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THE CHANGING

FACE

10 tips for automating your mail and package tracking. Page 24

Adopting new customer communication methods. Page 22

A new approach to postal costing. Page 18

OF MAIL

The fight to remain relevant in the 21st century page 14


Volume 24 Issue 3

MAY-JUNE 2011

Features 16

Emerging Delivery Options Offer a Host of Benefits Businesses are changing the way they communicate — but that doesn’t mean mail is dead By Harry Stephens

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Rationalizing Postal Costing in the 21st Century The USPS can survive — but it must change in order to do so By Jessica Lowrance

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Delivering Choice for Customer Communications Understanding and addressing consumer demands for choice, convenience and control in a multichannel world By Bernie Gracy

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Automating Your Mail and Package Tracking Going green can also mean saving green By Bruce E. Little

Departments

Columns

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Real-Life Management Understanding Ourselves – And Others

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The Future of Mail

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Application Article Maximizing Incoming Mail Data

Software Byte

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A 2+2 Approach for Roadmap Alignment

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Editor’s Note

Reality Check “Cure-All” Words – Communications and Training

The Trenches When Good Enough Just… Isn’t

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Pushing the Envelope The Drive to Remain Relevant

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Ship It Who Cares; It’s Only One Hour!

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Everything IMBC Migrating to IMB

[ PLUS ] 4

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Make sure you sign up for our monthly e-Newsletter so we can keep you posted with news alerts and updates! www.MailingSystemsTechnology.com


editor’s note

with Amanda Armendariz

Mailing systems technology PUBLISHER Marll Thiede

EDITOR

The Future of Mail I recently returned from attending my first National Postal Forum, and I have to say, it was phenomenal. Of course, how could anyone not enjoy a conference held in sunny San Diego? But the beautiful weather wasn’t the only thing that left an impression on me as I joined the ranks of NPF attendees. The ideas discussed in the sessions, networking events and exhibit hall showed that while mail may be facing some significant changes in the near future, it’s certainly not dead.

Amanda Armendariz amanda.c@rbpub.com

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Kevin Conti, Wes Friesen Bernie Gracy, Jim LeRose, Christopher Lien Bruce E. Little, Jessica Lowrance, Kate Muth Mike Porter, David Robinson, Wanda Senne Harry Stephens

CIRCULATION

Rachel Spahr rachel@rbpub.com

ADVERTISING 608-241-8777 Ken Waddell ken.w@rbpub.com

Yes, companies are changing the way they interact with their consumers. It goes without saying that much more communication happens in a technological manner than it did even five years ago. But mail is certainly still a viable communication vehicle, and it’s clear that many companies are still embracing it. What’s more, they’re finding ways to combine the speed of technology with the relevance of hard-copy mail, and it’s this innovation that will keep mail alive.

GRAPHIC DESIGN

Don’t get me wrong; I know that the mailing industry is currently facing an uphill battle, which is exacerbated by many factors, such as the state of the US Postal Service and the declining volumes of First Class Mail. It’s hard not to feel a little bit panicked when the headlines consistently tout such dire information. But at NPF, I heard people consistently addressing these challenges — and coming up with ideas to counteract them. They weren’t burying their head in the sand; they know that obstacles lie ahead. But the ideas put forth to combat these challenges made me feel optimistic about the future of mail, after all.

2901 International Lane • Madison WI 53704-3128 608-241-8777 • Fax 608-241-8666 rbpub@rbpub.com www.MailingSystemsTechnology.com

These discussions on the future of mail had people buzzing in the halls between sessions, and I was glad to hear it, considering that the theme of this issue is the changing mail center and emerging delivery trends. What excellent timing, no? I think you’ll enjoy the articles we’ve selected for this issue. And I love to hear feedback, whether you just really like what you’re reading or you think there is more we should be covering, so please don’t hesitate to contact me at amanda.c@rbpub.com (or make a mental note to tell me at the 2012 NPF, held in sunny Orlando!) Also, you can join our group on LinkedIn or follow us on Twitter (@MST_PARCELMedia). As always, thanks for reading Mailing Systems Technology.

Kelli Cooke

Volume 24, Issue 3 Subscriptions are free to qualified recipients: $20 per year to all others in the United States. Subscription rate for Canada or Mexico is $40 per year, and for elsewhere outside of the United States is $45. Back issue rate is $5. Send subscriptions to: Mailing Systems Technology, PO Box 259098, Madison WI 53725-9098; or call 608-241-8777; fax 608-241-8666; e-mail rbpub@rbpub.com or subscribe online at www.MailingSystemsTechnology.com. For high-quality reprints, please contact our exclusive reprint provider. Scoop Reprint Source 800.767.3263 ext. 144 www.scoopreprintsource.com. All material in this magazine is copyrighted ©2011 by RB Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. Nothing may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. Any correspondence sent to Mailing Systems Technology, RB Publishing Inc. or its staff becomes property of RB Publishing Inc. The articles in this magazine represent the views of the authors and not those of RB Publishing Inc. or Mailing Systems Technology. RB Publishing Inc. and/or Mailing Systems Technology expressly disclaim any liability for the products or services sold or otherwise endorsed by advertisers or authors included in this magazine. Mailing Systems Technology (ISSN 1088-2677) [Volume 24, Issue 2] is published seven times per year, including the annual resource guide, by RB Publishing Inc., 2901 International Lane, Suite 100, Madison WI 53704-3128, 608-241-8777. Periodical postage paid at Madison WI and additional offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to: Mailing Systems Technology PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098


Real Life Management Understanding Ourselves – And Others “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with proper judgment.” – Apostle Paul “He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” – Lao Tzu

Having a high level of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is essential to being an effective manager – and EQ starts with having accurate self-awareness. Self-awareness can help us gain self-control and be helpful, not hurtful, to people around us. Some tools to help expand our self-awareness include: get feedback from others such as using 360 degree surveys; have a mentor to speak to in your life; and constantly seek feedback from others on how we are doing. Another tool to better understand ourselves is to take one or more of the personality type tests such as Meier-Briggs or Perspectives. The most credible test according to researchers and experts in the field is the “Big Five Personality Trait” model. Taking this test and analyzing the results will help increase your self-awareness. I suggest discussing your results with some people that you work closely with, and listen to their feedback

Big Five Personality Trait Model You can take the Big Five Personality test and get your results for free at outofservice.com/big five. Here is an overview of the five dimensions and their meanings:

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— both positive reinforcement and constructive suggestions. Then, intentionally work at leveraging your potential strengths and mitigating your potential weaknesses.

Big Five Traits and Work Performance Research on the Big Five model has found correlations with these personality dimensions and job performance. The Big Five trait most consistently related to work performance is conscientiousness. This trait is as important for managers as it is for front-line employees. The most effective performers score high in this dimension in the form of persistence, attention to details and setting of high standards. Highly conscientious people learn more and develop higher levels of work knowledge, which contributes to higher levels of job performance.

Emotional Stability. This dimension taps a person’s ability to withstand stress. People with positive emotional stability tend to be calm, self-confident, optimistic and secure. Those with high negative scores tend to be nervous, anxious, dissatisfied and insecure.

Agreeableness. This dimension refers to an individual’s tendency to get along well with others. Highly agreeable people are likable, cooperative, warm and trusting. People who score low on this dimension tend to be cold, disagreeable and antagonistic.

