Posts Tagged ‘Address Validation’

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Check Out Our Updated Developer Guides

We recently revamped our developer guides to make them more user-friendly. The information for each service has been broken into its component parts, to make each feature more comprehensible. In this article, we share some of the changes we have made and they help you get the most from our products.

1. A new, easy-to-navigate landing page

Our new landing pages now have a developer guide map (our US Address Validation product is a good example) to provide easy access to each web service’s component parts. By clicking on the links on this page, you will be taken directly to the respective page that provides a more in-depth breakdown of the service’s individual fields. Below is an example of one of these landing pages.

2. Quick lookup & Open API

Our quick lookup page has been greatly simplified to provide only the most relevant data at your fingertips. Once you have received a trial or production license key, the validation process is as simple as plugging your input data into the fields, adding your license key, and clicking Execute. The web service request is made for you and the response formatted in the output section.

Similarly, if you are looking to run a different operation the Service Reference page has quick lookups for every operation within its respective service.  Check out an example of Address Validation US.

3. Citations and Additional Field Information

Have questions about the service fields? Need more information about how to leverage them to fit your business needs? Our redesign now includes accordion panels that can be expanded to provide more information about the field. We’ve also added citations next to some of the inputs and outputs where we have additional information available. In the example, below the Barcode Digits is linked to the following blog:

https://www.serviceobjects.com/blog/address-deduplication-using-usps-barcodes/

By clicking a reference link, you can read a more in-depth analysis of the field and often gain ideas about how to use the data point in your workflow.

Each of these new features is designed to help you get up and running more quickly with our services, and serve as an easy-to-use reference for your development work. Try out our new developer guide soon, and let us know what you think!

Address Validation Service vs. Address Verification Service (AVS)

Some terms sound similar but aren’t actually interchangeable – like sympathy versus empathy or good versus well. In the data quality business, two similar phrases with totally separate meanings are Address Validation service versus Address Verification service (AVS) – and these have very important distinctions if you process credit cards. However, when used together, they can solve common credit card processing issues and increase sales, decrease fraud and provide better customer experiences. Let’s look at the differences between these two capabilities and how they can be used together.

Address Validation service vs. Address Verification service (AVS)

First of all, an Address Validation service ensures that your address is correct and deliverable – and often corrects addresses when necessary. An Address Verification service (AVS), by comparison, is supplied by credit card companies for fraud prevention. It is part of the credit card authorization process, ensuring that components of an address correspond to a specified credit card number the issuing company has on file.

A good example of Address Validation is our flagship DOTS Address Validation – US service (along with its Northern counterpart, DOTS Address Validation – Canada). As for credit card transactions, there are varying but very similar versions of Address Verification Service (AVS) created by most major credit card issuers in the US and other countries to use with their authorization process. Here are some key differences in the way these two systems work:

Address Validation – US is a CASS CertifiedTM service that links directly with up-to-date USPS address data, together with other authoritative data sources, to verify – and if necessary, correct – a supplied delivery address. Address Validation – US also goes far beyond simple street address checking, including Delivery Point Validation (DPV) to make sure an address is deliverable, verifying suite numbers, and flagging residential versus business addresses.

AVS, by comparison, checks an address against the one on file with the issuer of the credit card being authorized. As this article describes in detail, AVS only compares the numerical portion of a street address and the ZIP code against a credit card provider’s records. It then either approves the address or returns one of several error codes, outlined in this Wikipedia summary.

When to use Address Validation and AVS

So, should you use Address Validation or AVS for credit card transactions? The answer is that both are very important, depending on your situation. Here’s why:

  • Using AVS with unvalidated addresses can lead to false negatives that decline legitimate sales and lose business. Validating an address before submitting to AVS can help prevent false-negatives.
  • AVS doesn’t guarantee deliverability – so a misspelled street or city name could still leave your package lost at the wrong address or loading dock, causing financial losses as well as possible brand damage from unhappy customers. Address Validation checks and corrects for deliverability.

The best of both worlds

With thoughtful business logic, you can harness the strengths of Address Validation to correct addresses BEFORE submitting them for authorization, decreasing the number of false negatives.  This increases sales and provides confidence in declined authorization attempts. In addition, incorporating contact-data-hygiene best practices that ensure the address provided is accurate and deliverable reduces the cost of mis-shipped products and increases customer satisfaction.

Managing credit card transactions

It is important to understand that there are multiple approaches to managing your credit card transactions, including both automated tools and human approval procedures (we devoted an entire article to this recently), including our own BIN validation capabilities for checking credit card types and validity. Every strategy has its pros and cons, and there is always a balance between preventing fraud and chasing away valid sales and customers.

Need to take a deeper dive into credit card processing and data quality? Contact our knowledgeable product experts anytime, and we’ll be happy to discuss your own situation in more detail.

How Data Quality Tools Help Save Mother’s Day

We have many mission-critical applications for our products. But every year in May, one of the most critical ones is keeping moms happy on Mother’s Day. After all, customer satisfaction is important in any industry, but no one EVER wants to disappoint their mom on her special day.

Do you know how many flowers are sent every year on Mother’s Day? A lot! This ‘very technical’ answer comes from my first-hand experience as a teenager.  When I was young, my girlfriend’s parents owned a floral shop, and Mother’s Day was the biggest day of their year.  It took us all week to prepare orders and plan deliveries.

A more precise answer comes from the Society of American Florists: one article notes that Mother’s Day flower sales were nearly $2 billion US in 2016, edging out Valentine’s Day by volume and representing 64 percent of all gifts to mom that day.

What you might not know is that Service Objects plays a major role in the logistics of Mother’s Day. Delivering perishable floral products on a specific date, with little margin for error, is a complex challenge requiring bulletproof data quality. We serve many important customers within the floriculture and floral industry and wanted to share some of our tools they use to help make moms smile all over the US.

How We Power the Flowers

Here are some of the key tools our customers use to help ensure a successful Mother’s Day:

Address Validation. Integrating our DOTS Address Validation – US product within your order entry process makes sure that the Mom’s address is correctly captured at the time of ordering. This is particularly important for a holiday like Mother’s Day, where addresses are not generally being entered by the recipient and are more prone to error.

Our Address Validation service matches and, where possible, corrects addresses in real time at the point of data entry, using up-to-date USPS and proprietary databases. Our USPS CASS-CertifiedTM database engine also flags residential versus business addresses and returns a full ZIP+4 postal code.

Delivery Point Validation (DPV). This feature is part of the output from Address Validation, and it is critically important when a third party enters the address: Delivery Point Validation ensures that an address is not only correct but also recognized as being deliverable by the USPS. A simple example is knowing that a unit number is required for a multi-unit building and flagging the address as incomplete.

Address Geocoding. Sometimes a delivery address isn’t a mailing address. For example, a rural address may not be recognized as deliverable by the USPS (because its mail goes to a PO box or general delivery), but it still corresponds to a real, physical location where Mom actually resides and other delivery services can reach. Our DOTS Address Geocoding product can determine the latitude and longitude of a delivery address with up to a 99.8% property-level match rate accuracy, ensuring that flowers get delivered to the front door, as well as, helping delivery drivers with efficient delivery route planning.

Address Detective. What happens when an address is incorrect or undeliverable? When it is being entered by a well-meaning but down-to-the-last-minute, hasty son, too often it could result in a lost sales opportunity. Our DOTS Address Detective saves many of these sales by using fuzzy logic with available data points to correct and append address data for “bad” addresses – so that Mom still receives her much-deserved bouquet.

50 Million Mothers Can’t Be Wrong

With an average of almost $40 per person spent on flowers and delivery, Mother’s Day is more than just a day of recognition – it is big business, serving roughly 50 million customers in just one weekend. It has come a long way since US President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation for the first national Mother’s Day in 1914.

We are proud to play a key role in ensuring the delivery of all these flowers every year – after all, we love to celebrate our moms too.

And we have a present for you too: a free access key that lets you try out 500 transactions for any of these or other capabilities in your own applications. Want to learn more? Contact our friendly and knowledgeable product team and we’ll take it from there.

Happy Mother’s Day – Mom 😊

Credit Card Validation: Your Questions Answered

You’ve got questions? We’ve got answers! This is the first in a series of articles exploring common user questions about our products and how they can be used in business use cases, based on what you’ve asked our sales and technical support teams. We hope you’ll find these enlightening, interesting – and even fun to read!

For our first topic, we’ve chosen an area near and dear to many of our business clients: validating credit card transactions. We’ve previously explored some of the pros and cons of various approaches for credit card validation in a recent post, and will take a deeper dive into the differences between validation and verification of credit card addresses in a future article. Here, we will explore how to handle some of the most common use cases for credit transactions.

Let’s dive in:

Q: If we use the credit card company’s Address Validation System (AVS), we get a much cheaper processing rate. But it is very strict about these addresses, and kicks back too many transactions that are actually valid – so we are losing business and customers. Help!

A: This is an extremely common issue. One reason is that AVS only compares the numerical portion of the street address, together with the ZIP code, to verify the address. If either of these numbers are off even a little bit, it will reject the address. Often this is a good thing – because it can protect you from, say, a thief using a stolen credit card to ship to a bogus address – but this can also reject legitimate customers.

A simple solution for these “false negatives” is to use our DOTS Address Validation – US service to validate the address at the time the customer enters it. This gives you the ability to inform the customer in real time about address errors, and also offer them a validated and corrected address from our CASS-certified validation engine, powered by up-to-date USPS address data.

You can either simply validate addresses that fail the AVS check, or even better, validate every incoming address to ensure correct shipping addresses and a clean contact database. Either way, this is a simple step that will help more of your transactions go through smoothly.

Q: We are suddenly getting a lot of chargebacks and fraudulent transactions. Ironically, a lot of these fraudsters are giving us credit card numbers that pass AVS. What can we do?

A: You’ve discovered the hard way that many crooks – identity thieves in particular – open fraudulent credit accounts with legitimate shipping addresses. Of course, they never pay the bill and make off with your merchandise. Chargeback or “friendly” fraud is another way people fraudulently obtain goods without paying for them.

A 2018 Gartner report outlined machine intelligence and online fraud detection (OFD) tools as being among the most promising safeguards against these kinds of fraud. Many customers use our DOTS Lead Validation service as an automated screen for the quality of potential customers, using tests involving over 130 data points that yield an overall lead quality score from 0 to 100. Tools like these can go a long way towards weeding out the bad actors before you ship your merchandise to them.

As a bonus, the detailed results provided by Lead Validation also helps you decide whether to simply reject an order or pass it along for further human verification, making it easier to save good orders that may have raised a red flag or two.

Q: We offer a subscription service or sell products on a payment plan, billed to a customer’s credit card monthly. Increasingly people have been defrauding us by signing up with a prepaid credit card with a low balance – so they get the goodies, but only the first payment gets made. How can we prevent this kind of fraud?

A: This problem is actually quite easy to solve, using our DOTS BIN Validation product. Its output contains a value called CardType that lets you detect and flag prepaid credit cards. Armed with this knowledge, you can create business logic with options like:

  • Let the customer know in real time that you do not accept this type of card for this product/service
  • Request another form of payment,
  • Offer only a pay-in-full option for this card type, or
  • Decline the order.

Q: Is there anything else we can do to prevent fraudulent credit transactions?

A: One more pro tip is to compare the customer’s shipping and billing address with the BIN Validation’s Country field, which lists the country of the credit card’s issuing bank and the country result from DOTS IP Address Validation lookup. If they are different, you can flag certain countries (e.g. those with high fraud rates) to decline the transaction immediately or ask for another form of payment.

So what are your questions?

We would love to hear from you. Of course, you can contact our product team anytime for a personal response – and if there is anything you would like to see us discuss in a future article, let us know. Thanks!

Fun Facts About ZIP Codes

Addresses in the United States used to be a simple matter of a street location, a city and state, and perhaps a city-specific postal zone. But by the 1960s, between massive increases in mail volume and the advent of computerized scanning and sorting equipment, the U.S. Postal Service needed a strategy to automate and speed up delivery. The result was the Zone Improvement Plan, or ZIP code for short, and it has since become a model for the world’s postal codes.

At Service Objects we make part of our living resolving and geolocating addresses, including their ZIP codes, so we thought you might enjoy discovering some of the history – and idiosyncrasies – behind those numbers at the end of your mailing addresses.

A ZIP Code Entertainment Spectacular

When ZIP codes were first introduced in 1963, their use wasn’t mandatory. (And believe it or not, still isn’t.) So to help convince people to switch from their old address formats, the U.S. Postal Service commissioned a 15-minute long educational film led by musical group The Swingin’ Six. It featured music, comedy, and even romance, juxtaposed with a leaden-faced appearance from the Postmaster General of the United States.

Here it is, preserved for posterity on YouTube. As a disclaimer, we take no responsibility if you can’t get their songs out of your head.

In keeping with a tradition of using cartoon characters to raise social awareness (think, for example, Popeye getting children to eat their spinach), the Post Office also commissioned an artist to create their new mascot: Mr. ZIP. In character form, he signified a new generation of speed and accuracy.

Can a Person Have Their Own ZIP Code?

The answer is yes – but only if you are the President of the United States or the First Lady. The POTUS’s ZIP+4 code is 20500-0001, while the FLOTUS is 20500-0002. Both are subsets of the White House’s dedicated ZIP code of 20500, which also has +4 codes for its postal station and Greetings Office. (You can actually look these up on the USPS ZIP code search page for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C.).

The one other example of an individual with their own ZIP code happens to be U.S. Forest Service mascot Smokey Bear. Between his popularity as an advertising icon and interest in the real live Smokey (an orphaned bear cub rescued from a 1950 forest fire) at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., he received so much mail that he was granted his own ZIP code of 20252. Although this ZIP code was eventually decommissioned in 1993, it was recently brought back by popular demand, as he still gets letters from children across the US.

Further up North, one other individual sharing this honor is Santa Claus, who fittingly has the Canadian postal code of H0H 0H0. No such luck in the US however, where letters to Santa go to the actual town of North Pole, Alaska and its ZIP code of 99705.

The ZIP Code That Got Swallowed Up

Somewhere in central Pennsylvania – off I-80, nestled between the Pilot Travel Center and the local Walmart – is the little town of Conyngham, PA. Better known as the town that was swallowed up by another ZIP code. You see, Conyngham and its roughly 2000 residents, with a ZIP code of 18219, is completely surrounded by the Sugarloaf, PA ZIP code of 18249, as shown in the image below.

(Image courtesy Google Maps)

In fairness, Sugarloaf’s ZIP code is further divided by ZIP+4 codes into four separate regions within the 18249 ZIP code. But poor Conyngham is still surrounded. And some poor homeowner is probably trying to explain to an insurance agent that even though she lives WITHIN the 18249 ZIP code, she doesn’t live IN it.

This situation can also occur at a street level, which is in fact surprisingly common: a street-assigned ZIP code may extend into an area where this street is surrounded by a different ZIP code. So a different ZIP code may be as close as your backyard neighbor!

Situations like these may sound humorous, but as this article points out, they can have a real impact on people’s lives. Issues such as insurance rates, voter registration, and jury duty can be affected, as well as more serious concerns such as emergency response – not to mention a possible loss of status and property value when your home is in one neighborhood but your ZIP code is in another. In response to these concerns, the USPS now has a mechanism for reviewing ZIP codes on a case-by-case basis.

Those Numbers Actually Mean Something

ZIP codes aren’t just assigned at random: each digit has a specific function. The first digit, from 0 to 9, places a mailing destination in one of ten broad mailing regions of the United States. The next two digits narrow down this destination to a central Post Office for a smaller region such as a city. Finally, the last two digits defines the destination further to a local Post Office.

So-called ZIP+4 codes refine the destination further, with the last four digits signifying data ranging from a PO Box number to a floor within a building.

Some entities are so large or specialized that they have their own ZIP code, including the Empire State Building, Dodger Stadium, the CIA, and New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Putting More ZIP in Your Contact Data

As you have probably learned from this article, determining ZIP codes and their corresponding locations isn’t for the faint of heart. But fear not, we can help. Our DOTS Address Validation – US service helps correct and complete US addresses down to the ZIP code level, and our DOTS Address Geocode service provides accurate latitude and longitude coordinates for geographically-based applications ranging from insurance rates to home values. Contact us anytime, and we’ll respond faster than Mr. ZIP!

Professional woman checks time on her wrist watch while talking on the phone

Thoughts on Daylight Saving Time and Its Effects on Business

What time is it? The answer isn’t always a simple one – particularly in states like Arizona and Hawaii that do not observe daylight saving time (DST). And this can be important for your business: nobody wants to reach out to a client at 8 am, only to find out it is 7 am their local time and they aren’t in yet.

Here in California, the topic of daylight saving time has been a point of contention recently. With the passage of Proposition 7 in November, our legislature now has the ability to either change the dates and times of DST, or even establish permanent year-round DST should the Federal government allow it in the future.

As a developer, this kicked off a series of questions about the history of DST, how changes to local observations of time would affect programmed systems, and the nightmare of non-unified time standards. I don’t work directly with highly time-critical applications such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS), network television, or transportation systems. However, time that matches country, state, and local rules and regulations is important to me. Many of the tools I use leverage location-based clocks: for instance, servers or databases often create timestamps based on the machine’s current time.

Imagine a simple scenario where you have a computer in California and one in New York. Their clocks will of course read differently, because New York is in a different time zone that is 3 hours ahead. Simple enough, but what would happen if DST were observed differently across different localities? Would that mean that, when DST is in effect, New York is only 2 hours ahead of California? What if different states chose different dates to start or end DST? What if they ignored it entirely? What about my poor servers in different states and the timestamps that they are generating? What does it mean for the parts of the United States that don’t currently observe DST?

You probably see where the questions are leading: how do we build tools on top of systems in different localities, and what if I want to build in timing related elements into my own software? Overcoming these challenges can be better addressed by first looking at a brief history of DST, and the regulations put in place to help solve this nonuniformity.

What is Daylight Saving Time? – a brief history

Daylight saving time has been observed in both the US and various European countries since the World War I. It was enacted to cut down on energy consumption. In 1918 the U.S. adopted this policy, but it only lasted through the end of the war. At the time the observation of DST was unpopular, likely due to earlier waking hours, and was repealed a year later.

DST was adopted again in the US during the second world war under the name of “War Time”. At the time there was no federal law dictating whether a state had to observe DST or not. This lack of regulation resulted in inconsistent observations of DST.

Finally, in 1966 Congress decided to try and fix the inconsistent observation issue by enacting the Uniform Time Act. It was not the be-all-end-all solution to the problem, but it was a step in the right direction to get most states to follow the same regulations.

How does Daylight Saving Time affect computers?

The modern approach to solving time-related issues is for computers to set their system time based on a well-established time server. This time server has the difficult task of maintaining the correct time by factoring in any regional differences in policies such as DST. Chances are your home computer came preconfigured to reach out to one of these time servers using the Network Time Protocol (NTP). This protocol helps to keep your machine’s time in sync.

The same protocol can be used on databases, web servers, or other systems to keep up to date. These servers remove the burden from the end user by automatically updating the time based on your regional time standards. This is why there is no more dialing the clock on your computer an hour forward on that Sunday in March.

This network of time servers is also the answer to my worry about maintaining the proper time despite the differences and changes in local time related policies. California can be free to vote on keeping or removing DST, and I can rest assured there are measures in place to properly handle the changes.

How knowledge of Daylight Saving Time helps businesses

Spurred on by the vote in California and the differing opinions on DST, I decided to take a deeper dive into how local regulations can affect my line of work. It became readily apparent that scheduling tasks would need to have knowledge of DST as well as time zones. With these two items in hand I could write a scheduling application to smartly notify the recipients of meeting requests based on their local time. They would get a meeting request based on their local time, instead of having to add or subtract hours based on the difference in their time zones.

To get started I would need to determine the offset from Greenwich Mean Time + 0 (GMT +0), now more commonly known as Universal Coordinated Time + 0 (UTC +0). The time zone offset of the recipient’s location in conjunction with a daylight savings indicator would allow my application to be built. Both a DST flag indicating if an address observes daylight savings time and a time zone digit are returned by several Service Objects services. DOTS Address Geocode – Canada, DOTS Address Geocode – US, and DOTS Address Insight could all be leveraged for their DST flag and time zone.

My application is just the tip of the iceberg. The DST flag in conjunction with time zone information can be leveraged to make better business decisions. These fields could be combined into applications that help facilitate smarter contact with your prospective clients. Knowing your client’s location allows you to determine an ideal time to reach out to them. In a similar vein, if you know your target’s ideal emailing hour, you can use their location to dictate when to send out your targeted marketing campaigns.

Sales calls, meeting coordination, and targeted email campaigns are just a few of the ways you can use the fields from Service Objects services to improve your business efficiency. Contact us to learn more ways you can leverage our services.

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Tutorial: Address Suggestor using Google’s Places API & Service Objects’ Address Validation API

Accurate address autocomplete

At Service Objects, our mission is to ensure contact data is ‘genuine, accurate and up-to-date.’ This can be challenging when it comes to our clients wanting to use an address suggestion or address autocomplete tool while ensuring accuracy and deliverability.

What is address autocomplete?

Address autocomplete is a real-time web service that suggests addresses while a user is still typing it out. The majority of them are built using Google’s Place Autocomplete, which Google defines as:

“a web service that returns address predictions in response to an HTTP request. The request specifies a textual search string and optional geographic bounds. The service can be used to provide autocomplete functionality for text-based geographic searches, by returning places such as businesses, addresses and points of interest as a user types.”

It sounds great on the surface but when you dig a little deeper, a few problems are uncovered:

  • Google Places API often does not suggest locations at the apartment or suite level.
  • The locations the Google Places API suggests are often not mail deliverable. For instance, a business may have a physical location at one address and receive mail at a completely different address.
  • When Google is not sure of a location or address, it will make approximations as to where an address should be.

If your business mails or ships, these issues are going to create poor customer experiences and potentially generate expensive customer service issues. So, how can you can you enjoy the benefits of an address autocomplete tool while maintaining a high rate of accuracy and deliverability?

Address suggestion + validation = The super suggestor!

This is where Service Objects comes in. By combining the power of our Address Validation tools (US, Canada, and International) web services with Google’s Place Autocomplete API, we can identify if an address is complete, accurate and deliverable. Furthermore, where addresses are incomplete or not deliverable, they can be corrected in real-time by our address validation services. In fun, we call this the Super Suggestor (insert favorite superhero theme music here), providing the best of both worlds, time-saving, customer-friendly address suggestion with the confidence that the address selected is validated, accurate and deliverable.

So how do you combine these two APIs? Watch the step-by-step tutorial below to learn how to create your own Super Suggestor.

We have also provided the complete transcript here.

Photo of a barcode

Address Deduplication Using USPS Barcodes

When are two addresses actually the same? And when can you remove one of them from your contact database?

The answer isn’t as simple as it sounds. Suppose you have two addresses as follows: 429 East Figueroa Street, Apartment 1, Santa Barbara, California, 93101 versus 429 E Figueroa St Apt 1, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Or that for only one of these two addresses, the street address and the apartment number are on separate lines of the address. Simple text or line-by-line comparisons aren’t going to work in this case.

However, the United States Postal Service (USPS) can come to the rescue here, thanks to its standards for delivery barcodes.

What is a barcode?

Barcodes are unique identifiers assigned to each deliverable address by the USPS. A set of digits between 00 and 99 are assigned to each address and then, when that number is combined with the address’ zip+4, a sequence is created to uniquely identify the delivery point. The complete barcode consists of a zip+4, a 2 digit code identifying the premise, and a checksum digit to allow barcode sorters to verify the zip, zip+4 and delivery point code’s correctness.

Barcode Example: 931011445011

931011445011
Zip+4Deliver Point Code Checksum Digit

How barcodes help you clean up duplicates

In short, barcodes can be leveraged to help identify duplicate records in your address database. The uniqueness of the barcode helps to solve the age old problem of identifying duplicate data. Let’s go back to the example we mentioned above:

Address AAddress B
429 East Figueroa Street429 E Figueroa St Apt 1
Apartment 1
Santa Barbara, California, 93101Santa Barbara, CA 93101

On the surface, these addresses seem very similar. They would both be deemed deliverable by the USPS despite their spelling differences. On one hand, you have Address A spelling out “East”, “Street”, “Apartment”, and “California”. On the other hand, Address B abbreviates these same fields. If you were to address an envelope with either of the spellings, it would reach the same destination.

As a human, looking at the two addresses above, it is easy to figure out that these two addresses are really the same delivery point. As a developer, however, figuring out that the two are the same is a nightmare without some sort of unique identifier. You would break these addresses into their component parts – address, address2, city, state, and zip – and then compare each field for Address A versus Address B.

If you came across any field that didn’t match up perfectly, you would assume the addresses were different and handle them accordingly. At this point it is easy to see that this approach is inadequate and would lead to the misidentification of the Address A/B example above. And even if you tried to write a smarter program, you would quickly discover that this a complex problem involving fuzzy matching, distance algorithms, and various other string comparison algorithms. If only there was a unique identifier that could be assigned to an address…

This is where Service Objects’ DOTS Address Validation products shine. On top of the validation of each input, every deliverable address is matched up with its USPS barcode. With these barcodes in hand, it is easy to compare two addresses without having to worry about spelling or standardization differences.

 

Mailing address input:

Example of full address input  Example of abbreviated address input

 

Service Objects’ return with barcode:

Example of full address return from Service Objects' address validation tool with barcode highlighted  Example of abbreviated address return from Service Objects' address validation tool with barcode highlighted

Detecting duplicate mailing addresses using the address’ USPS barcode is a simple, elegant solution to a complicated problem. If you’d like to try any of our address services, sign up for a free trial key and get your first 500 transactions free.

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Address Autocomplete Tutorial: Video Transcript

Below is a full transcript of the video Tutorial: Address Suggestor using Google’s Places API & Service Objects’ Address Validation API.

Today we are going to be building out an address suggestion input form tool. I’ve already built this out, but I will take you from the beginning, and show you step-by-step what you must do to implement this. In this demonstration, I will be using Visual Studio. This is the type of form that will predict the address you are trying to type. Besides address suggestion, it is also referred to as type-ahead, or predictive typing, and a couple of other things as well. We will use the Google Places API in conjunction with our DOTS International Address Validation to the predictive addresses, and address validation.

First, why is a form like this helpful? Why would someone want this? The main reason is so that you can have clean, accurate data added to your systems up front, instead of trying to clean the data up later, which can be very costly to do. Another reason, is to help speed-up the data entry, and data accuracy on the form. The data entry could be coming from your prospects and clients on a form you have published on the web. Maybe someone is purchasing a subscription, or ordering a product or service. The data could be coming from call-center staff, who are on the phone entering the data for the same types of reasons. There are really many reasons that an address suggestion form can help.

Now that we have some idea as to why we would want to implement an address suggestion tool, let’s switch over to how it works. There are three main parts to this integration. The Google Places API, the DOTS Address Validation – International API, and the web form itself. Some people wonder why we just can’t stop at the Google Places API, and the form, and exclude the Address Validation portion. One of the paramount reasons that the Google Places API is not enough is because it does not give you mailing accuracy. The second reason is that it makes approximations as to where an address could be, versus if it exists or not.

On the first point, accuracy, Google does not verify, or suggest addresses that are mailable. They typically return an address’s physical location on a map, but not if it is a valid mailing address. The second point is the guessing that the Google Places API does. It approximates where an address could be based on other addresses on the street. 508 Kings Road, Brighton, UK, looks like a legitimate address, but when you look at it on Google Maps, then it does not look like the address is actually associated with anything. Those are the main reasons why the Google Places API isn’t enough. You need to bring DOTS Address Validation – International to save the day, and make the solution truly useful.

In this demonstration, we are going to get a Google API account, and get an API key for the Places API. After that, we are going to get our DOTS Address Validation – International key from Service Objects. Here is an important note, you can alter the validation sections we are going to go over, to meet your specific needs. Here, I’m demonstrating how this can be done with DOTS Address Validation – International.

However, if your need is just in the US, then you can, instead, get a key for DOTS Address Validation – US, DOTS Address Detective, DOTS Address Insights, or DOTS Address Validation Plus. If all you need is Canadian address validation, then DOTS Address Validation – Canada should suit perfectly as a substitution. Any of our services that take an address as an input pairs perfectly with the Google Places API. Taxes is another one, DOTS FastTax is a great example that can also help you out. I could go on, but I’ll leave it to you to explore.
Once we have those keys, we will move on to setting up the form, and getting some of the UI Boilerplate stuff taken care of. After that, we will jump into the needed methods from the Google Places API. Lastly, we will go over how to setup the call to DOTS Address Validation – International. Though most of the work is done in Java Script, we will show you how to create a proxy, so that our license key is not exposed to the outside world for anyone to use and take. I guess this will be a kind of a two-in-one demo.
Now we’re going to switch over to the Google API account on page, this is where you can get any API that Google offers. Here we’re interested in the Places API, and the Maps Java Script API. You can see we have those already selected here. Here’s a bunch of unselected APIs down here, unused. We have the ones that we want already selected and added. What we’re going to want to do … I’ll go back for a sec. We’re going to want to first create a project, and we’ve already done that. We’ve called it Service Objects Address Suggest, and we added the APIs to this.

