industry news SME profile Monday 03 Jan 2022 @ 00:00 How address verification can help solve a number of challenges for the public sector in 2022
How address verification can help solve a number of challenges for the public sector in 2022
By Barley Laing, the UK Managing Director at Melissa
It is easy to view address verification as solely ensuring accurate addressing for the delivery of direct mail. However, it offers much more than that to the public sector that’s facing a number of challenges in 2022.
Reduce cost and improve the user experience with communications
Public bodies are stalwarts in sending direct mail, such as communications on rubbish and recycling collections, new services, public information, through to bills and legal correspondence. Unfortunately, unverified, inaccurate address data can lead to mis-deliveries and returns that are costly. If it’s correspondence, for example, regarding a medical appointment which is then missed because of an inaccurate patient address, there’s an additional cost in wasted staff time to the health service, and therefore the taxpayer; as well as the patient being put at risk with an additional delay. This is obviously best avoided with the public sector under increased budgetary pressure because of the pandemic. However, inaccurate data is not only costly from a monetary point of view, but when it comes to the user experience. If a resident does not receive their expected communication from a public sector organisation, or it’s delayed, it will not leave them with a good impression on the sender. This makes having address accuracy, therefore checking and verifying an address, absolutely key.
The issue of carbon neutrality, and more widely sustainability, are hugely important in this sector, as in many others. Public bodies are required to publish a ‘Public Sustainability report’ every year and also recognise the ‘The Greening Government Commitments 2021 – 2025’ which commits those in the public sector to minimising waste, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, for example. Ensuring accuracy with verified addresses will reduce carbon emissions from producing and distributing incorrectly addressed mail that will be returned, and have a positive impact on their efforts at sustainability.
A further important reason to verify an address is that it helps to confirm the ID of an individual, which is vital with ID fraud on the rise in an increasingly digital age. Matching a name to an accurate physical address using a trusted source of reference data, is a critical step in making sure address data is clean, up to date, ID is verified - the user is who they say they are - and it’s ready for use.
Inaccurate data is an issue
Unfortunately, too many public sector organisations hold stale and inaccurate contact data on those that use their services.
The fact is, without constant attention the quality of data in a database will decline. Contact data degrades at two per cent per month, with 25% of data being corrupted on an annual basis as people move home - 2.2 million individuals move every year - obtain new mobile phone numbers or pass away. There are significant time and cost implications in correcting this faulty data, with an average of two per cent of an organisation’s revenue lost on modifying it. It’s time and money that, for example, could be better spent on frontline services.
Additionally, a growing reliance on user provided data in the mobile age is leading to an increase in collecting inaccurate data at the user onboarding stage. Those typing in their contact information on a small screen are much more likely to mistype. It’s perhaps not surprising that approximately 20 per cent of addresses entered online contain errors such as spelling mistakes, wrong house numbers, and inaccurate postcodes.
Address verification and lookup
Address verification and lookup tools are set to play a vital role in ensuring accurate address data in 2022. These automatically reveal the suggested correct version of the address as the user completes an online contact form, enabling them to select one that’s not only accurate but easily recognised, and correctly formatted for their country location. This will negate the cost of correcting data later. Another benefit of an address lookup tool is that as well as preventing mistakes caused by fat finger syndrome, it reduces the number of keystrokes required when typing an address on a small mobile screen by up to 81 per cent, improving the user experience.
It’s vital that the address verification service selected has access to the Postcode Address File (PAF) from the Royal Mail, and is therefore able to enrich data by filling in any gaps such as a missing postcode. Ideally, it should also be able to provide geocodes that deliver latitude and longitude coordinates, in order to gain pinpoint (rooftop) accuracy, and therefore improve the delivery and user experience. It must also have the ability to retrospectively correct and enrich user address data.
By taking steps to obtain verified address data in 2022 those in the public sector will improve the accuracy of their held address data, which will not only reduce the cost of mis-deliveries, but their impact on the environment, and reduce the chances of ID fraud. They will also be more likely to deliver a standout user experience.
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