Posts Tagged ‘Address Validation’

Mailing Address vs Physical Address: What’s the difference?

Is a mailing address the same as a physical address?

No, not always.

In general, a mailing address can often be the same as a street address, but this is not always the case. To understand why, we must first acknowledge that the two types of addresses are often defined and regulated by two separate authoritative entities that generally serve different purposes.

Different Purposes

A mailing address, or postal address, is often regulated by postal authorities that are commonly associated with services related to the sending and receiving of mail. For example, in the US this would be USPS. In the United Kingdom, Royal Mail. Deutsche Post DHL Group for Germany and JP Post or Japan Post (日本郵政 Nippon Yūsei) for Japan. These postal authorities can be public government agencies, like the USPS, or privatized companies like Royal Mail, Deutsche Post and JP Post- which were sold off by their governments.

A physical address, sometimes referred to as a street address, is used to describe where a place is geographically located. It often pertains to a geographic location under the jurisdiction of an administrative area or region that has some government function. The physical address should have a set geographic boundary that is recognized and governed by an administrative area. If an address resides in an incorporated area then its municipality is generally responsible for providing some public services, such as law enforcement, public schools, sanitation, water works etc. If an address resides in a rural and/or unincorporated area, then sometimes these services are provided by the governing state, territory, province, county etc. Sometimes certain services are not available at all.

Location, Location, Location

Where a physical address is geographically located will often determine what public and private services it has access to. For example, a rural address may not have access to readily available public transportation or high-speed internet, whereas an address in a metropolitan area likely would.

In the US, it is the job of the US Census Bureau (USCB) to collect and produce data about the people. Both public and private agencies rely on the various datasets produced by the USCB, such as geographic and demographic data, to help make informed decisions. The USCB produces various Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) datasets that are designed for use with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and various mapping projects. TIGER products are spatial datasets used to describe geographic features such as boundaries, roads, address information, water features, as well as legal and statistical geographic areas.

TIGER products are widely used in many US related geolocation solutions, including our own DOTS Address Geocode US service, and are considered a standard when it comes to working with geographic locations and features in the US and its territories. TIGER data, along with other topological geographic mapping datasets, can be used to help geocode a physical address to varying degrees of accuracy.

Choosing the Right Route

Mailing address datasets are generally used to help facilitate and ensure the delivery of mail, and they are not necessarily one-to-one comparable with geographic datasets like TIGER. The main reason being that these datasets are intended to serve different purposes. Let’s take USPS ZIP Codes for example. USPS ZIP Codes are not geographic areas. They are a collection of mail delivery routes and they help identify individual post offices and delivery stations that are associated with mailing addresses.

ZIP Codes help the USPS determine the best route for delivering mail. It is not uncommon for a physical address, that is geographically located in one locality, to be assigned to a different locality in its mailing address. This is common for areas where a single post office or delivery station may serve multiple localities.

Not All Mailing Addresses Are Physical Addresses

Here’s an interesting example of an address that is physically or geographically located in one state of the US, but the mailing address has it listed as being in another.

Physical Address:
25777 Co Rd 103
Jelm, CO 82063

USPS Mailing Address:
25777 Co Rd 103
Jelm, WY 82063-9203

Using Google Maps to inspect the address and the surrounding area, we see that the location is near a state line, but the address is clearly in Colorado and not in Wyoming.

According to Google the physical address is approximately six miles from the Wyoming and Colorado state line. When we investigated other addresses in the area we found that they too had a mailing address that said they were in Wyoming.

When we reached out to USPS to inquire about the addresses they acknowledged that they were indeed geographically located in Colorado; however, their ZIP code is associated with a USPS Post Office located in Jelm, Wyoming and that is the reason why the mailing addresses are for Jelm, Wyoming and not Jelm, Colorado. It may be confusing to base an address’ location on where it’s post office is located, but logistically it makes sense for the postal authority, USPS.

It’s also not uncommon for some rural areas to use general delivery, where mail is not delivered to a recipient’s physical address and it is instead kept at a post office that the recipient will go to and pick it up. If the post office is located in a different locality, then the recipient’s mailing address would be different from their physical address.