On their dashboard here, you can see the transactions that have occurred against the API. You can have the resolution up to 30 days, down to an hour. You can download this kind of information to really keep track of how your APIs are being used. We’re going to want to click in, and get some deeper resolution on the Google Places API, because we’re going to need the key. We’re going to need to pull the key out. When we switch over to that page, we have the key here, I suggest copying that off, saving it for later. You can name it whatever you want.

Then there’s some restrictions, non-HTTP, IP address, Android, iOS. You can set some restrictions up here that’s going to help with securing your API key when people are looking at your Java Script. They can see your key, so locking it down to particular page, or an IP address, those things are going to help secure your key so other people don’t take it and use it. For now, while we’re in development mode, we’re going to use the “None” selection so we can just get through our development. But before we go to production, we’re going to want to lock this down a lot better. That’s pretty much it. Save your API key off for later, and then we’ll show you where that plugs in as we go through the steps.
Jumping back really quick, I did want to mention that you can use the Google API key to a degree for free, but you’re going to want to go through the usage, and billing plans that they have for the key itself. Depending on your volume, you’re going to want to watch out for this, because it will cost money per transaction. There’s a few links here that I found useful when trying to analyze which plan to go with. You’re going to have to read through this yourself. It seems to be changing a lot recently, so you’re going to want to keep up to date with these pages here, and make sure you’re always on the right plan.

This page here, the Places API usage and billing was good. The pricing that scales to fit your needs helped a lot for figuring things out, and also this Pricing and Plans page as well gave a lot of good information that can help figure out which plan you need to go with, and what you need to look out for. But there’s a lot here, and it can be kind of confusing. I would really take your time, and look through these pages. Make sure you’re setting yourself up for the right plan.

Now we’re going to switch over to getting the DOTS Address Validation – International API key from Service Objects. This is our homepage, a lot of useful links to the products, solutions, developer support, blogs. Blogs have a lot of information. All of us in the company really help provide information, and write a lot of information about our services and products here, and really what’s happening in the industry that can help you guys out. That’s really worth taking a look at.

But we’re going to jump right in, and we’re going to go get the API key. I’m going to select this section for Address & Geocoding. We also have Lead Validation, Phone, Demographics, Ecommerce, Email. We’re interested in addresses, so we’re going to go in this section, and go from there. Coming into here, we have Address Validation, Address Geocode, Address Insights, NCOA Live. Address Detective. A lot of this can be used with what we’re trying to get accomplished here, since they’re all address-type services. But, for our purposes right now, we’re going to jump in, and do the Address Validation – International.

We’re going to click on this link. It’s going to take us to the product page for that service. Down here, you can fill out your information, and get your trial key. It will get emailed to you. Once you fill out this page, you’ll also get redirected to the information that you need as well. If you don’t see it in your email, maybe you got … You’re going to want to check your Junk Mail, just in case, but if you don’t find it in either place, you could still get the information after you get redirected here, so you’ll be okay.

Otherwise, you’ve got this input form, where you can try one-off lookups. You have your own information that you can send through the API in these fields here, or you can select this drop-down, and select some pre-populated data, and run that through to see what you can get back. Then at the bottom, we just have some example request, and responses in JSON and XML, based on the information that’s in these fields when you submit, just to take a look at what the service will give you back.

We do have an API key already, so I’m not going to fill out this form, it’s just good to know where you can get the API key. We already have all the code worked out for this project. I’m going to, instead of recreating everything one-by-one, I’ll just go through everything that I’ve created, the order in which you’re going to want to create these things, and I’ll highlight the different interesting points along the way. You could then take the code, and really understand what’s going on here. It’s not all the complicated, you guys should be able to use this, and use any of our other services that could use address suggestion, and implement that here as well, it would be really easy.

Just follow along as I go through the steps. I’ll point out the different things that are really unique, or something that you’re going to watch out for. The first thing we’re going to do, or what we did, was create some files that we’re going to need. Let’s just start with the style sheet folder. This stuff, I’m really not going to over style sheets, this is just to make the page look the way we want it to look. You guys could take what we have here, or do whatever you want on your side with the styles and classes here. The only interesting part here really, is the first part, where we create, basically default all the browser settings that may be sitting in the background, just to make sure that you have a consistent style sheet all the way through the different browsers. That’s all this is. The rest of it is any specific things that you wanted to change on your own with the look and feel of the page.

All this code that we’re going to be going over is going to be included in a file that you can download, and adjust, make your own. You can adjust anything we have here to suit your needs, which is likely what you’re going to want to do. All this code is freely available, so please take it, and make it your own. The next thing we’re going to go over is the addresssuggestinternationalform.HTML, the HTML markup page. We’re going to start by looking at the first include here that we have. Here it is, the jQuery script. We do use jQuery in the background, and when we get to the Java Script section of this tutorial. Keep that in mind. If you’re not familiar with jQuery, it’s really simple, a lot of good documentation out there to learn that, you can be up and running in no time. Just take a look at their documentation and you should be good.

The second script we have here is the API Handlerinternational.js. This is the file we’re going to be writing later on, once we get to the JavaScript section. Don’t worry about that one for now. That’s followed by the div for the result modal. That’s the modal that’s going to popup after we click the Verify button so we can see the results from the validation. After that, we have our header area, with the logo, and the title of our application, in this case, it’s Address Suggestion Demo. Then we have the country input field, the drop-down select. Here I’ve hard-coded all the different countries that we want to deal with. You’re going to want to populate this list dynamically when you’re doing this for production, or for live, or for your company.

I did this real quick to hard-code it in, but it’s definitely going to be better as something that you can dynamically populate. Then we’re followed by all the different input fields we have, autocomplete, this is really our address one field, this is the field where people are going to be typing their address in. Google Places API is going to be keying off of this, and showing you suggested addresses based off of what you’re typing in here. That’s what autocomplete field here is, it’s our address line one. Then we have our address line two, which really is supposed to be containing our apartment, or our suite information, the city, the state, the zip, that should be all pretty straight forward. Then we have a div, which is really our verify button, our validate button here.

At the bottom we have script to the Google Places API. Here we have our API key. This is going to be hidden when you’re looking at it, but this is where you’re going to want drop your key that you’ve made note of earlier when you set up your Google Places API key, that’s going to drop right into here. That’s all you’re really going to need to know about this page. There really isn’t anything special, or unique about it, other than the styling, and that we link up to the autocomplete field here to do the autocomplete against the Google Places API.

I do want to go back to this section here about the Google Places API key. I really want to highlight that this is exposed when somebody runs the form that goes to the page that has your form. So when looks at the background code, they can see your API key. As I mentioned earlier, we have no restrictions on our API key right now, so someone could, if they had this, use it for their own purposes, start running up transactions on the key, and that could end up being very costly. When you do move to production, do not forget to go back and change the settings on the key in the Google API account. You’re going to want to make sure it’s locked down as best you can, so that you don’t get calls against your API key unwittingly.

Now we’re going to jump into the API Handlersinternational.js file. This is the JavaScript file that’s going to really contain a lot of the interesting things that happen in the background on the screen. We created a JavaScript folder for that, so we can keep things nice and organized. JavaScript probably needs an S, capital S there. Oh well, we’ll keep it the way it is for now, and there’s our file.

The first thing in the file are these three variables that we set up, the autocomplete object here, the variable here, it’s just going to contain the autocomplete object that’s sent back from the Google Places API. The component form, this is really just an array of the IDs in our forms. If we really want to reset any of those fields, we can easily, quickly loop through those resetting them. Then selected country, we have set to US, but that’ll be overwritten whenever we have a new country selected from that drop-down.

The first thing we’re going to do is jump down to this function at the bottom. This function executes once the page has completed loading. What it does is it adds an event to whenever someone changes the country in the drop-down for countries, to another country, then this is going to execute, and it’s going to reset all the fields in the form, which makes sense. You don’t want to have data for the wrong country displayed. Then it executes this initAutocomplete method.

I’m going to jump into this one right now, and just get it out of the way. We’ll do that next. What the initAutocomplete method does is really just initializes the Google Places API, and it returns the autocomplete object into autocomplete here based off of the autocomplete element that we pass in through the IP. We set the Google Places API to respond with geocode type, which is the address type data that we’re looking for. You could put other things in here, and it gives you varying degrees of data back. The geocode is exactly what we’re looking for, so that’s what we have here.

Then based off of the country selected, you can restrict the API to a country. You can have a list here of countries. I think of up to five, you’ll want to double-check the documentation for this field. But what we need it for right now is the one country that is selected from the drop-down. After that, we add a listener to the autocomplete object. It’s going to basically react to selecting one of the addresses, once a address is selected from one of the suggestions this fill in address method gets executed. Basically, what we do is we get the place object back from the autocomplete object, and then we reset the form.

After we reset the form, we parse the place object, basically parsing apart the places data that comes back in JSON, and we populate the input fields based off of the address that was selected. Varying pieces of data come back, so you have several cases here that you might want to deal with, or expand upon, or not use, depending on your purpose. This is just an example of what can be done. After that, we populate the fields with parsed address from the response.

The bottom of the page really just has … what’s left is the modal start method, that really just deals with opening and closing the modal page, the result page that comes up after verification. The next part to really talk about is the click event, when someone clicks the Verify button, the click event will fire, and then we’re going to pull in the variables from the screen, the fields, and we’re going to populate them to the local variables here. Once we have those variables populated, we’re going to then toss them into the call address validation method. This is where the magic on the Java Script side of things happen. But inside that code, we’re going to call our backend proxy, which will really do the call to the validation. We’ll go over that next.

This is the call address validation method. It takes in the parameters that we sent in earlier from below. Then it makes an AJAX call, and processes the request. It processes the request against a Handler that we create, and that’s basically a backend script that’s going to allow us to hide our license key from being exposed to the outside world. It’s going to make a call to the API from there. It’s going to do the address validation. It’s going to process the response, and send it back to the AJAX method here. It’s going to land in either the success, or error sections here.

If there’s a response, and we have data coming back, and everything looks good, then we’re going to go into the success method. If not, we’re going to land in the error. With the error, we’re going to call the Handler again, but this time, we’re going to call the ValidateAddressBackup method instead. The only difference here, is that we’re calling the backup endpoint. Everything between the two endpoints is really the same, it’s just a backup server with the same data. Everything’s going to be the same, except, this is basically how we’re going to be handling our failover so that we can always guarantee a response from the service.

From there, we can still have a success or a fail. If we have a fail, then there’s more likely than not, a network error. Based on your process, you might be able to return more detail then show network error that I have here, but it really just depends on what you’re doing. If we’re successful, then again, we’ll call the success method. The AJAX method is going to call the Handler.aspx methods, and they’re going to basically be a single web form with nothing really on the markup page, except the basic stuff that gets prepopulated there. Really doesn’t matter, we’re not going to be using this part of it. We’re more interested in the Handler.aspx.cs page, the code behind for that page.

This is the page that’s going to be doing the request to the API. It’s going to be pulling in our key information from the Web.config file. Then it’s going to call out to the web service, and come back with a response, and then send that back to the Java Script that was calling us originally. To create the service references, you can go to References, and click Add Service Reference. In here you can fill in the URL of the address to the WSDL, and then name it. To know what URL to use here, you could just go to our website, and look at our docs. The documentation page is docs.serviceobjects.com. If you go there, you’ll have a list of all the services that we have. You’ll click on Address Validation. Once you get to Address Validation, you could scroll down a little bit, and find the WSDL.

This is the link to the trial WSDL. Just copy and paste that here, hit Go, and it finds the service. Here you can rename it however you’d like. I’ve already done this for our live, and backup endpoints, so let me just go over those with you really quick. What we’ve done already is created the AVI, and AVI Backup endpoints here. Right now, they’re actually both configured to look at this trial.serviceobjects.com endpoint. This is the main endpoint, and the backup endpoint. That one also is set to the trial.serviceobjects.com endpoint.

When you start out, you’re going to have your trial key. You’re going to set it up this way. But when you move to production, you’re going to come in here, and you can update this to ws.serviceobjects.com for your main endpoint. And then you’ll switch over to the backup endpoint, and you’ll switch trial over to wsbackup.serviceobjects.com. That way, you could hit the live, and backup endpoints, with the service reference.

Here in the Web.config file, you’re going to see a couple of things. Here we have appSetting key that we set for a value that we can pull in for the timeout, 5000 milliseconds, five seconds, and our license key for our service that we got in the trial signup for Address Validation – International. The rest of this is generated code based off of the WSDL that you created with the service reference earlier. There’s really not much going on in here, but the key part is that you have a license key outside of the application. We can change it on the fly, but it’s also something that gets pulled in, and it’s not seen by anyone who’s running your code, who’s running the form, who can easily look at your JavaScript or your code and see the underlying methods, the underlying codes. You won’t be able to see our key exposed this way.

Back in the Handler.aspx.cs file, we have the two methods, the ValidateAddressLive, and ValidateAddressBackup. They’re pretty much going to be doing the exact same thing, so we’re just going to go over one of them. The main point is that one of them is going to have the live endpoint, and the other one’s going to have the backup endpoint. Basically that’s really the only difference. Typically I would actually have this set into just one method, and maybe have another parameter here, but I just wanted to spread this out so that you could see that there is a difference, and one’s calling a main endpoint, and one’s calling a backup endpoint.

As I mentioned earlier, the live and backup endpoints are both pointed to the trial endpoint at this point. That’s what we’re going to keep doing here during our trial purposes, but when we switch to live, we’re going to switch our endpoints to the ws endpoint. Then for the backup, we’ll switch it to ws backup. Here we go. We’re going to start with this method. To be able to call it from the Java Script code, what we want to do is decorate the method with the web method attribute here. After that, we’re going to create the response object, and the service client object. From there we’re going to pull in our license key for the web service, and for the Address Validation – International API. Along with that, we’re going to pull back the 5000 millisecond timeout, the five second timeout.

After that, we create our client, and add the settings to it. Finally, we’re ready to call the endpoint with our parameters, with address one, two, we set a couple of these fields to empty strings, because we don’t need them in our cases. But depending on what country you’re dealing with, you may be pulling back address line one, two, three, four, five. So that’s what this is a placeholder for, is for additional address lines. We’re keeping it simple, and we’re just dealing with address lines one, and two. We’re going to cover the majority of situations this way anyways.

But those are there just in case you want to handle things a little bit differently. Then we have the Locality, AdministrativeArea, PostalCode, Country, and OutputLanguage, followed by the license Key. Since this is all on the backend server end, instead of the client, you’re going to be hiding the license key from anyone seeing it, and that’ll really protect your key from anybody being able to use it for any other purposes, other than what you’re intending here.

After the call to the service is made, the response is populated. If we have a null response, then we’ll just return an empty string, otherwise, we’re going to de-serialize the response into a JSON string, and return the JSON. The same exact same thing’s going to be happening here when, and if we need to make a call to the backup endpoint.

Here we are back in the CallAddressValidation method, where we called a Handler from the AJAX. Now we know what happens when the Handler is called. It basically calls the Address Validation – International API, processes it, and returns a result back to us. From there, we do the success, or the fail, the success, or error. In this case, we’re going to start by going through the success, and then we’ll go back over the error, or the failover later.

Going into the success, to get there, we make sure that the response object is not empty, so it has something to process. From there we get the JSON value out. It’s really just a JSON string at that point. Then we pass that over to the success method. Moving down to the success method, there’s really nothing too complicated here. What we’re doing is looking to see that the response is not undefined, and the response.AddressInfo object is not undefined as well. If we have those two things, we’re going to come in here, and we’re going to start building some string HTML output.

We’re going to use the string HTML output later on to inject back into class a div that we have on the main page. Let me see if I can find that. I might have it highlighted here already for us. This div, we’re going to try to populate that with the string HTML that we have in the JavaScript here. Moving back up, we’re going to be populating the HTML output with string HTML that we’re going to build in this method. We’re going to build it based off of comparing the inputs that were on the form, to the outputs of the results that we got from the API. That’s why you might really be wondering at this point why are we pulling back in the values that we had earlier, that we already passed and used to the address validation method?

Well, we’re pulling them back in so that we have these values locally, and that we can compare them to the output results from the service. We can show to the user what’s different between what we entered, and what the API found. Moving down … well first we have the inputs, these are the outputs pulled from the response object. Now we start building our HTML. We’re really just making our comparisons here, and figuring out how we want to display the output. Let’s just move to one of these ones here. Here we check to see if the outputLocality is not undefined. If we have something then, if it’s not equal to the input, then we’re going to put a “Bold” clasp, put “Bold” around the result, so that we can point out, or make it easy for the client to see, what is different, so they quickly make changes on their end, once they see the result.

We do that comparison for several of these fields. Based on what you’re doing, you’re going to want to probably do this section a lot different. This is just mainly a demonstration so you can see how we’re getting the elements out of the JSON, and how we’re comparing them to the inputs. You’ll have likely a different scenario, but this is how you could use it. As we move down here, the HTML is built. Then we inject it into the div. Back at the top of the success method, we demonstrated what happened if the response was not undefined, and the AddressInfo object was not undefined. Well, what happens if they are undefined?

Let’s go down and see what happens there. Well first we check to see if there is a response object that actually is defined, but has an error object that’s defined as well, and in particular, an error object with a TypeCode three. Well, if response is still undefined, we’re going to drop down here, and we’re just going to show the error. Otherwise, if we have the response code three, then we’re going to want to do a failover call. We’re only going to want do it once. We govern that with this count object that we increment once we get in here. That’ll force this to only ever happen once. Then we’ll call the failover method.

If we’ve already done it before, then we’re going to just drop down, and do the error response. One key thing that I want to point out here is that, even though we’ve made it into the success method, doesn’t mean we’re on our way to success guaranteed. There could be other problems along the way, like I just demonstrated with the else here, and what could have happened with the response. Success needs to be taken with a grain of salt. You might want to name it a little differently, so it’s a little more clear, but it’s not 100% success.

Now that we’ve gone over the success method popping out of the AJAX call here, well we should probably go over the error method when AJAX comes back with an error. When there’s an error, we’re just going to simply try our post to the other method, the ValidateAddressBackup method on the Handler. From there, it’s really, like I said earlier, going to do the exact same thing as the live, but call the backup endpoint, and run through the same steps. In here, again, we can have a success, or a fail, or a success and an error. If we get a success on the backup endpoint, then we’ll follow what we just went through with the success method, otherwise we’re going to show, at this point, it’s likely some sort of network error. We might, again, have some other information that you can add to this. You’ll do whatever you want there. We’re just showing a network error for now.

Earlier, as we went through the success method, and we realized that there’s an option when the address info or the response is undefined, we have this else here at the bottom. Well, I had mentioned the failover method here. The failover method, just to go into that briefly, it really mimics the same thing that the error did in the AJAX call, it just basically makes a second call to the other endpoint, to the backup endpoint, just in case there was a problem. It’s doing the exact same thing as earlier. You’ll see the exact same code here as you did there. You could pull this out into a method, and make sure that you only call this thing once since repeated, but here it is a demonstration just so it’s easy to see that you can do it this way.

Besides that, I think we’re pretty much wrapping up going over this code. There really isn’t much else on this file that’s complicated. Here’s a couple of methods that use jQuery to remove and add classes based on what comes back from the service, and what you want to display to the screen. It’s just basically checking in off of the classes, and then removing, or adding classes based off of the results. There’s nothing too big there.

The other important one here is this geolocate. This really helps with the auto-complete, where it pretty much does a bias to where … to a location. In this case, we have it set to a lat/long. What it does, is it looks for your current location. It gets the lat/long, and draws a radius around that location. It biases the results to that circle. When the form is created, if we look down here at the bottom, you’ll see that … where is it? Oh, here it is. When the field is focused on, we set the geolocate method. From there, that’s how we create the bias.

There you have it. That’s pretty much it. What we have left to do now is just give this a run, and see what we built. Everything loaded up properly, as expected. We have our drop-down menu with the countries. Let’s try our Service Objects address. 27 East … There it is, 27 East Cota Street. That really helps adding those kinds of addresses real quick. Let’s just do any address, how about … and this is obviously biased from where I’m located. I’m located in Santa Barbara.

Even though I have the country selected to United States, which is correct, it’s not picking any random place in the United States to start guessing. It’s basically picking where I’m sitting. That’s going to be an important detail for a lot of people in call-centers that are working locally, or if you’re in a call-center, and you change locations, you might want to give people an option to change their bias to a particular area, so they get results that come up quicker for the area that they’re located in.

Let’s pick this address here. Populates the fields here. Then we can click Validate. Then what comes back is the address that was … or that came back from the service, and the address that was entered. We can see that East was changed, Street was changed, and we have the plus-four added to the results. We still have some other details, but you know the service, it comes back with a lot of different details. I just gave you a rough, short look at what you can do. If you look at the API in the documentation page that I showed you earlier, there’s a lot of information there that will allow you to do many different things with the service. There’s a lot of different fields that come back that are useful.

In this case, someone could click on one of these, and either proceed with one of these addresses, or they can close, or try a different address, but that’s basically how the address suggestion application works. Thank you.

 

Help Santa Check It Twice: A Holiday Addressing Gift for You!

The holidays are fast approaching. Soon you’ll be celebrating the season and sending holiday gift baskets and cards to people you have enjoyed working with this year. So here at Service Objects, we’ve teamed up with none other than Santa Claus himself, with a great gift for you! A free web-based portal where Santa will help you verify addresses online, powered by our Address Validation capabilities.

It’s ready to use right now.

If you have never used online address validation before – or even if you have, and want a quick, fun way to check a few addresses – Santa is here to help. Take a look:

Use this form to give him a delivery address – anywhere in the world where reindeer fly, business or personal – and then he and his helpers will be right back with one of the following results:

Finally, a little bit of fine print. You will be allowed to look up a maximum of 10 addresses using this tool. This screen will allow you to look up one address at a time, including business names where needed, but bear in mind that we offer convenient API and list-processing versions of these tools as well. If you need to look up more addresses, no worries – a convenient link will lead you to learn more about our full-feature capabilities, as well as additional information about our phone and email validation capabilities.

We’re hoping that once you get a taste of some holiday address verification – and find out how simple it is to implement for your business – you’ll want to have these capabilities for yourself, all year round. (In fact, Santa confided to us that he and Mrs. Claus will keep using Service Objects tools to improve his own delivery accuracy every Christmas from here, because sometimes even reindeer are no match for automated shipping.) Want to learn more? Talk to our friendly technical experts, and we’ll make it a happy holiday season for you too!

Better Sales Tax Matches with New FastTax Improvements

Service Objects has been returning location-based tax rates in the DOTS FastTax API since 2001. Back then, we identified sales tax rates using only zip code. Since zip codes could cross multiple city and county borders, we were returning the rate most likely to be accurate based on preferred city and county. That evolved to returning multiple results based on a zip code, with each result containing a unique city, county and state. This was more accurate, but still involved a level of human intervention as multiple rates could be returned.

The service improved further as Service Objects developed its DOTS Address Validation services, which allowed us to get even more precise in determining the right area for the tax rates. Users could now submit a full address to the API and in most cases get a single accurate result, pinpointing the result to a location that had a clear tax rate.

However, if a given address was bad – or maybe even good but too messy to validate – it would not return a result and users would need to failover to the zip code level operations. Rural addresses which fall outside of city boundaries could wreak havoc if the proper location is not identified.

Last year, Service Objects introduced a new operation, GetBestMatch, to solve these challenges.

GetBestMatch in FastTax is designed to find the best rate possible and return a clean result. It uses the latest algorithms from Address Validation – US to clean and validate the toughest addresses and failing that, validates that the other data points are valid in order to return a zip level rate.

The service can also return an address level rate through the analysis of the nearby area, even if the address is bad. If an area can be proven to have a consistent rate for a zip, city or county and we know the address would be within one of those areas with 100% certainty, it can be deduced that since any address within that area has the same rate, the rate we return would be accurate at the address level. This extra analysis means that GetBestMatch can more precisely return accurate rates more often than its predecessor operations.

Additional returns offer more insight

To add even more accuracy to the service, GetBestMatch also does boundary analysis to ensure the most accurate location is used in the tax calculations. The main piece of information returned to users here is the “IsUnincorporated” note. IsUnincorporated helps users identify locations that might be considered part of the city but actually are not. This example shows what that might look like:

823 Holiday Dam Rd, Honea Path, SC, 29654

This is a partial return of the operation including the Note IsUnincorporated. This notifies the user that the CityRate, if it exists, should not be used in the final TaxRate. We have decided not to modify the original found result (TaxRate and CityRate) but return the IsUnincorporated result so that the user can handle it however they wish. In an upcoming release we will be adding a new return “UnincorporatedTaxRate” to simplify all of this.

The improved rates of return for address level checks also come with a few new challenges. Since we can return accurate rates even if the address is extremely messy, there might be times when we do not always have an accurate city or county to return. We know the rate is accurate but not necessarily exactly where the location is located. For example:

11900 Hunting, Pickerington, OH, 34147

This is a bad address. However, through extra validation we know the other parts of the address are good. We know the zip code and county are good, but it’s possible for multiple cities to fall within these boundaries. Analysis shows the rates would be the same regardless so while we are not able to accurately tell what city is attached to the address, we still know every address in the potential area would have the same rate, so we can confidently say the rate would be good for the address. Another example shows an even more obvious reason why we might not have a value:

8538 Smith Street, Wales, MI, 48027

Again, the address is bad, but this one is easy. Michigan only has a state rate, which means that all addresses within Michigan will have the same state rate. The analysis of city, county and zip shows a consistent city and zip, but the county could be multiple results. So, we can display city and zip code but not county. FastTax is not intended to be an address validation service, but a helpful tip is to look at the Zip return. If the Zip is 5 digits, it meant something happened during validation and the address did not pass inspection.

The latest GetBestMatch updates also added support for the US Territories (Guam, Micronesia, American Samoa etc.) Here is an abbreviated example of an address in Guam:

Bldg 30 Farenholt, Tutahan, 96910

In addition, we already supported military locations within the United States, but now there is support for all of the remote bases around the world as well. An abbreviated example of that can be seen here:

Unit 28103, USAG Graf Chaplain, APO, AE, 09002

Since all of these locations, even the ones abroad, had US assigned postal codes; making sure we could return results was of utmost importance. We now have a complete list of results covering all areas associated with the United States.

Finally, the latest operation also now supports JSON responses as one of our last services to be converted. This operation was also created to be more dynamic, information components outputs allow us to add new results on the fly without breaking any client integrations, like those using SOAP. Fields such as CountyFIPs have already been added, and the new field UnincorporatedTaxRate will also be added here. These fields allow us to work with our clients to add custom logic or results that might not otherwise be available.

Is there a custom logic you’d like to see in FastTax? Reach out and let us know, or get your free trial key and start testing today.

Preventing Fraud Associated with the Freight Forwarding Industry

Service Objects is committed to fighting fraud and bad data wherever we see it. Through our APIs, best practices when handling sensitive data, or through recommendations on clients’ business logic, we are here to help enhance data quality and eliminate fraud.

A good example of the latter is educating our customers about how to avoid fraud losses. One way is by paying closer attention to orders using freight forwarders – which are legitimate services that are often misused by fraudsters. At the end of this post, you will find a free resource to make this easier: an extensive list of shipping and freight forwarders that you can use to help fight fraud when fulfilling orders.

What is a freight forwarder?

Freight and shipping forwarders arrange for the exporting and importing of goods. These companies often specialize in storage and shipping of goods on behalf of customers. In short, they help arrange for goods to get from point A to point B.

Are all freight forwarders associated with fraud?

Absolutely not! There are many reputable freight forwarders that do great work in coordinating the shipping of goods between consumers and sellers. When fraud is perpetrated, they are co-victims along with the seller. That being said, freight forwarders are often a go-to-tool for duping vendors and sellers into footing the bill for fraudulent purchases.

The typical process may go as follows:

  • A customer will place a large order, and ask that the product(s) be shipped through a specific freight forwarder.
  • The customer will offer to reimburse the seller for shipping through the freight forwarder – and normally wants the order shipped quickly, before the scam is discovered. (Money is no object for orders like these, because they are usually being placed with stolen or compromised payment methods.)
  • Often the fraudster will have set up a legitimate-looking website ahead of time to give the appearance of a legitimate and trustworthy business.
  • After the seller ships the goods and they are picked up by the fraudster, the payment for the shipping fee and the products itself usually falls through, leaving the seller to foot the bill for both the freight forwarder’s services and inventory loss.

How do I avoid fraud where freight forwarders are used?

Great question! One of the best and easiest ways to help mitigate this type of fraud as a seller of goods is to pay extra attention to orders using a freight forwarding company’s address. For PO’s like these, it would be smart to build in business logic for some extra vetting to ensure the purchaser’s legitimacy and help prevent fraud from the start.

That is why we are providing a list of all the freight forwarders we could find. We recommend using this list to detect matches between an order’s shipping address and a freight forwarder’s. To do this, run an order’s shipping address through our DOTS Address Validation – US service and use the BarcodeDigits field as a unique identifier for an address. If the BarcodeDigits address matches a freight forwarder’s address, the order should be flagged for some additional vetting to verify its authenticity.

Service Objects is committed to helping our clients avoid fraud however we can, and this list and the business logic is just one strategy that can make a real difference. If you need help setting up our address validation tools, please feel free to contact us, we are always happy to help.

