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Why NCOA + list cleanup is vital for deliverability

Incorrect mailing list addresses are expensive and wasteful, for you as well as USPS. If you�re handling automated direct mail, you probably know that more than 45 million US families, individuals and businesses change their addresses each year, out of more than 145 million deliverable addresses on file with USPS, and more than 800,000 change-of-address records are added to the change of address database each week. In addition, numerous changes are made each month in the Zip+4, street name, house number and other postal delivery designations, requiring DPV matching. Direct mail sent to out-of-date or incorrect addresses arrives late or never arrives at all, returning to mail senders as "undeliverable as addressed", "addressee not known", or other designations showing it was neither delivered nor forwarded.

So there's no such thing as a "clean" mailing list, unless you processed it through a system such as ours, no more than a week or so before you ran your mailing from it. And this is all the more reason you ought to update the addresses of all your direct mail files, including those used for periodicals as well as those mailed at First-Class Mail or Standard Mail postage rates. If you clean and update your lists this way, you not only will save a lot of money on otherwise wasted printing and postage, and you will know that your expected delivery postal delivery rate will be close to optimum.

An important and exclusive feature of Fast-Track's NCOA list processing is that our unique list cleanup service is provided at no additional cost. Almost all NCOA processing tags certain addresses as undeliverable by USPS because the move is too old or the postal customer moved but no forwarding address is available.

To save our NCOA customers significant postal charges for undeliverable mail, we provide them two versions of the their NCOA-processed files. The first list contains all records, irrespective of deliverability. The second list contains only USPS-deliverable addresses. Customers can then mail to the "clean" list with full deliverability, but they can use the "unclean" list to modify update their internal files.

How Fast-Track processes your file with NCOA

Assuming your list has name (and/or organization name), address, city, state and zip data in DBF (database file) or CSV (comma-separated values) format, it's ready for us to process, which works in a linked and mostly automated series of data processing operations:

1. We standardize your file name and import it into our database program for NCOA pre-process preparation. The same program adds some 20 extra data fields which are used by the CASS and NCOA processing, then exports the file to CSV format.

2. We use an automated text editor macro command to change NCOA input field names to exact standards required to match them against NCOA file data.

3. Using a high-speed and high-security SFTP connection, the file is exported and uploaded to a USPS-licensed NCOA web services system for NCOAlink + ANKlink file matching. When the file is logged into a production que, these systems typically process more than one million records per hour with complete CASS, NCOA and ANK (Addressee Not Known) postal delivery data, using weekly-updated USPS data.

4. When processing is complete, the file data is exported back to us, and our local database program imports the back into programmable format. A CASS Summary Report (USPS Form 3553) containing address standardization data, and an NCOALink Processing Summary Report that includes all move statistics, are automatically generated and returned to us with the data file.

5. The processed file now has the following added "NCOA" fields: full personal name; company/organization name; street; city; state; zip; plus4; delivery point; validation code (DPV); carrier route; line of travel (LOT); LOT direction; locatable address correction service (LACS) code; move date; COA code; COA found; move type; CASS result code; CASS correction code; filler. Other USPS NCOA codes can be added for special customer needs.

6. The complete NCOA-processed list with all records is then copied to a separated "clean" file with no undeliverable addresses.

7. We use a second automated database program to re-assemble the finished and complete the job process:

... A job invoice/receipt is generated.

... A zipped file bundle is produced, which includes both the complete file and clean copy without undeliverable records, in CSV or other formats; the job invoice/receipt; both process summary reports; a decode sheet; and an informational "read-me".

... The file bundle is copied to the appropriate customer account folder.

... An email message is generated, indicating that your processing is completed and that your file is ready for you to download into your own remote computer for immediate use. Files remain resident in account folders for about one week before automatic deletion.

Note: Either or both DBF and CSV file formats can easily be imported into most other database file programs. For example, to load your file into an Excel spreadsheet, right-click on the file, selecting "Open With" and then "Choose Program..." and selecting "Microsoft Excel" or "Microsoft Office Excel". DBF files can also be read by Microsoft Access, Microsoft Visual FoxPro, or a number of other DBF-handling file utility programs. We can also supply your output files in TXT (system deliminated) format.

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