We all spend large amounts of time and money learning about our customers, whether it is keeping a record of our interactions with them, the orders they place or other data that allows us to profile them. It is all about understanding the individual, but there is one piece of data that every business relies on, who’s value is often overshadowed by the ‘insight’ that we are trying to gain through other data, and can in fact play an important role in getting that very insight.
The humble address is often simply seen as a necessity because we need to send written communications to people, or parcels or engineers but it can be so much more. The process of keying in an address is prone to error, so we are all used to address completion and validation tools, which simply use a house number and postcode.
This is most commonly based on the Postcode Address File (PAF) which is compiled, updated and supplied by Royal Mail. It is a database containing all known addresses and postcodes in the UK and every delivery point, including residential, non-residential and large user addresses.
The PAF is a very simple list of addresses and as such has limitations: addresses are not uniquely identifiable; where addresses are divided up into different types of property, say flats above a business, this relationship within the building is not clear; the business address data is patchy; and PAF does not contain data on non-addressable locations such as small buildings that house electricity distribution equipment, which could be critical for utility companies.
AddressBase, which was developed by Ordnance Survey and is available through many companies, brings a new level of accuracy and insight to addressing by gathering together spatial data into a single resource that can be easily integrated into critical systems such as CRM or mapping systems used in a variety of different cases.
As part of the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA), AddressBase data is available ‘Free at the Point of Use’ to all members subject to Royal Mail PAF fees. AddressBase is proving very popular in the public sector, helping councils, emergency services, local and central government to provide better services and combat fraud, but it is not just for the public sector – private sector licensing is also available.
So why should you think about adopting AddressBase? What benefits will it bring to your business and the services you provide to customers?
More Complete Addressing
The AddressBase datasets contain millions of additional addresses and data points; there are 1.5m more flats in AddressBase than are available through Royal Mail. They are built from the best parts of the Royal Mail PAF, the National Land and Property Gazetteer, One Scotland Gazetteer and OS MasterMap (provided by Ordnance Survey).
They include historical information about an address, topographic identifiers and references for objects without an address such as community centres or places of worship. If you provide services to businesses, or addresses that have been sub-divided, then AddressBase will give your customers a better experience.
Cost Saving & Efficiency
Using one single definitive source of address data will deliver efficiency savings by removing the need to perform matching exercises between databases using different addressing sets. One of the most powerful elements of AddressBase is the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) given to each address, meaning data is more easily shared and, more importantly, duplicate addresses can be identified between shared systems.
A reduction in address duplicates can provide cost and efficiency savings anywhere from reducing the amount of spend on mailings, to reducing the amount of time a call centre operative might spend on the phone as they will now have a full collated history of calls relating to an address.
Integration & Insight
Through effective integration, if every IT system within your organisation that uses an address is using the UPRN then suddenly you can seamlessly pull disparate data together to analyse sales, missed mailer marketing opportunities, customer satisfaction or any other address centred analysis, making your business intelligence systems and decision making more effective. Using the geospatial data within AddressBase it is easy to visualise data and reports across maps making it easier to understand complex data to identify opportunities or areas of concern.
The mapping and information about roads within AddressBase is accurate and exhaustive, and even includes topographic points of interest. For field engineers this can be invaluable in identifying the correct location for a job or site visit. The information can even be used to assess whether a road surface is suitable for a delivery vehicle. There is nothing more frustrating for a customer than having a delivery cancelled from a couple of hundred metres away, when they have waited in all day – we’ve all been there!
Looking at the points above it is hard to believe getting something so (seemingly) rudimentary as addressing right can enable wider benefits for customers and employees. We’ve been storing addresses electronically for the best part of 50 years, but really ignored its potential. Taking a serious approach to addressing can play a role in opening the door to a more efficient and informed business, so don’t ignore it, think about how much more you can get from it.