Address Matching Cuts Complaints for Zoo

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Brookfield Zoo in Chicago has reduced member calls due to misdirected mail by 25 percent through the use of address-matching software.

The nonprofit zoo is operated by the Chicago Zoological Society. Each quarter it mails membership materials and a newsletter, Zoo Views, to its database of 75,000 members. A few weeks before the newsletter goes out, the database is updated with new membership information taken from telephone orders, the Web, direct mail pieces promoting the zoo and drop boxes located at the zoo.

In addition, the zoo usually does a 400,000- to 500,000-piece mailing in March to prospective members and members who have not renewed, bringing in 8,000 to 10,000 new and renewed members. Zoo personnel then input this data into the zoo's database in April in preparation for a May newsletter.

"The newsletter is critical in terms of future visits to the zoo, and visitation is a very strong indicator of future merchandising and fundraising opportunities, so we've got a very short window of time to get all of these people into our file," said Richard Mason, the zoo's director of membership.

The short turnaround time for data entry each quarter is heightened because most of the membership information is handwritten.

"Many people aren't sure of their correct mailing addresses when they sign up, while others don't know their ZIP codes," Mason said. "In other cases, the writing on the cards is just not legible."

As a result, personnel would input the wrong address data into the zoo's database.

"Our customers call when they do not receive their newsletter," he said.

To solve these problems, Mason implemented QuickAddress, a tool from QAS Software that enables zoo personnel to obtain complete and accurate addresses from members the first time.

QuickAddress lets Brookfield Zoo employees enter address records in a standard, consistent format. Address data typically is recorded in 15 keystrokes or fewer because entering the postal code and street number is usually sufficient to produce a complete, accurate address. Each address is validated against the U.S. Postal Service database before the entry is completed.

This saves the zoo time and money, Mason said, because employees enter the address not only in fewer keystrokes but also in the postal service's preferred format.

Mason said QuickAddress also helps during the holiday season, when the zoo traditionally does a promotion where parents and grandparents can donate funds in a child's name that are used to care for one of the zoo's animals. The child receives a letter and a stuffed animal.

"The challenge here is that many gift-givers aren't sure of the recipients' addresses," he said. "But because of the software, zoo employees can verify the recipient's address while taking the order over the telephone, actually helping the customer."

Mason also said that QuickAddress is easy to use.

"Our employees, many of whom are seasonal, have varying computer skills," he said. "Even our least-computer-literate employee could use it right away."

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