Why Google Maps Isn’t Perfect

Google Maps is an amazing service. Much of the civilized world has now been mapped through its data sources, ranging from satellite data to its ubiquitous camera-mounted vehicles. The result is a tool that allows you to find a location, link to local businesses, or virtually drive anywhere from downtown Paris to rural Mexico.

However, if you use Google Maps to validate addresses in a business, it is a little like trying to find a lifelong mate for your grandmother on Tinder: it is possible, but with a tool that wasn’t necessarily designed for that purpose. So let’s look at the differences between this service versus professional address validation and geolocation tools.

Google Maps versus address validation

Let’s start with the most important difference: Google Maps is very complete, but sometimes wrong. How wrong? Mistakes can range from bad directions, wrong street names, and bad addresses to wrong country borders, omitting large cities and everything in between. Once, in a mistake Google acknowledged, a Texas construction firm even demolished the wrong house when Google Maps sent them there.

Another difference is where the data comes from in the first place. Google Maps uses a variety of sources including administrative boundaries, parcels, topographic features, points of interest, trails, road features, and address points or ranges. It also accepts data from “authoritative” organizations as well as individuals, subject to a vetting process. As a result, however, it is possible for mistakes to be introduced and/or made when aggregating or consolidating the data.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, Google does not know exactly where every address is. When it does not have rooftop level data to pinpoint the address it will estimate where an address is using techniques such as address interpolation. Sometimes an address may also be wrong because an individual claimed the location and entered the information incorrectly, or changes such as new municipal or postcode boundaries were not updated.

What the pros do

By comparison, professional address validation and geolocation tools don’t guess at results, because their focus is more on accuracy. Tools such as Service Objects’ DOTS Address Validation and Address Geocode capabilities are focused on delivering an accurate and precise response, versus settling for “close enough.”

To get specific, if our address validation tool cannot correct and validate that an address is real, we will fail it and will not guess. By comparison, Google may just use the closest approximation, which can lead to issues. Similar rules apply to geocoding latitude and longitude coordinates from address data: where necessary, Service Objects will move down a gradient of accuracy/precision, but will still often be closer to the correct coordinates than Google.

Another key difference lies in our data sources. For example, DOTS Address Validation uses continually updated USPS, Canada Post and international data in combination with proprietary databases, to create near-perfect match accuracy. Likewise, for Address Geocoding addresses and coordinates are validated against our master database, the US Census Bureau, TIGER®/Line file, USPS® ZIP+4 tables, and other proprietary databases, ultimately yielding a 99.8% match rate accuracy when translating an address to its latitude and longitude coordinates.

Use the right tool

We like Google Maps. Without it we wouldn’t be able to easily visit major world cities online, find a good sushi bar near our hotel, or get directions to visit Aunt Mildred. But when you need professional-grade accuracy in address and location data for your business, be sure to use the right tools. Need more specifics? Contact us for a no-pressure consultation, and our team will be happy to explore your specific needs.

More Than an Address: What is a Delivery Point?

Most people think that they mail or ship things to addresses – and they would be wrong. And the reasons for this might be very important to your bottom line.

First, let’s look at one actual address here in our native Santa Barbara, California: 1540 N. Ontare Road.

 

This address is quite real. (In fact, its property is currently for sale on Realtor.com.) But we wouldn’t recommend shipping a package there – at least not yet – because at the moment it is a vacant 20-acre lot.

Now, let’s look at another address: 350 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY:

 

This is also a valid address: it is the famous Empire State Building, one of the tallest buildings in the United States. We wouldn’t recommend using this address by itself for shipping a package either, because without more detail such as a suite number, there is no way of knowing which of its more than 1000 businesses serves as the destination. (In fact, the address itself isn’t even that important here: this building is large enough to have its own ZIP code, 10118.)

Understanding delivery points

These are both examples of the differences between an address and a delivery point. Addresses simply describe the location of a piece of geography, while delivery points are the lifeblood of physical shipments: they are approved unique locations served by delivery services such as the U.S. Postal Service. Many people think they are shipping to addresses, but they are actually shipping to delivery points.

This underscores the importance of delivery point validation, whether you are doing a direct mail marketing campaign or shipping products to customers. There are several possible points of failure where a delivery point may be invalid or undeliverable:

  • The physical address may be incorrect
  • The physical address may be correct, but undeliverable (such as our vacant lot example above)
  • The physical address alone may be insufficient, such as a multi-tenant building
  • Additional delivery point information may be incorrect or invalid: for example, a fourth-floor suite in a three-story building, or a nonexistent suite number
  • The delivery point information may be completely correct, but correspond to the wrong recipient

So from here, your new mantra should be: is it deliverable?

Address validation: the key to accurate delivery points

This is where our flagship address validation tools come in. Available for US, Canadian and international markets, these services provide real-time verification of deliverability – including flagging of vacancy, returned mail, and general delivery addresses – to ensure accurate contact data at the time of data entry or use.

These tools instantly verify, correct and append delivery addresses, using APIs that integrate with your CRM or marketing automation platforms, cloud connectors, or convenient batch services for cleaning your databases without the need for programming. Whichever approach you use, you will leverage our vast infrastructure of up-to-the-minute data from the USPS, Canada Post and other sources, along with sophisticated and accurate address verification capabilities.

Our DOTS Address Validation – US 3 service, for example, provides near-perfect match accuracy with updates mirroring the USPS, and sub-second response times that allow you to validate live customer input in real time. And our industry-leading GetBestMatches operation combines Delivery Point Validation (DPV) to verify an address is deliverable, Residential Delivery Indicator (RDI) to identify residential or business, and SuiteLink (SLK) to add secondary suite information for businesses, all with a single API call to our USPS CASS Certified™ engine.

Want to learn more about engineering delivery point validation into your operations? Contact us for friendly, knowledgeable answers from our experienced team of data quality professionals.

Enhance Customer Profiles With DOTS Address Insight – US

Service Objects is pleased to welcome a new service to our lineup, DOTS Address Insight – US.  Built on the core of our USPS CASS Certified DOTS Address Validation – US and DOTS Address Geocode – US services, Address Insight – US blends address and geocode data with supplemental demographic data. Our proprietary datasets of hard to get addresses (like rural or unincorporated areas) enhance United States Postal Service data and provide additional insights about locations that no single service could handle. Address Insight – US uses this data to strengthen your customer profile with just one call.

Address Insight – US Employs Powerful Data from Service Objects’ Strongest Services

Address Validation – US provides robust address validation, correction, and standardization for the vast majority of valid US addresses. Impressive fuzzy matching capabilities and logic are used for dealing with complex address structures. Delivery point validation, residential/business indicators, and suite link to append suite information are all included. In addition, Address Validation – US returns important informational pieces like corrections that were made to the address or identifying special cases such as location vacancy or returning mail.

Address Geocode – US combines multiple datasets to handle complex cases and messy addresses and return the most comprehensive set of Latitude and Longitude coordinates possible. Key informational pieces including State FIPS, County FIPS, Census Tract, and Census Block are also returned. Mapping calculations are performed to identify locations that are unincorporated, or outside of the bounds of a city. These calculations also identify the most accurate name of the location in PlaceName, which could be the name of an area within a larger city – where the larger city would normally be returned.

Three-in-one Service Improves Results and Location Scoring

In addition to the vast datasets found in Address Validation – US and Address Geocode – US, Address Insight – US incorporates additional compiled datasets that improve results and enhances location accuracy scoring. The ability to return information about challenging or hard to find addresses is a critical feature of Address Insight – US. The service returns several notes that help identify information about the address, such as:

  • AddressFoundByUSPS indicates that our Address Validation service successfully identified the location. This is the best possible result as it indicates a solid chance of mail delivery and more informational datapoints are available.
  • AddressFoundInSupplementalData indicates that the address information was found in one of the supplemental data sets. Its not as high quality as the USPS data and not as many additional data points are available, however there is a high likelihood the location is a good address.
  • AddressIsGeneralDelivery indicates that we could not find any specific information on the address, but the area is known and the street is good. The location is likely part of a General Delivery area and still has a strong likelihood of being valid.

Address Insight – US returns a score from 0-100 that approximates the likelihood that the location is a good one.

Additionally, Address Insight – US returns many other useful pieces of demographic and informational data, which can help businesses increase revenue through targeted marketing and satisfy regulatory requirements for compliance in different industries. Sample demographic returns include:

  • ZipHouseholdValue tells the average value of houses in the area.
  • ZipPersonsPerHousehold tells the size of households in the area.
  • HouseholdIncome returns give the average house hold incomes for different levels of the area.
  • Other informational returns include area codes associated with the area, time zone, MSA, CBSA, DMA and more.

New Interface Designed for Future Enhancements

One of the best new features available in Address Insight – US is that it is built upon a new dynamic interface that allows us to safely add in new data fields. We will never change a result that already exists, however, this interface allows us the ability to continually improve the service and add in new fields as they become available. This feature will allow Service Objects to potentially work with clients on custom solutions and in the future, we may even be able to build add-ons to the service that may return entirely new datasets.

Address Insight – US provides address validation, geocoding, and demographic data – all with a single call. We support REST, SOAP, GET, and POST requests over HTTPS outputting in XML and JSON formats. Get started with your free trial key for Address Insight – US or visit the developer guide to learn more.

Saving More of Your Labor this Labor Day

Labor Day is much more than the traditional end of summer in America: it pays tribute to the efforts of working people. It dates back well over a century, with one labor leader in the 1800s describing it as a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” And we aren’t forgetting our friends in Europe and elsewhere, who celebrate workers as well with holidays such as May Day.

As we celebrate work and the labor movement – and enjoy a long holiday weekend – we wanted to take a look at some of the ways that we help you save labor, as you try to carve grandeur from your organization’s data. Here are some of the more important ones:

Validation and more. Let’s start with the big one. For nearly two decades, the main purpose of our existence has been to take the human effort out of cleaning, validating, appending, and rating the quality of your contact and lead data. Whether your needs involve marketing, customer service, compliance or fraud prevention, these tools save labor in two ways: first, by saving you and your organization from re-inventing the wheel or doing manual verification, and second, by saving you from the substantial human costs of bad data.

Ease of integration. What is the single worst data quality solution? The one that gets implemented badly, or not at all. One of the biggest things our customers praise us for is how easy it is to implement our tools, to work almost invisibly in their environment. We offer everything from API integration and web hooks with common platforms, all the way to programming-free batch interfaces for smaller or simpler environments – backed by clear documentation, free trial licenses and expert support.

Speed and reliability. As one customer put it, “milliseconds matter” – particularly in real-time applications where, for example, you are validating customer contact data as they are in the process of entering it. Our APIs are built for speed and reliability, with a longstanding 99.999% uptime and multiple failover servers, as well as sub-second response times for many services – so you don’t waste time tearing your hair out or troubleshooting responsiveness issues.

Better analytics. Your contact data is a business asset – put it to work as a tool to gain business insight for faster, more informed decision-making and market targeting. You can target leads by demographics or geocoding, enhance your leads with missing phone or contact information, or leverage your customer base for better decision support, among many other applications.

Customer support. We recently interviewed a major longtime customer about using our products, and when we asked them about support they gave us the highest compliment of all: “We never need to call you!” But those who do call know that our best-in-class support, staffed by caring, knowledgeable experts who are available 24/7/365, represents a large savings of time and effort for our clients.

We hope you enjoy this Labor Day holiday. And when you get back, contact one of our product experts for a friendly, pressure-free discussion about how we can create less labor for you and your organization!

 

Compliance and Address Insight

The golden rule of marketing has always been, “know your customer.” In today’s regulatory environment, however, it might be more accurate to say, “know your customer – or else!” Nowadays customer data – particularly in areas such as geocoding and demographic data – are often central to maintaining compliance with a wide range of regulations, in the financial world and elsewhere.

In response to this, Service Objects has just released a powerful new capability to help automate the gathering and analysis of geolocated consumer data: Address Insight – US. It provides address standardization, address geocoding and demographic information together in one real-time service, and is designed to serve a wide range of applications ranging from compliance to targeted marketing.

Examples of financial compliance issues

Let’s look at some of the areas where address insight can benefit your compliance efforts:

  • The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requires federally insured lending institutions to provide lending opportunities to low-to-moderate income communities – and in particular, prove that they are not “redlining” specific neighborhoods and denying them credit. One of the key performance criteria for evaluating CRA compliance is your geographic distribution of loans.
  • The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), enacted by Congress in 1975, requires lenders to publicly disclose data regarding their mortgage lending activities. While this is a disclosure law with no implied quotas, HMDA also serves to ensure that lenders do not contribute to the decline of specific geographic areas by failing to provide adequate mortgage financing.
  • For consumer lending in general, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) has a set of Fair Lending Examination Procedures used to audit lenders for evidence of lending discrimination. These reviews include an analysis of geographic patterns in lending to seek evidence of “redlining” or neighborhood-based discrimination.
  • Conversely, certain real estate transactions may be subject to Geographic Targeting Orders (GTO), which are enhanced identification and record-keeping requirements imposed by the Federal Financial Crimes Enforcement Network for expensive real estate transactions in areas that are prone to money laundering activities. For example, as of 2017 transactions of $3 million or more in Manhattan or $1 million or more in parts of Florida were subject to GTOs, along with numerous other metropolitan areas.

A solution for compliance and beyond

Of course, there are numerous applications beyond compliance for geocoded address insight. For example, academic researchers can use address insight to study specific neighborhoods – for example, the University of Chicago divides the city of Chicago into 75 defined communities that correlate with tract information, and can be used as study variables. And of course, the combination of location insight and demographic data can be a very powerful tool for market targeting.

For compliance applications, Service Objects’ Address Insight – US provides data such as MSA code, state code, county code (FIPS), and tract number for addresses for FFIEC compliance. It also includes all the benefits of Service Objects’ flagship address validation and standardization capabilities, as well as appended demographic information such as household values and incomes by ZIP code.

As with all Service Objects services, Address Insight – US is available through APIs that can be interfaced directly to most contact data automation platforms, as well as convenient batch list processing for smaller applications or specific datasets. Contact us for a free 500-transaction trial key, and see what this new tool can do for you!

Understanding Addresses in Australia

The country of Australia, officially known as the Commonwealth of Australia, consists of six states and two territories. There are over 13 million known deliverable addresses in Australia. This article breaks down the standard format used for Australian addresses, and what to check for in each field of these addresses.

Postal Services

Mail in Australia is handled by Australia Post, formally known as the Australian Postal Corporation. Australia Post is a government-owned corporation that was founded in 1809.

International Country Code

First, let’s look at how Australia defines its country codes, as well as its states and territories. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published the ISO 3166 standard, officially known as Codes for the representation of names of countries and their subdivisions.

The ISO 3166 standard consists of three parts:

Part
ISODescription
1
ISO 3166-1Country Codes – defines codes for the names of countries, dependent territories, and special areas of geographical interest.
2
ISO 3166-2Country subdivision code – defines codes for the names of primary subdivisions of a country, such as a state or a province.
3ISO 3166-3Code for formerly used names of countries – defines codes for country names that have been removed from ISO 3166-1.

ISO 3166-1, which defines country codes, contains three sets of country codes:
ISO Country CodesDescription
ISO 3166-1 alpha-2:Defines a country as a two-letter country code, commonly referred to as the ISO, ISO2, or ISO-2.
ISO 3166-1 alpha-3:Defines a country as a three-letter country code, commonly referred to as ISO3, or ISO-3.
ISO 3166-1 numericDefines a country as a three-digit country code.

ISO 3166-1 Country Codes – Australia

Country Code TypeCountry Code
ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 codeAU
ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 codeAUS
ISO 3166-1 numeric code36

ISO 3166-2 Codes

The ISO currently lists codes for Australia’s six states and two of its territories.

ISO 3166-2 codeSubdivision NameSubdivision category
AU-NSWNew South WalesState
AU-QLDQueenslandState
AU-SASouth AustraliaState
AU-TASTasmaniaState
AU-VICVictoriaState
AU-WAWestern AustraliaState
AU-ACTAustralian Capital TerritoryTerritory
AU-NTNorthern TerritoryTerritory

Address Format

Now, let’s look at how delivery addresses are constructed. The address format for deliverable mail in Australia is defined by Australia Post, where an address is made up of several components.

PositionAddress ComponentDescriptionFormatRequirementExample
First lineRecipientThe name of the person, company or organization.Use common abbreviations in titles and distinctions. Also,avoid unnecessary punctuation.RequiredIssac Nichols
Second line and third line if necessaryReference DetailsWhen necessary, the name of the person’s job/position and/orthe name of the company, organization or department.OptionalPostmaster Australia Post
Second to last lineThoroughfareThe street address, Box number or Locked Bag number. If athoroughfare is not available, then include thebuilding/complex name in its place. Include building subunitand floor/level when necessary.Use common abbreviations where applicable. Also, no punctuationallowed.Required111 Bourke St
Last line, first componentLocality or Delivery officeThe full name of the city, suburb, placename or Post Office-Delivery Centre (DC) or a Business Centre (BC). Note that thedelivery locality may not necessarily be the same as thegeographic locality.Must be in UPPER CASE. Also, no punctuation allowed.RequiredMELBOURNE
Last line, second componentState or TerritoryThe abbreviated format of the state or territory.The abbreviation of the state or territory and not the fullname. Also, no punctuation allowed.RequiredVIC
Last line, third componentPostcodeA four-digit numeric code used to identify the postal deliveryarea.Do not omit leading zeros. Also, no punctuation allowed.Required300

States

NameAbbreviationPostcode Ranges
New South WalesNSW1000—1999 *
2000—2599
2619—2899
2921—2999
QueenslandQLD4000—4999
9000—9999 *
South AustraliaSA5000—5799
5800—5999 *
TasmaniaTAS7000—7799
7800—7999 *
VictoriaVIC3000—3999
8000—8999 *
Western AustraliaWA6000—6797
6800—6999 *
* Reserved for PO Boxes and Large Volume Receivers (LVR)

Territories

NameAbbreviationPostcode Ranges
Australian Capital TerritoryACT0200—0299*
2600—2618
2900—2920
Northern TerritoryNT0800—0899
0900—0999*
* Reserved for PO Boxes and Large Volume Receivers (LVR)

External Territories

Australia has three inhabited external territories. They do not use their own name and abbreviation in Australia Post’s postcode system and are instead assigned the name of another state.

NameAbbreviationPostcode
Norfolk IslandNSW2899
Christmas IslandWA6798
Cocos (keeling) IslandWA6799

Postcodes

Australian postcodes are four-digit codes that are used to help sort and route mail. The first two digits often represent which state or territory the postcode belongs too, with the exception of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) which is embedded in New South Wales (NSW).

The postcode is the third and final address component in the last address line, following the Locality and State/Territory components. However, if the envelope being used includes four postcode squares in the bottom right corner then Australia Post prefers that you fill those boxes in with the postcode instead.

Postcode vs Geography

Some postcodes may cover two or more states or territories. For example, the postcode 0872 is currently used to cover 87 localities located in West Australia (WA), South Australia (SA) and Northern Territory (NT). Australia Post sometimes finds it easier to send mail through a post office located in one state/territory for an address geographically located in another state/territory. So, it is not uncommon to find an address with a mailing address that does not match its physical address or geographic location.

Postcodes do not always correspond to a geographic location. Many postcodes are reserved for post office (PO) boxes and some are reserved for large organizations. Some large companies, government agencies, and organizations are classified as Large Volume Receivers (LVR) and will have their own unique postcode. For example, the postcode 0200 corresponds to the Australian National University

Address Validation International: Overcoming Cultural Idiosyncrasies and Postal Format Variables

The above content provides a general overview of Australia and the address format specified by Australia Post. Overall, there are more than 18 different address components, elements and fragments to consider when working with Australian addresses. There are also monthly data updates published by Australia Post to stay on top of.

As with most countries, Service Objects’ Address Validation International (AVI) is capable of processing and validating deliverable addresses in Australia. By understanding this country’s very structured address format, including specific idiosyncrasies such as required upper-case municipality addresses, state and territory abbreviations, and four-digit postal codes, you can automate much of the process of ensuring your contact data quality for this important international market.

Contact Country Detection: How It Works

In a previous blog, we discussed the benefits of using DOTS Address Detective – International to detect a contact’s country. This blog will discuss some of the challenges surrounding country detection in more detail, as well as provide an overview on how we determine the best country from your data.

Contact components

When trying to append a country to a contact, we have four main components to examine.

  1. Address
  2. Phone
  3. IP Address
  4. Email

Each component must be carefully evaluated on its own merit before it can be used to help identify a country for the contact.

Address component

The Address component may represent a contact’s physical location or mailable address. It is the most diverse and complex of all the components. International addresses do not follow a singular format, language or standard. Each country has its own set of rules and standards, which can also make the storage of international addresses problematic for US-centric CRMs.

This also means that is common for a contact’s address to be incorrect and/or incomplete. Additionally, some businesses are not always interested in capturing a mailable address and only wish to store a contact’s region. Depending on who is entering the contact address and how it is being stored, it would not be unreasonable to expect this data to be flawed in more ways than one.

Knowing the country is critical to processing most addresses. It determines the address format, which is needed to identify individual address elements, which in turn are needed to identify a locality, postal code or region. With that said, our sophisticated data-driven algorithms are not dependent on completeness and allow for a wide variety of formats and languages.

If you think you can identify a country’s address, take our fun, short Country Quiz.

Similar to the DOTS Address Validation International service, the address component consists of Address Lines 1-8, Locality, Admin Area and Postal Code. The address can be entered entirely in lines 1-8 or in combination with the Locality, Admin Area and Postal Code fields. Address line order does not matter, and common mistakes like putting an address value into the wrong address field are detected and handled.

Not all countries follow the US city-state pairing format or the equivalent locality admin area pairing. Many international addresses do not include an admin area, which can make country detection difficult since many localities from around the world can often share names. Take Venice, for example, which can be found in separate locations of three different countries.

LocalityAdmin AreaCountry
VeniceVeniceItaly
VeniceAlbertaCanada
VeniceCaliforniaUSA
VeniceFloridaUSA

If no other address information besides the name Venice was made available, one would be left having to choose between these three countries. However, by making use of other contact data such as a phone number, IP address and/or email, the service can cross reference various datasets to better determine which country is the best match. Then again, if the locality was entered as Venezia, the Italian endonym for Venice, there would be less ambiguity and the country Italy would be the clear choice.

Phone component

The phone component consists of a contact’s phone number(s). The format of a phone number is dictated by its country’s numbering plan. Some countries have their own numbering plan, while others share one. The USA and Canada, for example, share the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), whereas the UK and its crown dependencies share the UK National Telephone Numbering Plan. Most countries conform to the E.164 International Telecommunication Numbering Plan, which is published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The E.164 Numbering Plan

The E.164 currently provides five number structures (numbering plans) for international phone numbers:

  1. International ITU-T E.164-number for geographic areas.
  2. International ITU-T E.164-number for global services.
  3. International ITU-T E.164-number for Networks.
  4. International ITU-T E.164-number for groups of countries.
  5. International ITU-T E.164-number for trials.

Each structure has its own set of rules and requirements, but telephone numbers that conform to E.164, in general, will adhere to the following:

  • The recommended maximum length for a telephone number is 15 digits.
  • Telephone numbers will begin with a Country Code (CC).
  • Telephone numbers will not include Prefixes and Suffixes

Country codes

Country calling codes are published by the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB). Depending on which E.164 structure is being used the country code (CC) may vary between 1 to 3 digits or may be fixed to 3 digits. Country codes are followed by the destination number in accordance with the E.164 numbering plan. When storing a country code or an international (E.164) number, the number is commonly prefixed with a plus symbol (+) to indicate that when dialing the number, one must first dial the appropriate international call prefix to complete the call.

Prefixes

International call prefixes (also known as call out codes, dial out codes, exit codes or international access codes) are used to make a call from one country to another. The Prefix is dialed before the country code (CC) and the destination telephone number. Prefixes are not a part of the E.164 numbering plan and it is recommended to not include them as they can interfere with country code identification.

Making the Call

Suppose you have a contact in the UK with the following number saved in your CRM, ‘+44 123 456 7890 Ext. 123’, and you wanted to call this person from within the USA. To call them, you would dial 011441234567890, and then after you have been successfully connected you would next dial your contact’s extension of 123.

The table below shows how the prefix and suffix are not a part of an international number.

PrefixInternational NumberSuffix
Country CodeDestination Number
011441234567890Ext. 123

Now suppose that you wanted to call this contact again, but this time you are in Sweden and not in the USA. Instead of dialing the 011 prefix, which is shared by all countries in the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), you would dial 00 which is the prefix used by many countries in Europe.

At Service Objects, we understand that not all phone numbers will conform to an E.164 numbering plan and that many numbers will have missing country codes, which why our services make use of a wide variety of datasets and are flexible enough to intelligently identify a country.

IP address component

Not all companies capture a contact’s IP address, but when they do they are most likely capturing it via the web form the contact used to submit their information. The captured IP address and the location for that IP is often for the registered owner of the IP, so if the contact filled out a web form from their home computer then it is likely that the IP is for their Internet Service Provider (ISP). If they filled it out from their office computer, then the IP address may belong to the business or to the business’s ISP. IP based geolocation systems will commonly return a general location for the owner of the IP, which in most cases is the end user’s ISP.

There is often a misconception that IP based geolocation services will always return an end user’s exact location. For example, that the IP address assigned to a mobile smartphone can alone be used to pinpoint and track the phone’s exact location. This is simply not true. In most cases, IP based geolocation services will return the city and/or the metropolitan area for where the IP address is commonly served. Subscribers will generally be located within the serviceable area of their ISP, and so the IP based location can be used in confidence to identify the region of the end user.

Identifying anonymous users

If a contact used a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or Proxy connection, such as a Tor network, when filling out a form then that means that the end user’s true IP address was masked and it was not captured. Some users will make use of methods such as these to try and remain anonymous and prevent others from capturing their true IP address. These methods are not only used to mask a user’s true location, but they can also be used to make a user appear to be from somewhere they are not. This is commonly done to circumvent region locked sites and services, however not all VPN and proxy connections are used for this purpose. Many businesses make use of VPN and proxy connections to connect their employees, sites and services from various regions, including remote employees.

A service like DOTS IP Address Validation is capable of identifying proxy related IP addresses as well as IP addresses associated with malicious activity. By leveraging this data, the country detection algorithm can determine if the IP is trustworthy and if the IP based location is genuine.

Email component

The email address component uses the contact email address to identify where in the world the mail servers are located. The location of the mail server should not be confused with the location of the mail sender; after all, one of the benefits of email is that you can send and receive it from just about anywhere an internet connection is available. This means that a contact may not necessarily be anywhere near where the mail server is located and could potentially reside in an entirely different country. It’s also worth noting that the domain name, including the Top Level Domain (TLD), can be misleading.

For example, let’s suppose we have an email with a domain that consists of Spanish words and the TLD country code for Spain (ES), like: ejemplo@una_palabra_espanola.es

While the above example email address may appear to be for a contact for Spain, the company could instead be hosted or even located in another country, such as the USA. Another possibility is that the company is located in one country and has their email handled by a provider in another. It is quite common for businesses to outsource email duties to specialized email providers.

Some domains have mail servers located in multiple countries and regions and are not tied to a single location. So, email addresses alone cannot be used to accurately and confidently identify a contact’s country, as doing so would be too far-reaching. However, the country or countries for the email component can be used in some cases to help identify a single country when used in combination with other contact data.

Which country is best

As you can see, each contact component is carefully analyzed to the point where a country may be singled out for each one, but the next step is to now determine which country best represents the overall contact. By taking the countries that are related for each component and carefully weighing their relevance as well as cross-examining them we can in many cases successfully identify the single best country that best exemplifies the contact.

As previously mentioned, contact components like the Address and Email can result in more than one country. The country detection algorithm takes all possible countries into account, so even though a single component may not have a clear country winner, a best match can be found between all the components. Some components have a stronger influence than others. For example, the IP address and email address components do not have as much influence as the address and phone components since they are not always directly related to where a contact resides.

In general, the more complete the contact information is, the more the country detection algorithm will have to work with, choosing a best overall country. However, even when a few contact components are available, the service will still be able to make do with the information it receives.

Identifying Data Validation Solutions: A Case Study

I have a superpower that most people don’t have. In my position here at Service Objects, I have had the privilege of being a fly on the wall with many companies while helping them create clean and validated data. So I know, perhaps better than most people, what businesses go through as they wrestle with how to improve their data quality and ROI.

In this article, I would like to take you inside the mind of a typical business as they look at their data challenges, and what happens when they decide to work with us. You probably know what *we* think about our products, of course – but the only opinions that really matter are those of our customers. So let’s look at a hypothetical case study of a typical business, based on my many actual interactions with prospects and clients.

Discovering your data quality issues

I was a new hire at my company when it all started. We were a large manufacturing firm serving the business-to-business market, and things were ramping up. We had a website where people could make orders and sign up for a catalog, as well as opt-in for email alerts when special items would go on sale or we had an email campaign.

My job was ensuring that the data we were collecting was accurate and up-to-date. And I found that this data was a mess! For one thing, we had lots of inconsistencies in our contact data. Sometimes street suffixes and street prefixes were abbreviated, and sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes they were in all upper case, or all lower case, or sometimes mixed case. The same things were also true for the state field. One of the complaints from management was that the shipping labels on our catalogs looked very bad.

