To use ASE, the mail piece is printed with an endorsement that tells the USPS what action to take if the mail piece is undeliverable as addressed. Options are to forward the mail if a forwarding order is on file, to return the mail piece to the sender, or a combination. The exact action taken by the USPS depends on the class of mail (first class or standard), the nature of the mail piece, and the amount of time the change order has been in effect.
Whether NCOA or ASE has been used as the move update method, one of the first steps in mail processing is to sort the mail using equipment that incorporates optical character recognition (OCR) technology to determine how the mail will be routed to its delivery address. For letter mail, the equipment is a Multiline Optical Character Reader or MLOCR.
An MLOCR captures the image on the front of the mail piece and, on the fly, compares the address to the database of deliverable addresses. If FastForward is used in conjunction with the MLOCR the address can also be compared to the NCOA database. This results in some addresses being updated and the mail piece possibly being returned to the sender. Addresses updated in this way are easy to identify because they have a yellow sticky mailing label attached to the returned mail piece with the reason for non-delivery and an updated address if one exists.
If no match is found in the NCOA database and the address itself is found to be deliverable, then the mail piece will exit the MLOCR and continue through the postal system to the delivery address. Here, the letter carrier takes over as the verification that the person to whom the mail piece is addressed is actually at the address on the mail piece. Mail pieces returned undelivered because of action by the letter carrier can be identified by manual markings on the mail piece—a rubber stamp and/or a handwritten notation of the reason for non-delivery.
Our customers themselves create problems with move update. Some may not want their mail list changed, preferring to mail to whatever address they have, even if NCOA reveals that the address has been updated. Others may be tardy or lax in making the updates we provide as a result of NCOA processing.
Move update is a good thing for customers. It does help identify mail that is undeliverable as addressed and helps list owners keep mail lists accurate and up to date. However, due to the action of movers as well as technical limitations, move update is not able to identify all movers or even to provide complete accuracy in updating addresses. Mailers need to help customers understand the benefits of move update and also its limitations.
Nancy DeDiemar is the president of Printing Resources of Southern California, a quick print shop in Upland, CA, offering printing, copying, electronic prepress, and mailing services. Nancy is the co-publisher of Printips (www.printips.com), a newsletter subscription service for printers. Contact her at Nancy@printingresources.com. This article is available as a podcast at www.quickprinting.com/podcast and from iTunes.