Ireland recently became one of the last countries in the developed world to introduce postcodes. Known as Eircode, the new postcode is different to that of most countries, in that it identifies individual buildings, but not general areas or landmarks that do not receive post. Not being able to identify an area or landmark means that Eircode is of no benefit for businesses and utilities that need to locate or track items such as telegraph poles, farm structures, waterways, road infrastructure, and many tourist attractions. However, most companies with such requirements already have their own marking system, for example bridge numbers, mileposts, and road numbering schemes mean that the National Roads Authority can identify almost every piece of road infrastructure in the country. However, your business requirement is probably to identify your own clients and where they are located. Eircode is perfect in that case.
Let’s look at some of the criticism levelled at Eircode in recent days….
Eircode puts Shannon Airport in Limerick, but it’s actually in Clare
This is a valid criticism but it also misses the point of a postcode. A postcode is a way of uniquely identifying a building and allowing mail to be routed to that building. A postal address is also a way of routing mail to that building. In Ireland’s case the official postal addresses are maintained by An Post and according to An Post, Shannon is in Limerick. This is probably because Shannon receives a large amount of mail and it was traditionally easier and faster to handle that volume from Limerick than from Ennis. It was An Post who put Shannon in Limerick. However with a postcode in place the address becomes largely irrelevant. Mail destined for Shannon Airport should now be routed according to the postcode.
My neighbour has a completely different Eircode than me
The Royal Mail use a postcode that identifies a group of houses in an area. That probably made sense for Royal Mail employees who had to sort letters in the rear end of a steam train during the 1950’s as they travelled from London to Scotland with the nightly mails. By the time the mail arrived it was neatly stacked in pigeon holes that corresponded to delivery routes in Glasgow. The UK system does not uniquely identify each house and it therefore does not solve the problem we have in Ireland of non-unique addresses. The UK system also does not allow business owners to find their client by postcode (although it certainly helps when combined with a house number or surname).
The reason some courier companies are unhappy with Eircode is because in the UK they use computer systems (or manual sorting techniques) that utilise the sequential nature of the UK postcode to sort deliveries by area. They can’t do that in Ireland, but they can do better: they can map every postcode to a GPS co-ordinate and then using mapping software like Google Maps they can work out exactly where each of their clients are and how best to deliver to every one of them. They just need to invest in better software.
Remember that your neighbour has a different telephone number to you, a different car registration number, and now a different postcode. Eircode is simply a number that helps identify where your house is. Eircode is different to a UK postcode and in many ways it is superior.
If I fall off a cliff I can’t direct an ambulance to rescue me
A fair criticism as well, but then again how would that work in reality. Would you know the postcode of the cliff? If you didn’t how would you look it up? On a phone? A phone with GPS accurate to +/-3 meters? GPS that a helicopter can use to instantly locate your position? On that note….
Why not just use GPS?
GPS works, and has been working for the last 20 years. However, your clients do not generally know the GPS co-ordinates of their premises and even if they did, they are not going to be consistent. The GPS co-ordinates at a front door will differ from the co-ordinates at a front gate. Eircode maps to GPS co-ordinates so if you can remember your new 7 digit postcode you will always have a reliable, consistent, and memorable way of identifying your property.
So what about the benefits of Eircode?
Eircode is brilliant from a business database point of view. It is a unique identifier. Databases love unique identifiers. Account numbers, MPRN, PRSI, car registration, mobile phone number, email address: they are all unique identifiers. Now with Eircode every building in the Republic of Ireland has a unique identifier as well. So what? Well here are 10 reasons why that is good for your business….
Your drivers and reps can navigate to any premise in the country using a sat-nav without needing directions or local knowledge. Of course this depends on Google Maps and other providers supporting Eircode, but we predict that will happen very soon.
More Accurate Route Planning
Your business can using routing software to find the best/shortest/fastest route that brings you to every premise in a list, for deliveries or sales calls for example.
Improved Address Tracking
Your business can now track an address instead of a customer – for example, companies that install equipment such as septic tanks can continue to track the installation address even if the owner moves house.
Faster Customer Lookup
Your support staff can call up a customer’s account using their Eircode. Never again ask a customer “how do you spell Ó Muircheartaigh?” Just ask for their Eircode and up pops the account. Because Eircode is short and well defined your database software will be able to search for it very efficiently.
More Accurate Data Matching
Your ICT systems can match and validate address data instantly. For example when you upload orders from your e-commerce website to your accounting database you can now instantly match addresses by their Eircode. You can determine if a business or person is already a customer by matching their Eircode to existing data.
Easier Data Entry
Data entry is now much easier. If every address in the country has a unique Eircode then it follows that every Eircode in the country now maps to a single address. That means that when you need a customer address (such as when taking an order, creating a quotation, estimating delivery costs, etc) you can now ask for their Eircode. Lookup the Eircode in the Eircode database and you instantly retrieve the rest of your clients address – and it will be their official An Post address at that (which may mean they now live in Cavan instead of Monaghan, but c’est le vie!)
If you find that you have duplicate Eircodes then that means you have duplicate data (the same customer in twice), redundant data (a customer that has moved), or simply bad data. Either way it is good to know.
Better Local Knowledge
Your company now knows your customer better. Using their Eircode you can now tailor your services to your customer’s location. Have they slow or fast broadband (map their Eircode to a national broadband speed database and you have the answer). Are they near a post office or a bank? How long will it take your engineer to drive to their premises?
More Reliable Postal Deliveries
Place an Eircode on a package or letter and you can be optimistic that An Post or a private provider will have no excuse not to deliver the mail within their agreed service levels.
It’s Simply More Professional
Having a postcode feels a little like we have finally entered the 20th century. We’re only about 115 years too late, but that’s all forgotten about now!
To start using Eircode today you will might have to modify your software and your business processes. The HCS software department are ready to help. Call Ruairi on 087 2960066 or drop in to us in Waterford at X91 DA39. We can help you implement all of the above benefits of using Eircode.