If you were to make a list of the things people love to do, data cleanup would usually rank pretty low on the list. (Except for us here at Service Objects. We rather enjoy data cleanup. But then again, we’ve always been a little different.) This naturally leads to another question: should you clean up your contact data BEFORE you put it into Marketo, or LATER, before you actually use it in a campaign?

We have a three-part answer to this question: yes, yes, and automate the process.

Here’s why: there are irreplaceable benefits to each process. And when you properly automate it with the right tools, the process becomes frictionless and institutionalizes the ROI of these benefits. Let’s explore this in more detail.

Validating contact data such as names, email, physical addresses and phone numbers BEFORE loading them into Marketo has several advantages:

Saving money.  Your Marketo pricing tier is depending on the number of leads in your database. By cleaning this data on the front end, you can often delay or perhaps even avoid entirely the problem of moving to a higher tier and paying more for non-viable leads. And within your tier, fewer bad leads translates directly to less human intervention throughout the marketing cycle and more accurate analytics.

Garbage in, garbage out. Putting dirty data into your marketing database skews whatever metrics or analyses you might do beyond marketing campaigns, including the all-important conversion rate. And catching bad contact information in real-time lets you message the user at time of entry so they can correct it, preserving valuable leads and preventing possible customer service issues.

Detecting bogus names and fraudulent leads. What good is a database full of Donald Ducks and Ninja Turtles, who faked you out to get a free report? Tools such as name validation can programmatically catch and keep fraudulent contact information out of your lead database in the first place.

Lead preservation. Conversely, your bad contact data can be a hidden source of leads and revenue – if you use automated tools to correct bad addresses or append missing information such as contact phone numbers.

Finally, there is the broader question of lead quality. Marketo’s own lead scoring – based on tracking activities, behavior and demographics – is important but may not provide front-end protection from fraudulent or bad data. Contact-level lead validation adds a quantitative value for lead quality, based on over 200 criteria, that lets you decide to fast-track a lead, put them in your drip campaign to see how they respond, or even discard the lead.

Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin. Validating lead data LATER at regular intervals, particularly at the time you use it, has several advantages as well.

Coping with change. Over 70% of contact data will go bad in the course of just a year. Lead validation tools can check your existing leads and then correct, update, or remove them based on the results. This saves you money by only keeping and paying for viable leads, allowing you to better identify sources of high and low quality leads and providing more accurate reporting.

Taking care of your customers. By triggering emails or other contacts to customers who appear to have changed their addresses, using tools such as our national change-of-address (NCOA Live) capabilities, you provide better service and pro-actively avoid future service or delivery failures.

Making your IT department happy. Lead and contact validation tools from Service Objects are easily automated within Marketo using our Webhooks which can be found on Marketo’s LaunchPoint marketplace. In addition, we offer convenient offline batch processing for contact data files without a technical interface.

Of course, automated contact and lead validation are not the only forms of data cleanup that can help – this blog by Perkuto’s John Hill touches on other useful areas such as screening out competitors, inactive leads and people with unresponsive email addresses. With a clear process in place – and the right automation partner – it can be easy and inexpensive to optimize the value of your Marketo database at EVERY contact touch point.

CASS and DPV: A Higher Standard for Address Accuracy

If you market to or serve people by mail, there are two acronyms you should get to know: CASS and DPV. Here is a quick summary of both of them:

  • CASS stands for the Coding Accuracy Support System™. As the name implies, its function is to support address verification software vendors with a measurable standard for accuracy. It also represents a very high bar set by the US Postal Service to ensure that address verification meets very strict quality standards.
  • DPV stands for Delivery Point Validation™. This is a further capability supported under CASS, making sure that an address is deliverable.

You may ask, “If an address is accurate, why do we have to check to make sure it is also deliverable?” The answer lies in the broader definition of what an address is – a placeholder for a residence or business that could receive mail. Not every address is, in fact, deliverable: for example, 45 Elm Street might be someone’s residence, while 47 Elm Street might currently be a vacant lot – or not exist at all. Another example is multi-unit dwellings that share an address: 100 State Street, Apartment 4 may be deliverable, while 100 State Street, Apartment 5 may not exist. So you want to ensure addressability AND deliverability for every address within your contact database.

