Mail Deliverability Explained

The bottom line desire for any mailing is to have ALL mail pieces delivered. For the past few years the postal service has REQUIRED that any mailing of Presorted First Class or Presorted Standard Class mail be processed through National Change Of Address (NCOA). Address N’ Mail fully complies with these regulations. What does that mean to the person that has ordered the mailing or provided the mailing list? Plenty!

Your list is checked to see if the addressee has properly filed a formal change of address with the USPS. If the USPS is 100% satisfied that the name at the address on your list has filed a change of address than a new address will be provided as a result of this process. If there is less than 100% certainty, no new address is provided and it is left up to the delivering mail carrier to determine if a manual move update is applicable. If a manual update is required the piece will either be forwarded or returned to sender if the sender has requested that service on the envelope by using an endorsement such as “Return Service Requested”. First class mail pieces that otherwise cannot be delivered will be returned.

This NCOA service, depending on technique, could go back in time 18 months or 48 months. Address N’ Mail commonly use a 48 month NCOA. If a person moved 5 times in the last 48 months and you have any 1 of those old addresses, Address N’ Mail will be able to find the most current address on file with the USPS.

You may ask, “With all this NCOA checking why would I receive any mail pieces back?

There are quite a few reasons.

  1. NCOA was not 100% certain of the move
  2. Your mail had an endorsement that requires the mail to be returned if the address has changed
  3. The person may have moved, left no forwarding address, and it was mailed in case the mail carrier had additional change of address information on hand or the mailing party required that all pieces be mailed.
  4. The address is flawed in some way and no NCOA lookup was possible. (Missing directional or apartment number are common errors in an address). The USPS cannot tell that a person has moved unless the address is verifiable.
  5. The person NEVER lived at that address so a move update would never be detected
  6. The mailing list has not had a USPS address verification in the past 48 months. Please note that standard class mail does not allow for return of undeliverable mail unless a specific endorsement on the mail piece requests it. Additional charges would apply for most standard class endorsements. Therefore, many standard class mailings during a 48 month period would never produce an address correction or any returned mail unless an optional endorsement was used and the fee for returned pieces paid.
  7. The mail had been habitually forwarded by the mail carrier for months and even years because the mailman knew what the new address was and made sure it was delivered to the correct. This “favor” backfires for today’s Postal Deliveries because it is easy for time limits to be exceeded.

How many bad addresses and return pieces is normal? Our experience has shown that even a long standing monthly mailing of payroll checks yielded a return rate of ½% to 1% when an endorsement forced the mailman to return the mail if an address was found to be incorrect in ANY way. That is, all the checking in the world (No pun intended) on a customer’s list could easily produce ½% to 1% returns for any of the above stated reasons. Some custom lists are far older than 4 years and results can be exceptional poor when that occurs as the 48 month check has long been expired. We have seen returned mail, using a customer supplied list, marked by the recipient, “This person moved over 12 years ago”!

Vendor compiled lists are usually much more inaccurate. Undeliverable mail of a “Very Good” compiled list can be about 8% and 15% for an average compiled list. The returns are usually the result of 2 major items. The compiled list may come from sources that inadvertently encourage applications to contain inaccurate information. Applications may bias the actual age to be exaggerated up or down. Forms for prizes may encourage Grandparents to use the Grandchildren’s names and addresses along with an age far greater than reality. Other times the list comes from a source that simply uses very old data because the more names the have the more they can charge. Use a mailer like Address N’ Mail that works to earn your trust for all aspects of your mailing, including the mailing list.

Please note that even a ½% return on 5,000 pieces is still 25 pieces, 1% return on 5,000 pieces is 50 pieces, 8% return on compiled list of 5,000 is 400 pieces and 15% return on 5,000 pieces is 750 pieces.

In summary, for mailings performed by Address N’ Mail, returned pieces are more a function of the source and the age of the list. Poorer delivery of a mailing reflects directly on the list quality, not the actual mailing.