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Posts Tagged ‘CASS Certification’

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!

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 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.

Can Google Maps be Used to Validate Addresses?

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

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

Addressing a Common Problem

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

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

Geocoding vs Deliverability

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

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

Take the Service Objects address for example,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the result for when Suite 900 is passed:

Notice that 900 remains in the address.

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

The Right Tool for the Job

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

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

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.

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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CASS Certification Explained Over Dinner

Last night I was having dinner with my wife’s friends and they asked what I did for a living. Normally I just brush those requests off and say ‘Internet Security’ or ‘Contact Validation’ and change the subject. But last night I said, “Service Objects validates contacts – we validate customers names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses for our clients.” I thought that was that; but the discussion lingered With questions like: How is that done? Can anyone validate addresses? Do you have an agreement with the Post Office? It was rather a lively discussion so I thought I’d rehash the highlights here.

In the United States the Postal Service promotes good address hygiene through its Coding Accuracy Support Systems (CASS) initiative. It is in the best interest of the postal service to receive mail with valid, genuine, and accurate addresses. The less incorrectly addressed mail they get, the more efficient they become and the less waste for mailers; everybody wins. The CASS certification program is open to mailers, service bureaus, and software vendors that have lots of addresses and want to get discounts on their mailings. To receive mailing discounts and be “certified”, participants in the CASS program must renew their certification annually. Every year, the requirements for being a certified address provider get more difficult. For example: In August of 2007, the USPS required CASS participants to include delivery point validation (DPV) to verify whether or not an address is deliverable at the street/house/apartment level.

CASS certification is the ultimate take-home test. The CASS certification test contains 150,000 bad addresses, extracted from real-world cases everywhere the postal service delivers, plus a few non-existent addresses thrown in for good fun. Test takers (like us) must evaluate and correct each address by fixing the ZIP code, the street address, the unit type, the bar code digits, etcetera. To be approved as a CASS certified vendor you must score above 98.5%; this means you can only miss 2,250 addresses in total. A passing grade is an A+ (geez).

Although the USPS CASS program requires a mere 98.5% passing rate, real-world accuracy for address standardization is much higher. Why? For the purpose of rigorous testing, the USPS skews the CASS test towards unrealistic conditions, intentionally populating the test with 150,000 of the worst addresses you will ever see. Given normal conditions, real-world accuracy of a CASS certified provider exceeds 99.99%. In my decade of experience with address validation, I have seen only a small handful of real address we couldn’t validate.

No sleep for the us though, the next set of 150,000 addresses for 2011 should be here at any time. I think my wife’s friends learned more about address validation than they ever wanted to know. I’m not sure I’ll get invited to dinner with them again any time soon. Well, they asked for it!

Posted by: Geoff G.

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

Service Objects has verified over 2.8 billion contact records for clients from various industries including retail, technology, government, communications, leisure, utilities, and finance. Since 2001, thousands of businesses and developers have used our APIs to validate transactions to reduce fraud, increase conversions, and enhance incoming leads, Web orders, and customer lists. READ MORE