More importantly – particularly from a financial standpoint – the team was getting frustrated with the amount of “return to sender” items we were receiving. This gave us a few problems to solve. First, I knew that our data input forms would need to be updated, but I also quickly realized that somehow forcing our users to always provide good consistent data was a pipe dream. Standardizing the data alone wouldn’t fix the problem of returned catalogs, so I knew that this really came down to getting our existing data standardized and validated, as well as making sure new addresses coming into the system were also high quality and valid. Address validation was the key to solving this.

Finding an address validation solution

Now a decision needed to be made: do we get our software engineers involved and build it ourselves, or do we get something off the shelf? I had faced this dilemma before in previous positions. For small tasks, building solutions from scratch is OK and can save money in the long run. But I have found that when trying to implement solutions for larger projects, finding products off the shelf can have a much greater impact.

You see, the problem really wasn’t that we couldn’t update our forms to help standardize the inputs. It was a small job to switch data entry fields from open text fields to dropdown selectable options. The tough part was the address validation component. We were experts with our products, but it really didn’t make sense to try to be experts with address validation. Address validation is no simple task, and I knew the right solution would be finding a company that had a lot of experience with it.

Naturally, like everyone else, I did a Google search for “Address Validation”. I was looking for three main things for our solution. First, they had to be experts. Second, they had to have integration options, because I knew I wanted a solution that integrated with the forms we had on the website. I also didn’t want to have to build out a process to clean the existing addresses: I wanted to simply send the data over in a file have it cleansed and returned to me to repopulate our database. And third, I wanted service. I wanted a company that was available to talk when I needed to talk, and would respond quickly to my email questions.

It turned out that Service Objects had all of this and more. I had access to experts with solutions to my problems – not just people selling solutions, but also the people building and integrating these solutions. And it turned out that our team didn’t really need much help integrating the Service Objects’ Address Validation solution into our website. The documentation and sample code were clear, and with just a free trial key we were able to get up and running. Then all we needed to do was switch to a live production key, and we were done! I really like it when things are that easy.

When it came to validating the existing addresses, we wanted a solution where we could upload our data and get it cleansed and returned to us, as I mentioned earlier. After talking it through with a Service Objects representative I realized that we just didn’t have one data set to cleanse. In addition to our direct data set needing to be validated, we would also be importing address data from other divisions of the company on a periodic basis.

Here it would be nice to set up a process where we could regularly deliver a file and have it processed. After talking it over some more, Service Objects told us that they did do one-time processing, But also offered an automated batch service where we could upload a file that would get processed and returned to us automatically. This was exactly what we needed.

Moving on to email validation

So we integrated address validation into our system and got the automated batch process going, and everything was running like a well-oiled machine. Address data was coming into the system as clean as it could be, and the issue with returned catalogs disappeared. Next, I wanted to tackle the issue we were having with our email alerts that visitors could sign up for.

It was being reported that we were getting a lot of bounces on the email offers we were sending. When I examined the email data, some of the reasons were obvious. I was finding things like emails that appeared to have been entered by the user mashing a bunch of random keys on their keyboard. But the problem was larger than that – we were also getting bounces from emails that appeared legitimate.

I recalled from my conversations with Service Objects that they were experts in several types of data validation. Besides address validation, for which they had Canada and international products as well, they also had phone validation services, geocoding services, lead and ecommerce services, demographics services and more. But most importantly, for my purposes, Service Objects had a solution for real-time email validation.

The solution I was looking for would be one where we could validate an email at the point of entry into our system, and also one where we could send automated batches to get validated before we do an email campaign. The automated batches would also help us with the multiple email lists that we purchased or rented. The Service Objects’ Email Validation service was perfect for this and was just as easy to integrate as the address validation service was.

Lessons learned

This case study tried to identify a few phases companies go through when they try to validate their data. They involve identifying what the problems are, and sometimes these problems are not always obvious. Moreover, validating your data once does not mean that you are done. For starters, email addresses change and people move. Also, if your records are of people in the European Union then personal data needs to be as accurate and current as possible, particularly in light of their new GDPR regulations.

Stale or incorrect data is your enemy, and we have the services you need to keep it valid. After identifying the problem, most companies look next at how and who should solve the problem. As I mentioned in the case study, there are reasons to build out solutions in-house, but when you get into the realm of data validation it is really best left to the experts.

There are additional benefits to buying off the shelf with us besides our capabilities and expert support. You also benefit by always having the latest and greatest versions of our products. When we update our services, these updates are often injected into the operations you are already using and can provide for faster response times as well. Also, nearly every customer goes through a discovery phase where they are learning about a service and all the different data points that it can return. There are a lot of terms involved, and unless you are an expert some of them can be confusing. In cases like these, our assistance can make a big difference.

We’re here to help

Above all, we are there with our customers every step of the way. And there are often times when some expert advice can help you get more out of our services.
For example:

  • For email validation, you may want to know what greylisting is or what catchall means, and how knowing these data points can help you.
  • For address validation, it may be very helpful to know when an address is classified as residential, so you can better define shipping costs.
  • You may not be aware of how some of our capabilities could directly profit your specific operations, such as demographic analysis or lead validation.

We are always here to help you understand our capabilities, as well as helping you through the integration process. Integration is usually the last main phase in the process. We do find that most organizations have few real issues when it comes to integration, but there are unique cases that we work through together. We have lots of documentation and sample code to help with integration, and you can count on us as a resource for help.

This hypothetical case study has a lot in common with our real-life experience with customers: they come to us with data quality issues that are costing them money, hurting their productivity or damaging their brand image. And then we collaboratively help them find solutions to these problems and make it look easy. We would love to help you too!

Contact us any time for a no-obligation discussion on what we can do for you.

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.

Test drive any of our address products with a free trial key 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.

2Checkout (formerly Avangate)LemonStandSpark Pay
3D CartMagento (recently acquired by Adobe)Squarespace
Big CartelMicrosoft Commerce ServerSuiteCommerce
BigCommerceMivaSymphony Commerce
CloudCrazeOpenCartSystum
CommerceHubOracle Commerce CloudVolusion
DemandwareosCommerceVTEX
Drupal CommercePaddleWebSphere Commerce (WCS) (IBM)
EcwidPrestashopWeebly
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 allows 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.

 

DOTS Address Validation verifies, cleans, and validates contact data so businesses can rely on accurate data for shipping, building a database, and a myriad of other functions.

Anatomy of a Service: DOTS Address Validation 3

DOTS Address Validation 3 is one of our most popular services – for good reason! This service is robust and good at what it does. Our powerful CASS certified engine provides our customers with quick and efficient address validation. Because of the complexities associated with DOTS Address Validation 3, there can be lingering questions about what certain fields mean or even how to use it. I am one of the integration specialists here at Service Objects, and I am here to help demystify some of the key features that DOTS Address Validation 3 boasts.

DOTS Address Validation 3 Use Cases

One of the most popular ways to use DOTS Address Validation 3 is to put it directly in a web form where the user enters their address. In this case, an address can be sent to our services, verified, cleansed, and validated before it is used for shipping purposes or before it is put into a database. Based on the DPV code that our service returns, we can also indicate whether an address is missing secondary unit information (i.e., like an apartment or suite number), or if the given secondary unit information isn’t considered valid by the USPS. This DPV value can be used to relay information back to a customer to correct or add the right Secondary unit number.

If you don’t have the ability to call an API from a web form, another use case could be to collect the addresses that you acquire and submit them in bulk with an FTPS set up. Our processes will determine when a file has been uploaded and will process the records and then spit out a file with the validated data that you can use to upload back into your database

If you have a large existing database of uncleansed addresses, you are in luck! We offer large list processing that will allow you to cleanse existing databases. We are experts at running large quantities of data quickly, so we’re happy to process these lists for you to clean up your existing database.

Responses

Knowing how an API works is essential to integrating it and to using its response. One thing to note about DOTS Address Validation 3 is that if an address is invalid, then it will return an error object in the response. In other words, if DOTS Address Validation 3 returns an error, it means the address couldn’t be validated. If an address is valid or partially valid (more on that later) then it returns the address information. There are different errors the service can return that will help you troubleshoot what is occurring with the API call and determine so you can correctly handle each type of error that comes back.

 

  1. Error Code 1 – Authorization Codes

These errors indicate that something was wrong with the license key. These errors are not billable. You may also need to reach out to Service Objects if you encounter these errors in a production environment.

Error Desc Code Error Description Additional Desc
1 Please provide a valid license key for this web service There was no license key submitted to the service. Oftentimes this occurs when the URL encoding hasn’t occurred correctly.
2 The daily allowable number of transactions for this license key has been exceeded. This doesn’t apply to all keys, but some have a daily maximum transactions
3 The monthly allowable number of transactions for this license key has been exceeded. Some keys have a monthly maximum. You will encounter this value if you pass the monthly maximum
4 The total allowable number of transactions for this license key has been exceeded The overall amount of transactions has been exceeded.

 

  1. Error Code 2 – User Input

Something was wrong with the inputs. Either necessary fields were blank, or the inputs were too long.

Error Desc Code Error Description Additional Desc
1 Address and Address2 fields were too long. Together, they must be 100 characters or less. The input fields were too long
2 Address field was too long, must be 100 characters or less. The input fields were too long
3 Please input a street address. There was no Address1 or Address2 values entered
4 Please input either zip code or both city and state. The service needs either a zip code or both city and state to perform a successful validation.

 

  1. Error Code 3 – Fatal Errors

These errors indicate that a Service Objects web service is behaving in a way that it should not. If you ever see this error in a production environment, please notify Service Objects immediately.

Desc Code Error Description Additional Desc
1 Unhandled error. Please contact Service Objects. Like it says, please contact Service Objects immediately and let us know what inputs you used to create this error.

 

  1. Error Code 4 – Domain Specific

These errors occur when something has gone wrong with the validation process; usually, an invalid address. There are also more specific messages for each error you can use to help decipher the reason for the failed address validation.

Desc Code Error Description Additional Desc
1 Address not found Major issue with the address that doesn’t fit known USPS special case scenarios.
3 Multiple addresses match Several address candidates were found that are equally likely given the input.
Ex: “1 Main St” matches “1 E Main St” and “1 W Main St”.
5 Please enter a valid address number.
7 Street not found Street name not found for the general area (city/state or zip)
8 Street number or box number out of range Street name found in the area, but the given primary number is not valid for that street
12 Internal error. Returned when an unexpected error occurs while processing address, or for special address cases. This error isn’t likely to appear
14 City not found City name not found for given state or postal code
15 State not found State abbreviation not found. The input state didn’t seem to be a valid state.
17 Address not found but the region has General Delivery service Given address not found, but the region provided matches a known area that only provides General Delivery services. Mail sent to “General Delivery” with the recipient’s name may get delivered to the recipient.
21 Unable to parse address. Indicates that the input could not be parsed into address fragments.


Non-Error Response

If there wasn’t an error returned, that’s good news! It means your request has resulted in validated address information. Below is a list of all the values recommended for a GetBestMatches operation. If you are using an operation other than GetBestMatches, then some of these values may not apply. Another thing to be aware of regarding GetBestMatches is the possibility it will return multiple addresses if the input address is vague. For example, when directional information should have been included but was not. In that case, the service will return multiple addresses and let the user navigate the ambiguity.

Return Value Description
Address1 This is the standardized Address1 line of the address. This along with City, State, and Postal Code are where you will find the verified and standardized address components
Address2 The USPS doesn’t consider the Address2 field to be necessary for mailing purposes. If there is any valid Secondary Unit information sent in the Address2 input our system will pick it up and append it at the end of the Address1 field. If there is any extraneous information in the input Address2 field (i.e. “c/o John Smith” etc.) we’ll try to maintain it in the Address2 field.
City The validated city for the given input address.
State The corrected and validated state name.
Zip The validated and corrected Zip + 4 for the given address.
IsResidential A “TRUE” or “FALSE” flag will be given to indicate whether the input address is considered to be residential
DPV A value between 1 and 4. This is arguably the most important values to look at when determining what to do with an input address. The DPV value will essentially indicate the total validity of an address. Your use case may vary but here is an example of how to deal with different DPV values when a customer may be entering address information on a web form.

  • DPV 1 – The Address is in the USPS database and is considered to be a valid mailing address.
  • DPV 2 – The address is not in the USPS database. This means that this address may exist, but the USPS simply does not deliver to it. Perhaps try using an alternate mail delivery company to deliver something to this address.
  • DPV 3 – The given secondary unit information on the address is invalid, ask the user to double check the given Secondary Unit information and try again.
  • DPV 4 – The service and subsequently the DOTS Address Validation 3 service expects a Secondary Unit (i.e., apt, unit, suite etc.) but none was provided. Perhaps ask the customer if they are missing the required unit information.
DPVDesc The text value that explains the DPV result
DPVNotes Numerical notes that indicate different pieces of information about a particular address. Some of the notes can be things like: Post Office Box address, Firm or Business address, Address exists but is vacant, Military APO/FPO address etc. For a full list of these codes please visit our developer guides.
DPVNotesDesc The text descriptions that are associated with the values in the DPVNotes field
Corrections An enumerated list of codes that indicate certain corrections were made to the input address. I.e., City corrected, state correction etc. For a full list of Correction codes, please visit our developer’s guide.
CorrectionsDesc The text descriptions for the codes provided in the corrections field.
BarcodeDigits This is a value that the USPS uses to sort mail. Each deliverable address has a unique barcode digit value. A benefit of this is that users can utilize this value to dedupe records in a database. Meaning if you have several different records with the same Barcode Digit, then you can clean up your database.
CarrierRoute A 4-character string that highlights the carrier route the USPS uses to for this address.
CongressCode This is congress code that is associated with the congressional district number in which the address is located
CountyName The name of the county in which the address resides.
FragmentHouse This is the parsed-out house number for an address. i.e., 123 of 123 W Main St N. The rest of these values are typically used to reconstruct an address that has been validated. Most customers who use these values use them to reassemble an address into different fragments for cases where an application might have character limitations.
FragmentPreDir The parsed pre-directional of the address’s street. “W” of 123 W Main St N.
FragmentStreet The parsed-out street name. “Main” of 123 W Main St N.
FragmentSuffix The parsed-out suffix of the street. “St” of 123 W Main St N.
FragmentPostDir The parsed-out directional fragment of the address. “N” of 123 W Main St N.
FragmentUnit The parsed-out unit designator of the input address. Can be values like APT, STE, UNIT etc.
Fragment The parsed-out unit number of the secondary unit designator. “4” of Unit 4
FragmentPMBPrefix The parsed type of personal mailbox designator. This will likely be “PMB” or “Box”. Some addresses have personal mailboxes to which mail can be delivered.
FragmentPMBNumber The parsed-out number from the PMB designator. 4 of PMB 4.

 

This covers most of the basics of DOTS Address Validation 3. As I mentioned, because of the robust capabilities of our CASS certified engine and the comprehensive nature of DOTS Address Validation 3’s data input fields, users are sometimes confused about how to use certain fields or how DOTS Address Validation 3 can be used or integrated. If you want to learn more about how DOTS Address Validation 3, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We’d be happy to answer any follow-up questions you may have and make recommendations on how to interpret and use the results from the service.

What Validated Contact Data Can Do for Your Business

What Validated Contact Data Can Do for Your Business

“Nobody is perfect. And my company wasn’t even talking about things like data quality ten years ago. So, what is the big deal if there are a few problems with my contact data? That’s life, isn’t it?”

Actually, it is a big deal. First, it affects your costs and competitiveness. Second, it affects your reputation in the marketplace. And finally, because bad data can be so easily fixed with the latest automated tools.

With new regulations on the horizon and an increasingly competitive marketplace, companies need data they can rely on. If you’re still on the fence, below are some of the main reasons your business needs confirmed data.

Saving Time and Money

Bad data always costs your business time, money, or both. It affects areas such as sales leads, delivery accuracy, your reputation when sending email marketing, and much more. It is estimated15-25% of contact data is inaccurate, incomplete, fraudulent, or out-of-date, and a great deal of resources are wasted due to inaccurate or straight-up bad data.

Getting sales leads is costly for most organizations, especially when leads are bad or inaccurate. The earlier you can validate incoming data, the better you will be able to utilize your resources.  Our Email and Address Validation services can help make sure your incoming contact data is coming in clean and valid, and our Lead Validation service helps prioritize your resources toward better targeted leads.

Improving Your Marketing Efficiency

Think of all the wasted resources involved when materials are sent to the wrong address, or salespeople chase after bad or mislocated prospects. Even a small percentage of errors can result in a great deal of frustration for everyone involved, and fixing these problems is low-hanging fruit you can easily automate.

Beyond our Address Validation services, our Address Geocode product can translate addresses to exact latitude-longitude coordinates in real time. For incomplete addresses, our Address Detective product can prevent you from purging good leads. It fixes fatal addressing errors by filling in the gaps of missing address data in your contact records, using a fuzzy-matching API that returns a confidence score for each updated address.

Protecting Your Email Reputation

Suppose you bought an email list and you are ready to send the perfect email, after weeks of refining. Nothing can give you a bad reputation quicker than sending email to a bunch of addresses that bounce, not to mention getting mediocre results from your campaign.

Use our Email Validation service to keep your reputation in good standing. Using a real-time API can reduce bounce rates up to 90%. Our service can process rented lists as well as your own house lists, giving you valuable insight into your contact data assets to make sure you get the most out of your investment.

Cleaning Up Your Existing Contact Data

We often hear people say, “What if I just realized we were doing things wrong and I want to get our data on the right track?” Once your database gets corrupted with uncertain data, typically two things must happen to reverse course. First, you need to draw a line in the sand and commit to making sure to validate any new information going into your system. The next step involves validating all your current database information in a separate process.

We can help automate much of the extra work of cleaning up existing data. We have lots of sample code and support many platforms to make it easy to integrate with us, not to mention the top-notch technical service team we have standing by to help you implement a robust solution.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Finally, we wanted to mention the importance of keeping your data current. Even after validating data coming into your system using our API or cleansing your system afterward with our batch process, data will still get old and invalid over time. People move, new homes are built, old buildings are repurposed, emails change, phone numbers are disconnected, and so on.  Like showering, regular data hygiene will help keep your data in the best condition possible, and we make this easy for you.

There are many benefits to keeping your data as up-to-date and accurate as possible, and we are here to help you every step of the way. Contact us to see what we can do for you and your data!

 

Improving Customer Satisfaction Through Data Quality

“Online retailers of all sizes are constantly under attack by sophisticated fraudsters. In fact, credit card fraud costs US online retailers an estimated $3.9 billion each year.” – Geoff Grow, Founder and CEO, Service Objects

At Service Objects, we know that data quality excellence is the key to helping retailers feel confident about improving delivery rates while reducing fraud associated with vacant addresses, PO boxes and commercial mail handlers. This, in turn, helps maintain higher customer satisfaction ratings among your legitimate customers.

This video, featuring Service Objects’ Founder and CEO, Geoff Grow, will show you tools you can use to improve the deliverability of your products and combat fraud. You will learn how to validate addresses against current USPS certified address data to prevent undeliverable and lost shipments, as well as how to validate a customer’s IP address against the billing and shipping information they provide, using data from over many authoritative data sources to stop fraud before it happens.

 

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 DELIVERABILITY. 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 guesswork 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

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.

Bringing Dead Letters Back to Life

All right, we are finally going to admit it: there are some bad mailing addresses out there that even Service Objects can’t fix.

Of course, we’re talking about cases like illegible handwriting, physical damage, or the kid who addresses a Christmas letter to “Santa Claus, North Pole.” But even for them, there is hope – in the form of a nondescript building on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, Utah, known as the USPS Remote Encoding Center. Images of illegible mailing addresses are sent here online from all over the United States, in a last-ditch effort to get these pieces of mail where they are going.

Behind the walls of this beige, block-long building lies an optometrist’s dream: nearly 1700 employees working 24 hours a day, each scanning a new image every few seconds and matching it to addresses in the USPS database. (The same database we use to verify your contact address data, incidentally.) Most get linked to a verified address and are sent on their merry way; the truly illegible ones are forwarded to the USPS’s Dead Letter facility to be opened, and those letters to Santa get forwarded to a group of volunteers in Alaska to be answered.

According to the Smithsonian, there used to be more than 50 of these facilities all over the US. With time and improving automation, all of them have now been shuttered, with the exception of this lone center in Salt Lake City. To work there, you need to be fast, precise, and then go through more than a full week of training – and then you get put on one of 33 shifts, handling the roughly two percent of mail pieces that the Post Office’s computers cannot read automatically. That’s between five and eleven million pieces of mail per day on most days.

Of course, technology continues to improve, and USPS has become a world leader in optical character recognition for both handwritten and machine-addressed mailing pieces – even 98 percent of hand-addressed envelopes are processed by machine nowadays. In an interview with the New York Times, the center’s operations director acknowledges that computer processing could eventually put them out of business entirely. But for now, human intervention for illegible addresses hasn’t yet gone the way of the elevator operator.

Thankfully, your business correspondence probably isn’t hand-scrawled by your Aunt Mildred. And hopefully Santa Claus doesn’t show up very often in your prospect database (although fake names get entered for free marketing goodies more often than you think, and we can easily catch and fix these). So your chances of ending up on a computer screen in Salt Lake City are pretty slim – which means we can help you ensure clean contact data, and leverage this data for better marketing insight.

So for those of you who can’t spell, failed penmanship when you went to school, or have a habit of leaving your envelopes out too long in the rain, there is still hope. For the rest of you, there is Service Objects.

The Power of DOTS FastTax

What is DOTS FastTax?

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

How can it be used?

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

What makes FastTax so powerful?

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

How does FastTax go above and beyond?

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

FastTax in action

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

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

What Can We Do? Service Objects Responds to Hurricane Harvey

The Service Objects’ team watched the steady stream of images from Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath and we wanted to know, ‘What can we do to help?’  We realized the best thing we could do is offer our expertise and services free to those who can make the most use of them – the emergency management agencies dedicated to helping those affected by this disaster.

It was quickly realized that as Hurricane Harvey continues to cause record floodwaters and entire neighborhoods are under water, these agencies are finding it nearly impossible to find specific addresses in need of critical assistance. In response to this, we are offering emergency management groups the ability to quickly pinpoint addresses with latitude and longitude coordinates by offering unlimited, no cost access to DOTS Address Geocode ℠ (AG-US). By using Address Geocode, the agencies will not have to rely on potentially incomplete online maps. Instead, using Service Objects’ advanced address mapping services, these agencies will be able to reliably identify specific longitude and latitude coordinates in real-time and service those in need.

“The fallout of the catastrophic floods in Texas is beyond description, and over one million locations in Houston alone have been affected,” said Geoff Grow, CEO and Founder of Service Objects.  “With more than 450,000 people likely to seek federal aid in recovering from this disaster, Service Objects is providing advanced address mapping to help emergency management agencies distribute recovery funds as quickly as possible. We are committed to helping those affected by Hurricane Harvey.”

In addition, as disaster relief efforts are getting underway, Service Objects will provide free access to our address validation products to enable emergency management agencies to quickly distribute recovery funds by address type, geoid, county, census-block and census-track. These data points are required by the federal government to release funding.  This will allow those starting the recovery process from this natural disaster to get next level services as soon as possible.

To get access to Service Objects address solutions or request maps, qualified agencies can contact Service Objects directly by calling 805-963-1700 or by emailing us at info@serviceobjects.com.

Our team wishes the best for all those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Image by National Weather Service 

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.

The Cost of Incomplete Leads to Your Business

If you are old enough to remember the disco era, one of its biggest hits was “Got to Be Real” by Cheryl Lynn. (And if you’re younger, it’s been sampled over 100 times since.) Decades later, if you work in marketing, this tune should become your new theme song.

The lifeblood of any marketing operation is its lead generation efforts. And sadly, many of these leads aren’t real – according to industry figures, as much as 25% of your contact data is bad from the start, and from there 70% of it goes bad every year as jobs, roles and contact information changes. This ranges from fake or fraudulent contact data, often entered to gain access to lead generation bonuses, all the way to fat-fingered data entry.

Unfortunately, when your contacts aren’t real, the costs involved are very real:

Marketing costs: Direct mail costs can easily total $2-3 or more per piece mailed, while outbound telemarketing costs can top $35 to $60 per lead. In both cases, there is direct cost in both time and resources to working with bad contacts. Nearly any lead conversion strategy has a scalable cost per prospect, and bad or fake leads directly eat into these costs.

Wasted human effort: Take the labor costs, taxes and benefits you pay for the direct employees on your sales and marketing teams. Add in the costs of the overhead and infrastructure they require to do their jobs. Now multiply that by the percentage of time these people spend mitigating bad leads, and this total probably adds up to a very real and tangible cost, as well as impacting sales conversion rates.

Inefficiency: Ultimately, every business must deal with the problem of bad contact data. But the real question is when you deal with it. In many businesses, where data quality is no one’s responsibility, it gets fixed the hard way when prospects don’t answer and direct mail pieces bounce back. We describe it as the 1-10-100 rule, where it may cost a penny to catch bad contacts as they are captured, 10 cents to cleanse them after capture, and a dollar to work with uncorrected data. In addition, bogus leads can bog down your CRM or Marketing Automation platform, driving up costs and negatively impacting marketing campaigns.

Customer service reputation: Your all-important first impression on a potential customer pivots around responding to their requests – and if you fail to respond due to bad or misdirected contact information, the damage is often permanent. For example, if a customer enters their email incorrectly but are waiting to receive information from customer service, causing dissatisfaction and frustration.

The good news is that each of these costs can easily be controlled by automating the data quality process for your contact lead data, using tools that range from address verification to filtering out fraudulent names. For marketing operations, you can also use bundled lead validation capabilities that check over 130 data points to yield a lead quality score from 0 to 100, as well as lead enhancement that appends phone and contact information to your existing lead data.

The key to success in marketing, according to Forbes Magazine, is to know your customer. Data quality – making sure every contact record in your database is as genuine, accurate and up-to-date as it can possibly be – represents an important and cost-saving first step for this. Or as Cheryl Lynn would say, they’ve got to be real.

Will Omnichannel Someday Die Out Because of Big Data?

You probably know what omnichannel means, but a quick definition is always helpful. It refers to the various touch points by which a business/organization can reach a customer. The idea — and the ideal — is to get the offer in front of them at the time they’re most likely to be interested. Typically in the modern business ecosystem, omnichannel refers to:

  • Website
  • Brick and mortar locations
  • Social media
  • Other digital efforts
  • How you come across on mobile
  • Face-to-face interactions between customers and employees

There is more you could group under omnichannel, but that’s a good start. Unfortunately, in a few years from now, we may need a different approach entirely.

Why?

OMNICHANNEL AND THE RAPID SCALE OF BIG DATA 

Consider this: in 2020, it’s possible 1.7 megabytes of new data will be created for every person on the planet every second. If you do the full math on that, the total volume of data globally in 2020 might be around 44 zettabytes. A zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes. This is somewhat because of “The Internet of Things” — connected devices and sensors — which should have an economic value of $3 trillion by 2025. Internet of Things tech alone will be 3-6 zettabytes of that total.

Now we know the rapid scale of Big Data. It’s actually arriving in daily life maybe faster than even mobile did. What are the repercussions?

THE REPERCUSSIONS FOR OMNICHANNEL

As noted in this post on Information Age:

Companies hoped “omnichannel experiences” would enable them to anticipate customers’ needs to provide them with a personalised response, which meets or even exceeds their expectations. And this effort is based on the company’s ability to mobilise the necessary data to deliver.

But what happened?

Today, these same companies struggle to draw together all the information required to give them a unified view and appreciation of their customers’ needs. The result is a mixed bag of omnichannel initiatives, many of which result in failures. In the retail sector, for example, only 18% of retailers claim to have an engagement strategy, which covers all channels.

The sheer math looks like this: 44 zettabytes of generated data in 2020 is 10 times — yes, ten times — what we are generating now, three years earlier. Companies are already struggling to manage data properly towards better customer experience. What will happen when 10 times the data is available in 33 months or so?

WHAT’S THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR OMNICHANNEL AND CX?

This is obviously hard to predict. In times of great complexity, though, sometimes sticking to the basics — i.e. The Five Customer Experience Competencies — isn’t a bad idea. A strong base almost always beats an all-over-the-place strategy.

In my mind, this is what needs to happen:

  • Companies need a good handle on what really drives their business now and what could drive it in the future.
  • This involves products/services but also types of customer and platform they use.
  • Once that picture is mostly clear, senior leaders need to be on the same page about the importance of customer-driven growth.
  • “Being on the same page” also involves, ideally, vocabulary and incentive structures.
  • If the customer-driven plan/platforms and senior leadership alignment are there, now you need to make sure the work is prioritized.
  • No one should be running around on low-value tasks when great opportunity is right there.
  • Kill a stupid rule, etc. Basically move as many people as possible to higher-value work, especially if lower-value work can be more easily automated.
  • It’s all been important so far, but let’s bold this: You don’t need to collect all the data. You need data that relates to your priorities and growth. 
  • That data should be analyzed and condensed for executives. You may need “data translators,” yes.
  • Decision-making should come from relevant information and customer interactions.

This flow is hard to arrive at for some companies, but essential.

Phrased another way: trying to be “omnichannel” in five years and looking at an Excel with trillions of touch points/data on it? That will just burn out employees and managers alike. You need a prioritized, aligned plan focused on customer-driven growth and well-articulated goals. That will get you there post-omnichannel.