Openness to Experience. This dimension addresses the

Extraversion. This dimension captures our comfort level with relationships. Extraverts tend to be outgoing, social, friendly, affectionate and assertive. Introverts tend to be reserved, non-assertive and quiet.

Conscientiousness. This dimension is a measure of reliability. A highly conscientious person is responsible, organized, dependable and persistent. Those who score low are easily distracted, disorganized and unreliable.

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tendency to be original, have broad interests, be daring and take risks. Extremely open people are creative, innovative, curious and artistically aware. Those at the other end of this scale are more conventional and find comfort with the familiar.


With Wes Friesen

Other findings are that people who score high on emotional stability are happier than those who score low. Emotional stability is the trait most strongly related to life satisfaction, job satisfaction and low stress levels. Extraverts tend to be happier in their jobs and in their lives overall — and tend to emerge more often as leaders than introverts. People who score high on openness to experience are more likely to be effective leaders. Agreeable people are happier and better liked than disagreeable people. The experts say that if we are intentional, we can modify our natural tendencies and become more effective. For example, I naturally tend to score lower on Openness to Experience. I have intentionally pursued new experiences to help gain the benefits and become more balanced on this dimension.

Using the Big Five Test to Help Others In addition to using the test for yourself, why not try it with your key team members? Helping them better understand themselves is valuable for their own self-development. It also can help you better synchronize strengths, weaknesses and tendencies and develop a more powerful team. I have used this model with my leadership team. I explained the model and then had them take the test and do their own self-analysis. We then shared our individual results and provided feedback and shared suggestions. It’s a great tool to help the members better understand and support each other. Let me close with a quote from tennis star Billie Jean King: “I think self awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion (or a great manager! – my addition)”. Good luck on your journey of increasing your self-awareness and effectiveness! a Wes Friesen, CMDSM, EMCM, MQC, ICP, CCM,CMA, CM, CFM, APP, PHR is the Manager of Revenue Collection & Community Offices for Portland General Electric, a utility in Portland, Oregon that serves over 820,000 customers. Wes teaches university classes and is a featured speaker at national Conferences like National Postal Forum, MailCom, CS Week and others. Wes can be contacted at Wes.Friesen@pgn.com. Check out his personal website for free information (wesfriesen.com).

www.MailingSystemsTechnology.com a MAY-JUNE 2011

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Software Byte A 2+2 Approach for Roadmap Alignment The evolution lifecycle for commercial software development is complex. It involves a number of highly skilled teams working together in a cross-functional manner in order to produce technology on time and according to anticipated market requirements. A number of software development models exist, which companies follow to effectively map out the interaction of stakeholders through cross-functional interaction. These include models such as waterfall, spiral, iterative and agile; just to name some of the more formalized approaches. For postal software, the development process is particularly challenging due to the excessive rate of change primarily brought about by a Postal Service reeling from economic, legislative and market pressures. In 2010, the USPS posted over 120 Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) changes, any one of which could mean changes to commercial postal software. That is roughly an average of two per week, and with such a rate of unpredictable change, it is nearly impossible to expect USPS software systems and commercial software solutions to reach a point of harmonious connectivity. Recognizing that the USPS and the mailing industry as a whole have become highly dependent on software technology, the IDEAlliance association formed a working group called the Mailing Software Development Group (MSDG) as a collaborative effort between industry and USPS. The group has been meeting biweekly with representative members from both commercial software solution providers as well as companies that develop their own in-house solutions for interaction with USPS systems such as PostalOne!. USPS representation in this working group primarily includes Business Mail Entry, Payment Systems and the National Customer Support Center. IDEAlliance is most commonly associated with the creation and maintenance of many of the mailing industry’s standards for communicating mail and print production specifications. One of the more critical standards is Mail.dat, an electronic representation of a physically prepared mailing. Through Mail.dat (and its communication complement Mail.XML), mailers can submit electronic documentation and pay postage through the USPS PostalOne! system. Postage payment and electronic verification through PostalOne! is a requirement for Full Service Intelligent Mail barcode discounts as well as participation in several USPS pilot programs for advanced mail preparation.

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One of the recent discussions within MSDG was the alignment of software development roadmaps for PostalOne!, Mail.dat and commercial software. Initially announced at the Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee meeting in February, the USPS is proposing a 2+2 approach for software technology releases. Two release alignments would be considered major and would occur in winter and summer. Two release alignments would be considered minor and would occur in spring and fall.

Recent Changes Proposed Major releases would include such changes as:  New rate structures  Prices  Sortation logic or new incentive programs  Structure changes to Mail.dat and Mail.XML.

These would likely coincide with events such as rate cases or expanded use of Intelligent Mail barcode service type identifiers.

Minor releases would include:  Labeling list changes  Induction point redirections  Adjustments to prices of existing rate cells.

Major releases can also include any of the aforementioned minor releases. Also, this approach does not rule out the need for releases of high priority bug fixes and patches.


With Christopher Lien

While MSDG is intended for software developers, users of these mission critical systems also have a forum to stay abreast of changes and provide essential input. MTAC has recently formed User Groups, which are open to non-MTAC members for active participation. User Group 1 in particular is very active as it focuses on users of PostalOne!, SASP and Intelligent Mail. Information about this User Group, as well as the other User Groups, is posted on the RIBBS web page (http://ribbs.usps. gov) under MTAC.

and mailers who are not informed may be left behind. Continue to work with your software solution provider and take full advantage of the numerous webinars (most of which are free), customer portals and newsletters. The concept of a 2+2 release schedule may sound like simple mathematics; however, the reality is something more akin to Calculus. a Christopher Lien is President of BCC Software, Inc., a BĂ–WE BELL + HOWELL Company.

Whether you are a mailing software developer or a user of these critical systems, it is essential to stay informed and involved. The USPS is rapidly working to redefine itself in the wake of competitive technology, a difficult economy and legislative restrictions,

www.MailingSystemsTechnology.com a MAY-JUNE 2011

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The Trenches When “Good Enough” Just… Isn’t What do you suppose is an acceptable level of document quality and accuracy? 95%, 99%, 100%? The answer may depend on who you ask. But the number is going up. At least it should be. Different people, within your organization and without, will have varying areas of focus and concern when it comes to quality. This disparity can lead to problems that are difficult to identify and even harder to correct. Document workflows consist of numerous interrelated steps and involve a lot of people at variable skill levels. Letting an error or two slip through during a certain step may seem insignificant — until it manifests itself further down-

The impact of small mistakes – an illustration ERROR-PRONE WORKFLOW POINTS  Initial data acquisition  Data import, reformatting, appending, merge/purge, deduping

 Segmentation  Variable data print layout  Duplex printing  Variable page count inserting  Selective inserting Small mistakes made at these points in the production process are often undetected – until after the documents have been distributed!

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stream. Then it can have a huge impact on the overall project or the customer relationship. If the phone solicitor has transcribed the wrong apartment number, misunderstood the words of the prospect on the phone, transposed house number digits or made some other clerical error, the telemarketing company probably won’t know it. But when the catalogs or other marketing materials eventually get sent via Standard Mail, they won’t get delivered. And if the email address is invalid then electronic communications get bounced also — sometimes unbeknownst to the mailer.

