Taking a Bite Out of Undeliverables
Niche cataloger Shari’s Berries International guarantees that its chocolate-covered strawberries reach recipients a mere day after they’re dipped—a business plan that puts a heavy emphasis on reliable address data.
Indeed, according to Lowell Feil, vice president of operations, until May 2002 his department experienced delivery address problems with about 10 percent of its orders.
Though the company’s FedEx shipping system caught nearly all of these during the package-scanning process, catalog call center reps then had to call and re-verify the addresses. This not only strained call center resources, it often resulted in delayed product shipments and ruined customer surprises.
Company executives examined several address verification software programs before deciding on Melissa Data’s Address Object. Feil says he preferred Address Object for its ease of use and integration possibilities with the cataloger’s existing Web framework. Address Object works by using the MAILERS+4 CASS-certified address verification engine, which checks data against the U.S. Postal Service’s database of deliverable addresses.
After a five-day initial installation, Shari’s Berries began using Address Object on May 6, the start of Mother’s Day week. Feil reports that out of about 10,000 orders placed that week, only two didn’t reach their destinations due to address problems on the company’s end—an error rate of less than 1 percent.
In fact, Feil says the program’s real-time verification enabled his call center to reduce its overall outbound verification calls by more than 90 percent. As Shari’s Berries uses a maximum of only 45 call center reps, and handles 50 to 2,500 calls a day, this is a big advantage.
It’s also a money-saver. The company ships its perishable product in packages designed to withstand extreme weather conditions. Costs associated with this packaging and its shipping mean a potential loss of $150 to $500 a day on wrongly shipped orders, according to Feil.