Other examples of mailing addresses that are not physical addresses include:

  • Post Office Box (PO Box) and Private Mailbox (PMB) – Many individuals and businesses use PO Boxes and Private Mailboxes as an alternative to their physical address. Postal Agencies like UPS offer PMBs as Personal Mailboxes, and while they do advertise that their PMBs include a street address it still is not the recipient’s physical address.
  • Centralized Mailboxes – Also known as cluster mailboxes or community mailboxes, are basically a large communal mail box made up of multiple individual boxes clustered together. The mailing address for a centralized mailing box does not have to reflect the recipient’s physical address as each box in the cluster will have its own unique identifier.
  • Unique ZIP Codes – These are ZIP codes that are assigned to some single high-volume addresses such as universities, government agencies and some large businesses. Postal carriers will deliver mail to the organization’s mail department, and it then delivers the mail to the final destination which may be in an entirely different geographic location.
  • Military Addresses – Are used to route mail for military mail services, such as the US Military Postal Service (MPS), the British Forces Post Office (BFPO) and the German Armed Forces (Feldpost). Civilian postal carriers deliver mail to military post offices which then perform the final delivery.

Which Address to use

For some people, their physical address is the same as their mailing address and when asked for their address they don’t have to worry about which address to give because they are both the same. For others who don’t have matching mailing and physical addresses, some consideration is needed. If the purpose of the address is to send mail to it, then the mailing address should be given. If the address is needed to locate where a place is geographically located, then the physical address is needed.

The answer should be clear but sometimes there are misconceptions and confusion and on the behalf of the party requesting the address. The party asking for the address may simply be unaware that not all mailing addresses are physical addresses and that not all physical address have mailing addresses. If the intent on how an address is to be used is not made clear, then the person giving their address could potentially give the wrong one if the two are not the same. Sometimes the person giving the address will be sure to specifically ask if they want the mailing address or the street address, but the party asking may be unaware of the difference and inadvertently ask for the wrong one.

Shipping Address and Physical Address

There can also be some confusing cases when it comes to the terms billing address and shipping address. Likely, the billing address will be a mailing address, but what about the shipping address? Let us suppose that a customer wants to have a package delivered to their doorstep. They want to enter their physical address, but they know that USPS does not deliver mail to their physical address. However, they do know that UPS does deliver to their door, but they are not sure about FedEx. If the site they are purchasing from gives them the option to choose the shipping carrier then that helps, but if it doesn’t then which address do they choose to give? Worse yet, what if the customer is unaware that their physical address is undeliverable?

Helpful Tools

When businesses and organizations work with addresses it is important to know where they are located and if they are valid and deliverable. Otherwise, they risk making uninformed decisions that can end up wasting valuable resources like time and money and damaging customer relationships. That is why Service Objects provides various address related products to help prevent mistakes and reduce waste. Our services can quickly correct and standardize address to help determine where they are located and if they are valid and deliverable.

Feel free to test drive any of our Address products and see how we handle these scenarios.

Address Detective – Why it is so cool!

Service Objects has been providing USPS CASS-Certified Address Validation services for over 17 years. Over this time, we have developed one of the best systems for validating, correcting and appending useful data points to US addresses. Our address validation service specializes in fuzzy matching for address corrections and, more importantly, making sure that each and every address provided is NOT changed to something unexpected or incorrect.

While our address validation service is top notch, the focus on both USPS and accuracy introduces necessary limits on how we treat addresses that might be messy or missing key elements.  Which brings us to one of Service Objects more under appreciated offerings, our DOTS Address Detective service.

 

Address Detective and its Operations

Address Detective was born from a need to help our customers fill in the gaps and make sense of their very messy and/or incomplete addresses. This service is an ever-evolving collection of address utilities designed to help with various problems that can arise from these messy or incomplete addresses.  Currently, there are three operations available that each solve uniquely different problems.  It is helpful to understand what each operations does and how it can be best used to correct an address before you even start your implementation.

Operation NameDescription
FindAddressUses name and phone number to assist with the processing of very messy or incomplete addresses.
FindAddressLineTakes inputs that might be jumbled into the wrong columns and parses them into a usable result.
FindOutlyingAddressesDigs into alternative data sets from USPS to identify addresses that while not deliverable may still be good addresses.

 

Address Detective’s Operations Explained: FindAddress

The flagship operation of Address Detective is FindAddress. This service was designed to help clients with addresses that may be so messy or incomplete that they may not be obviously fixable, even to the human eye. FindAddress is given free reign to be more aggressive in its basic operation but also makes use of other data points like name, business name or phone number to assist with the validation.