No big deal — or is it? From the telemarketing vendor’s point of view, missing some bit of information here and there probably doesn’t seem like a huge issue. They are focused on making as many calls per hour as they can, at the lowest cost. And gathering data verbally over the phone introduces plenty of opportunities to enter data that is inaccurate from the very beginning. Taking time on every call to read back the information captured or spelling out the words adds to the overall cost of the process and lowers productivity. To guarantee perfect data recording, telemarketers may have to raise prices - a competitive disadvantage. After newly acquired prospects are passed off to the marketing company, a problem with missing or inaccurate delivery data probably won’t be noticed until after they spend the money to produce mail. In fact, multiple mailpieces doomed for non-delivery to the same incorrect address are likely to be generated before the problem is noticed and corrective action is taken. There is no easy or inexpensive way to correct some of these errors. In a lot of operations, individual manual research may be the only method of dealing with undeliverables. Most of the shops I know have a backlog of this work that grows larger every month. If the information in a mailing file can’t be corrected, then the data record will eventually be deleted. From the IT department’s perspective it doesn’t make much sense to keep undeliverable addresses in a mailing database. So much for that hot prospect! To the marketer of the product, the delivery data is one of the most important details! If they can’t communicate with customers on a regular basis, their chances of building a lasting


With Mike Porter

relationship and securing repeat business diminish dramatically. An error affecting a single customer can result in substantial amounts of lost revenue when the lifetime value of an account is computed. Data acquisition is just one place that delivery information can be corrupted. There are plenty of other details that can make a mailing piece or an emailed marketing message ineffective, confusing or even offensive to customers and prospects. Extra attention is warranted from the beginning to the end of document processes. As companies strive to squeeze more value from their mailings, each piece becomes more important than ever before. It’s not just a numbers game anymore. There can be a great deal of effort and investment involved by the time a data record is matched with personalized and relevant content and is selected for output to an appropriate channel. Ninety-five percent accuracy won’t cut it. Inaccuracies and poor quality make it tougher to justify the higher cost of direct mail when compared to electronic delivery strategies. We’ve got to get a lot closer to 100% — at every step in the workflow. a Mike Porter is President of Print/Mail Consultants; a consulting firm that helps companies get the most out of their document operations. He welcomes your comments and questions. Visit www.printmailconsultants.com or email Mike directly at mporter@printmailconsultants.com.

www.MailingSystemsTechnology.com a MAY-JUNE 2011

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Ship It Who Cares, It’s Only One Hour! On Sunday, March 12, 2011, we set our clocks ahead one hour. Throughout that day, my wife Helen and I repeatedly gazed at the clock and were stunned at the actual time. We were playing catch up all day as time flew by. So how important is one hour to you and your staff? The Journal of Applied Psychology states: “Switching to daylight saving time during the spring leads to both higher numbers of and more severe workplace injuries, likely because of cutbacks in sleep.” The fact is, one hour a day can cost you between 14-20% of a seven-hour workday (assuming one hour for lunch), so do the math. Not trying to save an hour a day is the same as losing an hour a day, which destroys productivity and costs you plenty. Are you the type of person that implements every imaginable timesaving step to squeak out every minute of productivity, or are you the more relaxed type, not worried about getting done today what could be achieved tomorrow? I’ve consulted with hundreds of executives during my career and among them there is a mixed bag regarding operational efficiencies. However, one thing is absolutely certain — those that optimize time for themselves and their staff are more likely to excel in business today, while those that don’t lag far behind. David Taylor, Director of Business Development of Agile NYC Metro, planned for his hour loss in advance. He cleverly set the clocks back the previous night so that it was easier to cope on the fateful day. That way he was splitting the hour up between two days by sharing it with Saturday, the day before daylight saving time went into effect. Good thinking, David. He lessened the blow, but this is further evidence of just how important a single hour is to your productivity. Now imagine every day is daylight saving day. Are you feeling the pain? It’s akin to having that dream where you are running but never get to your destination. So if you want to pick up an extra hour out of every day in your shipping department, here are five steps to get you started:

1

Get One Shipping App

If your shipping operators use several disparate software products, those usually supplied by the carriers such as UPS, FedEx, USPS and LTL, they are wasting bundles of time! I’m still amazed to find how often warehouse automation is ignored even in companies who claim they are efficient. By acquiring a single multi-carrier shipping app that will process shipments for all carriers, you will save time. Free shipping apps are supplied by carriers for their own benefit, not yours.

2

Route Shipments Prior to Shipping

Commonly referred to as “rate shopping,” this process wastes time when performed in the shipping area. If you deploy the proper technology, all routing can and should be done prior to shipping. This is extremely important for busier shipping operations. Rate shopping in the shipping area should only be performed when a customer changes their mind after the order has already been taken.

3

Automate Shipment Updates

Another shocker is that many companies still manually key shipping charges and tracking numbers into their ERP system after a shipment is complete. Integrating

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With Jim LeRose

your shipping app will automatically upload shipping and handling charges, weight, tracking numbers, date of shipment, etc. and eliminate this manual process altogether. It will also help increase accuracy and help get invoices out faster.

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Address Validation

All good shipping apps come with address validation. However, that doesn’t mean you should check every address at the point of shipping. That will waste time. Address validation in the shipping area should be a supplement to proper address hygiene in your ERP system. That will save time; trust me!

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International Shipment Processing

It is still common for companies to have an export department that prepares customs documents in advance of a shipment. This is another area you can save bundles of time. New shipping technology completes all the necessary customs forms automatically, checks the denied party screening list and files SEDs electronically for those that ship items valued at over $2,500. This is a huge time-saver.

When someone says to me: “Who cares about saving one hour a day?” I say, “Your competition!” Of course, there are numerous other ideas that can help improve operational efficiencies in the shipping department. Stay tuned for more, or contact me anytime. a Jim LeRose is Principal of Agile NYC Metro and President of Advantaship.com. Jim has been a transportation industry consultant for over 25 years. His clients have saved millions on transportation costs. Agile has helped companies such as JP Morgan, Audiovox, Intuitive Surgical, Panasonic Electric, Petco and over 1,000 others. Advantaship helps small businesses get big discounts typically reserved for large organizations from carriers such as FedEx, USPS, DHL and others. Jim welcomes your comments and can be reached at jim.lerose@agile-network.com or 888-214-1763.

www.MailingSystemsTechnology.com a MAY-JUNE 2011

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Everything IMBC

With Kevin Conti & David Robinson

Migrating to IMB No revised date has been set by the USPS for the retirement of the POSTNET barcode. In case you’re wondering why the date was moved in the first place, as of February of 2011, about 40% of mail with barcodes was still POSTNET. The IMb made up nearly 51% of mail (with 19% Basic and 32% Full-Service) and the remaining nine percent was non-automation mail. With new leadership at the USPS driving a more customer-focused approach, the organization decided to remove the mandate and is considering better ways to motivate mailers to migrate to the IMb. Offering access to CONFIRM scan data for Full-Service IMb mailers is one idea the USPS believes will add more value. Per the USPS, this data would be made available in the same way that CONFIRM vendors get it today — in a flat file that requires some effort to convert the data into useful information. The concept is to offer much more scan data as more scans are being made to provide the enhanced tracking levels desired by the USPS. Mail tracking vendors welcome the prospect of having more data because they can offer more insight on the value of mailing campaigns and determine in-home delivery dates. Ideas like this can help mailers understand the additional value of the IMb over POSTNET barcodes. There’s no doubt that the USPS still wants mailers to migrate to the IMb — preferably the Full-Service option. Meanwhile, the USPS continues to work on its systems for tracking and reporting on the IMb. Related to the IMb, we are recently hearing about Seamless Acceptance again. You may recall that Seamless Acceptance was discussed back in 2008 (or sooner), but things went quiet with the challenge of describing just what Seamless Acceptance was. When IMb Full-Service was announced, it captured the headlines. Now that things have settled down a bit (in terms of IMb making the headlines), Seamless Acceptance is back! Assuming this definition accurately describes what Seamless Acceptance will do, then accountability for compliance to the USPS requirements will no longer be a sampling at the point of induction, but rather, a piece by piece report card.

