Validation, Standardization, and Correction: Tool or Process?

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By David Loshin

There are all sorts of tools associated with address standardization, cleansing, and validation. As an example, the USPS has a certification program for software vendors, referred to as CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System)™ certification. According to their website,

CASS enables the Postal Service™ to evaluate the accuracy of address matching software programs in the following areas:

(1) five-digit coding
(2) ZIP + 4/ delivery point (DP) coding
(3) carrier route coding
(4) DPV®
(5) DSF2®
(6) LACSLink®
(7) eLOT®
(8) RDI™ products

CASS allows vendors/mailers the opportunity to test their address-matching software packages and, after achieving a certain percentage of compliance, to be certified by the Postal Service. CASS does not measure the accuracy of ZIP + 4 delivery point, five-digit ZIP, or carrier route codes in a mailer's existing files. CASS enables mailers to measure and diagnose internally written, commercially-available, address-matching software packages. The effectiveness of service bureaus' matching software can also be measured.

There are many vendors selling CASS-certified tools and services. Organizations use CASS-certified tools for address standardization, correction, and validation. End of story, right?

Wrong. Some organizations use many CASS-certified tools for address standardization, correction, and validation, at different places along the processing stream. The addresses are standardized, cleansed, and validated (or not) multiple times. The addresses are changed from their original format, manipulated, and then shoved back into the databases, without considering the actual process dependencies or expectations.

And then you end up with a scenario like this: a process for accepting customer applications including their self-provided addresses, send hard copies of acknowledgements to their self-provided addresses, yet the process includes an elaborate mechanism for managing returned mail. That did not make sense to me: if the organization sends out acknowledgements to the address the customer provided, wouldn't they trust that the customer provided an accurate address?

In fact, the issues was self-created: the provided address passed through at least three different iterations (with different products!) of standardization, correction, and validation, and was transformed from a deliverable ("accurate") address to an invalid one.

So even though the intent was appropriate, the execution of the process got in the way of the results. So I'll throw out two questions: First, is address standardization and validation a tool or a process? And second, at what point and how frequently in the business process flow should address standardization and validation take place?

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