Piglet, Pooh and PAF: Holding property names like ‘Trespassers W’ in Royal Mail’s Alias address file
October 2016 marks the 90th anniversary of the publication of the first Winnie the Pooh book. Those of you that remember these stories as fondly as I do may remember that one of the problems of living in a Hundred Acre Wood is that the main characters live in houses inside of trees, and there are a lot of trees in a Hundred Acre Wood.
The dog-eared edition of the book that I have features a map of the woods at the front to help you find your way around. My two favourite characters, however, used an ingenious method for letting others know where they lived. Pooh lived to the West of the Woods ‘under the name of Sanders’… which meant he had a sign nailed over his doorway with the name of Sanders written on it in gold letters. Piglet lived in a beech tree in the middle of the forest, identifiable by a broken board outside which read ‘Trespassers W’.
Of course, if Royal Mail had been delivering post to the characters in the story the postal addresses will have been in PAF and the trees would have numbers rather than names. But Pooh and Piglet would probably still have used ‘Sanders’ and ‘Trespassers W’ as property identifiers to help people sending things to them. In that case the call centre taking Pooh’s order for more honey wouldn’t immediately have been able to capture his correct postal address from the answer ‘under the name of Sanders’ and the website taking Piglet’s order for ‘haycorns’ may not have recognised ‘Trespassers W’ as part of the address, unless, of course, the solutions used the additional information readily available to all PAF customers in the Alias files.
One Alias file, four datasets
The Alias file is maintained alongside PAF and captures alternative names associated with addresses but not required for postal purposes. And I am being deliberate when I say Alias file rather than files because, whilst Alias is a single file, there are actually four different datasets containing Alias information. Each provides alternative names for different elements of the address; County, Locality, Thoroughfare and Delivery Point.
Despite county names not being included in PAF, as they aren’t required for the efficient routing of mail, we are aware that many people still use county when giving out their address to describe their location. The County Alias file holds information on Traditional, Administrative and former postal county names and can help improve address matching rates when trying to match an ambiguous or partial address against PAF. It is the smallest of the four datasets with just over 400 records in it which can be related back to addresses within PAF.
Similarly the Locality and Thoroughfare datasets also help End Users identify the correct address in PAF quicker by giving alternate names for villages, areas and streets. Between them they hold over 100,000 additional names. So when you know the address you’re looking for is in Eeyore’s Gloomy Place or the Sandy Pit where Roo plays, the Locality and Thoroughfare dataset might just help you match the correct address from PAF quicker.
By far the biggest of the Alias datasets is Delivery Point, which holds over a million records of additional house names and business ‘operating from residence’ names. These include both current and past names and as such can be a really rich source of information when a client’s database contains old customer records which they’re not sure if they have duplicated or they can’t match to PAF with enough certainty. When Pooh says he lives ‘under the name of Sanders’ using this information alongside the Postcode in PAF you can pretty quickly identify which house (tree) you need to get to.
No additional licensing costs
There are no additional licensing costs to End Users for using Alias data; you can add a supply of all four datasets from only £60 a year. Given this and the benefits in using Alias data alongside PAF, it was a surprise to me to find that only one in eight of our Direct End Users take the files and less than a quarter of Solutions Providers currently take the data to enhance their products. Those Solutions Providers that do use it report that it improves address matching rates significantly, as well as speeding up address recognition in e-commerce applications. So when Piglet wants to insure his house next year, think how much quicker he could do it if you recognised Trespassers W using Delivery Point Alias.
To download sample Alias data visit our website or contact your Solutions Provider now.
Licensing Development and Specification Manager