Wednesday, February 22, 2012

International Address Hygiene and Address Verification

tags: address formats, address verification, data hygiene, NCOA

If I am sending a file of U.S. addresses to a service bureau for address hygiene, one of the steps that I definitely want is verifying each address against the USPS database of deliverable addresses.  After all, why would I want to mail addresses that don’t exist?  I may also want – or need – to use the National Change of Address (NCOA) service.  Some USPS postal discounts require NCOA processing.

If I am sending a file of international addresses for address hygiene, whether I can get address verification will depend on which countries are in the file.  Some differences in services exist between the providers of international address hygiene.  Some will provide a more limited range of services, with a few limiting their services to those countries with an address database. 

Two differences between domestic and international address hygiene processing create major differences in what is or can be accomplished.  First, the processing of addresses is country by country because each country will have different and unique address characteristics.  Second, most countries do not have an address database and very few countries have NCOA.

All the international address hygiene service providers (or at least all of them that I have spoken with) have lists of countries and the exact services that are available in each country.  Looking at those lists, only about 45 countries have some postal code verification the city level and about 25 have verification that the postal code matches a specific address.  Still, international address hygiene is a useful process.  It can improve the quality of addresses in your database and can save on postage costs to undeliverable addresses.

Proper address formatting is available for all countries from many of the international address hygiene service providers.  The elements, such as a province or postal code, will be correctly positioned in the addresses.  For the countries with postal codes, the code’s format can be corrected and the addresses with no code or an obviously incorrect code can be flagged.  This basic process can identify addresses that are incomplete and are likely to be undeliverable.

Knowing what services are available and what can be accomplished will make the process go smoother.