Reprinted from LinkedIn with permission from the author. View original post here.

Author’s Bio: Jeanne Bliss, Founder & CEO, CustomerBliss

Jeanne Bliss pioneered the role of the Chief Customer Officer, holding the first-ever CCO role at Lands’ End, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker and Allstate Corporations. Reporting to each company’s CEO, she moved the customer to the strategic agenda, redirecting priorities to create transformational changes to each brands’ customer experience. Her latest book, “Chief Customer Officer 2.0” (Wiley) was published on June 15, 2015.

Phone, Mail, or Email Marketing? The Pros and Cons

There has always been one eternal question in marketing: what is the shortest path between you and your next paying customer?

We already know the right answer to this question: “It depends.” But a better answer is that effective marketing is very context-dependent. So let’s look at the pros and cons of three of today’s key marketing approaches – phone, mail and email marketing.

Telemarketing has practically been with us ever since Alexander Graham Bell first solicited his assistant Watson from the next room in 1876. Its key advantage is that it is the only one of these three approaches that builds an interactive personal connection with a prospect – one that allows you to qualify him or her, ask questions, and respond to their needs. Big-ticket products and services, particularly in a business-to-business environment, are often sold as the result of a sales process that begins with a phone contact. Conversely, large scale telemarketing often is a key ingredient of selling consumer products and services in large volumes.

Telemarketing also has numerous drawbacks. It is labor-intensive, time-bound, and requires a good telecommunications infrastructure when used on more than a small scale. Perhaps most importantly, it requires the right business context. If you are selling an airliner or high-end financial services, those prospects may expect an initial phone call, while carpet-bombing consumers with telephone sales pitches at dinnertime may provoke mostly negative responses. Moreover, unsolicited calls to consumer wireless phones can lead to large fines under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

Direct mail marketing gives businesses an opportunity they do not have with phone or email: the chance to deliver content-rich information in print or even multimedia form. (For example, anyone who belongs to Generation X or older remembers those ubiquitous AOL CDs that were a fixture of the 1990s.) Anyone with a valid mailing address is a potential prospect, it is a medium that lends itself well to A-B testing as well as demographic targeting, and there are few if any regulatory roadblocks to targeting consumers with a direct mail campaign.

Drawbacks of direct mail include its expense per prospect, in terms of time, content costs, and mailing costs. This is particularly a disadvantage for smaller businesses, given the economies of scale that reduce per-unit printing and mailing costs for those who can afford very large campaigns. Response rates are generally low and can vary widely, and the accuracy of your contact data is a critical factor in your costs and profitability.

Email marketing is, relatively speaking, the new kid on the block – even though it now has its own decades-long track record. It has one towering advantage over the other two approaches: a much lower cost per contact that only minimally scales with the size of your prospect base, once you have a list that opts in. Email also gives you the opportunity to include rich media content, or make “warm call” introductions to individual prospects as a precursor to telephone contact.

Disadvantages of email include being the easiest mode of contact for people to ignore – particularly as the inbox sizes of busy people continue to expand – as well as the need to have accurate contact information from people who have opted in to hear from you, to avoid consequences for spamming from your internet services provider.

A common thread through each of these marketing approaches is data quality. Inaccurate, incomplete or outdated contact information will cost you in time and marketing expenditure at the very least, and in the worst cases could subject your business to substantial penalties. And in a world where up to 25% of your contact data is bad, and up to 70% goes out of date each year, a data quality strategy is absolutely necessary for effective marketing.

The best marketing strategy? As we said earlier, it depends. But with the right approach to data quality, you can get the maximum ROI from any approach that fits your business.

Demonstrating JavaScript and NuGet with DOTS Address Validation 3

In this demonstration I am going to show you how to implement our DOTS Address Validation 3 web service with JavaScript and no Asp.Net markup tags using Visual Studio. We are going to create a form for address inputs, similar to what you would see on a checkout page, which will call our API to validate the address. Although, we could call the web service directly from JavaScript, we would then be forced to expose our license key. So we will use an aspx.cs page to handle our call to the service API, keeping our license key safe from prying eyes. In this demonstration, I will also show you how to add the NuGet version of DOTS Address Validation 3 to the project so that you are always using our best practices and speeding up your integration.

First, create a new empty web site, which I am going to call, cSharpJavascriptAjax. Then I am going to add a new html page called, Addressvalidation.html.

Next, we are going to add the markup for the form. Add the following code in between the body tag.

This form was designed using the table structure for the layout. You will likely want to create the layout using divs, which is more appropriate. Here is what the page looks like in the browser.

To speed things up a bit, I am going to include jQuery in the header so we can utilize some of the short cut functions. Of course, all of this can be done in pure JavaScript.

For the action we will take when the Complete button is clicked, we will create the submit function. This will take in all the values from the form, call the web service and then display the response to the screen. I added an alert and left the URL blank, this will allow for a quick test to make sure what we have is working. Later we will update the failure and success sections as well. For now, they will simply display an alert for testing.

First, let’s start by making sure we are getting all the inputs into the submit function and are getting all the inputs back. I am going to display an alert with DataValue variable so we can see what we have.


Good, now that we know that is working, we will need to make the call to the web service. Like I mentioned before, we could call the service directly but using JavaScript would make the license key visible. So we are going to leverage asp.net for security by creating and empty aspx page and add a method to the aspx.cs page to handle the call. Let’s go ahead and add the aspx/aspx.cs page to the project and call it, ServiceObjectsAPIHandler.

Here is our empty aspx.cs page, where we will be adding our function. It will go below the Page_Load method.

Let’s call the method, CallDOTSAddressValidation3_GBM. There are two things to notice with the signature for this method. We decorate the method with the WebMethod attribute so that our new method can be exposed as a web service method. And, we declare it as static because of the stateless nature of the static methods. An instance of a class does not need to be declared.

To test things out, for now we will just take one string input and return it to the Ajax call where we will display it. In order to do this, we will need to adjust our DataValue call in the script on the html page.

We will also need to add the URL and method to the Ajax call.

I also adjusted the alerts so we can see the success or fail.

Great! That worked! Now, let’s write up the code in the aspx.cs page to make the call to the service. We could grab some sample code from the web site and walk through it, but we have documentation and tutorials already on how to do that. Instead, I am going to take a short cut and grab what I need from NuGet. We offer NuGet packages for most of our services, which include best practices such as failover configurations and speeding up the integration time.

To do this, we will need to open up the NuGet Package Manager in Visual Studio under the Tools menu option. When browsing for our services, you can type “Serviceobjects”. You should see a list of available Service Objects NuGet packages to choose from.

Select DOTSAddressValidation3US, you will be prompted to select the project you want to install it under. Select the project and then click install.

Once the installation is complete, a ReadMe file will automatically open that will contain a lot of information about the service. You will also notice a few things were added to your project. First, a DLL for DOTSAddressValidation3US was added to the bin folder and was referenced in your project.

Next, an AV3LicenseKey app setting was added to your web.config file with the value “WSXX-XXXX-XXXX”. You will need to substitute this value for the key you received from Service Objects.

Also in the web.config you will see several endpoints were added. These will be used in the pre-packaged code to determine how to call the service based on your key.

Now that we have the NuGet package added to the project, we can use it. Next is the code that will use the DOTSAddressValidation3US DLL by loading it up with the input parameters, making the call to the service, then working with the response and finally sending the data back out to our JavaScript.

First we get the license key from the web configs file.

Then we make the call to the service. You will notice that we throw in a Boolean parameter at the end of the call to GetBestMatches for live or trial. This is an indicator that will tell the underlying process which endpoints to use. A mismatch between your license key and this Boolean flag will cause the call to the service to fail.

After we make the call to the service, we will process the response and send the data back to the JavaScript. If there is an error, we will return the error details. Otherwise, we will return a serialized version of the response object. Note that you can also just deal with the response completely here or completely in JavaScript. I mixed it up so you can see a bit of both.

Now we will turn our attention back to the JavaScript and update our submit function. All we really have to deal with now is the response from the aspx method call. Here is the portion of the Ajax call implementing that.

Success or failure here does not mean that the address is good or not. It is really just a success or failure of the call to the aspx web method. On failure, we simply make an alert stating something went wrong. On success, we examine the response value, determine if the address was good or not and display the appropriate response. Here is the whole submit function.

 

Here is a good address.

 

And here is a bad address.

 

In the submit function, we did the most basic check to see if an address was good or not.

But many more data points from the response can be used to make any number of conclusions about an address. One thing you will notice is that AddressResponse.Addresses is an array. A check to see if multiple addresses are returned can be valuable because in certain situations more than one address may be returned. One example is when an East and a West street address are equally valid responses to an input address. In this case you may want to display both addresses and let the user determine which to use. You may want to evaluate the individual address fragments or the corrections that were made to the address.

The data points associated to the DOTS Address Validation US 3 service can be found on our development guide page for the service.

The following is commented out code that I added to the submit method for easy access to the various output data points.

And here is the same thing but for the Error object in the aspx page.

I hope this walk-thru was helpful in demonstrating how to implement our DOTS Address Validation 3 web service with JavaScript and no Asp.Net markup tags using Visual Studio. If you have any question, please feel free to contact Service Objects for support.

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.

Service Objects integrations can help improve your contact data quality, help with data validation, and enhance your business operations.

NCOA Integration Tutorial

The reality about any set of residential customer data is that given enough time, addresses and the people living there are bound to change. Occasionally, businesses and organizations can rely on the customer to notify them of changing addresses but when people move, this often times falls to the wayside on the list of priorities.

For cases like these, accessing the USPS National Change of Address database can provide a helpful solution to ensure that mail gets delivered to the correct person. The USPS maintains a large data set of address forwarding notifications, and with the DOTS NCOA Live service, this information is right at your finger tips.

Our DOTS NCOA Live service is a bit different than the rest of our products. Most of our other products process validation requests in a one at a time manner. NCOA is a little different in that in order to start a request, a minimum list of 100 addresses must be sent to the service, and from there anywhere from 1 to 500 records can be processed at a time. To show you how it works, we’ve put together a quick step by step tutorial.

What You Will Need

  • C# experience
  • Visual Studio ( VS 2015 is used for this example)
  • A DOTS NCOA Live license Key. A free Trial Key can be obtained here.

Project Creation and Setup

To get started, go ahead and launch Visual Studio and select File->New->Project.  From here you can choose whatever project will meet your needs. For this example, we’ll be creating a very basic console application.  So if you want to follow along step by step, you can choose the same project details as shown below.

Select OK and wait for Visual Studio to finish creating the project. Once that is done, right click the project, select Add and then select Service Reference. Here, we’ll enter the URL to the WSDL so that Visual Studio will create all the necessary classes, objects and methods that we’ll use when interacting with the DOTS NCOA Live service. To successfully do this, add the necessary information into the pop up screen as shown in the screenshot below.

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Select OK. Now that the service reference is successfully set, open up the App.Config. Below is a screenshot of the App.Config that has been modified.

We’ve added the appSettings section and within that we’ve added two key value pairs. The first is the license key field where you will enter your key. Storing the license key in the app or web config files can be helpful and easy when transitioning from a trial to a live environment in your application. When you are ready to use a production key, changing it in the app config is an easier option than having to change a hard coded license key.

We’ve also put the path to a csv that will contain the address and name information that we will be sending to the NCOA service. You may not want to read in a CSV for your application but the process of building the input elements for the service will be relatively similar. For this example, we’re just going to put the file in the BIN folder of our project, but you can add any path you want to the file.

We’ve also increased the maximum buffer size in the http Binding. Since we’ll be sending a list of 100 addresses to the DOTS NCOA Live service, we’ll indeed need to increase the buffer size.

Lastly, we’ve changed the name of the original endpoint to “PrimaryClient,” made a copy of the endpoint and changed that name to “BackupPoint.” Currently, both of these endpoints point to the trial Service Objects environment, but when a production key is purchased, the PrimaryClient url should point to http://ws.serviceobjects.com/nl/ncoalive.asmx and the BackupClient should point to http://wsbackup.serviceobjects.com/nl/ncoalive.asmx.

Calling the DOTS NCOA Live web service

The first thing we’ll do is instantiate two static strings outside of the Main method. One will be for the input file, and the other will be for the license key that we’ve placed in the app.config. Inside the scope of the Main method, we’ll instantiate a NCOAAddressResponse object called response and set it equal to null. We’ll also create a string called jobID and set that equal to null as well.  This jobID will be passed as a parameter to our NCOA service call. A JobID can be seen as a unique identifier for all the records that are run against the service.

Now we’ll create the following method that will read our input file.

This method will return a List of the NCOAAddress object that will have all the inputs we need to send to the service. In my particular file the fields are as follows: Name, Address, Address2, City, State, Zip.  Your code will need to be modified to read the specific structure of your input file. This code reads in the file and then loops through each of the lines and adds the appropriate values to the fields of the NCOA address object. After the line is successfully read, we add the individual NCOAAddress objet to the list called inputAddresses and then return that object once the code has finished looping through the file.

Now we’ll insert a try catch block into the main method. Within this try catch block we’ll create a List of the NCOAAddress object and call the readInputFile method to fill it. We’ll also make a JobID with today’s date appended to the end of it. You will likely want to customize your job id to fit into your business application. Jobs close on Sunday at 11:55 PM so that is also something to take into consideration when designing your code.

Failover Configuration

Now that we have all our inputs successfully set up, we are able to call the NCOA web service. The first step we’ll take is create another try catch block to make the web service calls in. We will also create an instance of the DOTSNCOALibraryClient and pass in the trip “PrimaryClient” as a parameter. This will ensure that our first call to the NCOA service will point to our primary URL that we have defined in the web config. Next we’ll make the call to the webservice using the library client and set it equal to our response object.

After we get a response back from the service we’ll perform our failover check. We check if the response is null or if an error TypeCode of 3 was returned from the service. An error type code of 3 would indicate that a fatal error occurred with the service. If either of these criteria are met, then we’ll throw an exception that will be caught by the catch block we have created. Within this catch block we’ll set the library client object to a new instance with the “BackupClient” string passed to it to ensure that we call the backup client. The code should look like the following.

This failover logic will ensure that your application stays up and running in the event that a Service Objects web service is unresponsive or in the event that it is not behaving as expected.

Processing the Response

Now that we have successfully called the service, we’ll need to do something with the response. In this tutorial, we’ll take the results from the service and download them as a CSV into our bin folder.

To do this, we will call and create a method called processResponse that will take a NCOAAddressResponse as an input. This method will take the outputs from the service and build a DataTable that we will use to eventually turn into a CSV. This can be done as shown in the following screen shot.

 

 

Now that our output data table has been created, we’ll call and create two methods will loop through our DataTable and convert it to a CSV string, and then write that CSV to the bin folder.  The code to perform this is shown below.

More information on all the elements in the response object can be found on our developer guide for the NCOA service.

Now that our output data table has been created, we’ll call and create two methods will loop through our Data Table and convert it to a CSV string, and then write that CSV to the bin folder. The code to perform this is shown below.

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Now our code is ready to run and the service is ready to test.

We’re always available for assistance, so be sure to contact us with any questions about integration for NCOA or any of our other services.

Mother’s Day 2017 – Estimated Spending to Reach $23.6 Billion

While Mother’s Day is all about the Moms in our lives, it’s an even bigger day for retailers. This year the National Retail Federation estimates Mother’s Day spending to reach an all-time high of $23.6 billion; roughly $10 billion higher than 2010. The traditional gifts of jewelry and flowers, along with personal services are predicted to contribute the most to this increase. Needless to say, with Mother’s Day only a few days away, businesses are experiencing a busy week, especially in ecommerce.

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, 30% of Mother’s Day shopping is to be done online this year. Most ecommerce sites have already experienced an influx of orders over the last few weeks. With an even bigger rush coming in now from typical procrastinators (like myself) who will take advantage of two-day delivery from retailers like Amazon. Online shopping has become even more convenient with the addition of mobile shopping. With thousands of easy to use mobile apps offering gift cards for anything from dinner to spa treatments, redeemable right on the recipient’s mobile device, digital sellers have definitely made Mother’s Day purchases easier than ever…even for the most ardent procrastinators.

Unknown to most, data quality solutions are quietly working behind the scenes contributing to a smooth and happy Mother’s Day for businesses and celebrants alike. Data quality solutions have made processing increased online holiday orders, restaurant reservations, and mobile app purchases more efficient and safer than ever. By leveraging tools like our Address, Phone and Email Validation services, our clients ensure that their customer contact information is complete and accurate while also identifying malicious fraud before transactions are completed. Our data quality tools give businesses more time to focus on providing memorable experiences for their customers and achieving their revenue goals on the busiest of holidays, including Mother’s Day.

Whether our clients are experiencing or still preparing for a busy Mother’s Day, our data quality solutions will be running smoothly in the background for them the entire time. If your business needs any assistance now or before the next major holiday contact us.

The Letter that Continues to Arrive

Before moving to my current home, making sure I completed a change of address form with the Post Office was on the top of my “to do” list.  Although most mail received these days is typically coupons and business advertisements, I looked forward to receiving the first piece of mail with my name and new address on the envelope. What can I say… I appreciate the little things in life.

Well, the first time I checked the mail I found a letter addressed to the prior resident. As I had recently filled out my own change of address form at the post office I understood it would take some time for each other’s information to be updated and anticipated this would continue happening for a bit. As expected, I began receiving mail addressed with my name soon after. However, years later I’m still getting the same letter from one particular storage company for the prior resident.

Cost of Just One Letter 3

At first, I tried writing “Not at This Address,” “Moved, Left No Forwarding Address” and “Return to Sender” on the letters. After a couple months I realized this did not work. The next thing I tried was calling the storage company. I thought the human element of speaking to someone over the phone and explaining the situation would resolve the case of this never ending letter. This also did not work and actually seemed to make it worse.

As I mentioned previously, the bulk of my mail (like many other people) consists of coupons and advertisements addressed to “current resident” which are seemingly impossible to stop. Along with these, the never ending letter from this storage center started taking the excitement out of checking my mail. For a few years, checking the mail monthly instead of every few days became the routine. Every month, my mailbox was filled to max capacity with mainly junk and of course a letter (or two or three) from the storage center. Unfortunately there are some draw backs to checking your mail so infrequently. I eventually learned that if the mail does not fit in your box it is sent back to the post office which is how I missed a wedding invitation and a few birthday cards. Needless to say I went back to checking my mail more frequently and simply continued sending back the storage company letter hoping they’d eventually run their customer database through a National Change of Address (NCOA) service.

While this situation was obviously annoying, I also wondered how much this letter alone must be costing the storage center. At this point, I estimate receiving about 100 copies of the same letter equating to:

  • $46 in just postage, each has a $0.46 First-Class stamp
  • 100 wasted envelopes
  • 100 wasted pieces of paper
  • Ink for each letter
  • Wasted time/salary of the person(s) at the storage center responsible for mailing
  • Wasted time for the mail sorter(s)
  • Wasted gas and time of the mail carrier(s)
  • A big Headache for me over the last few years
  • Possible frustration for the last tenant who still hasn’t received this letter (I’m assuming it’s a bill which is even worse if they are incurring additional costs all this time)

Ultimately, this also damaged the reputation of the storage company. This mail discrepancy gave me a glimpse into their lack of customer service, organization and concern for our environment. By simply implementing an address validation check in their processes this entire scenario could be avoided. What’s worse is imagining how many other letters they are sending to the wrong address.

After further research, I found out anyone can submit a change of address form at the post office for prior tenants by making a note that they did not provide a forwarding address (the online form requires a forwarding address to submit). I’ll be heading to the post office today to fill one out. If that doesn’t resolve this, I also learned storage centers eventually auction off your items if you don’t pay your bills. Although I don’t want the prior tenant to lose their personal items, I’ll be glad to stop receiving these notices.

Until then…

If your business needs help avoiding unnecessary costs, resources and headaches associated with outdated customer information including name, address, phone, email and more contact us!

Service Objects integrations can help improve your contact data quality, help with data validation, and enhance your business operations.

Java Integration Tutorial

Java is easily one of the most popular programming languages in the world. It is a general purpose language that users have managed to implement in a variety of applications. It is popular with web applications; which is why it is one of our most requested sample code languages for our DOTS validation products. This is no surprise either, since Java is able to run on a wide range of architecture, applications and environments.  Since it is so popular, we’re here to show you the ropes and get a Service Objects web service up and running.

For this example we’ll be using a fairly new operation in our DOTS Address Detective service. Our Address Detective service is a power house address validation service that can leverage multiple different data sources to validate an address.  The DOTS Address Detective service has input fields for a person’s name, a business name, and a phone number along with the traditional address fields. These additional data points help the service leverage other data sources to get your address validated.  This service even has an operation that will take your data in any order it’s given and return a standardized address. It’s called FindAddressLines and has 10 inputs ranging from “Line1” to “Line10” and can work wonders on standardizing messy data sources.  We’ll be integrating with this operation in our tutorial today, so let’s get started!

What You’ll Need

  • A Java IDE (We’re using Eclipse for this example)
  • Basic Java Knowledge
  • A Service Objects DOTS Validation product License Key (We’re using DOTS Address Detective for this case)

Setting Up the Project

Launch Eclipse and select a workspace if it asks you do so. Once everything has finished loading,  select File->New->Other. In the search field type “Dynamic Web Project” and click next.

On the next screen, type in an appropriate project name and configure the settings to our specific needs. Congratulations, you’ve built a project! We’ll need to add several files to take in our inputs, send them to the DOTS Address Detective service, serialize the XML response and display the results back to the user. To start, add two jsp files by right clicking the project and selectingNew->JSP File as shown below:

In this tutorial we’ll name them “inputForm.jsp” and “webServiceCall.jsp.”  These will function as the input form and the display page for the results from the service.

These new JSP files will obviously need something more than they currently have. We’ll place all the necessary HTML elements in the inputForm.jsp file. Make your page look like it does below:


These 10 input lines will send all the necessary information to the FindAddressLines operation.  Now that we have the necessary fields to take our input parameters, we’ll need to put the code in place to actually call the DOTS Address Validation web service. We’ll create a package with the necessary class files for the response from the Address Detective service and within that package we’ll create a method that will actually perform the call to the web service.

To add a package, right click the project and select New->Package.  For this project we’ll name the package “serviceObjects” as shown below.

Java Tutorial 5

Be sure to select the “Create package-info.java” checkbox as we’ll need to add some necessary import statements into the package.info file.  After the package as been added, right click it and select New->Class and add all the following classes to the project.

Java Tutorial 6
We’ll talk briefly about the necessary code to add to each of the different objects and classes so that the XML response from the web service will be successfully deserialized into the objects that we are defining here. One thing that needs to be added to the package-info.java file is as follows.

Java Tutorial 7

This will let the code know that it should expect the http://www.serviceobjects.com namespace in the XML response from the service.

Like most classes, all the values in each of the code files will need the “getters and setters” for each of the objects that the service returns in order to properly work with the returned object. The highest level object that is returned from the service (meaning all the other objects and values will be contained within that one) will be the FixedAddressResponse. This object will contain a possible array of FixedAddress objects that is called “Addresses” and it will contain an Error object that the Address Detective service can potentially return. See below for an example of how to format the declarations and, XML annotations and the “getters and setters.”

Java Tutorial 8

As mentioned this is a general example of how to do this and we’ll include all the class files with this tutorial so that they can be easily added to your own project.

Now we’ll point out some things to be aware of in our “ADClient” file.

Inside the class declaration, we’ll define a few things that we’ll need to make the actual call to the service.

Java Tutorial 9

In the above code, we’ve defined both the trial and the backup URLs. Currently, they both point to the trial environment Service Objects servers. In the event that a license key is purchased the primary call should be to ws.serviceobjects.com and the backup URL should be to wsbackup.serviceobjects.com. We’ve also defined our LicenseKey in the class which will allow us to keep it hidden from outside view and we’ve defined a method called “FindAddressLines” that will eventually call the same operation. Notice that it returns the FixedAddressResponse object.

Within the actual method we have some cleanup logic that is performed on the input strings, and then the URLs are assembled for the HTTP call. See below:

Java Tutorial 10

In the above snippet of code URL strings are assembled and sent to the DoHTTPRequest method. After the web service is called, it is necessary to do a check to ensure that the call was completed correctly. The code will check for a null response from the service or a ‘TypeCode” of 3 is returned which would indicate a fatal error from the Service Objects web service.  If either of those conditions is true, then the code will throw an exception and use the backup URL.  The above functionality and logic will ensure that your application will be uninterrupted in the unlikely event that the Service Object servers are non responsive or returning a TypeCode of 3.

Displaying The Results from the Web Service

Since our failover logic and call to the DOTS Address Detective web service are set up, we can now create the objects that will call the web service with the inputs from the input form, and display the results to the user.

Navigate to the webServiceCall.jsp file and implement the following code:

Java Tutorial 11

In this bit of code we’ll grab the inputs from the inputForm.jsp page and place them in strings of the same name.  We’ve also instantiated an instance of the “FixedAddressResponse” object which will hold the results from the service and the “ADClient” object which will make the actual call to the web service.  Since our FindAddressLines method in the ADClient object returns a FixedAddressResponse object we can set it equal to it.

Our call to the web service is all set up and now we can implement some logic that will either display the results from the service.  Implement the following logic in your JSP page.

This code will first check if an error is present in the response; if it is present it will display that error to the screen. If the error response is null, it will display the validated response from the service.  Notice that we call the “getters” that we have previously defined in our response class to display the results to the user.

We now have everything we need to use the service, let’s see it in action!

As mentioned previously, the FindAddressLines operation can take the inputs for an address in any order and return the validated output address.  See below for an example.

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After we send that input to the service, we will receive this response:

Java Tutorial 14

You are now all set to test the FindAddressLines operation in the DOTS Address Detective web service. Sample code downloads are also available for all of our other services. As always if you have any questions about integrations, service behavior or best practices, feel free to contact us and we will gladly assist in any way that we can!

The Impact of Data Quality on Your Direct Mail

Some things are – sadly – a fact of life. Less than a third of people floss their teeth every day. The average US household has over $16,000 in credit card debt.  And according to the United States Postal Service, undeliverable mail costs businesses roughly $20 billion every year.

Ironically, the quality of your contact data is far and away the most easily fixed of these three things. We can’t stop people from using credits cards, and we can’t make flossing your teeth more fun. But we can easily and inexpensively automate the quality of your mailings – and in the process, save you from some very real and tangible costs.

Let’s look at some of the real costs of poor data quality for direct mail:

Time. Direct mailing remains a labor-intensive process, where sorted physical pieces of mail are prepared for delivery. And when some of these are addressed to an out-of-date lead who has moved – or someone gave you a fake name and address, like Bugs Bunny in Rabbitville, Wisconsin – you are wasting human effort at each step of the life cycle of the process, from mail preparation to updating undeliverable addresses in your database.

Money. If bad contact data isn’t enough of a problem, according to Biznology over 70% of it changes every year as people move, change jobs, or get new contact information. Multiply this across the sunk costs of a direct mail campaign, from printing to postage to manpower, and you are looking at a substantial drain on your marketing budget.

Conservation. Is your company “green”? Not if you aren’t strategically addressing your data quality. The USPS alone estimates that it handles over 6 billion pieces of undeliverable mail annually. Multiply this by the impact on trees, energy use, water and landfill space, and you have a huge and largely preventable impact on our environmental waste stream.

Customer Satisfaction. The impact of data quality gets even worse when you don’t deliver what you promised, and your customer reputation takes a hit. Add in the costs of inventory loss, re-shipping, and bad publicity on channels such as social media, and you risk a loss of customer good will, repeat business and market share.

Missed Market Opportunities. They call them leads for a reason – and if your lead is sitting in a landfill somewhere because of bad contact data, they become the customer that never happened. And then the actual costs of this bad data get compounded by the loss of potential future business.

The worst thing about each of these costs is that they are all completely preventable. Real-time contact data validation is an easy, inexpensive capability that can be built right into your applications, or used directly on your lists via the Web. Once in place, they leverage the power of continually updated contact databases from the USPS and others, and you reap the financial benefits of good data quality forever after. It is truly a situation where an ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure.

My Bright Orange Swedish Pension

Our professions don’t exempt us from real life. Doctors get sick, contractors have leaky roofs – and people who work at Service Objects receive misaddressed mail, just like the rest of us. But one piece of junk mail that recently arrived at my house wasn’t just a mistake: it was a full-fledged tutorial on everything that can go wrong in a direct mail campaign.

For starters, it was a big orange envelope with a bold message on the front – in Swedish. Which I don’t speak. A quick visit to Google Translate revealed that by opening the envelope, I could discover how to see my entire Swedish pension online.

Alas, I don’t have a rich Swedish uncle who has left me a pension. However, the person who used to live in my house did speak Swedish. So this mailing might have been useful to her when she lived here. Unfortunately, that was over 12 years ago.

So now, let’s suppose that this was meant for her, and that she in fact would like to learn about her Swedish pension. The next problem was that her last name was incorrect. Or more accurately, it would have been correct had she not gotten married 18 years ago and taken her husband’s last name.

But that’s not all. The street address was incorrect as well. Actually, they kinda sorta got it right, which is why it probably ended up at my house. But the street name was translated into the same kind of pidgin Swedish that I haven’t seen since the prank subtitles in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. For example, “Saint” = Sankt and “Anne” should be “Ann”.