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Define Seamless Acceptance, Please So just what is Seamless Acceptance? From what we know, it involves mail induction that doesn’t require physical inspection. In today’s environment, as mail arrives to the USPS, physical mail inspection includes checking mail volumes and preparation, running samples through Merlin to measure Move Update compliance and barcode readability, and a host of other compliance issues. The concept around Seamless Acceptance is: to bypass the inspections and go directly to mail processing. The USPS will then validate mail quality by reading the IMb while processing the mail (yes, the IMb will be required). Conceptually, if a mailpiece cannot be processed with automation due to the way the mailer prepared the mail, and assuming some reasonable thresholds, the USPS may look to recover unearned discounts from mailers that fail the quality thresholds.

In summary, the quality of all parties in the value chain will be verified on every piece. a Kevin Conti is Director of Mailing Solutions at Pitney Bowes Software. David Robinson is currently the Director of Address Quality for Pitney Bowes.


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THE CHANGING

FACE Industry trends — past, present, and future page 20

10 tips for automating your mail and package tracking.

Page 24

Adopting new customer communication methods.

Page 22

A new approach to postal costing.

ING MAK THE PIECES FIT

Upgrading your software? Questions you should ask — and pitfalls to avoid page 16

OF MAIL Not to worry — direct mail is here to stay page 22

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Businesses are changing the way they communicate — but that doesn’t mean mail is dead There are a number of trends impacting traditional mail delivery as we know it. Think just of the most recent: IMb postponement, postage increases and the possibility of five-day delivery. While solutions like IMb barcodes and other innovations speed mail processing and delivery, we can’t help but be aware of the competition traditional mail faces from evolving technologies like the Internet and more affordable cell phone, smartphone or iPAD capabilities. As these technologies continue to mature, there is an increased interest and demand for paperless options, forcing business mailers to examine their current offerings and implement smart electronic document and billing management solutions that meet their customers’ evolving preferences. NACHA — The Electronic Payments Association’s PayItGreen Survey 2010 revealed there is a direct correlation between consumer satisfaction and paperless billing behaviors. Consumers who use online-only statements and bill pay report greater satisfaction and connection with their credit union or financial institution compared to consumers who receive statements by mail. Additionally, studies indicate customers who use online banking are more loyal and profitable because they are more likely to utilize additional services than non-users. 16

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Market Drivers for Implementing EBPP NACHA reports that younger generations — those who grew up with the Internet — are more likely to prefer electronic billing and payment than their parents. It should be no surprise then that the telecommunications industry is leading the adoption of electronic bill payment and presentment (EBPP). Other industries, such as utilities and financial institutions, have also been actively promoting EBPP. Inevitably, most businesses will add EBPP solutions to their mix and for good reason. Implementing EBPP offers the opportunity to save labor and time, speed cash flow and reduce collections. Organizations that choose to adopt EBPP provide added value to their customers as well with benefits that include:

Convenience Customers save valuable time with electronic statements because they can view their current and past statements by simply logging onto a secure website. This eliminates the need for paper storage. Online bill payment capabilities save time and postage costs, as well as strengthen customer satisfaction and loyalty for the businesses implementing them. And since e-payers have been proven to pay earlier and more


consistently, businesses will enjoy faster collection, reduced payment processing time and fewer late collections.

Postal savings Many may not know this, but postage can account for as much as 75% of the cost of mailing a bill. At the same time USPS relaxed its deadline for moving the IMb codes, it also announced an increase in postage rates that took effect on April 17 of this year. Reflecting the new realities USPS faces in its business, the increases may barely be noticed by ordinary consumers, but will have some impact on business mailers and mail service providers mailing volumes in the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of pieces.

Efficient document retrieval methods When there are questions regarding a bill or statement, a customer service representative can immediately and easily access past statements or bills online anytime in multiple formats, and in true fidelity. This minimizes the amount of time a customer must spend on the phone when calling with a complaint or question because the document in question is easily accessible.

Reduced confusion Today’s technology allows for creating statements and invoices that are identical to the printed copy, and this goes a long way toward reducing confusion or discomfort consumers might experience with a change from hard copy to electronic billing.

Reminders for customers who choose to receive printed invoices Consumers claim that a primary reason for resisting EBPP is that they need to receive the paper invoice in the mail or they simply forget about it. In fact, the NACHA study referred to earlier indicates that while most consumers prefer to receive a printed invoice or statement through the mail, these same consumers are more and more likely to make an electronic payment either through their bank or directly at the biller’s website.

Benefits to Business Mailers When a business mailer chooses to invest in electronic billing solutions, it is usually to reduce costs along with providing customers with the option most preferred for receiving and paying their bills. However, here are some additional points that are important to consider when implementing an EBPP system. First, already efficient paper-based processes in place may have to be adjusted for online presentment and collection. It will be critical to have the ability to access statements for printing or viewing online as well as managing document status in real time. Systems that allow businesses to authorize or deny printing and viewing statements on an account-by-account or statement-by-statement basis — with tiered permission levels — have proven to be extremely useful when it comes to workflow efficiencies and compliance. Additionally, having the ability to track a customer’s online use makes it possible to gather data on the information and features the user finds most beneficial as well as their buying patterns.

Top Advantages of EBPP  Accessible invoice and statement options  Reduced postage costs  Increased time and resources  Efficient document retrieval methods  Reduced confusion with presentment  E-payment assists customers who choose to receive printed invoices  Access to statements for printing or viewing online  Ability to manage mailing pieces  Manage documents’ status in real-time

way people share information, exchange ideas and even shop. Certainly the Postal Service has been impacted by this through a significant drop in the volume of First Class mail it delivers — which is changing the way it does business. It must continue to fine-tune and streamline its procedures for handling high-volume mail with improved time and cost efficiencies like IMb, as well as offer innovative methods of package and parcel shipping to better compete with companies like FedEx and UPS. And five-day delivery is most likely an idea whose time may be coming very soon because of the cost reductions it promises. Of course, the cost and impact of the new technology is not carried entirely by USPS. Businesses also bear the expense of keeping pace with the changes, retooling their own systems and developing methods of secure, electronic communications. As the options increase for how we receive information, every industry will be compelled to review their current situation, assess their resources, and choose a mailing and communications strategy that best fits their customers’ needs. The enhanced workflow options, reduction in costs and improved customer service capabilities EBPP provide are reasons enough for business mailers to research and seriously consider the benefits that adopting EBPP offers to your business. Harry Stephens is President, Datamatx. Visit www.datamatx.com for more information.

