Mailing Systems Technology January/February 2023

Page 26

WHAT DOES THE RECENT USPS PRICE INCREASE MEAN FOR

YOUR MAIL OPERATION?

PAGE 26

WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER: THE POWER OF ASSOCIATIONS

PAGE 22

IS IT TIME TO CONDUCT A CUSTOMER PROFITABILITY ANALYSIS?

PAGE 24

GOING BEYOND NCOA TO REACH ELUSIVE CUSTOMERS

PAGE 18

5 ANSWERS FOR IMPROVING ADDRESS & DATA QUALITY PAGE 20 CLICKHERETOSUBSCRIBE
TABLE OF CONTENTS DEPARTMENTS Editor's Note Remembering the Value of Mail By
Real-Life Management Leading from the Heart By
13 Software Byte Automate More: Simplify PostalOne! By Lisa
14 The Trenches Will AI Affect Your Mailing Business? By Mike
SPONSORED CONTENT 20 5 Answers for Improving Address & Data Quality 30 Vote by Mail and 2023-2024 Elections FEATURES 16 Utilizing Informed Delivery and Informed Visibility to Improve Direct Mail Results By Kurt Ruppel 18 Powering Correct Addresses: Going Beyond NCOA to Reach Elusive Customers Tips for reaching millennials and others who move without filing a USPS address update By Greg Brown 21 2023 USPS Promotions Fact Sheet 22 The Power of Associations By Mark Fallon 24 A Customer Profitability Analysis Should Be on Your To-do List By Ed Horowitz 26 An In-Depth Guide to the 2023 USPS Rate Change By Adam Lewenberg JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 | VOLUME 36 ISSUE 1 16 22 18 26 SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE 4 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
Wes
Leslie
Porter

VOLUME 36, ISSUE 1

MAGAZINE STAFF

President Chad Griepentrog

Publisher Ken Waddell

Editor Amanda Armendariz amanda.c@rbpub.com

Contributing Writers

Greg Brown, Mark Fallon, Wes Friesen, Ed Horowitz, Karen Kimerer, Merry Law, Lisa Leslie, Adam Lewenberg, Mike Porter, Leo Raymond, Kurt Ruppel

Audience Development Manager

Rachel Chapman rachel@rbpub.com

Advertising Ken Waddell 608.235.2212 ken.w@rbpub.com

Design Kelli Cooke

REMEMBERING THE VALUE OF MAIL

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MAILING SYSTEMS TECHNOLOGY

(ISSN 1088-2677) [Volume 36 Issue 6]

is published six times per year (January/February,

I’m writing this editor’s note the day after the new USPS rates went into effect (for an in-depth analysis on how those changes could impact you, check out Adam Lewenberg’s article on page 26). No industry wants to see three significant rate changes in less than a year and a half, but that’s what’s happening to those of us in the mailing sector. Many of us worry that these constant rate increases are going to push more and more companies to communicate with their customers digitally instead, despite a plethora of evidence that shows that hard-copy mail pieces are looked at and engaged with much more than their digital counterparts. And this fear is especially founded with respect to companies that don’t have a strong proponent of mail on their staff. If someone in the C-suite is solely looking at dollars and cents, going digital to save on postage might seem to be the thing to do. Those of us that know better need to be advocates within our organizations to keep mail off the chopping block. The return on investment that our companies see likely far outweighs the money

spent on postage (even in the face of these increases).

But speaking of postage savings (because why spend more than you need to?), be sure to check out the fact sheet from PostalPro on page 21. There are some great promotions this year (with a few changes), and these give your organization a chance to try out different offerings and save money in the process (while keeping the mail stream healthy). If that’s not a win/win, I don’t know what is!

I hope that I’ll be able to connect with many of you at the National Postal Forum in May, where we can discuss rate changes and all the other interesting happenings in our industry. Remember, if there is something you’d like to see covered in this publication, please email me at amanda.c@rbpub.com. And as always, thanks for reading Mailing Systems Technology.

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LEADING FROM THE HEART

Experience and evidence show that the most effective leaders have learned how to lead from their hearts. Heart leaders are great at making people feel special, giving them a sense of purpose and making them feel appreciated for who they are and what they do. Leading from the heart is consistent with the servant leader philosophy that results in positive relationships and better results. Leading from the head by getting tasks done via planning, organizing systems and processes, and holding people accountable is needed. But for maximum results, we need to follow the John Maxwell advice that we “go to touch a heart before asking for a hand”.