Mercifully, they did get my city of Santa Barbara, California correct. But it was written in European format, with the ZIP code first (e.g. 93109 Santa Barbara CA). And apparently they don’t do commas in Sweden.

Finally, they did at least make sure that this went to the United States. Because they put this no less than three times in the address, in three different styles (US, USA, and U.S.A.)

Of course, spending a little quality time with Service Objects could have fixed all of these problems, easily and automatically:

  • Our Address Validation 3 product would have turned this address into a correctly formatted, CASS-certified USPS address.
  • More important, our National Change of Address (NCOA) Live would have produced a current, up-to-the-minute address for the intended recipient.
  • Finally, our Lead Validation product could have validated their contact record and assessed the overall accuracy and viability before sending.

This incident was pretty funny. But at another level, it is also sad. Think of all the resources that were expended sending this piece of junk mail across the Atlantic. Now multiply this by all the other misaddressed pieces of mail that were probably sent out in this campaign. Then multiply it again by the amount of direct mail that crosses the globe every day. That sum could pay for a lot of Swedish pensions.

If there is one silver lining to this story – aside from hopefully entertaining our blog readers – it is that at least this piece of mail will not end up in a landfill somewhere. It now hangs proudly on our Wall of Shame here at Service Objects, as a reminder for why we do what we do. And how we can help YOU save money and resources.

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 not 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.

Medical Data is Bigger than You May Think

What do medical centers have in common with businesses like with Uber, Travelocity, or Amazon? They have a treasure trove of data, that’s what! The quality of that data and what’s done with it can help organizations work more efficiently, more profitably, and more competitively. More importantly for medical centers, data quality can lead to even better quality care.

Here’s just a brief sampling of the types of data a typical hospital, clinic, or medical center generates:

Patient contact information
Medical records with health histories
Insurance records
Payment information
Geographic data for determining “Prime Distance” and “Drive Time Standards”
Employee and payroll data
Ambulance response times
Vaccination data
Patient satisfaction data

Within each of these categories, there may be massive amounts of sub-data, too. For example, medical billing relies on tens of thousands of medical codes. For a single patient, even several addresses are collected such as the patient’s home and mailing addresses, the insurance company’s billing address, the employer’s address, and so forth.

This data must be collected, validated for accuracy, and managed, all in compliance with rigorous privacy and security regulations. Plus, it’s not just big data, it’s important data. A simple transposed number in an address can mean the difference between getting paid promptly or not at all. A pharmaceutical mix-up could mean the difference between life and death.

With so much important data, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Who’s responsible? How is data quality ensured? How is it managed? Several roles can be involved:

Data stewards – Develop data governance policies and procedures.
Data owners – Generate the data and implement the policies and procedures.
Business users –  Analyze and make use of the data.
Data managers –  Information systems managers and developers who implement and manage the tools need to capture, validate, and analyze the data.

Defining a data quality vision, assembling a data team, and investing in appropriate technology is a must. With the right team and data validation tools in place, medical centers and any organization can get serious about data and data quality.

How Can Data Quality Lead to Quality Care?

Having the most accurate, authoritative and up-to-date information for patients can positively impact organizations in many ways. For example, when patients move, they don’t always think to inform their doctors, labs, hospitals, or radiology centers. With a real-time address validation API, not only could you instantly validate a patient’s address for billing and marketing purposes, you could confirm that the patient still lives within the insurance company’s “prime distance” radius before treatment begins.

Accurate address and demographic data can trim mailing costs and improve patient satisfaction with appropriate timing and personalization. Meanwhile, aggregated health data could be analyzed to look at health outcomes or reach out to patients proactively based on trends or health histories. Just as online retailers recommend products based on past purchases or purchases by customers like you, medical providers can use big data to recommend screenings based on health factors or demographic trends.

Developing a data quality initiative is a major, but worthwhile, undertaking for all types of organizations — and you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Contact Service Objects today to learn more about our data validation tools.

Connecting the DOTS between Address Validation and Address Detective

Service Objects, Inc. has been standardizing and cleansing even the messiest of USPS valid addresses for years. The core purpose of our DOTS Address Validation-US service is determining if addresses are valid based on their ability to receive mail. However, we’ve occasionally come across addresses that were known to be good but just not known by the USPS. In recent months, we’ve been working on alternative data sets to identify addresses that may not be mail-able but are in fact known to exist. DOTS Address Detective was pegged as the perfect landing spot for these hard to find addresses.

Address Detective, is a sleuth service that can do many things to help with the messiest addresses by using other data points like: name, business name, phone number, etc. One of its operations, FindAddressLines, doesn’t even require the normal clean address1, address2, city, state, zip format. Rather, it analyzes client input and determines the best match for each element. Clients with very messy data sets, unknown data sets or even corrupted data sets can repair and validate addresses with this operation.

One of our most recently added operation’s, FindOutlyingAddresses, was created to help with those hard to find addresses that are not known by the USPS. They may be general delivery areas where only the Post Office is known or they might just be way out of the way, disconnected from most communication. Mammoth Lakes, CA is a well known major General Delivery area. Mail is not delivered to individual houses but to the community Post Office.

Although Address Detective is great for these hard to find addresses, DOTS Address Validation is still the best choice for most users for most addresses, returning the most robust data and needed data points. Which is why we also needed a clean way to help our clients of Address Validation know when they should go to check the FindOutlyingAddresses operation. Its likely they will only be doing it a very small percentage of the time.

In order for our current clients to gain this insight without having to reintegrate a new operation or service, we have added an error type that will return only if the client wishes to see it.  This new error type of ‘5’ will be linked to the clients key and will only activate if requested.

The address:  3 Oak Tree Way, Mammoth Lakes, CA, 93546 is one of these addresses.  In Address Validation this error would be returned:

But from our new operation, we can see that the house exists and is known.  It’s a “Premise” level match meaning we found an exact match for the house.

With the new error message, a client will still get an error but it will be of type “5” meaning we know there is some sort of match in OutlyingAddresses that will provide more information about the address in question.

The normal error messaging will still apply for any address that we do NOT think is a good match for FindOutlyingAddresses.  For example, the address: 200 Greenwell Lane, Santa Barbara, CA, 93105 is out of range but we also know that it will not be found by Address Detective.

This new operation is a good way to see what we may know about an address if it can’t be found by normal means.

If there are any addresses you have in question contact us, we’re always interested in researching what we can find to help improve your business processes!

A Commitment to Fanatical Customer Service Leads to “FindAddressLines”

Service Objects runs an agile Engineering team that likes to be ready to run with a great new idea at any given moment. We view it as one of the cornerstones of our fanatical customer service plan.

As soon as we learn about a challenge that a prospect or client is experiencing we’re excited to find a customized solution. A recent example of this is the release of a new operation for our Address Validation-US service called FindAddressLines.

DOTS Address Validation-US is one of our core services which takes as input, two address lines, city,  state, as well as postal code and does an excellent job of cleaning and standardizing even grossly misspelled addresses. In a perfect world, data is collected and properly placed where it needs to be to facilitate the validation. But we know the world isn’t perfect and one particular client had lists of addresses in which there were extra Address lines (sometimes up to 5) or even key pieces of data entered into the wrong columns altogether. FindAddressLines was born initially to help this client, and many others moving forward, clean up these types of problematic issues.

Let’s take a look at how it works:

In the example above, the first three rows work as expected using Address1 and Address2 as the inputs. However, on row 5, the address returns a missing secondary number because the suite number fell into Address3.  When you get to row 6 there is nothing to go on unless you are looking at Address4 and Address5 specifically.  Our FindAddressLines operation allows you to submit up to 10 lines (columns) including a city, state and zip and we do the work to make sure the right data makes it into the right locations.

Here’s an even messier example:

As we can see in row 4, the data was pushed out past the zip column. This can easily happen when importing data from a database to a spreadsheet if care isn’t taken for potential delimiters like commas.  With FindAddressLines, we are able to assign the extra columns as inputs and let the service figure it out.  The example in row 5 has a completely jumbled address that might have occurred from a corrupted database or just extremely messy data collection.  Again, we can use FindAddressLines to solve this one as well.

We enjoy talking to both current clients and prospects alike to determine what their needs are and what new features and services we can put together to help them improve their unique processes.  Our team is 100% committed to our customers’ success and can often rapidly put together a new solution to solve almost any problem you’re experiencing.

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 to learn more

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How to Validate International Addresses

Dealing with international addresses is no simple task. An address can often be misspelled, incorrectly formatted or simply written in a foreign language that you do not understand. The simple fact that many international addresses are foreign to us means that we are unable to recognize when something is wrong.

Take the simple word “street” for example. It is one of many commonly used words in an address. The French word for street is “rue”, in German it’s “Straße”, in Portuguese it’s “rua”, and it’s the character “路” pronounced “lu” in Chinese and so on. That’s not to mention common abbreviations either. In many cases a person will have a hard time identifying the name of a city or a street in an address and they would be unable to distinguish one from the other.

Let’s take a look at a few international examples:

China (中国)

Address:

Shanghai DPF Textile Co., Ltd.
200331
上海市普陀区武威路259号
98 -A3

Unless you are able to read Chinese you would be hard pressed to make sense of the above example. The first line is in English but it appears to simply be the name of a business. Business names are not required to validate addresses with the AVI service and it is unlikely that it would prove helpful in the validation process. To the contrary, extraneous information like this is often regarded by most systems as garbage data; however, let’s go ahead and pass the address as is to the AVI service and see how it handles it.

URL Query:url1

Here is what the query looks like when using the web service test page:

getaddressinfo

Here is the output in JSON, although the service also supports XML:json1Examining the output, we see that the AVI service fixed the order in which we entered our input values. This was done not only in the transliterated Romanized spelling of the address but also in the localized Chinese format.

Here are both versions of the address parsed from the JSON response output:

Roman Character Format

Shanghai DPF Textile Co , Ltd
98 – A3
No. 259 Wuwei Lu
Putuo Qu, Shanghai Shi
200331

Local (Chinese) Character Format

200331
上海市普陀区武威路259号
Shanghai DPF Textile Co , Ltd
98 – A3

The AVI service identified the street name, city name, postal code as well as other useful information.

 

Greece (Ελλάδα)

Address:

114 71 Αθηνα
Ασκληπιου 104
Το ΝΟΣΤΙΜΟ

Unless you can read Greek the above address would be difficult to decipher. Let’s see what the AVI service returns.

URL Query:
url2

Here is what the query looks like when using the web service test page:

getaddressinfo2

JSON Output:json2

Parsing out both of the address formats from the JSON response we get the following:

Roman Character Format:

To NOSTIMO
Asklepiou 104
114 71 Athens

Local (Greek) Character Format:

114 71 Αθηνα
Ασκληπιου 104
Το ΝΟΣΤΙΜΟ

As it turns out, “To NOSTIMO” or “Το ΝΟΣΤΙΜΟ” (in Greek), is the name of a café that resides at the address. Even though the name of the café is not technically a part of the address nor is it necessary for validation, we see that its inclusion did not impede the AVI service from performing its job.

 

Germany

Let’s see how well the AVI service handles an address when several lines of extraneous data are included.

Address: 

Accemic GmbH & Co. KG
C/O World Express (GmbH)
Gunther Meyer, Phone: +49 (0) 8033 6039790
Franzhuber Str 39
Kiefersfelden

In this example, the address is in English, but there is a mess of extraneous information included. What will the AVI service make of this example?

URL Query:url3
Here is what the query looks like when using the web service test page:
getaddressinfo3

JSON Output:json3Parsing out the address from the JSON response we get the following:

Roman Character Format:

Accemic GmbH & Co KG
C/O World Express (GmbH)
Gunther Meyer, Phone: +49 (0) 8033 6039790
Franz-Huber-Str. 39
83088 Kiefersfelden

In the above example, we see that the AVI service was able to ignore the three lines of extraneous information and identify the pertinent address information. From there the service standardized the street name, corrected the locality name and appended the missing postal code.

What Does Address Validation Offer?

Our USPS CASS Certified™ Address Validation service improves internal mail processes and delivery rates by standardizing contact records against USPS data and flagging for vacancy, addresses returning mail, and general delivery addresses. Our industry-leading GetBestMatches operation now combines Delivery Point Validation (DPV), SuiteLink, and Residential Delivery Indicator (RDI) into one robust API call to our USPS CASS Certified™ database engine.

Delivery Point Validation (DPV)

The DPV 1-4 codes are our way of indicating the deliverability of an address. A quick glance at the DPV code can tell you if an address is deliverable according to the USPS.

DPV can be broken down into the 4 following codes, and their subsequent descriptions:

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

SuiteLink

The DOTS Address Validation 3 service has the ability to correct and/or append suite information to an address. Through the use of business names, the service will try to find or append the proper suite information. SuiteLink provides an added level of accuracy to Business to Business relationships by ensuring the proper address and suite information is included in your validated data.

Residential Delivery Indicator (RDI)

The Residential Delivery Indicator enables you to know if an address is residential. This is often important if you are looking for targeted marketing (Business to Consumer). By knowing your target address’s delivery type you can make more informed business decisions.

CASS

The Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) enables the United States Postal Service (USPS) to evaluate the accuracy of software that corrects and matches street addresses. It is important because it ensures that our validation system doesn’t make far-reaching changes to your input address. We comply with the CASS regulations and thus, the validated address and additional information that is returned to you actually pertains to the original input address. A company that doesn’t comply with the CASS regulations could easily take your input address and make a change to it that completely changes the intended location. In doing so, your data would be rendered effectively useless. The DOTS Address Validation 3 service is CASS compliant and any changes that may be made will pertain to the proper address.

Try out Address Validation for your business, for free.

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

Residents 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.

How to Hack Character Limitations in Shipping Address Fields

If you are using an Address Validation service for shipping labels, then you may occasionally run into character limitations with the Address1 field. Whether you are using UPS, Fedex or another shipping solution, most character limits tend to range between 30 or 35 characters. While most addresses tend to be under this limit, there are always outliers that you will 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 allows you to customize address lines to your heart’s content. Whether you are looking to have your address lines be under a certain limit, place apartment or unit information on a separate line, or customize the address line some other way, we will show you how to integrate the Address Validation response from a Service Objects API into your business logic.

Here is a brief example using our DOTS Address Validation 3 solution:

DOTS Address Validation 3 US provides the following fragments in a typical valid response:

FragmentHouse
FragmentPreDir
FragmentStreet
FragmentSuffix
FragmentPostDir
FragmentUnit
Fragment
FragmentPMBPrefix
FragmentPMBNumber

If you are worried about exceeding a certain character limit, first, you can programmatically check the Address1 line to see if it exceeds that particular limit. If it does, then your application can go about splitting up the address in the way that would be the best for your particular application.

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 will help us show the different ways to handle long address lines. This 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

For this particular example, a 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 for this basic algorithm, but this can help you get started with catering your validated address information to different character limitations.

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!

Lost Deliveries Equals Lost Revenue

Getting 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 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 integrations can help improve your contact data quality, help with data validation, and enhance your business operations.

Improve Mail Delivery With Service Objects’ Free Chrome Extension for Salesforce

Having validated and standardized addresses within your CRM will improve business efficiency, cut down on bogus leads, and help reduce waste. Let our new DOTS Address Validation Chrome Extension for Salesforce do all of the validating and standardizing for you.

Chrome-Extension

Configuration is as simple as copy and pasting your license key into the key field on the options page after downloading the extension:

Chrome-Extension2From there, any time you are on a Lead, Account, or Contact page within Salesforce, right clicking will present you with an option to validate the address. The extension will automatically pull out the address, city, state, and zip code, thus eliminating the need to manually enter the information you wish to validate. User error is taken out of the equation so you can be sure the address in your CRM is the address that is being validated. After validation, updating your Salesforce Lead/Account/Contact address is as simple as clicking an update button:Chrome-Extension4

The Technologies at Play

DOTS Address Validation – US 3

Our USPS CASS Certified™ DOTS Address Validation service improves internal mail processes and delivery rates by standardizing contact records against USPS data and flagging for vacancy, addresses returning mail, and general delivery addresses. Our industry-leading GetBestMatches operation, now combines Delivery Point Validation (DPV), SuiteLink and Residential Delivery Indicator (RDI) into one robust API call to our USPS CASS Certified™ database engine.

Addresses are pulled from the Salesforce Leads, Accounts, or Contacts tabs and then validated through the DOTS Address Validation – US 3 service. Once the address is validated, a window will pop up showing the service’s results. If the address was standardized and corrected to a perfectly deliverable address (DPV1) an option is given to the client to automatically update the address in their Salesforce instance.

Google Chrome Extensions JavaScript API

This is the primary technology that allows this project to be possible. The JavaScript API that is provided by Google allows developers access to the inner workings of the Chrome browser giving them access to features such as browser actions, events, web requests, and more. Developers are able to add functionality to the Chrome browser while staying lightweight and nonintrusive.

Installation, Configuration, and Usage

Please refer to our website for a detailed breakdown on installation, configuration, and usage for the Chrome extension for Salesforce.

The Challenge of Storing International Addresses

Working with international address data can be difficult and confusing. Even when you have an application available to validate an address, and it tells you that it’s deliverable, you still have to deal with the chore of storing the resulting data. So when someone asks, “what’s the best way to store international addresses?”, what they are really asking is, “what’s the easiest way to store international addresses?”

The short answer to the “what’s the best?” question, as it often is, you’re asking the wrong question. Many of you who have worked with varying data sets before already know that you first need to ask yourself, “what do I intend to do with the data once it is stored?” What the data is used for should have the largest impact on how it is stored. Depending on your specific requirements, the way you store address data can vary greatly. For some, how you store your data may not be entirely up to you as you may not have any control over the storage design, and are instead forced to work with the fields that are made available to you. Many users work with US-centric Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions that are designed with US address fields in mind, which can make storing international addresses all the more confusing and can also potentially lead to some data loss.

For those looking to simply print an address label for mail delivery, a single text field containing the complete formatted address will suffice. After all, why bother with breaking an address down to a mess of individual fragments if you’re not going to use them? Worse yet, what do you do when it comes time to put the pieces back together and you find that you don’t know how?

For some, correctly putting an address back together from its individual fragments might not be of great concern. The primary use of the data may be for some form of query analysis and/or organization. In which case you might be more concerned about which specific data type your individual fields should be or how to properly map these fragments. If you are implementing your own design then keep in mind that not all international addresses are necessarily parsed the same way, and you will need to consider if your design should be flexible enough to handle all international addresses or if you would prefer to go a country-specific route.

Mapping address fields

Consider this example of an address in England:

9 Gorse View
School Road
Knodishall, Saxmundham
IP17 1TS
UNITED KINGDOM

If we include the country name, then the above address has five address lines; six if we split the third line. Now, let’s go ahead and attempt to store this address in our CRM. Most CRMs will contain the following address fields for a contact:

Address1
Address2
Address3
City
State
ZIP
Country

Depending on the CRM, we may have somewhere between five to seven address related fields on average to work with. In the above example we have seven, so that should make things easy, right? We have more than enough fields, so there should not be any loss of data, but right away we see State and ZIP fields. These should be red flags that the storage was not designed for international addresses, but unfortunately, it is what we have to work with. Let’s go ahead and look at the parsed fields that we are likely to get back from an address validation solution:

Premise Number: 9
Dependent Street Name: Gorse View
Street Name: School Road
Dependent Locality: Knodishall
Locality: Saxmundham
Postal Code: IP17 1TS
Country: UNITED KINGDOM

In most cases, users will find that they can typically match Locality to City, Administrative Area to State, and Postal Code to ZIP. If you are unfamiliar with the address terms “Locality” and “Administrative Area” then please check out our previous blog, Five Commonly Used Terms and Definitions in International Address Validation Systems.

In the above example, you’ll notice that an Administrative Area equivalent was never provided. You’ll quickly find that this is quite common for many countries and that the locality is usually preferred. You’ll also notice that we have a dependent locality, which is a sub-region of the locality, and a dependent street name. It is important not to omit or lose these pieces of data if they are provided, as they offer additional detail/instruction on the whereabouts of an otherwise ambiguous address. So where to map them?

Luckily, our database design offers enough fields to accommodate these values, but keep in mind that this may not always be the case. In our example, we can map the premise number and dependent street name to Address1, the street name to Address2, the dependent locality to Address3, locality to city, postal code to ZIP, country to country, and leave the state empty. However, even though we were able to successfully map every value to our CRM, it is still very tedious and risky to try and handle all of the various address formats. Also, what course of action do we take when an address also includes a double-dependent locality or a sub-region?

Missing state or administrative area equivalent

Let’s look at two more example addresses:

3-10-13 Ryoke
Urawa-Ku
Saitama-Shi 330-0072
JAPAN

and

5 Rue Sainte-Catherine
12000 Rodez
FRANCE

The first example is a Japanese address. Looking at it with American eyes one might think that the first line is a premise number and a street name, the second line the city, and the third line the state and postal code, or their equivalents. However, things work very differently in Japan. Streets are not commonly named or used for addresses. Instead of street names, they primarily use regions that can normally be thought of as districts. In the above example, Ryoke is a second level sub-locality, Urawa is a first level sub-locality and Saitama is the locality. No administrative area equivalent value is given. Administrative areas are commonly omitted as often as they are included in Japanese addresses.

In the second example, we have a premise number and street name in the first address line, and a postal code and locality in the second. Once again, no administrative area value is given. The address is in France, but many European addresses will follow this general format, and it is common for them to omit a first level administrative area. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you do not make an administrative area a required field. Doing so would mean rejecting valid addresses for entire countries.

Facing the challenge

As I mentioned earlier, when breaking an address apart we also run the risk of putting it back together incorrectly. So while no individual address fragment might be lost, we still risk losing the correct address order and format. Addresses and their various fragments and formats can vary greatly not just from country to country, but also within the same country. So what’s the point of it all? Is there no hope when it comes to international addresses?

If you are forced to use a set storage design and are unable to alter it then your best course of action may be to simply store the complete formatted address in a single field, if it can fit. If the complete address cannot fit in a single field, then split it into multiple fields when necessary. In general, storing the complete address should be your primary objective as it should contain all of the necessary information that you need. The complete address can always be parsed out later as needed. Storing the country and postal code should be next on your priority list, although not all countries use postal codes. Postal codes are very important and useful, so be sure to store them when they are available. Finally, look towards storing the locality and admin area if they are available.

For those who will be implementing their own design, look to the output specifications of your validation solution. Most validation solutions will have a large list of address fields that cover the majority of the most widely used international addresses out there. You may consider it cumbersome, but if you include all of the output fields from your validation solution in your own design then you minimize the risk of losing data during the mapping process. You might not consider it the best way to handle storing international addresses, but unless you want to become an expert on the subject, it is definitely easier to use an existing design.

Bots Need Address Validation Too

Remember watching Star Trek as a kid and dreaming of talking to a computer throughout the day? Then PCs arrived, and while you couldn’t control them with your voice, information was at your fingertips. And then along came Siri and Cortana as well as other artificial intelligence technologies like chat bots. The future has arrived!

Though initially clunky and limited in their capabilities, chat bots are getting smarter and more human-like. Earlier this year, students taking a course online at the Georgia Institute of Technology found out that their friendly teaching assistant, Jill Watson, was, in fact, a chat bot and not a real person as they had believed all semester.

Siri, Cortana, and various transactional bots that appear when you order flowers and other services online are likely to play a more prominent role as you interact with businesses online. For example, you can already use Cortana on Windows 10, and Mac OS Sierra, which is now in public beta and expected to arrive in the fall, will bring Siri to the Mac. Not only will you be able to interact with Siri on your computer, she’ll have a direct link to Apple Pay. Developers, at long last, have been given access to Siri, which means you’ll soon be able to order and pay for products with a simple Siri command.

Amazon’s Echo audio device is another example of how technology is changing how we interact with computers. This device is always listening and ready to play music, look up information, give you a weather report, order pizza, read you a story, control smart home devices, and more — all with a voice command.

Star Trek had it right when it envisioned how we interact with computers. In one iconic scene, Scotty traveled back in time to contemporary 1986. He tried to talk to the computer, but given 1980s technology, he got no response. After trying to address it, someone handed him the mouse. He tried talking into the mouse. Again, no response. Finally, he was told to use the keyboard. How primitive can you get?

scotty_star_trek_iv_hello_computer_talking_mouse_animated_if_siri

Scotty would be happy to know that we are finally approaching what he thought was the obvious way to interact with computers. Computer bots are finally not only understanding what we say but also taking lots of complex actions based on what we tell them to do!

Technology has progressed to the point where Facebook wants companies to forgo email and talk to Gen-Zers via chat bots. According to Facebook’s Developer News Post, How to Build Bots for Messenger, “…bots make it possible for you to be more personal, more proactive, and more streamlined in the way that you interact with people.”

Clearly, bots have a big job to do, and that job is getting bigger and more complex. Are they up to the task?

Unfortunately, there have been problems with bots not validating information correctly. Shortly after Facebook’s online demonstration of 1-800 Flowers’ chat bot integration with Messenger, users began posting their own awkward interactions with the bot. One user entered a delivery address multiple times, yet the chat bot continuously ignored the given address, prompting the user to enter an address again or choose from a list of buildings located halfway around the world.

1800-Flowers-2

 

So, while chat bots are getting better, smarter, and more prominent, Facebook’s Messenger and other companies using bots need to do a better job of fuzzy matching. Service Objects easily handles these delivery issues with no problems whatsoever. The address would have been validated correctly and frustration free.

Remember, as friendly and helpful as bots appear, they are not humans; they are computer programs. While a human may quickly recognize an address or apartment number even if it’s in a non-standard format, computers rely on the algorithms and databases they’ve been instructed to use — and it’s your classic case of garbage in, garbage out.

If a chat bot has been integrated with a quality Address Validation API such as Service Objects’, it will be able to instantly understand and recognize an entry as an address.

Now here’s where a chat bot has an advantage over a human: linked to an address verification API like our real-time address parsing software, a chat bot could instantly verify and correct address data as well as retrieve geocodes that pinpoint the exact address location on a map.

As smart and intuitive as bots are, they still need our help. The best way you can help your company’s chat bots is to link them to our address validation API. It’s easy and affordable, and it will deliver a superior customer experience, not to mention delivering those tulips to the correct address.

Data Quality and Political Advertising

One benefit or problem, depending on your inclinations, of being in the marketing business is that you become acutely aware of the marketing that goes on around you. In many ways, that awareness is a great thing. Every day you can see great, and not so great, marketing ideas, concepts, and implementations. We learn from what others do. Now that marketing has become such a data-driven endeavor, the combination of ideas and data are the key to marketing and business success, and especially in political advertising.

The pundits are predicting that in the time between now and November, the spending on political advertising will set new records. Some estimates reach as high as $6.5 Billion across TV, print, and digital media. The people who implement political advertising are becoming more sophisticated in the ability to target potential voters due to the tools and techniques that the rest of us marketers use every day.

Here’s where the problems start. Many people and organizations rely solely on email addresses for their marketing. Yet political processes such as elections are largely local processes that rely on real people having real addresses. A great way to waste money is to throw advertising spend at the wrong people. Wasted spend would be so easy to do in this case.

The connection to data quality starts to emerge. One factor in defining the quality is the completeness of the data. Whether data is correct or not is easy to understand. Completeness is a little harder to grasp. In an election scenario, an email address alone certainly may not be of much benefit. Knowing a street address and having some certainty that the address is correct moves us in the right direction. Appending the demographics of the location to the record speeds up the move to valuable data. Being able to attach a score to measure the quality of a lead helps. Yes, for marketing purposes, a potential voter is a lead.

Those of us not in the election business can learn a few things from those that are. The marketing has to be done now. The election date isn’t moving. Getting things right the first time becomes more critical. Time for lots of A/B testing simply doesn’t exist. We can have great creative, but the effectiveness of our work diminishes quickly with poor lists. The need for data quality becomes more apparent due to the compressed timeframe.

If you are in marketing, keep your eyes and ears open in the next few months. What we hear and see from the political process is going to be interesting. The more that data quality plays a part, the more effective all that spend will be.

5 Commonly Used Terms and Definitions in International Address Validation Systems

When dividing the countries of the world into regions and sub-regions for the purpose of Address Validation, it is important to find common ground and to use a set of widely adopted terms and definitions.

In the United States of America, (US), we commonly use the terms city, state and zip code when referring to addresses. While that may mostly work for a country like Mexico (MX), it is not appropriate for other countries like Japan (JP) where the country is divided into prefectures instead of states. Not all countries call their sub-region divisions the same thing and many countries have several levels of sub-divisions. To further complicate the matter, not all sub-division levels are necessarily interchangeable from one country to another. For example, a first level sub-region in the US is a state, such as California (US-CA), but a first level sub-region for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (GB) is a country, such as England (GB-ENG).

Every country can have its own particular set of terms and definitions; to try to go over them all would be too complicated and inefficient. Instead, let’s go over some commonly used terms that are helpful when talking about international addresses.

Country Code

An alphabetic or numeric code used to represent a country. Various types of country codes exist for different particular uses, but the most commonly used codes come from the ISO 3166 standard. Part one of this standard, ISO 3166-1, consists of the following code formats:

  • ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 – a two-letter country code.
  • ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 – a three-letter country code.
  • ISO 3166-1 numeric – three-digit country code.