Behind the scenes the service will dig into public and proprietary data sources to connect the dots between given data points to return an accurate result. The service is not designed to return an address if one is not given, its designed to analyze data given with cross referenced values in order improve or validate a normally unvalidatable address.

For example, perhaps the desired address is:

Taco Bell
821 N Milpas St
Santa Barbara, CA 93103

But what if the input address is something like:

Milpas Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Clearly, not enough information is given for this address to pass validation. A house number is always required. DOTS Address Detective is able to use either the name “Taco Bell” or the phone number, (805) 962-1114, to properly identify and standardize the right location. The partial input values given are still important to compare back and make sure the most accurate result is returned.

What about addresses that are even messier with misspelled or incorrect data:

Milpaaaas Str
Santa Bar, CF 93103

Given either “Taco Bell” or (805) 962-1114, there is still enough information to go on to compare, cleanse and return the correct standardized result.

 

Address Detective’s Operations Explained: FindAddressLines

The second operation, FindAddressLines, solves a very different problem. We would often run lists of addresses for clients where they would give us a .csv file of addresses with data points that were in unexpected locations. Perhaps they tracked multiple address lines in which the third or fourth address line contained the normal “main” address line.  For example; what if they had something like this:

Four Address Lines:

Address 1: Johson Paper Bag Company
Address 2: C/O John Smith
Address 3: Floor 4
Address 4: 123 Main Street
City: Santa Barbara
State: California
ZIP: 93101

If the user does not know that the needed address in this case is Address4 (123 Main Street) its possible they may be sending the address: Johnson Paper Bag Company, C/O John Smith, Santa Barbara, CA, 93101 which obviously would not be a valid address. Perhaps they have an even bigger problem and there was an error in how the address was stored or a corrupted database leading to something like this:

Corrupted Database Example:

Address 1: 123 Main St
City: Apt 5
State: Santa Barbara
ZIP: CA

Both of these cases are solved by using the FindAddressLines. FindAddressLines takes in a generic list of Address inputs and analyzes them to figure out how to properly assign the inputs to the correct fields.  The result is then validated, corrected and standardized as a normal address. While there is some synergy with the FindAddress operation here, in order to properly parse out an address, the address would have to at least look like an address.  FindAddressLines would not be able to do anything with an address of “Milpas Street” as opposed to “821 Milpas Street”.

 

Address Detective’s Operations Explained: FindOutlyingAddresses

The final operation is FindOutlyingAddresses. This operation cross references several massive non-USPS datasets to find likely good addresses when USPS cannot. While our Address Validation service is designed to accurately identify deliverable addresses and contains the vast majority of US based addresses it does not cover everything. Pockets of addresses either in very rural areas or some well known areas like Mammoth Lakes (California) do not have deliverable houses, all mail is delivered to a local post office for pickup by residents.

FindOutlyingAddresses aims to fill in the blanks of these hard to find addresses. They may not be important for mail delivery but still play a vital role in identifying lead quality. While the data returns for this operation are not as complete as our Address Validation service, we will attempt to identify the data points at the lowest level we can. Do we know the house number exists? Maybe the house number does not exist but we know the street does? This operation will return as much useful information as it can about these locations.

 

Address Validation + Address Detective = Powerful One-Two Punch

One of the best ways to ensure you have accurate and up-to-date address information is by combining our Address Validation service with Address Detective. This combination allows many of our customers to identify and repair addresses that they would have normally discarded.  We are always happy to help our clients set up this powerful one-two punch.

In its most basic form, we use Address Validation to correct and verify all addresses. Addresses that could not be validated or corrected by the initial, stricter validation process, would be sent to our Address Detective service where supplemental information helps ‘solve’ the address and returns a viable address.

 

What is next for Address Detective?

DOTS Address Detective is an ever-evolving collection of operations that were created to meet the needs of our clients. We are always looking for new algorithms, data sets and features we can add to meet these needs and help clients recover and update even more addresses.

One of the more recent requests we are working on is helping identify GDPR exposure.  Our clients need to know if a contact record resides in any of the European Countries that are covered by the far-reaching privacy protection regulations of the GDPR. It is always a little more fun to solve real-world problems that our clients are facing and we are excited to be launching a new international address detective service in the coming week to help.  (By the way, if you think it is simple to identify a country by an address, try taking this Country Quiz.)