Now, here is why you need to care about CASS and DPV in particular:

Rigorous. CASS certification is truly the data quality equivalent of Navy SEAL training. The first step is an optional (Stage I) test that lets developers run a sample address file for testing and debugging purposes. Next is Stage II, a blind 150,000-address test that only returns scores from USPS, not results. To obtain CASS certification, these scores must meet strict passing criteria ranging between 98.5% and 100% in specific categories.

Recurring. CASS certification is not a lifetime badge of honor. The USPS requires software providers to renew their certification every year, with a fresh round of testing required. Service Objects has not only been continuously CASS-certified for much of the past decade, but has also forged a unique partnership with USPS to update and refresh its CASS-certified address data every two weeks.

Reliable. DPV capabilities are based on the master list of delivery points registered with the USPS, which stores actual deliverable addresses in the form of an 11-digit code, incorporating data such as address, unit, and ZIP+4 codes. While the codes themselves can (and do) change frequently, the real key in address deliverability is having up-to-date access to current USPS data. Service Objects licenses DPV tools as an integral part of its address validation capabilities.

Our CASS-certified address engine and continuously updated USPS address data are two of the critical components behind our proprietary address database. Whether you run your addresses through our USPS address validation API in your application or use a convenient batch process, those addresses are instantly compared, validated, corrected, and/or appended to provide accurate results.

If you’ve read this far, it is probably clear that CASS certification and DPV capabilities are critically important for managing your contact data quality. So be sure to partner with a vendor that maintains continuous CASS certification with full support of DPV. Like Service Objects, of course. Contact us to learn what we can do for your contact addresses and marketing leads today!

What’s Your Data Story?

So many reports focus on spitting out data that they often overlook the importance of being able to quickly digest the information and present a clear action plan. At Service Objects, we want you spending your valuable time acting on the results – not trying to make a report readable and understandable. As a result, we have invested considerable resources into ensuring our Batch Summary reports – the ones we provide you after we run your list – not only look great, but are immediately accessible and actionable. Your account executive will review the results of the report with you and answer any questions you may have, but you will also have a link to the detailed report for your reference and to share with your team members.

So how we did we improve the reports? We focused on telling your business’ data story and showing how our services can help improve your data accuracy. We have started with a few services and operations, and in the coming months, we will continue to roll out more of them out as they are ready. Some of the ways we tell the story better is presenting easy to understand charts and data breakdowns so that you can focus on the parts of your data that you are most interested in.

The following link provides a sample of our DOTS Address Validation US – 3 batch summary report and I have detailed out the features of the report below.

The summary starts with a brief description of the service and operation followed by a section where we define the main output of the service. In this case, the report is focused on Delivery Point Validation or DPV.

We show how the DPV results break down across the varying DPV notes, corrections and Is Residential data points. So, at a glance, it is easy to decipher the balance between the various DPV values.

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout each report, when we see interesting data points, we shine a spotlight on them and add additional custom content to help highlight them.

 

 

The report also drills down on the geographic nature of the data, showing how your list of addresses are distributed across each state and the country. The values are plotted on a map to provide a strong visual representation and hovering over a particular location also displays the underlying values.

Included in this location distribution, is how the DPV values correlate to a location, where we overlay the pie chart breakdown of the actual DPV values.

The break downs are by county and congressional district so your analysis can be completed very quickly.

Clicking on the three bars in the top right of any chart or graph will allow you to either save or print that particular chart. These new batch reports will also allow you to view your details from anywhere, on any screen size. No need to mess with PDF or specific file types, you just need an internet connection and a link to the report.

Lastly, we take data security very seriously. The reports are all provided very securely, so no one can see anyone else’s reports and data is never shared. Our hope is to provide a clearer understanding of your data, making it fast to digest and act on. If you have any questions or would like to us to run a sample data set for you, please contact sales@serviceobjects.com.

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

Service Objects has verified over 3 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