Undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA) mail must be forwarded, returned to the sender, or treated as waste because addresses are incomplete, incorrect, or out-of-date. UAA mail wastes customer investment in the mail, and the Postal Service’s UAA-related costs are well over $1 billion annually. The Postal Service’s goal is to cut its UAA costs in half by 2010 (from its base in 2004).
The Postal Service has implemented new procedures to improve address databases, and new tools are now available to validate and update addresses. New levels of in-process scanning data are providing more detailed feedback on address quality. Industry workgroups are establishing best practices for list administrators and have proposed address-list certification procedures to reduce the most common issues. Customers are encouraged to use electronic change-of-address procedures that validate address data at the time it is entered.
High-Quality Addressing — Current, Correct, And Complete
In May the Postal Service introduced an innovative lower pricing structure for OneCode ACS. For First-Class Mail, the Postal Service provides the first two electronic correction notices for a specific address for free. Then, after the first two notifications, the per-correction fee for the same address is $0.05. For Standard Mail letters, the price for the first two electronic correction notices for a specific address is $0.02 cents. After the first two notifications, the per-correction fee for the same address is $0.15.
Starting November 2008 new Move Update policies will require that mailers update customer information within 95 days of mailing for First-Class Mail and Standard Mail. This will reduce mail sent to old addresses of customers who have moved. Best practices for updating addresses include using both pre-mailing tools like NCOALink, which contains national change of address data in a secure format, and post-mailing tools such as ACS and the new OneCode ACS.
Refining The Address Database
This year, the Postal Service introduced the Address Quality Reporting Tool, a Web-based application that uses existing Intelligent Mail and Address Quality tools to assist in identifying delivery routes with the greatest opportunity to improve address quality. This approach expands the identification of addresses that receive mail but are not in the Address Management System (AMS) database or cannot be sorted to delivery point. Delivery managers updated the AMS database with 477,818 addresses identified through address quality programs in 2007, moving 47.8 million pieces of mail into delivery point sequence. All districts are required to prioritize AMS street reviews based upon Address Quality Reporting Tool information.
Frequently, mail that arrives at delivery units with an incorrect address or barcode can still be delivered because carriers can identify the correct destination. Unfortunately, mailers often resend mail to the same address multiple times, unaware of the error, repeating delays and excess handling costs over and over. The Electronic Uncoded Address Resolution Service (eUARS) enables carriers to correct addresses for customers who provide their records. Carriers can also correct change-of-address records that do not match a delivery point in the AMS database. This year carriers helped correct more than 5.1 million incorrect or “bad” addresses.
Use of other software that identifies businesses in multiunit buildings whose mail is not sorted in DPS also expanded in 2007. Delivery managers entered 1.4 million business names into the Delivery Sortation Management Automation Research Tool (DSMART), enabling DPS-level barcoding. The Postal Service has proposed that beginning in August 2009 all CASS/MASS (Multiline Accuracy Support System) software developers would be required to certify SuiteLink, a commercial version of the business names database, and make it available to their end users as an option.
Improving List Quality
Effective August 2007, Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) certification provides a ZIP+4 code only for addresses that exist in the AMS database. The software will not provide a ZIP+4 code for addresses that are not confirmed. Mailpieces that do not match will not qualify for an automation discount. Customers can correct non-matching addresses using Address Element Correction (AEC) software. This change dramatically improved automation compatibility, especially barcoding at the delivery point level. AEC usage increased by 61 percent driven by the need for mailers to update their address lists to meet CASS Delivery Point Validation (DPV) requirements. The number of addresses processed by NCOALink increased 5.7 percent.
Customers working through MTAC formed a workgroup to explore processes that the Postal Service could use to certify address lists which meet the highest standards of address hygiene based on current technology and procedures. By June the workgroup developed seven policies for a Certified List Administrator, who will be responsible for the address source. The workgroup identified key criteria for quality addresses, validation processes, and post-mailing updates that represent best practices for list administrators. A final report, issued in August, included numerous proposals for using address-list certification procedures to reduce common UAA mail issues.
In June the Postal Service began an address quality campaign with the largest-volume mailers to enhance the value of their investment in mail. The campaign encouraged customers to give their National Account Manager a sample list of up to 5,000 addresses for evaluation. More than 48 customers responded and were provided with an analysis of opportunities to increase the return on their investment by improving address quality.
Managing Change-Of-Address Data
Each year approximately 46 million change-of-address (COA) requests are submitted. The Postal Service introduced several improvements to make the process more convenient and efficient. With a strategic alliance partner, Imagitas, the Postal Service reduced the cost to produce and distribute COA forms and notification letters.
Electronic Internet and telephone change-of-address options were introduced in 2001 and 2004. Address changes submitted online or by phone offer advantages over requests on paper forms. In general, they are more convenient for movers, and they allow instantaneous validation of the address. Approximately 7 million COAs (14 percent) were filed electronically. The Postal Service’s goal is to increase that to 12 million by 2010. There were 17 percent more electronic changes compared with 2006. The August monthly volume of 856,297 was the highest ever.
An Internet Change of Address Information Kit will be distributed to postmasters in early 2008, including an overview of the COA process and the benefits of making changes online. The kit was developed after interviews with postmasters showed that the online option was well received when the process and benefits were better understood. In another program, realtors were provided with message cards to give to their moving clients. The cards provide a postal checklist for movers and highlight the benefits of filing online address changes.
The Postal Service works closely with mailers to optimize preparation requirements with the goal of continually improving efficiency and service. To maximize container capacity and reduce partially-filled trays, the Postal Service now offers a reduced-overflow tray option on First-Class Mail and Standard Mail letters. The definition of a full letter tray has been revised to a letter tray filled to 85 percent capacity (formerly, a tray was considered full at 75 percent capacity). To increase mailer options for combining mail to achieve finer presort and drop-ship penetration, the Postal Service finalized requirements for combining Periodicals and Standard Mail flats within bundles (co-mailing) and on pallets (co-palletizing). Software modifications were deployed to test participants for trial and installation.
Mailer-prepared presort bundles of flats allow mail to bypass one or more distribution operations. However, the benefits are lost when poorly-prepared bundles come apart in processing. Ongoing efforts to communicate the importance of bundle integrity have shown very positive results. The separate specifications for polywrap designed for processing on the automated flat sorting machine were eliminated this year. The change streamlines the process for mail preparers, who are now required to meet only one set of standards. The result should be more consistent quality.
The Postal Service is exploring changes to the preparation of flats in a Flats Sequencing System (FSS) environment, including working with the mailing industry to align entry and induction with FSS capabilities and locations. The Postal Service understands that additional entry points may add costs for drop shippers. Therefore, where space allows, the Postal Service will pursue co-locating bundle sorting equipment and other flat sorting equipment (such as AFSM 100s) with the FSS machines so that flat mail for a geographic area may be drop-shipped at one facility. While this will not always be feasible, it is also anticipated that some facilities will no longer serve as drop points for destination entry flats, as processing functions for these facilities are absorbed by larger FSS sites.