We encourage clients and prospects alike to reach out and let us know if they have a need that does not seem to be covered by one of our current products.  Share your needs or try it today to see what DOTS Address Detective can do to help!

 

Power Up Your Ecommerce

Some things are just better together. Like milk and cookies. Or peanut butter and jelly. Or, if you do online sales and marketing, ecommerce platforms and data validation services.

Integrating live, real-time validation services right into your ecommerce platform is easy to do, and gives you a whole host of benefits including promoting sales, preventing fraud and ensuring top-notch customer service and product delivery. This article explores a rich smorgasbord of benefits you can engineer into your own shopping cart platform – adding any of them will make your life easier:

Localize the online shopping experience

Even before a customer has a chance to look at your online store, you can curate its contents based on their location, using IP Address Validation to see where they are coming from. Detect their region or country and customize the language, currency and taxes for your online store to match. Or use their location to offer a ski sale for Colorado and surfboards for Hawaii. Geolocation can also be used to change your product mix to match local regulations and sensibilities. Another use we have seen is presenting customers with the appropriate terms of use and privacy policy based on their location, helping you maintain privacy compliance.

Keep online fraud at bay

Our IP Address Validation tool also lets you detect the location of a visitor to implement additional security rules for high risk countries, such as only allowing certain types of payment or restricting sales to high-fraud destinations. You can also compare the location of the IP address against the billing and shipping address, and flag discrepancies for further review.

Other tools to help reduce online fraud and chargebacks include:

  • Using BIN Validation to identify high risk cards like prepaid and gift cards, especially for multi-payment and membership products and services. This tool can also help you compare the issuing bank and country with the billing and shipping location.
  • Using Email Validation to flag questionable or fraudulent email addresses.
  • Using GeoPhone Plus to match the address for a customer’s phone number against their billing and shipping details.

Finally, our advanced Order Validation tool is a comprehensive and composite service for fraud monitoring, performing multi-function verifications including address validation, BIN validation, reverse phone lookup, email validation, and IP validation. Our proprietary algorithm performs over 200 tests and returns a 0-100 quality score on the overall validity and authenticity of the customer, flagged for pass, review or fail.

Get accurate sales tax information

For customers in the United States and Canada, our FastTax product can provide you with up-to-date sales tax rates, as well as identify the correct tax jurisdiction and boundaries based on location. In some jurisdictions tax rates even vary on different sides of the same street, and we can catch this!

Ensure deliverability

By checking addresses, you can ensure cost-saving delivery rates, avoid returned shipments, and ensure customer satisfaction by getting their order to the right place on time.

Our flagship Address Validation services for the United States, Canada and international addresses validate and correct addresses in real-time to ensure customers have entered a correct (and deliverable) address for the USPS, FedEx and UPS. Our US service is CASS certified and includes Delivery Point Validation (DPV) to verify an address is deliverable, Residential Delivery Indicator (RDI) to identify residential versus business addresses, and SuiteLink (SLK) to add secondary suite information for businesses.

For Canada, we can validate and correct addresses whether they are in English or French, with an output that meets Canada Post standards. For international addresses, we can instantly correct, standardize and append addresses for over 250 countries, adapted to each country’s postal formats and cultural idiosyncrasies. You can also use our address validation tools to create an address suggestion tool that includes validation.

Use the right delivery approach

Another use for US address verification is that it can identify general delivery address (i.e. PO boxes). Some sellers choose not to deliver to PO boxes, present different shipper options, or ask the buyer for a different address. Conversely, it can also detect incorporated areas versus unincorporated areas where the USPS will not deliver, allowing you to create logic that doesn’t present the USPS as a delivery option for these types of addresses.

In addition to improving deliverability, these verifications can also improve your bottom line by keeping more orders in your online shopping cart: a frequent customer complaint is being told that they cannot order from a site because USPS-only verification logic says their address is undeliverable. UPS and FedEx can normally deliver to most US doorsteps, and our capabilities can help you close these sales as well.

Ensure accurate email addresses

Our Email Validation service helps make sure that you capture the correct email address at the time of entry, ensuring that all future communications reach the customer. It catches common typographical errors (like gmial.com instead of gmail.com) as well as bogus email addresses. And when accounts are created using the customer’s email address as the primary key or account id, this tool helps ensure that you can catch mistakes while they are still easy to correct.