Postal Code

An alphabetic, numeric or alphanumeric code that may sometimes include spaces or punctuation that is commonly used for the purpose of sorting mail. Commonly referred to as the Postcode. Some country-specific terms include ZIP code (US), PLZ (DE, AU, and CH), PIN code (IN) and CAP (IT).

Administrative Areas

The regions in which a country is divided into. Each region typically has a defined boundary with an administration that performs some level of government functions. These areas are commonly expected to manage themselves with a certain level of autonomy. Various administrative levels exist that can range from “first-level” administrative to “fifth-level” administrative. The higher the level number is the lower its rank will be on the administrative level hierarchy. For example, the US is made up of states (first-level), which are divided into counties (second-level) that consist of municipalities (third-level). For comparison, the United Kingdom (GB) is comprised of the four countries England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (first-level). These countries are made up of counties, districts and shires (second-level), which in turn are made up of cities and towns (third-level) and small villages and parishes (fourth-level). Other common terms for an administrative area are administrative division, administrative region, administrative unit, administrative entity and subdivision.

Locality

In general, a locality is a particular place or location. More specifically, a locality should be defined as a distinct population cluster. Localities are commonly recognized as cities, towns, and villages; but they may also include other areas such as fishing hamlets, mining camps, ranches, farms and market towns. Localities are often lower-level administrative areas and they may consist of sub-localities, which are segments of a single locality. Sub-localities should not be confused for being the lowest level administrative area of a country, nor should they be confused as being separate localities.

Thoroughfare

In general, a thoroughfare is a transportation route between one location and another. On land, it is more commonly referred to as a type of road or route that is typically used by motorized vehicles, such as a street, avenue or highway.

Moving to Canada – Mail Subscriber Guide

Thinking about moving to Canada after this election? All jokes aside, there are some things you should know about sending or receiving mail to our northerly neighbor. We have compiled some of the key things you should know before making the move.

Home Delivery Phase Out

On December 11, 2013, Canada Post announced a plan to phase out urban door-to-door delivery service. This was in part due to rising costs and falling mail volume, thanks to the digital age. The door-to-door delivery service would be succeeded by community mailboxes. This plan was scheduled to begin in the summer of 2014 and to be completed by 2019. To date over 1 million addresses have been moved to community lockboxes. This conversion is happening in every province.

The switch to community mailboxes was not without opposition. Complaints about accessibility to the new community mailboxes and littering around the units prompted a halt on the new roll-out by the new Liberal government in November 2015.

Address Formatting Guidelines

While there are many similarities in the format of Canadian addresses vs US addresses, there are some key differences which should be noted to ensure prompt delivery of parcels.

Format Example:

JOHN JONES
MARKETING DEPARTMENT
10-123 MAIN ST NW
MONTREAL QC H3Z 2Y7

Address Casing – Canada Post recommends that all address information should be printed in upper case, although lower case is acceptable.

Unit Number, Civic Number Format – Canada Post will accept one of the following formats for unit numbers. In this example 10 is the unit number, with 123 as the street number.

• 10-123 Main St
• 123 Main St Apt 10
• Apt 10
123 Main St

Street Direction – Street Direction should be the last element of a civic address line.

Postal Code Format – All Postal Codes should be in upper case format with a space separating the first three characters from the last three (e.g. M3C 0C2).

Shipping Rate Comparison

The current domestic postal rate for letters mailed within Canada and less than 30G in weight is $0.85. In comparison to US domestic postal rate of $0.47 for mail letters up to 1 oz. While the US offers a discounted rate for postcards at $0.34, Canada Post does not offer this discount. In comparison, Canada Post rates are between 20-57% higher than USPS for comparable domestic shipping. To combat the costly fees of shipping within Canada, some users will make a round trip through USPS service to deliver to a Canadian address and avoid Canada Post fees, although this is not always a viable solution.

Shipping Delays

While shipping delays are not uncommon to USPS and Canada Post users, some Canada Post users have complained of longer delays for parcels shipped domestically vs internationally. One such user complained of a parcel taking weeks to transit two provinces while another package was shipped internationally within several days. Some possible explanations for domestic shipping delays within Canada include understaffed couriers, mail processors and extreme weather.

 

Santa Claus Vows to Deliver All Presents to the Correct Address This Year!

Every year Mr. Santa Claus faces enormous pressure to deliver billions of presents around the world. He has just one night—just one chance to ensure delivery of all the toys to children all over the globe. In recent years, Claus has turned to technology to aid him in his annual quest. Said Claus, “While Rudolph’s nose may guide the sleigh, I still need all the help I can get. This year we received a lot of returned packages and gifts – mostly from incomplete or incorrect addresses. While maps and on-board computers lend a hand on the sleigh, we just don’t have all the information we need.” Looking for answers and new tools for 2015, Claus began his search for something to help him verify addresses for his deliveries.

Luckily for Claus, he found a real-time web service which offers Delivery Point Validation, CASS/USPS Address Standardization, and even RDI (Residential Delivery Indicator) for all the addresses on his “Nice” list. By using DOTS Address Validation by Service Objects, Clause estimates he will increase his delivery efficiencies by 40% and dramatically reduce the number of toys which need to be returned to the North Pole each year. When asked about his new services, Claus could barely contain his excitement. Old Saint Nick stated “Now with Service Objects’ web services I will be able to almost guarantee that all the presents will be delivered. Not only will the addresses be validated and entered into my onboard computer in real-time, but the reindeer will know if they will be landing on a legitimate residence or business.”

The North Pole is now giddy with excitement over the implementation of their Address Validation Web Services. In addition to Santa being more efficient on the big night, his elves will also not have to collect, sort, and re-stock returned toys like they have in the past. Santa added, “My workshop costs are going to go down and I can reinvest that money into developing new toys and hiring more elves. In other words, Christmas came early for me this year. This is one new year’s resolution I know will stick!”

No image, text reads Service Objects Tutorials

Improving Canada Address Deliverability

Each year, over 140 million pieces of mail are marked as undeliverable. This happens for several reasons which include incorrect address format, address no longer exists, and mail refused by an addressee to name a few. This article seeks to clarify some of the most common questions regarding Canadian address types and proper formatting techniques to ensure the highest degree of deliverability.

Unit number formatting

There are three acceptable formats that are accepted by Canada Post. The first designation places the unit number ahead of civic number, separated by a hyphen in the Delivery line. The second designation places the unit number at the end of delivery line prepended by unit type. The third designation and least common places the unit number between the addressee and delivery line. See examples below:

Address casing

In general, most mail processing machines are designed for sorting addresses which are printed in upper case format. This differs however with the methods in which data is typically stored in Enterprise CRM systems, which usually prefer proper casing of address information for readability. The decision of which preferred format depends on the application, but for direct mail it is recommended to use all upper case.

Municipality name changes

There are instances where communities can amalgamate and customers continue to use the old name. This can present challenges to proper delivery of mail, which is referencing an older municipality name which may no longer exist, or be designated for an area outside of the current area. It is recommended to ensure the municipality name provided is most current for the address provided.

Address types

Address types that are serviced by Canada Post fall into two categories, civic addresses and postal installation type addresses. A civic address consists of a street address number, street name, municipality name and postal code. A postal installation address consists of the description of the type of delivery, which may be general delivery, lock box number or route service number, municipality, province and postal code. The table below provides a reference for how these address types are addressable by:

Data Validation In Real Estate

The real estate industry can gain a competitive edge with data validation

Data-based marketing, outreach and lead generation isn’t only for cutting-edge B2B companies anymore. Data runs the world these days and successful businesses in every industry can benefit from using verified, validated data in smart ways.
Working with generic data isn’t enough, either. It can be inaccurate and out of date, making it as useful as no data at all—worse, even, if you’re relying on this information. That’s why smart real estate organizations—from large firms to independent agents—are investing in data validation services.

Data validation verifies that the information you’re working from, whether about a specific lead or regional demographics, is accurate and up to date. Validation can be as simple as verifying correct names, phone numbers and current addresses, or can be as nuanced as geo-targeting, IP address validation and reverse phone lookup discovery. No matter the level of data verification, the results are the same: correct information can help you make better-informed decisions and accurately target your audience.

Clever and industrious people in the real estate industry can benefit from just about every type of data validation; it’s all about keeping an eye on trends and getting the right message to the right people at the right time.

Address validation

This is simple but crucial for real estate agents, who still spend a considerable amount on direct mail marketing. Getting a personalized mailer in the hands of the right person is important. RealTrends found that targeted direct mail pieces had a 2-5 percent response rate, versus the 1 percent rate when real estate agents mailed the piece to everyone without specific targeting.

Address Validation before a direct mail send can help ensure that you have the resident’s correct name (“Current Resident” makes the piece seem extra promotional and impersonal), the correct gender salutation, and helps make sure that the target actually lives at that address.

Or Current Resident Edit
Image via Evil Mad Scientist

Using a data validation service that has access to the USPS National Change-of-Address database can help further refine outreach. If a new family just moved into the address you’re targeting, they’re probably not looking to move again soon, so strike that address off the list for now.

Taking address validation a step further with geocoding validation can help real estate agents get a jump on hot trends and growing neighborhoods. Cross check a list of addresses against a trending neighborhood’s longitude and latitude to make sure the addresses you have really are in the hot spot. People currently in this neighborhood might want to capitalize on the new demand and sell their home at a profit, making them prime contacts for savvy real estate agents. Extend your validation and outreach efforts to the surrounding neighborhoods to get a leg up on the competition.

Reverse phone lookup

Reverse Phone Look-up enables companies to put a name and current address to a phone number. This is particularly useful since many people now move but keep their original cell phone number. This trend makes phone numbers alone a hard way to target people, especially with the declining use of landlines. According to Time, 41 percent of homes were landline-free as of 2014 and 60 percent of adults ages 30-34 exclusively use a mobile phone. With the average age of first-time home buyers currently sitting at 31 and expected to climb to 32-34 in the coming years, this makes reverse look-up validation an invaluable resource for real estate agents.

This type of validation will tell you if the people on your list of phone numbers truly do live in your territory. Plus, it will give you their most current address and name. National real estate companies can use this validated data to send location-specific messaging to everyone on their list, based on the person’s current location.

Demographic validation

A core premise of marketing, no matter what industry, is “know your audience.” Demographic data validation can help real estate agents get an accurate and intimate understanding of the areas they work in. Gut instincts are essentially gambles, whereas using validated data ensures you have reasonably accurate and updated information. By working with US census validated demographic data, real estate agents can change and target their messages based on location.

  • Spanish-language ads can be placed in predominately Hispanic neighborhoods
  • First-time homebuyer messaging can be sent to areas with a high concentration of young adults reaching the pivotal first-time homebuyer age
  • Direct mail pieces discussing downsizing can be targeted to areas with mostly older adults
  • Target small business owners in the area about property opportunities in the up and coming business district

SuburbsUnderstanding the population make-up of a particular area can also help influence how you market properties. Areas that are mainly suburban are likely to connect more with family-oriented messages while urban areas probably want to hear more about high-end home features and nearby amenities. By using a combination of demographic validation and geocoding validation, agents can perfectly target each area.

This level of data also provides insight into the average income and spending of nearby households, which is helpful when pricing houses and projecting commissions.

Competitive edge

Many real estate agents work independently and cannot afford to waste time, resources, and money on misguided marketing and outreach efforts. This is where a commitment to clean data and consistent data validation can provide a competitive advantage. Committing to using validated data as a key business tool can help real estate firms accurately focus efforts and spend smartly with better response rates.

Data can be intimidating, but with good data validation the return on investment is well worth it. Look into the different features and options offered to begin cleaning up your data and deciding which level of data-based targeting will work best for you. Go beyond just address validation and get creative if you want to pull ahead of the pack.

Why ‘Address Line 2’ Should Never Be Offered In Address Forms

You see address line 2 all the time. Your own web forms probably even have a field for it. However, did you know that address line 2 doesn’t really exist — at least in the U.S. Postal Service’s eyes? Not only does the USPS not require an address line 2, it doesn’t even acknowledge its existence.

USPS addressing standards

According to the USPS’s postal addressing standards, a complete address consists of just three lines:

Recipient Line
Delivery Address Line
Last Line

An example of a complete address using the three-line standard is:

John Doe
123 Main Street, Unit 21
New York City, NY 10001

Note that placing “Unit 21” on its own line, commonly referred to as “address line 2,” would result in a non-standardized address. While a human should be able to figure out that John Doe lives or works in unit 21, automated processing systems could have trouble.

John Doe2

Though address line 2 does not technically exist, the USPS does allow for additional information in a secondary address line (such as “deliver to dock 23.”) However, that information should be considered more like a comment area; it should not contain any deliverable address information. Our address validation software does scan address line 2 for this type of information, but there’s no guarantee the software will know what to do with it.

Suites and apartment numbers should be placed at the end of address line 1 while recipient details like name and company should go above the address.

What’s wrong with including an address line 2 field on your online forms?

Businesses commonly include an address line 2 field on their online forms, inviting end users to split address information as they see fit. When presented with two address lines, it’s only natural for users to separate floor, suite, and unit numbers into two separate lines. Some users will use address line 2 to add additional information such as “ATTN: John” or “Cross street: 2nd Avenue.”

In short, too much information can be mixed up in address line 2, making parsing out important information difficult and inconsistent. For example, if the recipient’s name is mixed into address line 2 along with an apartment number or letter, it may not be entirely clear to the address validation system what the intention of the address is since the name should have been the first line (above the address) and the apartment number should be placed in the address line itself. Situations like this can often be fixed with address validation software, but the likelihood of getting a perfect address match is reduced since there are so many ways address line 2 can be filled in.

Another issue with presenting an address line 2 for end users to complete is it invites them to mistakenly enter an alternative address line 1 (for example, their home and work addresses if both are in the same city). If both address lines 1 and 2 contain complete, proper addresses, the address validation system cannot determine the originally intended destination.

As the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out. The closer to USPS standards you can get initially, the more likely it is for an address to be cleanly validated, and the more likely it is for your mail to arrive at its proper destination. Even though our software is constantly updated and improved to handle and fix improperly structured addresses, it’s always best to strive for clean input data when possible.

Should you eliminate address line 2 from your online forms?

If you want to invite garbage in, by all means keep asking for an address line 2. If you’d rather cut the confusion and get cleaner data from the start, stop using address line 2. USPS doesn’t require it — and doesn’t necessarily know what to do with it.

Some end users don’t know that they need to enter apartment or suite numbers to the main address line 1. You can help make address input more obvious to end users by adding an optional field to the web form labeled “unit number.” You could then append the unit number to address line 1. End result: less confusion, more consistent address validation, and better deliveries.

5 Tips To Save Time And Money On Shipping

If you’re like most business owners, finding ways to save time and money is one of your top priorities. After all, a penny saved is a penny earned. One area you might not have paid too much attention to is shipping — and it’s prime for cutting costs and hassles. Use the tips below to save both time and money on shipping:

1. Avoid Guesstimating Your Shipping Costs

Chances are, you’ll overpay as you err on the side of caution. For example, your package may weigh less than a pound, yet you might estimate its weight at two or three pounds “just to be safe.” The same is true of a package’s dimensions. Over guesstimating a package’s weight or size could put you in a higher price range than necessary. Meanwhile, underestimating the package’s size or weight could result in time delays as the shipper returns your package for insufficient postage. This is a risky choice as shipping delays translate into unhappy customers (which is why most businesses overestimate their package sizes and shipping costs). Avoid overpaying by using a postage scale and a ruler to accurately weigh and measure your packages.

2. Do Your Research And Choose The Right Service

While one shipping company may have lower rates on smaller parcels, it may be the costlier choice for larger ones. It pays to compare prices. While you’re at it, choose the right type of service for the package. Is overnight service essential or would ground service be acceptable? Would an alternative shipping method, such as Greyhound Package Express or DHL Express, cost less?

3. Increase Sales By Offering Convenient Returns

Though offering to pay for return shipping may seem counterintuitive when you’re trying to cut your shipping costs, you may want to consider adopting such a policy. According to a Forrester Consulting study conducted for UPS, retailers that offer convenient, inexpensive returns are likely to see an increase in sales, customer loyalty, and incremental revenue. 

4. Use Address Validation Software

Are you shipping your packages to the correct address? Address validation can flag you to a potential shipping problem, allowing you to correct the issue before you ship the package and find out the hard, expensive, and time-consuming way. By validating addresses before you ship your packages, you’ll have fewer packages returned to you as undeliverable, fewer upset customers wondering where their packages are, and lower shipping costs as a result. 

5. Shop Around For Shipping Supplies And Buy In Bulk

Are you still buying your mailroom supplies at the local stationary or office supply store? Though convenient, you’re probably paying too much. Again, this comes down to doing your research and shopping around. Buying in bulk also reduces your shipping costs overall. The savings could be substantial.

The Problem With Bad Address Validation

Street, avenue, boulevard, and court are but a few of the many suffixes used in addresses. Add in Spanish or French variations like corte or rue and the list gets even longer. If you use the wrong suffix, such as Elm Street instead of Elm Avenue, your package may not arrive. While businesses use address verification services to avoid this problem, sometimes bad address validation backfires and changes a correct address to an incorrect one, costing businesses 

Recently, we received an email from a client needing advice about fixing a problem with her address. She said that when ordering packages on several occasions, the USPS had changed her address from what should have been a ‘Heights’ suffix to a ‘Road’ suffix. As a result, the Post Office deemed the address undeliverable because the address with the ‘Road’ suffix didn’t exist — and it returned all of her mail to the sender. 

It didn’t matter that she had entered the address correctly when ordering items online; the address would be changed to “Road” time and time again. She asked us how to fix the problem so she could properly receive packages in the future, wondering if she should call USPS or every company she orders from.

We ran her address through our address verification service and found that it would return the correct “Heights” suffix on the address. Therefore, the USPS has her correct address and is not the root of the problem. It turns out that other address verification services were changing “Heights” to “Road” when validating her address upon checkout. 

This caused the customer a great deal of inconvenience. Incorrect data in the address validation database also resulted in lost shipping costs on the business side and an erosion of trust. Businesses that repeatedly ship a package to the wrong address, despite repeated corrections, aren’t likely to earn that customer’s referrals or ongoing business.

Our data and expert algorithms allow for finding the correct address and specifically helped in this case. Not only is having address validation necessary, having the correct validation service — one that will both validate the address and confirm that it truly exists — will save both businesses and customers time and money.

Canadian Address Privacy Concerns

Canada has several privacy laws regulating the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information in the course of commercial activities. Under Canada’s private sector privacy laws, personal information is not allowed to be passed back and forth across the border unless the individual is notified. As alarming as this may sound if you’re a Canadian business using a US-based address validation service to validate customer addresses, rest assured that this is NOT an issue with Address Validation since address data does not fall in this category. 

Canada’s federal Personal Information Protection and Electronics Document Act (PIPEDA) applies in all provinces that lack their own substantially similar legislation. Currently, British Columbia, Alberta, and Québec all have substantially similar legislation covering private sector privacy issues. In general, personal information is defined as “information about an identifiable individual.” 

Service Objects has many clients in the US and Canada who call our real-time APIs to validate both USA and Canadian mailing addresses in order to improve deliverability rates and cut waste. Because privacy is always a concern whether there’s a law in place or not, they’re right to wonder if using address validation infringes upon their customers’ privacy. Rest assured, it does not.

We do not see or store the data in any way  

Among the finer points of the law is the distinction between “transfer for processing” and “disclosure.” According to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, PIPEDA does establish rules governing transfers for processing. A transfer for processing is a “use” of the information; it is not a disclosure. Assuming the information is being used for the purpose it was originally collected, additional consent for the transfer is not required.” 

Thus, if you originally collected address information for delivering a product your Canadian customer ordered, having a US-based address validation service process that address to verify its deliverability is a use — as intended. It is not a disclosure. And again, we never see or store the data.

If you need to validate a Canadian or US address and want extra assurance that you are not compromising your customer’s privacy or running afoul of Canada’s private sector privacy laws, you could simply pass only the address. There’s no need to pass a name with the address.

We understand — and share — your concerns about customer privacy. It’s an issue we take seriously and proactively address.

Try out DOTS Address Validation – Canada 2 for free for 30 days and let us know what you think:

How to Recover from an Incorrect Address

It happens all the time: customers accidentally provide incorrect addresses. Sometimes autocorrect on their phones or computers is to blame. Other times, it’s an honest mistake. Whatever the reason, most customers who enter incorrect addresses won’t realize their mistake. When their order doesn’t arrive as expected, they’re not going to be happy about it. Right or wrong, you’ll bear the brunt of the blame for delivery delays.

The best way to recover from an incorrect address is to catch and correct it before shipping the item or delivering a service. The two main ways to do this are:

  • Calling the customer to confirm the address
  • Using address validation software.

Calling the customer

Having your shipping clerk or delivery driver call the customer to confirm the address is good old-fashioned service. However, it takes time, requires the customer to actually answer the phone or call you back, and is sometimes not done for various reasons.

Using address validation software

Address validation software is a more efficient, completely automatic, way to verify and correct address information. Depending on the address validation API service you use, you can even get exact longitude and latitude codes to plug into your mapping software. You can also find out if an address is a business or residence, if it’s vacant, if it’s a general delivery address, and more.

Address validation software verifies and corrects addresses in real time, catching errors instantly. By using an address verification API, you can prevent delivery problems due to incorrect address information.

Getting back in your customer’s good graces after an incorrect address

What if you didn’t call the customer to confirm the address or use address validation software and the provided address was incorrect? You’re going to have an unhappy customer, and you likely won’t find out about an incorrect address until it’s too late. Use the tips below to get back into your customer’s good graces:

  • Immediately correct the address in your system so the error doesn’t happen again.
  • Accept responsibility, even if it’s not your fault. After all, address verification technology exists, and it’s readily available and affordable.
  • Make it up to your customer. Start with a genuine apology, and then think of a way to make it up to the customer. Can you waive the shipping costs, ship the replacement package overnight rather than ground, offer a discount on a future order, or include freebies in the replacement package you send? If you’re not sure what to do to make it up to the customer, ask. Do whatever it takes to turn the situation around. Remember, it’s much cheaper to keep an existing customer than it is to get a new one.
  • Finally, start using address verification software so you won’t be in this position again. Not only will it prevent problems, it will help to improve productivity and customer satisfaction while also reducing costs associated with deliveries to incorrect addresses.

Embarking on a Data Adventure

Service Objects’ CEO Geoff Grow recently embarked on a data adventure during his fourth trip to Palau. Ever the data enthusiast, Geoff couldn’t help but wonder if the PO box numbers in that country would match that data we have on file.

We’ve always been confident in our data, but yet there’s been this nagging curiosity about some of the world’s most remote places (and Palau is about as remote as you can get from our neck of the woods). What better way to put this matter to rest than to verify the data quality in person while visiting the island nation? With that in mind, Geoff added data verification to his already busy itinerary and set off on a mission to verify the postal information in Palau.

Palau is located in the Pacific Ocean between the Philippines and Australia. Up until 1994 when it gained its independence, Palau was a part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific and administered by the United States. During the Trust Territory era, the United States Postal Service (USPS) provided postal services to the island’s inhabitants. 

The Palau Post Office is now an independent agency serving roughly 17,000 people. Though independent, the Palau Post Office continues to have a relationship with the USPS, receiving training, technical support, advice, and other assistance. It also complies with USPS policies for domestic and international mail and keeps its mailing rates consistent with those of the USPS.

Palau Post OfficeIn between snorkeling and sightseeing adventures, Geoff visited the local post office to document the available PO numbers. With that important task out of the way, Geoff was able to enjoy the island’s delights. 

After many sun-soaked days of snorkeling, kayaking, sightseeing, verifying data, checking out street addresses, and mingling with locals, Geoff returned to Santa Barbara. We welcomed him back and gathered around his computer to admire his digital photo album and find out if our confidence in our data quality was warranted.

We’re happy to report that his digital photo album contains a beautiful mix of snapshots of PO boxes and street signs along with stunning landscapes, sunsets, and typical tourist photos. After all, all work and no play would be sad. That said, he looked just as happy evaluating data quality as he did hanging out at the beach. If you know Geoff, he lives for data. To him, embarking on a data adventure is almost as thrilling as a zip lining or scuba diving.

We checked the actual PO addresses Geoff had documented while in Palau against the data that Service Objects has on file. A cheer erupted in our office when Geoff confirmed that Service Objects does, in fact, have all of the addresses correct for Palau. 

Mission accomplished.

The Dangers of Address Suggesters

At first glance, address suggestion services seem like a great idea. After all, wouldn’t your customers appreciate being able to quickly fill in their addresses when filling out forms on your website? As helpful as an address suggester may appear to be, proceed with caution because real dangers exist with this type of service.

What is an Address Suggester?

You’re likely familiar with address suggestion technologies. For example, if you go to Google Maps and begin typing your address into the search bar, you’ll see a list of address suggestions. The more you type, the more relevant the suggestions become. Soon, your address will likely appear, allowing you to simply click on it without any further typing.

Address suggesters are helpful in some applications, but not others. For example, if you need to quickly test a data source or evaluate data quality, using an address suggester may save you a few keystrokes — and any errors wouldn’t necessarily cause major problems.

The Dangers of Using Address Suggesters at Check Out

However, address suggesters are not all that useful in a data collection application such as with online forms and shopping carts. In fact, most online vendors will not use an address suggester as part of the check out process.

Why, especially if it makes your customers’ data entry tasks easier? Address suggesters are dangerous for two main reasons:

  1. They could be used for malicious purposes — Address suggesters could allow malicious users to attempt to mine the data of our USPS address information, which strictly goes against our terms of use.
  2. Users may inadvertently pick the wrong address — Address suggesters could lead users to accidentally select an incorrect address simply because an address looked close enough and popped up as the first possible option. When this happens, the suggested address will most likely pass validation. The user may not notice having selected an incorrect, but valid, address. Meanwhile, your helpful address suggestion just resulted in an incorrect, albeit valid, address. Until this error is discovered and corrected, all shipments, correspondence, and deliveries to this customer will be sent to the wrong address. Unfortunately, the error is not likely to be discovered until after the customer becomes upset about a shipment that never hasn’t arrived as expected.

Forcing a user to enter a complete address will most likely lead to more accurate data input than relying on address suggesters. The largest online vendors do not use address suggesters on their order forms, but they do validate the addresses that users ultimately enter. They get it; they know what’s at stake should someone blindly click on suggested addresses.

Plus, people are accustomed to entering their own addresses into forms. It’s not a big burden to enter an address, nor does anyone expect vendors to help in this regard. In addition, many people use the autocomplete function available in web browsers to store and automatically fill in their address data. Others use text expander software, which allows users to assign and use short codes for longer text such as addresses.

As a developer, it may be tempting to use an address suggester both for its appeal as eye candy and as an aid for busy users. Resist this temptation because the dangers outweigh the benefits. Instead, force users to enter their own addresses and use address validation to correct any errors or typos and verify that the address is accurate, complete, and genuine.

Three Essential Address Verification Steps For Improved Mail Delivery

Sending letters, packages, and other items has its risks. What if the address is incomplete or the recipient has moved? Three essential address verification services work together to reduce risk and improve deliverability.

address-verification-deliverabilityImprove Deliverability with Address Verification Services

Service Objects’ DOTS Address Validation – US along with companion services DOTS Address Detective and DOTS NCOA (National Change of Address) work together to ensure that all addresses are as genuine, accurate, and current as possible. While the main address validation service does most of the heavy lifting, DOTS Address Detective and DOTS NCOA provide added services when addresses are incomplete, too messy (or fuzzy), or when a person hasn’t reported a change of address to you.

To better understand how these three address verification services work together, let’s first look at each service’s strengths:

DOTS Address Validation – US is our primary address verification service. It will clean, standardize, and validate the vast majority of addresses. In most instances, this address validation service will produce a clean result. However, it doesn’t take chances with messy addresses due to the risk of falling out of CASS compliance. And that’s where DOTS Address Detective is a great backup!

DOTS Address Detective is a great tool for fixing all those addresses that don’t pass address verification. Should an address be deemed too messy or incomplete, Address Detective can help. It searches other data points, cross-referencing its findings to safely validate and standardize the address to a strong probable match.

DOTS NCOA (National Change of Address) such as when an address is found to be vacant or returning mail, DOTS NCOA can step in. NCOA can search for a new address if name information is available. We recommend running NCOA periodically to cross-reference validated addresses with a name to confirm that a change of address hasn’t been filed.

Using All Three Address Verification Services

All three of these address verification services work together to improve the accuracy of addresses within your database.

For example, let’s say you run a large list of addresses through DOTS Address Validation – US. While the vast majority of addresses are validated and standardized, AV3 comes back with three problematic addresses:

  1. The first has a street address that’s too messy for DOTS Address Validation to change: 155eviadelabegonia.
  2. The second address exists but is determined to be vacant.
  3. The third returns a “Domain Specific” error (which means the service completed, but the result is not good) with a DPV value of 2 (firm/highrise name conflict), 3 (multiple addresses match), or 4 (insufficient address data.)

In the first case, use DOTS Address Detective. It will search for clues to determine that 155eviadelabegonia is actually 155 East Via de la Begonia.