The More Things Change To stand an old saying on its head, we might say that, “The more things change, the more things will change.” Electronic communications of all types have brought about dramatic changes in the www.MailingSystemsTechnology.com a MAY-JUNE 2011

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Rationalizing Postal Costing in the 21st Century 18

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The law that underpins the U.S. Postal Service was changed with the enactment of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA). This was the first fundamental change to the American postal system since the enactment of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 (PRA). Despite Congress’ intent to change the way in which postal services are organized and regulated, the views regarding postal costing and pricing developed under the PRA have not changed much at all, to the disadvantage of what was supposed to be a reinvigorated Postal Service. While PAEA still uses terms such as “attributable costs” and “institutional costs” to describe the basic framework by which postal economics are discussed, a careful reading of the new law plainly indicates that the legacy language Congress brought forward to the 2006 act was not meant to strait-jacket the Postal Service with a way of operating and doing business that had grown increasingly anachronistic. Today, postal economists still talk about attributable costs, markups and worksharing discounts and pass-throughs as if Congress intended the postal system to be frozen in time rather than liberating it to better accommodate the nation’s changing postal needs and the postal service that provides them. In fact, I am very much of the mind that Congress provided the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) with more than sufficient flexibility to allow both to create tools that better comport with a more businesslike way of viewing and meeting the nation’s postal needs. The goal is to set forth a more rational approach to costing and pricing mail products and services that retains the hallmarks of attributable and institutional costing calculations, but leads to a more appropriate and creative framework for determining the pricing of mail in today’s more competitive market.

Bottom-up Activity-Based Costing There are several alternatives to the current (top-down) determination of direct and indirect attributable costs that has been used since the Postal Reorganization Act. One such alternative is an “activitybased costing” (ABC) method that starts from the bottom-up with points that are closest to delivery and working up to points that are more distal. In other words, this ABC approach determines product costs from points that are least-costly to those associated with greater postal processing and distribution-related inputs and costs. I believe that a bottom-up ABC-based approach would provide the Postal Service with a more refined and more accurate estimate of actual costs associated with any postal product.

The USPS can survive — but it must change in order to do so. By Jessica Lowrance

Under such a bottom-up method of costing, the Postal Service would assign costs to products based on a number of attributable activities associated with resources (labor, equipment, materials, etc.) consumed in the processing, transportation and delivery of mail. Resources for each activity in handling the mail would be identified and measured. Whatever resources are consumed would be assigned to cost pools by product. The Postal Service would piece together the cost pools, and their sum would be used as a determination of each product’s cost. The costs of any additional processing, transportation or distribution then would be added to reflect any next levels of upstream operations. The total costs associated with each incremental work-related inputs then would constitute the unit cost of the next (any subsequent) dewww.MailingSystemsTechnology.com a MAY-JUNE 2011

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fined product. This sort of bottom-up approach would negate the need to determine avoided costs (as is done under the current regime) since the product-related mail processing and distribution costs would be fully reflected. For instance, the Postal Service has identified the product known as “Destination Delivery Unit (DDU)-entered Saturation Enhanced Carrier Route (ECR) Standard Mail” as that which requires the least postal inputs to ready mail for delivery. The cost associated with such mail then would constitute the “base cost” of all Standard Mail products. The Postal Service then would add whatever costs as associated with handling mail that is less finely prepared to these base costs to determine each subsequent Standard Mail product’s attributable costs. Worksharing, as it is known today, would be accounted through a much simpler determination of all actual product-associated processing and distribution costs. Product costs no longer would be based on cost-avoidance estimates and measurements, but would be inclusive of all relevant processing and distribution inputs.

Market-Based Pricing Since PAEA, the Postal Service has been allowed to earn and retain revenues that exceed costs. This enables the Postal Service to become a more profit-maximizing enterprise, subject to the control imposed by a CPI-related price cap. While PAEA clearly intended the USPS to be profitable and self-sufficient, its current product mix and pricing are notably hindered by pre-PAEA ideas of cost coverage and mark-ups. There should be a greater emphasis on market-based pricing set largely by conditions of supply and demand. With this kind of ap-

proach, the Postal Service would be better able to tailor offerings to individual customer circumstances. This could lead to situations where mailer postage costs are reduced where the advantage of additional mailer preparation is extremely high or where there is excess capacity. Operationally, the Postal Service would be better able to balance workload and establish a more efficient management of resources under a market-based pricing regime. Essentially, the Postal Service could send price signals to encourage the most efficient operations for each shape of mail.

Expanding Information-Based Services One of the key purposes behind the use of the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) was to provide the postal community a “track and trace” capability that would provide the Postal Service with a means for measuring and reporting service performance while providing tools for better managing its own operations. With the introduction of the IMb, the Postal Service opened the door to the creation of new products and services that can add even greater value to mail, provide more precise information to mailers and offer other customizable services. Expanding the use of information-based services beyond service measurement and reporting will help provide the Postal Service with new pricing flexibility and opportunities. Expanding information-based services by tracking mail costs through the various stages of operations would provide a better method for capturing product-specific costs than the current costing mechanisms. A bottom-up activity-based approach to costing would create a more precise look at the true cost of handling products, teamed with information-based services that could provide the Postal Service with real-time operational data that could enable


the Postal Service (and industry) to work to keep costs down. The tracking of mail could be expanded to the piece level and give the Postal Service the ability to create customer-specific costing associated with the plants at which mail is accepted, the machines on which it is processed and the manner in which it is distributed.

Eliminating the framework for defining services is a natural step in modernizing the mail system. Products would comport closely with how the USPS processes mail. Shape influences how a piece gets processed. This, then, affects how much it costs the USPS to produce and ultimately to price the service.

Another benefit would be to enable the Postal Service to better segment its customers and offer more finely tuned market-based pricing for the various segments with a clearer appreciation of actual costs. It would afford the Postal Service an understanding of market test costs and profitability beyond that of today.

The major differences within operations are how the mail is processed, when and where the piece is accepted, and the service standards associated with the specific category of mail. For example, if a mail piece contained a bank statement and the mailer wanted one-to-three day service, it would be entered at a facility that met those service standards and prepared in a manner that would meet all associated presort and destination entry requirements. An Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) could indicate that it was sealed against inspection and should be automatically forwarded if the recipient’s address had changed. If the mailer wanted or needed return services, it could indicate which services were desired. An “a la carte” price offering would provide the mailing community with the choice of reaching finer presort levels and entering closer to its ultimate destination. Over time this would reduce upstream mail-related operations and postal costs.

Reclassification of Product Offering The current mail classification scheme is out-of-touch with the Postal Service’s long-term operational needs. Stemming largely from the practice of lumping together mail that has vastly different cost and operational characteristics into classes, the Postal Service has imposed a pricing structure that uses a concept of infrastructure cost-sharing and imposes proportionally large costs on relatively less costly mail, potentially impacting both overall demand and operational efficiency. Today, the Postal Service offers an array of products that ultimately deliver a piece of mail from point A to point B. Mailers pick that which best fits their mailing needs, i.e., letter, flat or package. Mailers also choose a class of mail (First-Class, Standard, Periodicals or Package Services/Parcels) based on rules and regulations established by the Postal Service and service performance commitments. Additional services also are available to mailers that occur pre- or post-delivery.