Improve your customer service and marketing

The benefits of integrated data validation don’t stop when an order goes out the door. Regular validation and cleaning of your contact data, for customers and prospects, will streamline your future marketing efforts – not to mention helping you comply with consumer protection and privacy regulations. And our customer insight and demographics tools can help you leverage this contact data as a valuable asset for serving your customer base even better.

For each of these capabilities, it is easy to integrate our services into almost any ecommerce platform. Most of these systems offer a plugin, RESTful API, or exposed interface to integrate with our services, including cloud connectors and web hooks, and any application that can call a web service can obtain output from our services in either XML or JSON formats. And we recognize that not all shopping carts are built alike, with needs varying from mom-and-pop online stores to full-scale enterprise level platforms, so take advantage of our extensive documentation and support to get you going.

Of course, our tools also stand alone, with convenient batch processing options for cleaning up legacy data in list form as well as quick lookup capabilities. But if you have an automated solution for your ecommerce capabilities, our services can power up the accuracy, quality and productivity of your marketing and sales efforts. Learn more on our website, or contact us anytime to learn more!

Do we support your ecommerce system? Yes we do!

Here is a list of many of the popular ecommerce systems that we interface with. (It would probably be much easier to list the ones we don’t support.)

2Checkout (formerly Avangate)LemonStandSpark Pay
3D CartMagento (recently acquired by Adobe)Squarespace
Big CartelMicrosoft Commerce ServerSuiteCommerce
Big CommmerceMivaSymphony Commerce
CloudCrazeOpenCartSystum
CommerceHubOracle Commerce CloudVolusion
DemandwareosCommerceVTEX
Drupal CommercePaddleWebSphere Commerce (WCS) (IBM)
EcwidPretashopWeebly
FastSpringSalesforce Commerce CloudWix
InfusionSoftSAP Hybris CommerceWooCommerce (WordPress plugin)
KiboShopifyX-Cart

And new interfaces are coming online all the time, so if you don’t see yours on the list, talk to us!

 

 

Freshly Squeezed…Never Frozen

Data gets stale over time. You rely on us to keep this data fresh, and we in turn rely on a host of others – including you! The information we serve you is the product of partnerships at many levels, and any data we mine or get from third party providers needs to be up-to-date.

This means that we rely on other organizations to keep their data current, but when you use our products, it is still our name on the door. Here at Service Objects, we use a three-step process to do our part in providing you with fresh data:

Who: We don’t make partnerships with just anyone.  Before we take on a new vendor, we fully vet them to be sure this partnership will meet our standards, now and in the future. To paraphrase the late President Reagan, we take a “trust but verify” approach to every organization we team up with.

What: We run tests to make sure that data is in fact how we expect it to be. This runs the gamut from simple format tests to ensuring that results are accurate and appropriate.

When: Some of the data we work with is updated in real time, while other data is updated daily, weekly, or monthly.  Depending on what type of data it is, we set up the most appropriate update schedule for the data we use.

At the same time, we realize this is a partnership between us and you – so to get the most out of our data, and for you to have the best results, we always suggest that you make sure to re-check some of your data points periodically, regardless of whether you are using our API or our batch processing system. Some of the more obvious reasons for this are that people move, phone numbers change, emails change, areas get redistricted, and so on. To maintain your data and keep it current, we recommend periodically revalidating it against our services.

Often business will implement our services to check data at the point of entry into their system, and also to perform a one-time cleanse to create a sort of baseline. This is all a good thing, especially when you make sure that data is going into your systems properly and is as clean as possible. However, it is important to remember that in 6-12 months some of this data will no longer be current.  Going the extra step to create a periodic review of your data is a best practice and is strongly recommended.

We also suggest keeping some sort of time stamp associated with when a record was validated, so that when you have events such as a new email campaign and some records have not been validated for a long time – for example, 12 months or more – you can re-run those records through our service.  This way you will ensure that you are getting the most out of your campaign, and at the same time protect your reputation by reducing bounces.

Finally, here is a pro tip to reduce your shipping costs: in our Address Validation service, we return an IsResidential indicator that identifies an address as being residential or not.  If this indicator changes, having the most recent results will help your business make the most cost-effective shipping decisions.