For the address that exists but turns out to be vacant, run NCOA Live to try to get the proper mailing address. In this case, the occupant most likely moved to a new address. NCOA Live helps you to find that new address and append it to your contact record.

In the third case, use Address Detective’s Operation FindAddressWithNamePhone to search for the address data along with your contact’s name and phone number to get better address data. These additional parameters help the address verification service find a better match.

Using DOTS Address Validation – US on its own is great; using these three address verification services in conjunction with one another is excellent.

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Data Quality, Not Just For Scientists

data-quality-scientist-2Scientists and analysts know the importance of data quality. In fact, they attend workshops focused on just that such as the recent Data Infrastructure: The Importance of Quality and Integrity workshop held in late November of last year. While scientists, researchers, and analysts clearly recognize the value of data quality software, data cleansing tools aren’t just for research labs or scientific data. Businesses of all types can benefit from data quality improvements, particularly in contact information. 

Which Types of Data Are Prime for Improvement?

Businesses generate and use massive amounts of data, day in, day out. The sheer volume and diversity of data can quickly prove to be overwhelming. Take a deep breath and think about the data that your business works with the most. Some of the most common data types in need of improvement are: contact information, addresses (including mailing, delivery, and email addresses), sales tax data, and sales and marketing leads. Each of these data types can be improved through the use of data quality software. However, since most businesses gather contact information, we’ll focus on improving data quality for contact information today.

The Problems with Contact Information 

Let’s say you run a brick-and-mortar appliance business and collect your customers’ addresses at the point of sale. Your clerks simply ask your customers for their names, addresses, and phone numbers when ringing up their purchases and scheduling delivery. Easy enough, right? After all, your customers know where they live and there’s no reason for them to offer a fake address or phone number.

That said, what happens when the customer says she lives at 135 Limonite Street but the clerk types in 135 Lemon Street or transposes the street numbers? Suddenly you have a potentially costly problem. Your delivery drivers will end up going to the wrong location and could be hours late. Not only will they have wasted time and fuel, your customer won’t be happy. 

Meanwhile, your resourceful drivers will have solved the problem by using their mobile phones to call the customer to get the correct address. However, will the drivers remember to correct the address in your point of sale system later? Probably not, bringing yet another problem: all of your subsequent mailings will go to the wrong address or be returned as undeliverable.

These same data quality problems occur when customers enter their contact information using self-service portals online. Mistakes — and autocorrect — happen. Not only that, people move all the time but rarely inform the companies that they do business with. Automated address verification solves all of these — and many more — problems.

How Data Quality Software Improves Contact Information

Data cleansing tools exist for all kinds of contact information including address verification, phone verification, reverse phone lookup, demographic information, and more. For example, Service Objects DOTS Address Validation, which has editions available for both the United States and Canada, is a real-time API that instantly compares inputted contact information with a huge database containing millions of current contact records. This data quality software is capable of detecting and correcting typos, standardizing address information against USPS®  data, verifying deliverability, appending secondary suite information for business addresses, and adding missing postal information. With a response time as fast as .15 seconds and various implementation options including a real-time API, PC-based software, FTP batch processing, and quick online lookups, these data cleansing tools quickly verify and correct contact information.

While scientists rely on quality data to further their research, businesses of all sizes can reduce costs, improve deliverability, improve customer satisfaction, and much more with data quality software. While your company likely works with a great deal of data, improving the quality of your contact information is an excellent place to start.

address-verification-trial

No image, text reads Service Objects Tutorials

DOTS Address Validation Gets Advanced Matching Operation

We recently released a new operation for our DOTS Address Validation – US 3 service. The operation called “GetBestMatches” combines the robust features of existing operations into one powerful API call to the database.

With this update, Service Objects becomes the only address verification service to provide advanced address indicators in a single transaction for every address. This eliminates the delay and reduces transaction costs to as little as one cent per address. As a result, the enhanced address validation service can now verify, standardize, and append data to USPS Delivery Point Verification standards even when an address “fails” traditional CASS certification standards.

To learn more about the GetBestMatches operation, read the press release here.

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Are You Using Address Verification from Your Shipping Company?

address-verifcation-mailboxTypos, misspellings, and carelessness take their toll on deliverability, making address validation essential for any business that relies on USPS, FedEx, UPS, and other shipping companies. We’ve all been there: maybe it’s a simple misspelled word such as “Mane Street” instead of “Main Street,” or maybe it’s a few transposed numbers in a street address. Now that mobile devices have taken over the world, autocorrect isn’t helping matters, either.

Fortunately, shipping carriers understand that mistakes happen — and it’s in their best interest to make sure that packages arrive as expected, even if the address is incorrect.

The Shipping Carriers’ Solution to Incorrect Addresses

Think about it, would you rather the shipping carrier figure out where the shipment is intended and get it there on time or would you prefer that the carrier return the package to you? If the package is returned, you’re going to look bad to the customer. The delays could be excessive, too, reminding your customer that you let her down with each passing day. Thus, when a shipping carrier uses some sort of address verification service to conduct its own investigation and get the package to its intended destination, it’s offering a valuable service.

Of course, you can expect to pay for that service. When shipping carriers use an address validation service to correct an incorrect address, they typically impose some sort of “address correction” or “charge-back” fee. While the shipping carrier may have acted like a hero, saving the day comes with a hefty price tag. For example, correcting an address with FedEx Express US freight services will cost you $60 per correction. This makes FedEx Ground’s $11 charge-back for an incorrect shipping address look like a bargain (and trust us, it’s not).

So, what do you get for all that money? The customer gets her package, so that’s a plus. However, it’s what you won’t get that makes using a shipping carrier’s address validation service a bad investment: You won’t get the customer’s corrected address!

Your accounts payable clerk will likely pay the bill, but it may never cross his mind to dig deeper to find out the customer’s correct address and update your database. The next time this particular customer places an order, the order will ship to the address on file — and it’s still incorrect. Again, your shipping carrier’s address verification service will kick in and save the day. And once again, you’ll be charged an outrageous address correction fee. This cycle could continue with each transaction, eating into your profits needlessly.

A Better Address Validation Service

Few businesses survive on bad investments. Instead of repeatedly paying shipping carriers address correction fees, a better investment involves cleaning your own data using an affordable address verification service such as Service Objects DOTS Address Validation.

kathleen-dpv-quote

Remember those $11 to $60 fees imposed by shipping carriers for using their address validation service? What if you could proactively verify — and correct — addresses automatically and in real time for mere pennies?

Kathleen Rogers, Director of Engagement at Service Objects recently discussed the shipping companies’ exorbitant penalty fees with Virtual Logistics Inc., along with the benefits of using Service Objects’ address verification service.

“For just pennies,” she explained. “We can correct, standardize, and give you back delivery point validation scores to help you ensure three things: Your customers’ packages arrive quickly and efficiently; the shipping address is valid and occupied thereby reducing loss of merchandise to fraud; and less of your packages come back as undeliverable, saving valuable operational resources and reshipping charges.”

She also explained that unlike addresses corrected by shipping carriers, the corrected address is immediately updated in your database. This ensures that the same mistake is not repeated.

Addressing mistakes happen, but you shouldn’t have to pay exorbitant fees over and over to correct them (and temporarily at that). Real-time address validation from Service Objects is a far superior investment.

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What is CASS-Certification?

usps-address-validationHave you ever sent a letter without a stamp or with spelling mistakes or typos in the address? You know what happens: the letter comes back to you, resulting in a delivery delay or it never arrives to its recipient. A similar problem can happen with bulk business mailings. However, the adverse effects are magnified due to the volume and costs involved. Fortunately, CASS certified USPS address validation can improve deliverability dramatically.

According to the US Postal Service, a significant amount of mail — roughly 4 to 5 percent of the mailstream — is undeliverable as addressed (UAA). In our Mailing Without CASS-Certification is like Mailing Without Postage whitepaper, we likened UAA mail to un-stamped mail. UAA mail will either come back to you, often at great expense, or it will never arrive as intended.

Common address problems include ZIP code errors, typos in addresses, misspelled street names, and addresses that do not exist. To combat these problems and ensure that mailing-related equipment and address validation software are accurate, the USPS developed CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System). Address validation software developers use CASS to test the accuracy of their solutions. CASS-certified USPS address validation software and postal equipment have proven their accuracy through rigorous testing.

CASS testing consists of an optional Stage I test and a required Stage II test. Stage I testing runs a CASS test address file through a developer’s software to evaluate the software’s accuracy and performance. Test results are returned, allowing the developer to address any issues and fine-tune performance before undergoing Stage II testing.

Stage II testing involves processing about 150,000 test addresses. Test results are NOT returned, just test scores. The software must earn scores of 98.5% and 100% in specific categories in order to earn the CASS certification. Once certified, the software remains CASS certified for a full year before it must undergo the certification process once again.

Through a unique relationship with the USPS, Service Objects updates and refreshes its CASS-certified address data every two weeks. Our CASS-certified address engine and continuously updated address data work together to ensure the accuracy of our proprietary address database. When you run your addresses through our USPS address validation API, those addresses are instantly compared, validated, corrected, and/or appended.

Whether sending a single package or a mass mailing, getting the address right is essential. If you don’t get it right, your mailings may be subject to excessive delays — or never arrive as expected. With CASS-certified software from Service Objects, your addresses are instantly validated and corrected in real-time. Ensure data quality and deliverability while reducing waste and mailing expenses by choosing a CASS-certified address validation API from Service Objects today.

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Get the Most from Direct Mailings with Quality Data

data-quality-mailersYou cannot expect a good response from the direct mail aspect of your campaign unless you are working with good quality data. It doesn’t matter how good your material is; even if you have brilliant design and text that delivers your offer in its best possible light. Unless your database is clean, you’ll be wasting money.

What Can Go Wrong

Have you checked for duplicates? If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of multiple copies of the same mailing, you’ll know how off-putting this is.

Have you checked incorrect addresses and put your data through suppression files to weed out people who have moved, or are now deceased? Imagine how you’d feel if you received mail addressed to a loved one you’ve lost, encouraging them to use your services or buy your products. It’s bad enough to have to deal with mail for a person who previously lived in your house. Then if you were that person and the mail finally reached you by a roundabout route far too late for you to do anything about it, you probably wouldn’t be too pleased.

The idea is not to alienate loyal potential customers, but to make them consider their next purchase with you or take whatever other action you suggest.

The chances are that if you have one or two of these errors, your data will be littered with them because it hasn’t been cleaned. You certainly won’t get the response you are looking for. The income you generate could be drastically reduced and your marketing budget will not pay for itself.

How to Avoid Those Pitfalls

Cleaning your data correctly can be costly and time consuming unless you have the right tools for the job. An investment in data quality web services will quickly pay for itself.

If you buy a list, find out first if it has been cleaned of duplicates and address checked. Do not just accept this as fact – subject it to your own merge-purge software before you use it. It’s far better to treat all data at the point-of-entry to your system rather than try to clean it up later.

You can often get access to data cleansing services for a trial period so you can test it with your data before you commit. Another viable option is to send the data to a reputable data quality vendor and have your lists cleansed, standardized and returned ready to go.

When you Have Data Quality

If you can trust your data you’ll save the associated costs wasted on sending items that are undeliverable, or sending multiple copies to the same address. Postage costs are rising significantly and it’s unnecessary to spend more than you must. Furthermore you will protect your brand’s image, which can suffer by an apparently careless mailing. And of course, you can expect a much better return on the costs of your campaign.

Same-Day Delivery Possible with Verified Addresses

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there is an all-out war happening in the online retail arena. Retail giants Amazon, Barnes & Noble, eBay, Walmart, and Target are all beginning to offer same-day delivery of goods. You read that correctly: consumers in select markets today can order goods online and, with varying restrictions by merchant, can expect to receive the package later that day. Amazon offers the service for orders processed by noon to be delivered by 9 pm that night, and at a premium of $5.99 for Amazon Prime subscribers, $9.98 for non-prime customers, and $0.99 per additional item. Barnes & Noble already offers same-day shipping in Manhattan, but has partnered with Google Shopping Express to expand their reach; they charge $4.99 per order, but users may sign up for a 6-month trial membership to Google Shopping Express to take advantage of the service free.

This is a significant development for online retailers because a major advantage that physical shops have over their virtual competitors is the fact that they can satisfy customer needs more immediately. Although online shopping allows more opportunity to save money, there are often items that you simply cannot wait two days to have delivered. For instance, if a company runs out of printer paper or ink, the urgency can be great. Therefore, as same-day delivery from your favorite online retailer becomes more prevalent, the declining popularity of brick and mortar stores will continue to trend downward.

Same-Day Online Delivery

You Too Can Provide Same-Day Delivery

If you are an online retailer, this industry trend should have you considering ways to speed up your shipping or delivery options. Your customers may be interested in your online offerings, but are they willing to take their business elsewhere if they come across another merchant with comparable inventory, competitive pricing, and faster delivery.

If your business can afford to offer same-day delivery, one option to enhance the deliverability of your shipments is to geocode your customers’ addresses. For instance, confirming the latitude and longitude of your customer’s shipping address will ensure exact point of delivery and help you evaluate cost associated with each transit. By adding latitude-longitude validation to your address validation processes, you avoid delays, and your customer will be pleased to receive their package quickly.

Same-day delivery is still a young and growing retail trend; even Amazon doesn’t offer coverage in most of the U.S. If your online store can’t offer same-day delivery yet, you can at least ensure a faster delivery method and aim to provide free shipping. One way to ensure the fastest delivery possible for a “free shipping” offer is to use an address verification service. When you verify, standardize and cleanse addresses before a shipment goes out, two benefits occur: 1) you can reduce the amount of undeliverable packages, and 2) customers receive their packages faster.

With the proper tools in place to validate and map customers’ addresses, you can confidently offer your customers speedy and accurate delivery.

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Time to Size Up Your Shipping Carrier Options

With several shipping companies to choose from and each one offering a wide range of services, it can be difficult to determine which one offers the best compromise between service quality and cost-effectiveness. Two of the world’s largest shipping companies, FedEx and UPS have recently announced upcoming changes to their pricing models, and these changes are set to come into effect in January, 2015 and December, 2014 respectively. Following its rival FedEx, UPS also plans on changing their pricing structure to take into account package dimensions rather than just weight, and this will impact around two thirds of ground shipments, almost certainly resulting in increased shipping charges for companies which use their services.

Measuring package

While the changes aren’t likely to pose a problem for companies shipping small goods, they will have a significant impact on those shipping large goods ranging in weight. Fortunately, companies have been given plenty of time to reconsider their shipping carrier options, and for those shipping larger packages, the US Postal Service will likely be a better option, since it continues to charge primarily by weight rather than by dimensions. Although there might appear to be plenty of time for companies to prepare for the changes, it is highly advisable to start reconsidering shipping plans immediately, since it can take some time to find the optimal solution for your particular business.

Not only does the USPS continue to charge by package weight more so than size – it also works in conjunction with certain address validation services. Address validation helps to reduce shipping costs by ensuring that packages get delivered to the right place. With address validation, companies will be able to avoid the additional expense of reshipping fees in the event of parcels going astray. Another welcome result will be increased customer satisfaction, and companies will be able to reassure their customers by letting them know that they are using address validation to make sure that their deliveries are properly taken care of.

Good communication between your company and your customers is also critical. Missing or late deliveries are a major nuisance, and many consumers won’t give a company a second chance in this regard, so there is all the more reason to maintain clear communication and choose a dependable service provider for your shipping needs.

Offering free shipping is another important factor to consider. More than half of online retailers now offer free shipping to their customers, and in order to remain competitive, your company should do the same. However, in light of the upcoming pricing changes with FedEx and UPS, it is time to reconsider your shipping options so that they remain cost-effective while still being able to provide a reliable service.

USPS works in conjunction with DOTS Address Validation-US, a CASS-certified address verification service which helps to ensure that your shipments arrive at the right place. All USPS address data is built into DOTS Address Validation-US, allowing companies which use USPS to streamline their shipping procedures and save money for both themselves and their customers.

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The Origins of ZIP+4 for Address Validation

Updated from original post Why 5-Digit ZIP Codes Don’t Work, published 09/29/10

According to the 2014 audit report from the United States Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General, approximately 40 million Americans move every year, which results in incorrect shipping addresses and a spike in the number of undelivered mailings. This is on top of undelivered mailpieces caused by illegible, misspelled, and erroneously formatted addresses. In 2013, the U.S. Postal Service dealt with more than 158 billion mailed items, and 4.3 percent of those mailings were deemed Undeliverable as Addressed (UAA).

You certainly wouldn’t want your mail to end up as one of the 6.8 billion UAA items destined for a one-way trip to mail recovery centers, or the so-called “dead letter offices,” where undeliverables are destroyed. Lost, returned, and undelivered mailings can cost you money and lead to potentially catastrophic delays.

To reduce the amount of undeliverables, the U.S. Postal Service established in 1963 the use of the five-digit ZIP (Zone Improvement Plan) code. To further enhance mail handling and delivery, the USPS then launched the ZIP+4  initiative in 1983.

The ZIP+4 System  Address validation

Also known as the “plus-four codes” or the “add-on codes,” the ZIP+4 system makes addresses more precise by adding a four-digit identifier to the standard five-digit ZIP code. The basic five-digit codes tend to be inaccurate, because the same five-digit ZIP code can be simultaneously assigned to several cities or correspond to multiple mail delivery routes, making the task of sorting mail ultimately confusing and prone to errors. For instance, the basic five-digit ZIP code 62812 is primarily assigned to Benton, Illinois. The same ZIP code, however, is also associated with other cities in Illinois, namely Barren, Eastern, Rend City, Steel City, and West City.

The ZIP+4 system has been designed to address the inherent limitations of five-digit ZIP codes. In the ZIP+4 system, the additional four digits point to a specific geographic locale within the basic five-digit area. The extra four digits can identify a city block, a group of apartment buildings, or a Post Office Box. They can even refer to an individual recipient of bulk mailings, such as the IRS or a state university. The ZIP+4 system improves the sorting and delivery of mailed items, effectively reducing the amount of undeliverables.

Similarly, the use of extra four-digit identifiers poses its own set of limitations. For example, there is no common rule dictating the add-on codes for each PO Box. Thus, a lookup of the correct ZIP+4 code must be made for every PO Box. Imagine how daunting that task can become, especially if you are making bulk shipments at a time to different PO Boxes whose owners forgot to supply or did not know their ZIP codes. You could waste valuable staff working hours by having to manually look up and validate addresses.

Even if you choose shipping companies other than the U.S. Postal Service, you still need to make use of correct and accurate ZIP codes, complete with the respective ZIP+4 identifiers, because you cannot rely solely on the basic five-digit codes. Shipping carriers like DHL, FedEx, and UPS use ZIP codes to sort packages and calculate shipping rates.

Validate Addresses by Automatically Adding Correct Plus-Four Codes

For your frequent high-volume shipment, it is best to leverage a reliable address validation system that processes addresses in real time. The best and most efficient way to ensure mail and product delivery within the United States is to use a Web service API such as DOTS Address Validation – US 3, which verifies, corrects, and automatically appends addresses to their corresponding contact information records and then standardizes such contact information records against the U.S. Postal Service data.

So, even if your contacts are unable to supply appropriate ZIP codes, Service Objects’ DOTS Address Validation can readily query the USPS database, rectify incorrectly formatted addresses, append the correct five-digit and ZIP+4 codes, and help ensure deliverability.

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Ensuring Insurance Covers the Proper Property

Location, location, location. Those are often claimed to be the three most important words in real estate. Since new homeowners need to properly insure their new investment, location, location, location are also the three most important words in property insurance, making it a good case study in address accuracyGeolocation

While insurance companies also rely on accurate addresses for correspondence by mail, the most important reason for ensuring the address accuracy of a property’s location is it plays a significant factor in properly assessing the risk riding on a policy issued to insure the property. For example, determining whether the property is located near a flood plain, fault line, tornado alley, or wildfire zone.

To accomplish these goals, insurance companies require two software solutions. The first is address validation certified by the United States Postal Service (USPS), which verifies, standardizes, and corrects address data as needed, and determines if the address is deliverable. The second is address geocoding, which determines the latitude, longitude, full ZIP code, latest census tract code, country code, and block code for the address by leveraging reference data from a variety of sources, including the United States Census Bureau, Topologically Integrated Graphic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) files, and the USPS ZIP+4 database. Geocoding can also be used to estimate the distance between a property and a flood plain, fault line, tornado alley, or wildfire zone. By translating an address into its exact geocode using latitude and longitude coordinates, insurance companies can pinpoint the location of the property. These solutions enable the insurance company to evaluate the risk associated with the property and issue an appropriate policy.

Insurance customers also value having the most accurate and up-to-date address for their property so that insurance documents, cancellation notices, non-renewal notices, claims acknowledgements, and other correspondence arrive in a timely manner.

Ensuring insurance covers the proper property begins with ensuring the address accuracy of the property’s location.

Jim Harris OCDQ BlogThis post comes from guest blogger Jim Harris of Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality. Harris is a recognized data quality thought leader with over 20 years of enterprise data management experience. Harris is a freelance writer, independent consultant, and Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality (ocdqblog.com), a vendor-neutral blog about data quality and its related disciplines.

Solving the Case of the Undeliverable Address

As I recently experienced, a valid address is not always an accurate address. Businesses rely on valid addresses to ensure deliverable mail, save costs associated with returned mail, and reduce paper waste. If you doubt its environmental impact, consider this Earth Day fact: Undeliverable mail adds an estimated 300 million pounds of paper waste to landfills every year.

Undeliverable As Addressed Mail

Furthermore, an address validation service for US addresses can not only tell you if an address is valid and deliverable, but also whether the address is a residence or a business, and if the address is currently vacant or returning mail. That additional information could be a clue that a deliverable address is involved in fraud (e.g., when such an address is provided as the billing address by a customer opening a new account).

In the binary world of address validation, undeliverable addresses are cold cases left unsolved. And the amounts of unsolved, undeliverable case files are piling up. According to a study by the United States Postal Service (USPS), 6.9 billion pieces of mail annually are undeliverable-as-addressed.

An address can be rendered undeliverable for multiple reasons, including missing spaces, missing house numbers, and misspelled street names. While CASS-Certified address validation tools perform USPS verification and correction in an attempt to overcome such issues, the standardization process must follow the strict rules about what is an acceptable match. This can mean that an address that could have been fixed with a bit more information and effort will be rejected.

One way to crack this cold case open is to warm up to the idea of using an alternate route to get to a deliverable address. Specifically, by using other contact data points connected to the address to search and cross-reference other databases to generate a line-up of address candidates. By identifying the best candidate, along with an indication of match quality, this approach could locate a deliverable address that would not be found following a strict USPS check.

Thankfully, there is now a new detective working the case of the undeliverable address using exactly such an approach. DOTS Address Detective, is a new tool for salvaging and fixing fatal addresses that do not pass USPS verification and would otherwise be discarded.

Geoffrey Grow, CEO of Service Objects, explained that DOTS Address Detective is a real-time API web service that “…takes address validation to a whole different level, coupling our database of authoritative names and phone numbers along with our industry leading CASS™-Certified address validation to augment address data and make it USPS compliant.”

Service Objects encourages its customers to try this new service for free to test if any of your unsolved address mysteries can be resolved.

Jim Harris OCDQ BlogThis post comes from guest blogger Jim Harris of Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality. Harris is a recognized data quality thought leader with over 20 years of enterprise data management experience. Harris is a freelance writer, independent consultant, and Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality (ocdqblog.com), a vendor-neutral blog about data quality and its related disciplines.

Why Google Maps Isn’t a Good Substitute for Address Validation

Updated from March 2010

What is the difference between address validation and Google Maps?

Deliverability, deliverability, deliverability. Okay, there are a few others, but that’s the big one. Just because Google Maps places a marker on a map when you input an address, does not mean that you can deliver mail there, nor that a property even exists at that marker.

Take the following “address”:

4130 Calle Real Santa Barbara, CA 93110

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As you can see, Google Maps says this is a valid address and puts its marker next to an empty field with no buildings. As you’d expect this is not a deliverable address and will be returned to sender.

The reason for this discrepancy is that Google Maps is not an Address Validator, it is a Geolocation Estimator that uses addresses to aid in its estimation.

Imagine two people each holding a ruler with the numbers 1 – 12 printed on it. One of them is blind-folded. If they were asked to point to the number “6”, how would each one go about it?

The one who could see all the numbers would just find the 6 and point to it. The one who was blind-folded would probably guess that 6 was printed right in the middle of the ruler and point there.

But what if the ruler was missing the number “6”? Well, the person who could see all the numbers would state that the number was invalid, and the blindfolded person would point to an empty space in the middle of the ruler.

Google is blindfolded. They know street names, and the numbers on the endpoints, but very little about the numbers in-between. Often they assume a continuous and evenly-spaced number line and point to where they’d guess your number is.

Admittedly, this is an extreme example. But what it demonstrates primarily is that Google Maps does not have a strong knowledge of valid primary numbers within street segments and therefore cannot be used to determine deliverability of an address. The only thing that can reliably determine deliverability is a CASS-Certified Address Validation Engine that can match an address against the USPS database of valid addresses.

 

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Pro-tip: Use the Service Path

Updated from November, 2010.

One of the most important tools in my utility belt for troubleshooting, referencing, and integration is the “service path.”

The service path is basically a URL that takes you to a sort of “dashboard” for a service. You can use this dashboard to: test a service; see the XML request/response structure; review the operations that are available to you, and a slew of other useful information. You can find the Service Path for any product on the product detail page, or in the Dev Guide.

Here are few valuable pieces of information that you can get from the service path.

View all available operations for a Web Service

We’ll use Address Validation US as an example. Let’s go to its service path: DOTS Address Validation – US 3 To run a transaction, you’ll need to use your existing Address Validation trial or production key, or get one here. Without a key, you won’t be able to run a test, but you’ll still be able to see operations and their respective inputs and outputs, etc. (Please note: Trial and production keys are product-specific. To run a test on another product, you will need to secure a key for that product. Please click here for a complete section.)

Run a quick transaction against an operation

Once at the service path, click on an operation, place values in the textboxes, and click “Invoke”. The service will return a response in raw XML format. This is what your application sees before it parses the data.

View all required inputs for an operation

Click on an operation and note the input fields on the form that appears. For example, “ValidateAddressWithDPV” expects Address, Address2, City, State, PostalCode, and LicenseKey as input fields. All of these fields must be sent to our service (even if they are sent without any data) for it to accept the request.

View all possible outputs for an operation

Scroll down past the form and look for “ValidateAddressWithDPV” and click on “GET”. The 2nd shaded box will show you the list of XML outputs that our service returns on a successful transaction. For example, and are both possible outputs for ValidateAddressWithDPV.

See what the output will look like in XML or JSON

Go to the operation page, and either run a transaction (which will output the raw XML in a browser window by default), or scroll down to the operation name and click on the protocol you will be using (“GET” for example). You will see a shaded box showing the XML that will be returned to you. Scrolling further down will show you the JSON output. Note: you can also view the JSON in your browser request by changing “format=xml” to “format=json” directly in the URL.

View the WSDL

Go to the main service path URL for your specific DOTS Web Service and click “Service Description”. For example, go here and click on “Service Description” (located in the first line above the operations). The Web Services Definition Language, or WSDL (pronounced Whizz-dull) describes all these operations, inputs, operation descriptors, data types, etc. In fact, all the service path pages you see were generated from the WSDL. If you use a language that requires a WSDL URL, then it likely is generating entire objects from that document and handling all the request and response structures for you.

So there you have it! I hope you get to add this to your utility belt too. It’s an invaluable tool that I use on a daily basis.

Two APIs To Make Online Business Less Taxing

eCommerce has redefined the B2B and B2C retail worlds; anyone with a budget and a vision can launch an online store front… That said, there are many unseen backend APIs, calculations and utilities that are critical for the creation of a successful ecommerce store front. Service Objects offers fast, easy-to-integrate solutions that help developers and merchants successfully automate eCommerce processes for better profit.

icon_dots_ftImagine the liability your online business could incur if your computer systems were not calculating sales tax rates correctly. DOTS FastTax calculates sales tax and use tax rates, based on street address, zip code, or simple city/state/county information for US and Canadian addresses. To ensure that only the most accurate tax rates are returned, the DOTS FastTax service utilizes our most popular API, DOTS Address Validation, behind the scenes to validate the full street address to the ZIP+4 level. It easily integrates into your shopping cart, so the correct tax rate will auto-populate during checkout. We host the tax data and update it monthly eliminating the time wasted manually calculating tax rates or the need to pay a third party to audit your books – a huge bonus for those concerned about how the Marketplace Fairness Act (if passed) will affect their business.

Another concern for eTailers is credit card fraud – integrate credit card type and location validation seamlessly into your online business processes. DOTS BIN Validation distinguishes between a prepaid and bank-issued credit card, identifies the network to which it belongs and the issuing country and financial organization. For example, an order placed with a credit card issued from Nepal with a shipping address in Arizona should be flagged for review before shipment is authorized.

Combining the power of DOTS FastTax and DOTS BIN Validation offers online merchants simple and effective ecommerce tools that integrate easily into most shopping cart systems.

Service Objects offers a diverse range of products to help your business run smoother, faster and more efficiently. Give us a call today to find out how we can help you build an affordable, profitable solution.

Service Objects integrations can help improve your contact data quality, help with data validation, and enhance your business operations.