I have been meaning to write a series of articles on this topic for awhile. After seeing this post it spurred me to follow-up and put some information out there. Stay tuned to the blog and please do comment.
SERP (Software Evaluation and Recognition Program) is a type of postal certification, issued by Canada Post to evaluate the capacity of commercially and internally-developed third-party software to validate and correct addresses. Canada Post sets standards for the requirements used to appraise address validation software.
Canada Post offers three main types of mailing services that fall under the Address Accuracy Program – Incentive Lettermail, Addressed Admail and Publications Mail. The Address Accuracy Programs enforces all address accuracy requirements for these mailing services to keep the mail flow as efficient as possible. Incentive Lettermail is offered to large commercial customers, who regularly send large volumes of identical mail items. Meanwhile, Addressed Admail is an option available to customers pursuing direct marketing. Canada Post has more than 13 million available Canadian addresses and can generate customized mailing lists or rent any combination of the 3,000 already available ones from a list brokers. Publications Mail is a service that allows for Canadian newspapers, magazines and newsletters, serving clientele located in Canada, to stay connected to its customers.
To stay connected to customers or any individuals, companies must be able to reach them. Address validation software helps determine the percentage of accurate and deliverable addresses in an organization’s database. All organizations using Incentive Lettermail must follow the rules of the program. At least once per year, A Statement of Accuracy (SOA) is generated to determine the percentage of accurate addresses. In order to meet Canada Post’s Address Accuracy Program standards, 95% of the addresses must be valid. If the gauged results fall below this percentage, the following equation is used to make the necessary adjustments in order to qualify for the program:
Volume of Mail x (95% minus Customer’s Actual Address Accuracy %) x Maximum* $0.05 = Total Adjustment
In order to be valid, the address must be deliverable. This requires the address information to be a format coherent with the Post’s standards. Canada Post states that the number of mail items sent to incorrect recipients or addresses averages about140 million annually. To avoid this problem and be considered valid, all the address information must be written in the proper sequence, as shown below, and there should not be any punctuation. It must contain the full length name of the city. The locality province abbreviation and the postal code must both be capitalized, with proper spacing between words. In order to be deliverable, this valid address must also be placed in the top left corner of the envelope for the sender and the bottom right corner for the recipient. Everything should be left justified and the country name (Canada) must be spelled in English.
UNIT NUMBER-CIVIC NUMBER, STREET NUMBER, STREET TYPE, STREET NAME, STREET DIRECTION
LOCALITY ABBREVIATION, POSTAL CODE
*No commas in the actual address
SERP performs similar functions as the United States CASS and the Australian AMAS postal certification programs. The main goal of these types of programs is to improve the accuracy and speed of deliverability, while reducing the quantity of undelivered mail.
Every year, Australia’s population of more than 22 million people continues to grow, with people constantly relocating and changing their addresses. AMAS is the Address Matching Approval System, utilized as the Address Certification program and provided by the Australian Post. Similar to the French La Poste SNA, AMAS checks, corrects, and updates current Australian address data to ensure that it is valid, complete, and deliverable. Organizations can use the Australia Post’s Postal Address File (PAF) against certified address matching software to obtain the most accurate and recent information.
Once the address matching software is approved by the AMAS and the database files are matched against the PAF, an exclusive, randomly generated Delivery Point Identifier (DPID) is assigned to each individual record, in order to obtain barcode pricing. This guarantees the most competent and rapid mail delivery.
PO BOX, FLOOR/APARTMENT, HOUSE NUMBER, STREET NAME, STREET TYPE
LOCALITY ABBREVIATION, POSTAL CODE
Just as La Poste SNA, Australia’s AMAS has certain specifications for the format of the address field order (Recipient, Building, Locality, Postal Code, Country) in order for an address to be qualified as a valid one. The address lines must be straight and all words must have spaces between them. Only in Australian addresses, the postal code must be written in the four squares in the lower right corner of the envelope; oversees postal codes must not be written there, even if they can fit appropriately. There should not be any punctuation or indentation. The locality must be written in all capital letters and the state or territory must be in their abbreviated forms.
Address Certification is a process of verifying that all the components of an address are accurate and deliverable. There are several components of address data that make this process possible, such as the correctness and the order of the address information, spacing, punctuation, and the freshness of the address information.