For both us and you, keeping your data fresh helps you get the most out of these powerful automation tools. In the end there is no specific time span we can recommend for verification that will suit every business across the board, and there will be cases where it isn’t always necessary to keep revalidating your data: the intervals you decide to use for your application will depend mostly on your application. But this is still an important factor to keep in mind as you design and evaluate your data quality process.

To learn more about how our data quality solutions can help your business, visit the Solutions section of our website.

Online Fraud is Growing. What Can Your Business Do?

What is one of the biggest growth industries in the United States today? Hint: It isn’t something most of you would want your kids to major in at school, unless you want them to go to the state pen instead of Penn State – because this rapidly growing industry is online fraud.

The Costs of eCommerce Fraud Are Staggering

Estimates vary, but recent figures from DigitalCommerce360 project the value of eCommerce fraud nearly doubling from US $10 billion to $19 billion between 2014 and 2018, as the eCommerce market continues to grow from a historic peak of US $2.3 trillion in 2017. One particular area of fraud, account takeovers, jumped 45% in Q2 of 2017 alone according to the Global Fraud Index, and these fraudulent pirated accounts represent one of the top three types of online retail fraud.

A subtle but equally important issue is what the fear of online fraud costs you and your business. According to a recent fraud benchmarking survey from CyberSource:

  • Domestic and cross-border orders have exactly the same rates of fraud among companies surveyed – just under 1% – however nearly twice as many cross-border orders get rejected, costing valuable revenue as well as damaging customer relationships.
  • The costs of manual transaction review are one of the major financial consequences of online fraud. Nearly 80% of companies conduct manual reviews, impacting an average 25% of their transactions – and yet nearly 90% of these transactions are ultimately accepted.
  • The costs of manual review hits smaller companies particularly hard, where companies under US $5M in annual revenue review nearly six times the percentage of transactions (47%) as companies greater than $100M (8%).

The uptake of all of this? Guarding against eCommerce fraud is really a two-pronged effort: reducing online fraud itself, and reducing the revenue lost to the indirect costs of fraud. For both of these issues, the key is implementing effective automated solutions.

Technology Plays a Key Role in Preventing Online Fraud

According to the CyberSource survey, companies themselves rate three technologies among their top weapons against fraud:

Address verification: making sure an address is real, valid, and corresponds with the person making the order

Credit card number verification: making sure a credit card is legitimate and properly owned

Fraud scoring models: coming up with a quantitative score based on multifactor analysis

Other tools fall into the category of leveraging existing customer data, such as credit history checks, customer order history, or two-factor phone authentication using previous device information on file.

Cyber-fraud is growing explosively nowadays because the market for it gets more lucrative every year, and combating it requires tools that keep you one step ahead of the fraudsters. Service Objects’ fraud prevention capabilities have the advantage of leveraging authoritative up-to-the-minute third-party data, such as USPS CASS Certified® address validation capabilities, global address validation that verifies and corrects international mailing addresses to the unique requirements of each country’s postal address formats and cultural idiosyncrasies, and IP validation that helps you ensure that the origin of an online order correlates with billing and shipping locations. In addition, we offer lead and order validation capabilities using multi-function verifications that give you a quantitative quality score you can use to automate your order processing decisions.

We offer a free consultation to help you determine what tools can help protect your revenue stream. Contact us today to learn what we can do for you.

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!

 

Knowing your customers' contact data and geographic location is the first step in being compliant with international data protection laws

New Country Detective Service Helps Improve Accuracy and Compliance

Knowing the geographical location of contact data records is crucial for compliance with the over 100 different Data Protection laws currently in force around the globe. While Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect May 25, 2018, many other international Data Protection rules and regulations already govern the collection, management and use of customer data, including Canada’s PIPEDA, Australia’s NDB, and Japan’s APPI. Meanwhile, in the US, both California and New York have already passed data protection laws, with more states likely to enact their own rules in the near future. Unfortunately, the consequences of noncompliance are significant, including costly fines and other penalties.

To help achieve compliance, Service Objects recently released Country Detective, a new service which enables businesses to correct or append country of origin information to existing contact records. Companies can try out the service by requesting a free Global Data Assessment. With more accurate information on the geographic location of clients and prospects, companies can adapt their processes and protocols to satisfy current and future Data Privacy laws.