I believe an activity-based costing approach can afford the Postal Service with considerable regulatory flexibility in the terms of how mail services are defined, categorized, cost and priced. In addition, all of these things could be accomplished without the need of any additional legislative action. Jessica Dauer Lowrance is currently the Executive Vice President of the Association for Postal Commerce. She has been with PostCom for three years. Prior to joining the Association, she worked for the U.S. Postal Service as a Pricing Economist. Contact her at jlowrance@postcom.org.


Delivering Choice for Customer Communications Understanding and addressing consumer demands for choice, convenience and control in a multichannel world | By Bernie Gracy There is no doubt that we operate in a diverse and expanding multichannel world. On one hand, ubiquitous broadband, new digital devices and innumerable “apps” are adding more flexibility and capability in how businesses and consumers interact. On the other hand, more traditional communications channels such as mail continue to play a vital role in how consumers conduct their business, and will for quite some time.

Driving Consumer Choice

Tremendous economic and competitive pressures add to the challenge for organizations as they navigate today’s increasingly complex communications landscape. Few organizations can afford to turn their backs on channels old or new.

 More

In this changing world, it is possible for mailers to meet consumer demands for choice, security and comfort while managing productivity and costs. To compete today, you must understand and address consumer demands for choice, convenience and control of customer communications.

The Communicator’s Challenge Consumers have embraced the “where you want, how you want, when you want” mantra of this age. Never have there been so many different ways for customers to interact and transact with businesses — physical, digital, batch and real-time interactive, social CRM, location-aware and, of course, traditional brick and mortar. For businesses looking to connect with customers, the successive waves of technology adoption impact cost structures, processes and infrastructures in significant ways. And the pressure is on for companies to offer a range of services and support that they never had to deliver before. 22

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When it comes to choosing the ways in which consumers interact, transact and communicate with businesses, customers’ expectations and choices are shaped in a number of ways. Preference and choice for communications must support their ability to be: responsive. Communications across the board seem to be moving at a faster pace, and consumers look for ways to respond faster and more efficiently to their employers, friends, neighbors, parents, children, schools, places of worship, organizations and everyone they do business with.

 More time-efficient. Today’s tough economic environment compels more people to work more hours. Time is at a premium as the “sandwich generation” is caught between caring for both children and aging parents — juggling employment with community service.

 More security conscious. Consumers are taking greater care to protect themselves from identity theft. Paper shredders are more commonplace, and with reports of mail theft — theft of personal mail from mailboxes — some early adopters have embraced the online environment for their credit card and banking transactions.

 More in control. With all that is happening in consumers’ lives, individuals look for ways to assert control where they can, so


the need to control how they communicate is more essential than ever before. Consumers are seeking an ideal mix of digital convenience; personal traditional processes for handling bills, correspondence and other mail; and the need to feel secure in their own choices. For businesses, the challenge of managing amid the rise of new and disparate types of channels is compounded by additional factors beyond their control. In many cases, these new channels are competing for bigger portions of smaller budgets. At the same time, most businesses find that they need to pursue a multichannel strategy to attain customer acquisition and retention goals. Whether you call it “customer relationship management” or just plain “knowing your customer,” consumers expect organizations to understand the fullness of their individual relationships regardless of which channel they use — and businesses are scrambling to meet that expectation. Organizationally, where businesses were once often siloed by product line, they now are further siloed by communication channel. And, just when costs should be more controlled, the proliferation of new communication channels is placing huge financial burdens on companies worldwide.

Common Ground There is a common ground between consumers’ preference for choice, security and comfort and businesses’ quest to address those preferences while managing productivity and costs. Replicating — and improving upon — the familiar mail experience in a digital environment retains the customer’s valued choices: comfort, convenience, control and security. In many cases today, high-volume mailers have configured high integrity automated document factories (ADFs) to produce their mail; these ADFs are essentially creating communications in a digital environment, then printing and mailing them. Today’s ADFs even have advanced capabilities for creating digital variable print, which enable the creation of one-to-one as well as one-to-many communications with high degrees of personalization and opportunities for branding. Almost all ADFs already deal with customer communications digitally in the form of print streams — streams of data that operators must modify and enhance to generate printed matter. The most advanced high-volume production operations also incorporate advanced customer relationship management (CRM) platforms that enable businesses to track, evaluate and adjust content and channel to reflect what they learn. By leveraging the automated document factory, businesses can knock down many of their channel silos. Consumers will still have a choice of how they interact and transact, but the engine that drives that choice becomes simplified — and, along with it, managing and integrating with emerging channels becomes vastly easier. A multichannel approach to secure content delivery helps ensure that mailers can stay connected to consumers as the channel mix shifts and evolves. Bernie Gracy is Vice President, Pitney Bowes.

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AUTOMATING

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G YOUR MAIL AND PACKAGE TRACKING

Going green can also mean saving green By Bruce E. Little

A mandate to “go green,” a requirement to reduce costs and a plan to improve efficiency and accountability: these are among the key drivers when businesses, universities and government agencies look to automate their large-scale mail and package tracking processes.

install a few weeks before student move-in,” Anglea said. “During move-in, we may handle upwards of 2,000 packages a day, so the timing concerned me a little. But everything went smoothly with the install and training and the system was ready to go.”

While one of these goals may be the focus when a project is first considered, a well-designed automated system delivers results across the whole spectrum of benefits. Vanderbilt University’s experience is a prime example.

Packages are scanned as they are received from carriers (UPS, USPS, FedEx or any others). The items are matched to a recipient on campus and a notification email is generated. Anglea emphasized that Vanderbilt plans to extend notification to include text messaging, a capability already built into the software.

With a mobile enterprise tracking solution, the Vanderbilt postal system has dramatically increased mail and package tracking efficiency and accountability while eliminating all paper except package labels. Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University has more than 12,000 students and 22,000 employees. Approximately 12,000 packages a month needed to be delivered in a timely manner to students and staff in 229 buildings across campus. “The entire process was manual and paper-driven with logs and books and index cards,” said Mickey Anglea, Postmaster, Vanderbilt University. “This was time-consuming and we were losing packages every month. We wanted to speed the process and also increase accountability.” In his search for an automated system, Anglea created a very detailed RFP. “I needed the new system to manage my package tracking and logistics and also to manage my 8,000 mail boxes and mail forwarding. In other words, I wanted it to manage anything that had to be moved. If it didn’t have a tracking number, I wanted to be able to assign it one and make it trackable.” Once he made his selection, the software was installed in-house at Vanderbilt and on Motorola mobile computers. “We started the

“Before this system, an average package might sit on the shelf a week before it was picked up. Now it is less than one full day,” Anglea noted. “If a package needs refrigeration or is perishable or needs other special handling, we can alert the recipient in the notification.” Anglea notes that the near-paperless system has paid for itself in reduced labor costs alone. The only paper used is for package labels, which is a big change from the logs, books and notification slips used in the past. Staff numbers are down by about 12% even though the monthly package volume has increased approximately 17%.

The Details

Students and staff can access the Vanderbilt postal service website from PCs, mobile devices and kiosks on campus. They can see whether a package has arrived and get their mailbox combination among other tasks. “After more than three years with the automated system we have not lost a single package. That’s a savings because of the reduced liability, and it was one of our major goals,” Anglea continued. “In any modern mail room, you need to be able to track

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all the assets that are coming and going: by keeping up, it takes the weight off you.” Another benefit of the system is the ability to take pictures of packages, which is valuable if a shipment appears to be damaged or there is a special notification on the label that needs to be highlighted for the recipient. “Overall, we’ve gone ‘green,’ we’ve reduced costs, and we’re handling more packages more efficiently with less staff. It’s a win-win all the way around,” Anglea concluded.

