The cold hard facts: The real ROI of ACS

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Here is what you need to know. More than 44 million people change their mailing addresses each year, according to the US Postal Service. The USPS charges as much as 50 cents per address for each change of address notice it sends manually. Sending your mailings to out-of-date addresses increases your mailing costs, and your mail piece may arrive late or not at all.

In addition to the extra cost and potential for late delivery, an out-of-date mailing list can prevent you from receiving discounted mail rates. And in the future, the ramifications of a bad list will get even worse. The USPS requires that you update your mailing lists with moves and address changes in order to receive discounts on your First-Class mail rates.

All mailers should perform aggressive Move Update processing to speed delivery and minimize costly Undeliverable-as-Addressed (UAA) mail pieces for any mail class. The USPS provides several address update services, available either directly from the USPS or from licensed, third-party providers such as letter shops and consolidators. These services have different costs, are performed at different phases of mail production and have their own benefits and disadvantages.

Services include NCOALink, a pre-processing service that updates a mailing list before the mailpieces are printed, assembled, and mailed; FastForward, an inline processing service, generally provided by a consolidator when the assembled, addressed mailpieces are sorted before they enter the USPS system; and Address Change Service (ACS), a post-processing service that updates an address list after a completed mailing has been processed by the USPS. ACS provides address change updates to the mailer after the USPS has processed the mailing. The major benefit of it is that mailers receive address changes in electronic format to merge back into the original address list. However, the mailer is responsible for merging the data. You do this by purchasing software — or developing your own, which would take years of experience and effort. But, industry experience indicates that ACS is able to identify about 40% of address changes.

Raymond Chin is VP of product development for GrayHair Software. Reach him at

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