Knowing the Location of Customers and Prospects is Key to Compliance

Because these regulations vary across different industries and regions, knowing the geographical location of contact records in a database is the first step to compliance.  Many organizations maintain large databases full of incomplete contact records. Without a solid understanding of where customers and prospects are located, businesses risk running afoul of global Data Protection laws.

Contact data is also constantly changing, making accuracy particularly challenging. For example, Convince & Convert reports up to 34% of Americans will create a new address within the next year. According to USPS, mail determined to be “undeliverable as addressed” costs the Postal Service about $1.5 billion per year.

US businesses already lose more than $3.1 trillion every year due to bad contact data, and the newest slate of global data protection laws will only add another layer of expense. That’s why it remains critical that companies maintain up-to-date contact records.

“Contact information ages incredibly fast, and it remains critical that organizations take a proactive approach to data management,” says Geoff Grow, CEO, Service Objects.

Contact Data Quality is Key to Reducing Liability

Service Objects’ Country Detective service is designed to help businesses comply with Data Protection laws around the globe. The service will append and correct the country in each contact record and evaluate other data points to deliver an overall quality score. The free Global Data assessment is intended as an introduction to Country Detective by allowing organizations to identify and, if necessary, correct the country information for their contact records. To get started, businesses can securely send a list of 500 contact records and results will be delivered within 1-2 business days.

“We know that many US organizations have a large percentage of customer records that are currently missing country data, which is the first step to achieve compliance with data protection laws,” says Grow. “Our Country Detective service will give businesses the information they need to determine which of their contact records have the greatest liability.”

 

Instead of focusing on “cleaning dirty customer data,” organizations should focus on the connection between investments in data quality and customer service metrics.

Data Quality and Customer Experience

Once upon a time, customer service and support operations were viewed as the “complaint department” – a back-office function, a necessary evil, and above all a cost center whose role should be reduced as much as possible. These days, it has become increasingly clear that businesses must prioritize data quality. As Thomas Redman advised is a recent guest post, “Getting in front on data quality presents a terrific opportunity to improve business performance.”

While some organizations still have a break/fix mentality about customer support, the very best organizations now view their customer contact operations as the strategic voice of the customer – and leverage customer engagement as a strategic asset. Thanks to tools ranging from CRM and social media, many businesses manage their customer experience as closely as they manage their products and services.

The Strategic Role of Data Quality

This leads us to an important analogy about data quality. Like the “complaint department” days of customer service, many organizations still view data quality as little more than catching and fixing bad contact data. In reality, our experience with a base of nearly 2500 customers has taught that data quality plays a very strategic role in areas like cost control, marketing reach, and brand reputation in the marketplace.

This worldview is still evolving slowly. For example, according to a 2017 CIO survey by Talend, data quality and data governance remain the biggest concerns of IT departments, at 33 and 37 percent respectively – and yet their top priorities reflect more trendy objectives such as big data and real-time analytics. And back in 2012 Forrester vice president Kate Leggett observed that data quality often remains the domain of the IT department, and data projects for customer service rarely get funded.

Meanwhile, data quality has also become an important component of customer experience. Leggett notes that instead of an IT-driven process of “cleaning dirty customer data,” organizations should reframe the conversation towards the impact of data quality on customer-facing functions, and understand the connection between investments in data quality and customer service metrics.

Here at Service Objects, we see three key areas in the link between data quality and customer experience:

Customer Engagement

When you have good data integrated with effective CRM, you have the ability to market appropriately and serve customers responsively. You can target your messages to the right people, react responsively in real time to customer needs, and create systems that satisfy and delight the people you serve.

Service Failures

Mis-deliver a package because of a bad address, and you make a customer very unhappy. Do things like this even a small percentage of the time, and you gain a reputation as a company that doesn’t execute. Keep doing it and even many customers who haven’t been wronged yet will seek other options where possible, because of the “herd mentality” that builds around those who do complain publicly and on social media.

Strategic Visibility

Your customer data is an important asset that gives you the ability to analyze numerous aspects of your customer relationships and react appropriately. It holds the knowledge of everything from demographics to purchasing patterns, as well as their direct feedback through service and support. Having accurate customer data is central to leveraging this data strategically.

One heartening trend is that more organizations than ever now see the connection between data quality and their customer relationships. For example, one 2017 article in PharmExec.com cited a European customer data survey showing that nearly three-quarters of life sciences respondents feel that having a complete and real-time view of customers is a top priority – while only 40% are satisfied with how well they are doing this. We are seeing similar figures across other industries nowadays, and view this as a good sign that we are moving over time towards a smoother, more data-driven relationship between organizations and their customers.