HOUSE NUMBER, STREET TYPE, STREET NAME, DEPENDENT LOCALITY
POSTAL CODE, LOCALITY
*No commas in the actual address
CEDEX stands for Courrier d’Entreprise à Distribution Exceptionnelle and is a special number assigned to organizations by the French Post (La Poste). In order to qualify for a CEDEX number an organization, such as a government or a public service office, must receive large volumes of mail. CEDEX mail is used primarily for businesses and delivered separately from other non-commercial mail for more efficient delivery.
SNA (Service National de l’Adresse) is known as the French Address Management Service. France’s La Poste SNA is responsible for ensuring that all address data is correct and up-to-date. The organization also sets standards for how French and European addresses should be written (information, order, punctuation, alignment, etc.). The main goal of the hundred plus expert SNA is to make communication as efficient and fast as possible. SNA corrects and updates reference address files to various direct marketing companies and other businesses.
To qualify as a valid address, France’s La Poste requires the address field order (Recipient, Building, Locality, Postal Code, Country) to start with the name of the individual or the company and end with the locality. There must be spaces between all words, consisting of no more than six lines for all French domestic mail and seven lines for international – a total of no more than 38 characters. All the information in the address block must be left justified. There should not be any punctuation on any of the lines and the last line must be printed in capital letters. When an address in known to be no longer applicable to an individual or an organization, they will be listed “No longer at this address” or updated with a new address to prevent returned mail.
Many countries across the globe have worked in cooperation with the mailing industry to develop certification programs to test the accuracy of software and equipment used in mailing related services. The purpose of these certification programs is to decrease mailing costs and increase deliverability.
Mail service providers who use certified software to cleanse their address list or in their automated sorting machines, which use address matching software, enjoy reduced postal rates and cut back on fees for undeliverable pieces due to an invalid address. In return, a countries’ postal system cuts costs by reducing wasted time spent on undeliverable mail and time spent sorting mail. The following paragraphs give the name and a brief description of some countries’ certification programs.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) uses a program called the Coding Accuracy Support System, or CASS. Address matching software and mailing lists are evaluated against the USPS Address Matching System (AMS). A valid address must contain a correct street name and number, city and state, and the correct 9 digit zip code. In order for a product to be CASS certified it must achieve a level of accuracy as described by the CASS terms and conditions. A CASS product must also be recertified on a yearly basis.
The French Postal service has also set up a computerized processing procedure, administered by the Service National de l’Adresse (SNA) known as the Restructuring, Standardization, and Postal Validation, or RSPV. This process ensures that the various address elements are in the correct place, checks that the address complies with the French address standard, and ensures the elements of the address are exact. All data processing service providers can apply for an audit of their RSVP product, and once a certification is granted it is good for two years.
Canada’s certification program is known as the Software Evaluation and Recognition Program, or SERP. SERP tests and validates both commercial and internal software programs for correcting mailing lists by comparing them to the Canada Post’s Address File. Companies who use Canada Post services, such as Incentive Lettermail or Publications Mail, must meet the programs requirements.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) created the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) to evaluate the accuracy of software that cleanses and matches address data for the United States. CASS certification benefits software vendors, service bureaus, and bulk mailers as well as the USPS itself.
Software Vendors whose products are CASS certified are giving a selling advantage over competitors whose products are not CASS certified. Furthermore, service bureaus and mailers who use CASS certified software in their automated sorting machines receives lower mailing rates. The USPS also benefits greatly from CASS certified products. A correct address saves money and manpower by reducing the number of non-deliverables and saving time by having less mail to sort.
CASS certified software and mailing lists must meet strict guidelines before their CASS certification can be approved. Address matching software and mailing lists are evaluated against the USPS Address Matching System (AMS). A valid address must contain the correct street name and number, the correct five-digit code (ZIP code) unique to every city within a U.S. state, as well as the ZIP + 4 code which serves as delivery point associated with a ZIP code. CASS certified software must be used in conjunction with the USPS Delivery Point Validation (DPV®) product and the LACSLink® product. The DPV® product confirms that a ZIP + 4 code is valid and the LACSLink® product is a dataset that involves changing rural style addresses to city-state addresses.
In addition to the DPV® and LACSLink® product, the USPS offers additional products that increase the accuracy and efficiency of address matching software and bulk mailer’s automated sorting machines. The eLOT® product sorts mail in approximate carrier casing sequence, the RDI™ products identifies delivery types as residential or commercial, and the Suite Link product contains business address information identifying addresses with in large business complexes such as a high-rise office building.
If you are a address-matching software vendor or in the bulk mailing business, A CASS certification from the USPS is the best way to show your customers you are dedicated to providing the most accurate and efficient service possible.