How Can We Lead from Our Hearts?

I appreciate this quote from Chick-fil-A CEO Mark Miller, “The heart is a muscle, and you strengthen muscles by using them. The more I lead with my heart, the stronger it gets.” So, how do we strengthen our heart muscle and lead well from it? Here are 10 practical ideas to consider:

1. Show People That You Care About

Them. People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. If we treat people as a means to an end, we’ll never have their loyalty. Instead, we can show people we care by being sensitive to their interests, wishes, needs, and challenges and getting to know them personally. We can make time for people and demonstrate support when “life happens” — including sickness for employees or their loved ones, doctor appointments, and other sources of stress. We can encourage people by

saying kind words; sending cards, notes, texts, and emails; and being flexible with work schedules and allowing people time off when needed. I would suggest that, in a nutshell, showing people we care is about consistently practicing the Golden Rule: proactively treating people positively like we would like to be.

2. Put People First. As leaders, we are ultimately paid to get things done (results). But how we get results is important, and prioritizing people and treating them well will help us get better results in the short term and the long term. Putting people first includes recognizing and appreciating their efforts. Recent research by Globoforce found 78% of workers said they would work harder if their efforts were better recognized and appreciated. And when we put people first we reap what we sow. Entrepreneur and CEO Mary Kay Ash built her business around the concept of putting people first. She wrote, “We treat our people like royalty. If you honor and serve the people that work for you, they will honor and serve you.”

3. Be More Empathetic. One survey found that the number-one characteristic that people wanted in their manager was empathy. In order to develop our empathy, we need to learn to listen, understand, and respect others’ points of view instead of forcing our own perspective on them every time. Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald once advised, “To be kind is more important than to be right. Many times, what people need is not a brilliant mind that speaks but a special heart that listens.”

4. Communicate Carefully. Our verbal and written words can either build people up or tear them down. I aspire to follow the advice of Saint Paul who wrote, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). Our words count, but so does our non-verbal communication. We can show support by our nods, smiles, and appropriate touching (e.g., fist bumps, high fives). Speaking of smiles — I like this quote from author Anthony J. D’Angelo, “Smile, it is the key that fits the lock of everybody’s heart.”

5. Focus on the Positives. The reality is that we all make mistakes. Instead of punishing mistakes, we can take the opportunity to turn them into learning and growth opportunities. We can also look for opportunities to praise people when they do well. Noted leadership and management guru Ken Blanchard has been writing, speaking, and consulting for 50 years. He was recently asked what the single most important lesson was that he has learned to help managers and their teams be successful. His answer? Catch people doing something right and then thank them and express appreciation. Another idea is to strive to consistently give people our BEST. BEST is an acronym where B = Believe in people, E = Empower them, S = Support them, and T = Trust them. When we give people our BEST, that will bring out the best in them.

6. Be Transparent and Authentic. We need to model being transparent and authentic. This includes owning our mistakes and being vulnerable and admitting our weaknesses and when we are struggling. Setting this kind of an example creates a healthy environment of psychological safety for our teams. Popular speaker and writer Brené Brown admonishes, “Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous.”

We can also include some appropriate sharing about our personal lives so people get to know us as fellow human beings with families and with interests outside work. It is also important to walk our talk and set a positive example of integrity and follow through on commitments.

6 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com REAL-LIFE MANAGEMENT

7. Insist on Work-Life Balance. In the past, employers and bosses often demanded that employees work consistently long hours and sacrifice personal and family time. Those days are largely over as Millennials and Generation Z workers value a work-life balance and are willing to leave organizations if a respect for balance is not present. Evidence shows that helping workers have a balance in their lives on and off the job results in a healthy environment with less stress, higher productivity, and lower employee turnover.

8. Establish Long-Term Relationships. We can choose to make a long-term commitment to building relationships with people. When people know that we value our relationship with them over the long term (not just to get their support in the short run), their trust and partnership with us escalates. Another benefit of building long-term relationships is they can continue after we no longer are teammates — one of my joys is the ongoing friendships and relationships I have with former teammates and students.

9. Have More Fun. Employees who have fun at work are happy, and happy employees are more productive. Research shows that having fun makes us physically and emotionally healthier, elevates endorphins, and reduces diseases and work absences. There are lots of ways to have fun. My teams have gone bowling, played miniature golf, watched movies, had dress up days, played games like Family Feud — the list goes on. Need ideas? Get input from your team members.