A good software company uses the latest software development technology. This is a must for your “checklist:” the latest architectural technology. Using a .NET platform, for example, ensures that many security protocols have already been met.

10 Tips for Choosing the Right Software Company

Maintenance and support options are hallmarks of a solid, reputable vendor. A good software company should give you the choice of running the software in your own IT environment or having the solution hosted externally, either in the cloud or with third-party hosting.

When you select a software company to implement an automated mail and package tracking system, you are choosing an application that will have wide-ranging impact for your department and your entire organization. Here are 10 tips for choosing the right company to meet your requirements now and in the future: Don’t ask vendors what they can do; instead, tell them in detail what you need. The move from a manual process to an automated system is a big leap, and the solution to your problems must start with a good understanding of those problems. Create a detailed RFP to keep vendors on the right path, and make a checklist of the capabilities that the solution must deliver. A good software company should talk more about you — about adapting to your business or organizational environment — than about themselves. Your strongest protection is to keep asking questions: “Exactly how will this address our green mandate?” “Exactly how will this solve our problems with slow delivery?” Keep in mind that bad news can be very good information. Anglea drafted a comprehensive RFP describing his specific requirements. The result was that three of the four leading mail and package tracking vendors he contacted “pretty much said no to all of our requirements,” he said. Anglea chose the vendor that said yes. “Today I have a system that does everything I was looking for: I can track anything that needs to get to a person at Vanderbilt, regardless of the originating carrier — the USPS or even here in a Vanderbilt department.” A good software company will provide a forum for your IT team or other technical personnel to communicate with peer experts. A meeting or phone call between the company’s software team and your technical staff should be offered as a step in the process. Security is a common concern, for example, and a good software company will have solid, technical explanations of the encryption and other capabilities they use to mitigate threats.

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Just say no if a vendor suggests customization. A good software company has a highly configurable platform — a flexible, adaptable foundation that can meet changing needs. There should be no need for added fees to “customize” the software. Be aware that highly customized software can complicate your upgrade path, adding costs and potentially reducing your options in the future.

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A good software company develops 100% of everything. Availability and reliability start with excellent integration. Handhelds or other field devices and the enterprise system software must communicate effectively; when part of the application is developed by a third party, it can jeopardize this integration. You want your vendor to be able to say: “We write all the software, we understand it, we can configure it to meet your needs, and it all works together smoothly.” Good software will be able to integrate with other applications as required. A good tracking system is not an island but a hub. As multiple uses are developed for your system, integrating with other applications is vital (for example, integration with human resources applications can provide names, locations and emails, and integration with a purchasing system can provide the link between a P.O. number and a name). A good software vendor can accommodate any data communications configuration. There are three ways to communicate between a handheld device and the server where the tracking software resides: using a device cradle, WIFI and wide area cellular for mobile delivery vehicles. You may not need them all at first, but to ensure a strong growth path, make sure the system can accommodate all three. A good software company’s trainers have a deep understanding of the system. Make sure the company has knowledgeable trainers who can communicate effectively with your technical team and with your day-to-day users. The trainers must have a thorough understanding of the solution itself and, most important of all, must clearly understand the specific requirements of your operations.

Bruce E. Little is SCLogic Vice President of Emerging Markets. SCLogic is a leading provider of innovative mobile enterprise tracking software systems that leverage the latest barcode scanning, printing, mobile computing and wireless technologies. Bruce can be reached at 1-888-700-7027 and blittle@sclogic.com.


ApplicAtion Article

MaxiMizing incoMing Mail Data

Maximizing sorters to improve the customer experience has evolved with the advancement of the Intelligent Mail® (IM) barcode. The ability to use data generated from sorters to track customer interaction has improved throughout the mailing process. Customers using MLOCRs to append Intelligent Mail barcodes to the mailpieces can use the generated IMB code through the BOWE BELL + HOWELL (BBH) Matchback process to update customer files for the purpose of understanding when mailpieces are received and processed by the USPS®. Linking the outgoing IM barcode to the client record provides a level of detail that benefits customer interaction.

Once mailpieces are received, processing them through a sorter can provide immediate updates to client’s records as well. Using the BBH inbound matching software, mailers can receive a file several times per day matching the incoming mailpiece to the client’s account and/or additional information relevant for further processing. This provides an method for quick notification to customer service and account management personnel.

As mailings move through the postal network, customers taking advantage of the Confirm® service with the USPS can track the advancement of an individual client’s mailpiece as it closes in on delivery. Appending this information to client’s files provides improved call center response as well as monitors the in-home dates.

As mailpieces are returned by customers, mailers can configure the inbound sortation process to expedite and improve the efficiency of mailpiece handling. Taking advantage of the ability to process incoming mailpieces according to content provides mailers with an opportunity to sort the high priority mail first while maximizing utilization of subsequent processing steps by scheduling lower priority mail for processing during off-peak hours. The sorter can also perform other inline activities that are useful as well, such as check, thickness detection and selective opening.

Savvy mailers can take advantage of technology by coupling the return mailpiece to the client file as well. Using the Origin Confirm process, mailers can track incoming pieces as clients enter them into the mail stream. This information can be used to cut down on additional mailpieces being sent out (reminders, dunning notices, etc.), saving postage and increasing customer satisfaction.

Handling return mail on an incoming sorter continues to provide efficiencies for return mail processing units. Barcodes that are linked back to a particular outbound piece can be read at the sorter and captured in a database. By taking advantage of the speed and efficiency of an inbound sorter mailers can flag client files, generate follow-up notices and reduce the cost to process returned mail. Exporting a file

and matching it to customer records in a mailer’s customer database is another example of the power of using inbound sorters to automate a manual process. Mailers continue to find new ways to take advantage of their sorting department. Most often, buying decisions are based on a calculated return on investment, and an increasing number of sophisticated mailers are also maximizing their overall communication processes. Dave Bush, BÖWE BELL + HOWELL, Market Development Manager, Postal Software © 2011 Böwe Bell + Howell Company. All rights reserved. BÖWE BELL + HOWELL and the Böwe Bell + Howell logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of BBH, Inc. All other trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners. Specifications are subject to change without notice.

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Reality Check

With Wanda Senne

“Cure-All” Words – Communications and Training

H

ave you ever noticed that most mailers’ recommended “cure-all” for any problem is to improve communications and implement training? Sounds appropriate, but is it?

