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The Quest for the Perfect Address

March 1, 2024

A complete, correct, and current address is the only way to achieve timely, predictable, and ultimate delivery of a mailpiece. Unfortunately, despite the vast array of address quality tools and techniques widely available to mailers, not much progress has been made with regards to reducing undeliverable as addressed (UAA) mail.

The USPS has been tracking UAA mail volumes since 2008, and year over year it has been a relatively slow and steady decline that for the most part matched overall mail volume declines.

The USPS groups UAA into three main types: treated as waste, returned to sender, and forwarded.

Built with data from https://postalpro.usps.com/uaarollup

In all three cases, there are costs to the USPS amounting to a billion dollars or more. They are effectively passed through to the mailing industry either as built-in fees for First-Class Mail or optional charges in the case of Marketing Mail for mailers that use ancillary service endorsements or Address Change Services.

As noted earlier, UAA volumes for the most part matched overall mail volume declines.

However, with the price of postage increasing substantially in the past 18 to 24 months, mailers are starting to focus more aggressively on UAA volumes.

According to USPS data, if you compare 2023 to 2019, total mail volume was down 18.5%, but UAA volume was down 27.85%. That is encouraging, especially since the drops in UAA were primarily in treated as waste and forwarded mail pieces.

As the USPS rolls out their Delivering For America (DFA) plan, it’s time for the industry to also respond with action and to do something to remove undeliverable and ineffective addresses with these good, better, and best practices to achieve the perfect addresses:


The foundation for any address quality solution is a CASS-certified product.

CASS is a USPS certification program that tests commercially available software to make sure it assigns a proper ZIP+4.

CASS has been around for several decades but hadn’t really changed much until 2023 when CASS Cycle O was released. With CASS Cycle O, mailers now have more intuitive return codes from the various software products that can provide valuable clues as to why the software was unable to assign a proper ZIP+4 code.

Oftentimes, the primary issue can be the secondary address line such as an apartment number for a residence or a suite number for a business.

Knowing that the secondary address is wrong or missing, but required for a proper ZIP+4, can help mailers use industry tools such as Address Resolution Services (ARS) to correct or complete the secondary address.


While a proper ZIP+4 is essential to obtain USPS workshare presort discounts, the recipient at the address may have moved. The USPS requires mailers to use an approved Move Update solution in order to have a complete, correct, and current address prior to mailing. An effective pre-mailing solution such as NCOALINK is an excellent solution.

NCOALINK is either an 18-month or 48-month database of permanent change of addresses filed with the USPS. It is widely available through a number of non-exclusive licensees and, if utilized every month, it is a very effective way to keep your addresses current.

Unfortunately, not everyone files a change-of-address with the USPS. That is where a Proprietary Change Of Address (PCOA) can be useful.

PCOA contains inferred change-of-addresses that are aggregated from such sources as warranty registration cards, subscription renewals, and various public records. It is often used for prospect mailings when you are trying to either make an initial contact with someone or can also be used for addresses that have been unresponsive for more than four years — as PCOA data can often go back five years or more.

As with other address quality products, there are various return codes that should be reviewed and leveraged to ensure you have a proper address. This is especially true for return codes such as Moved Left No Address (MLNA) and Box Closed No Order (BCNO). These are USPS carrier filed change-of-addresses that are entered into the NCOALINK database and should be removed from the mailing list.


The final step in your quest for the perfect address is suppressing ineffective addresses. This includes deceased suppression, prison suppression, and various others.

On the surface, it seems odd or even very insensitive to mail to a deceased individual and yet it continues to occur. Deceased suppression not only removes ineffective mail pieces, but it can also actually improve the response rate for the mailing. The same can be said for prison suppression as it is highly unlikely an incarcerated individual is going to purchase something like vinyl siding in their current situation.

Various other suppression and filtering services such as using geocoding to select only those addresses within a distance from a centroid address can also help to remove ineffective addresses and improve the overall response rate. While response rates have improved for direct mail and are now 5% or higher, they can be even higher if you leverage these best practices in address quality.

Do Something!

It’s time now to do something about address quality, so contact your software solution provider to determine what services are available to help you achieve the perfect address.

Reduce wasted and returned mail, and improve response rates with BCC Software’s comprehensive suite of mailing solutions and data services.

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