Automated address validation comes with many benefits, but variables in data input businesses receive require a responsive, flexible and customized verification solution.

Difficulties in the Trivial: Diving Deeper into the Intricacies of Address Validation

“Can’t you just add that feature today!?”

“Can you add a simple update for this!?”

“It’s obvious, it really shouldn’t take very long to implement!”

Software developers hear statements like this more than about half a million times over their career.  It raises my eyebrows every time I hear it, typically giving me a little chuckle inside. In all honesty, it is not a surprise that those kinds of inquiries come up and that they come up as often as they do. After all, these queries come from people that do not code so, from their perspective, the questions seem legitimate.

Errors, Intent and Responsive Address Validation

Fundamentally, these are legitimate questions. The misconceptions that trigger this type of confusion often stem from how well humans can quickly find patterns, errors and solutions. So rapidly, in fact, many problems appear to have “fast” or “obvious” solutions.

For example, to us, it may seem obvious that in our Service Objects address the typo “Cta Street” should be “Cota Street” or “Santa Barbra” should be “Santa Barbara.”  These errors are relatively easy to identify, fix and classify right? For humans, the answer is yes. For a computer, on the other hand, the answer is, well…maybe.

At its heart, the issue involves underlying questions about conceptual intent and programming capabilities. For example, when the name of a city is corrected, what does that mean for the data related to the corresponding physical address? Does St. Louis being changed to Saint Louis maintain the fidelity of the locational intent? What about changing Santa Barbara to nearby Goleta? Would these solutions fall within what would be expected behavior?

While both actions result in changes to a piece of information, each solution is based on a different procedure. The first follows a standardized correction of the name of a specific location, which is a type of change to the input. The second, on the other hand, signifies a change in the place itself.

Variations on a Standard: Address Line 2

When it comes to address validation, there are more than enough address variations to examine that constitute a standard address format, and that’s just talking about Address Line 1.  Though Address Line 2 is not a standard address field, it has been a custom to see that field in one of it’s many variations on forms when we fill out our address.

Address Line 2 has often left users confused as to what information should be included in that field. While many argue Address Line 2 is designed for apartment numbers, suites, and similar secondary information, there is no consensus. In fact, the USPS does not recognize Address Line 2 as a standard address field.

Reactive Address Verification

In practice, the field is often used for apartment and suite numbers, but also for other details like ‘care of’ or to give additional information to the mail delivery person.  Almost anything can go into Address Line 2, and increasingly, people expect Address Line 2 data to be handled as part of the entire address validation protocol.

Ultimately, this field adds a significant layer of complexity to an address validation solution. Take for instance the scenario where someone enters “Apt 2 A C O Sally” on Address Line 2. Typically, someone would not enter the data that way, but you may be surprised how often something like this does come up. Visually, we can easily identify the intention of the data. An address validation process, on the other hand, will find identification and categorization of this information difficult. For example, what does “Apt 2 A C O Sally” signify? Is it Apt 2A, Care of Sally? Or is just Apt 2? Furthermore, once we identify the “Care Of” details, does that information need to be preserved on the output?

Standardized Solutions and a Custom Fix

In some situations, Service Objects can create a solution capable of handling the complexities of multiple address data inputs beyond the standard format. In other instances, the best result is a happy medium. Sometimes a specific solution can be tailored to a particular client based on their individual needs. Always, our updates can fine-tune operations and benefit all of our clients.

We use our extensive validation knowledge and industry standards and expectations to help govern which approach we take. Situations like these represent what our teams look at all the time, and we are always finding ways to make improvements. Our services are based on almost 20 years of experience.

When we update logic in the system, we often walk a fine line between what the code should do versus what it already does.  We always want to improve our processes without negatively impacting clients already used to expected behavior. Improvements capable of changing the expected results for current users will often be bundled up in a new version, but usually, we can find ways to update current versions, so clients always have the latest and greatest option without needing to make any changes.

As we know, the devil is in the details. By drilling down to the smallest and most incremental element of an address input, Service Objects provides the highest level of data verification and address validation services. In fact, our focus on details allows us to be experts in the validation services field, so your organization doesn’t have to be.