In order to fill the gaps in my presentation skills, I recently completed a 12-week course on training and development. The most relevant “take-away” for me was recognizing that while the lecture format is an inexpensive method to share information with a large group, it is not the most effective for long-term transfer of learning. I am guilty of building a PowerPoint (loaded with color, graphics and pictures) to tell and talk and NOT train! At best, that method is an awareness exercise. The reality is “being lectured to” is not effective communication and training. The information will not be remembered unless active training is a part of the communication and training plan. Active training is an effective way to communicate when working with adults. Adults need to interact and be involved with other people to influence the training transfer. At a pre-NPF breakfast (probably 15 years ago), a Postmaster asked the audience what part of the NPF was the most valuable. I said, “The networking events” and of course got a laugh. But I wasn’t joking. I learned and remembered more when I discussed session concepts relevant to my current work situations with other mailing experts at receptions and networking events. Volumes have been written focusing on best practices for implementing the two cure-all words. I was the most impressed by the concept developed by the late Mel Silberman, a respected pioneer in the field of education psychology and training who inspired people to be “people smart – to learn faster and collaborate effectively.” According to Silberman, “Adults need to study ideas, solve problems and apply what they know in a fast-paced, fun, supportive and personally engaging session.” Presenters at one end of the spectrum stand stiffly glued to a podium reading a script. And at the other extreme I’ve watched people pace up and down the aisle like a nervous long-tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs — that’s not the intent of a fast-paced environment. Adults need to hear the information, visualize it, ask questions and discuss it with others. Highest on the list is to “do it” by discovering for themselves how to take the training home and apply it. If you can demonstrate a return on the training investment your company will most likely include the expense in future budgets and I will see you at the next NPF. The general consensus from a variety of experts is that these are effective communication and training characteristics: Specify why the material is important to the learner — “what’s in it for me”

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Establish realistic goals and objectives. Adults prefer to selfdirect their rate of learning and involvement. An example of this is selecting which sessions to attend at the NPF based on what the participant perceives to be their need. Immediately applicable information and content — discuss how to apply the information allowing the participant to work more effectively (performance-centered orientation). Provide a variety of methods and exercises relevant to participant’s experiences, knowledge, skills and interests linked to their real working environment (role-playing, interactive demonstrations, case studies, on-the-job activities, brainstorming). Silberman identified segments of active training that will engage adults and help you improve your communications and training efforts. Opening activities that immediately engage participants to get acquainted, build teamwork, assess the group and get buy-in for the training session. Discussions that are lively and focused to engage participation in varied formats, separate fact from opinion and manage the flow. Presentations that are brain-friendly and will be remembered involving participants to reinforce key points. Practice skills that will show (not tell) and match the method to the learner while monitoring the performance to provide feedback and coaching. Closing activities that are unforgettable to review the material, promote self-assessment, encourage application and end with a bang! Using any of these tips will improve effectiveness for face-to-face sessions. Much of the training we are involved with today is webbased due to multiple participant locations and reduced travel budgets. I have gathered volumes of tips to improve conference calls and “webinars” — but I’ll save that for another day except for this; never, never flush unless you use the “mute” function and do not use “hold” — most of us don’t enjoy your music! (Take a moment to be inspired by Mel Silberman’s contributions. Check out www.activetraining.com. He was an exceptional educator and leader.) a Wanda Senne is the National Director of Postal Development for World Marketing. Contact her at wsenne@worldmarkinc.com or 770-431-2591.


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You’ve seen our equipment at NPF and MAILCOM sorting real mail that arrives in your mailbox: magazines, letters, flats, newspapers, postcards, simultaneously. The Tritek Sorter automates incoming mail, presort mail - weighing, manifesting, labeling, printing, permit mail, return mail, vote-by-mail, digital email, lock box mail and interoffice mail. Tritek is your high-performance, multifunctional machine! Tritek Technologies, Inc. (302) 239-1638 www.tritektech.com

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Use A-Qua Mailer’s on-demand suite of direct mail services to access address quality and mail list processing services such as ZIP + 4®, NCOALink® processing, Duplicate Elimination, Postal Presort, Printer File Output, and more without having to install software on It’s in your computer. Services are the delivered ‘in the cloud’.

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Pushing the Envelope

With Kate Muth

The Drive to Remain Relevant

T

he Postal Service made a splash in mid-April with announcements of two new experimental products that are innovative and exciting. Both products suggest the Postal Service is giving serious thought on how to remain relevant in a fast-changing communications market — without abandoning its core strengths. First, the Postal Service announced a promotional offer of discounts of three percent on any First-Class or Standard Mail letters or flats that include a two-dimensional barcode, often referred to as a Quick Response Code, which consumer smartphones can read. The product integrates direct mail with digital technology, which is an exploding segment of the advertising market. The second offering is a postage-back guarantee to test advertising by mail. In the initial market test, Mail Works Guarantee will have 16 companies try advertising mail, using either First-Class or Standard mail. If the performance of the campaign does not meet a certain metric, the Postal Service will refund the advertiser’s money. It’s not necessarily a flashy product that ushers the Postal Service into the digital market. It’s a product that is right in the Postal Service’s wheelhouse. But it illustrates a fresh approach to luring new customers and trying to win over those companies that aren’t using advertising mail for whatever reason. In basic sales jargon, it’s called putting your money where your mouth is. These two new products, along with the simplified addressing offering Marketing Mail Made Easy (or recently renamed Every Door Direct Mail Retail), suggest the Postal Service is embracing a more creative — and urgent — approach to new products. The simplified addressing idea had percolated at the Postal Service for years. It was controversial within some parts of the mailing industry as some groups opposed addresses that are not tied to actual lists of names. Some within the mailing industry also worried this simplified approach would energize the “do not mail” movement. But other groups pushed the Postal Service to embrace a simplified addressing product to entice smaller mailers to try mail, and to grab what many see as a lucrative market opportunity. At a press conference earlier this year, Postmaster General Pat Donahoe touched on his vision for revenue growth. He noted that the Postal Service, which has lost 41 billion pieces of mail over the past four years, doesn’t have the luxury of dithering over volume-

growth ideas, just because they were once deemed controversial. I heard his message as this: companies that are bleeding red ink and losing big chunks of market share on a flagship product can’t sit in meetings and endlessly debate the pluses and minuses of each new offering. They need to get to market quickly. If a product fails, kill it. If it succeeds, figure out how to replicate it. This is what businesses do all the time. In fact, they can’t be afraid of failure. Many entrepreneurs will tell you that the biggest rewards come from the biggest risks. The Postal Service is not known for its risk-taking. In many ways, it has been encouraged not to take risks. For one thing, it was often criticized for trying new ideas or products that wandered outside its core mission. In some cases, the criticisms were warranted. It was playing with monopoly money and launching small products in spaces where the private sector was probably well-established. But in other ways, the criticism is all too familiar, and not necessarily fair. The Postal Service is told to act like a business, but then when it tries to do things that businesses do, like consolidate under-used facilities or close unprofitable retail outlets, it gets rebuked by politicians. The political climate might be changing, even if the public rhetoric sounds the same. I see recognition from many corners that the Postal Service can’t keep limping along in the same way it has been for the past decade. It needs the freedom to manage its costs and right-size its network. But it also needs to show that it is making a real effort to grow the business. Without this balanced equation, congressional leaders are going to be reluctant to loosen the reins. The Postal Service’s market tests this spring are a step in the right direction. The offerings mentioned above, as well as the new flat-rate products and forever postage for Priority Mail, suggest the Postal Service is ready to get creative and competitive. The organization seems serious about testing the boundaries of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act in terms of experimental products and market tests. Let’s hope these efforts are a harbinger of even bigger things to come. a Kate Muth is President of Muth Communications, a writing, editing and consulting firm. Contact her at katemuth@comcast.net.

If a product fails, kill it. If it succeeds, figure out how to replicate it. This is what businesses do all the time. In fact, they can’t be afraid of failure. Many entrepreneurs will tell you that the biggest rewards come from the biggest risks. 30

MAY-JUNE 2011 a www.MailingSystemsTechnology.com


Mailing Systems Technology May/June  

Mailing Systems Technology May/June

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