10. Embrace Being a Servant Leader. Servant leaders don’t lead using traditional “command and control” methods (i.e., I tell you what to do, and with the attitude that you are there to serve me). In contrast, the servant leadership approach is about the leader focusing on serving others and treating people with dignity and respect. Author Sheri Dew speaks to this when she wrote, “True leaders understand that leadership is not about them but those they serve. It is not about exalting themselves but about lifting others up.” Leading from the heart

is a key component of what servant leadership is all about.

Closing thought: People yearn for good managers. A recent study found that 56% of employees would turn down a 10% raise to stay with a great manager! Let’s be great managers that lead from the heart, and in doing so add value to our team members and the stakeholders we serve. 

Wes Friesen (MBA, EMCM, CMDSM, MCOM, MDC, OSPC, CCE, CBF, CBA, ICP, CMA, CFM, CM, APP, PHR, CTP) is a proven leader and developer of high-performing teams and has extensive experience in both the corporate and non-profit worlds. He is also an award-winning university instructor and speaker, and is the President of Solomon Training and Development, which provides leadership, management and team building training. He serves as the Industry Co-Chair of the Greater Portland PCC. His book, Your Team Can Soar!, has 42 valuable lessons that will inspire you and give you practical pointers to help you — and your team — soar to new heights of performance. Wes can be contacted at wesmfriesen@gmail. com or at 971.806.0812.

MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 7
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TRANSACTIONAL PRINT AND MAIL: X MARKS THE SPOT!

If you ask business leaders who are responsible for customer communications about their primary focus, they will almost always mention providing an exceptional customer experience (CX). As a result, the number of business disciplines that focus on refining this “experience” is not surprising. For example, there are now initiatives to examine and improve the user experience (UX), the employee experience (EX), the digital experience (DX), and even the total experience (TX). Each of these disciplines builds on others and is designed to tackle the threat of customers (or employees) considering competitive options.

Due to the laser-like focus on a certain experience, it is critical to understand how customers want to interact with their service providers when it comes to transactional communications. Businesses that fail to consider the best ways to engage with their audience risk severing the bond between the customer and the brand. With the vast number of ways that today’s customers want to receive information, communicating with them has become increasingly complex.

This article cites fresh research from Keypoint Intelligence to explain why transactional print is essential for any customer communications strategy.

Getting Everyone on the Same Page

There’s an unspoken assumption that consumers are driving the shift towards digital delivery of transactional

documents, leveraging convenience and tailored preferences to create a more streamlined experience. This can certainly be true for tech-savvy users — easy access to bills and statements via a mobile device or tablet will serve them well. Despite the growing number of people who use online communications, it’s not always wise for brand owners to push everything to an online platform.

At one point, businesses were hesitant to send exclusively digital documents to their customers because the elimination of printed transactional communications would completely ostracize the large number of consumers who did not have regular access to the internet. Today, thanks to ongoing technological advancements and increased development of rural areas, roughly 92% of Americans can access and use the internet. So why do organizations continue to print and mail transactional documents — is it merely for the benefit of the 26 million people in the United States who don’t use the internet? Technological advances aside, it’s becoming clear that the desire to transition away from printed transactional communications is not simply a matter of access to the internet. Individual customer preferences and other factors are bringing the importance of the customer experience front and center. Even in today’s digital world, printing

8 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com INKJET INFO
Figure 1: Volume Mix of Transactional Documents (Current vs. Future)

and mailing volumes remain higher than some might have expected.

A Brand Perspective

Each year, Keypoint Intelligence conducts its State of Transactional Communications Business Survey. This study offers insight into current market trends and highlights the shifts that are occurring in document delivery. Surprisingly, the most recent study revealed that there is little difference between the volumes of transactional documents that are delivered digital only and those that are sent exclusively via print and mail. In fact, businesses are using all available delivery options (e.g., digital only, both digital and print, and print only) fairly evenly.

ages recognize the value that printed mail delivers. Keypoint Intelligence asked consumers of transactional communications for their input on print/ mail delivery. As seen in Figure 2, over half of consumer respondents collect mail from their mailboxes every day it’s delivered.

Today’s brands must strengthen their relationships with prospective and current customers. That starts with honoring communication preferences and simplifying the methods of engagement.

The Bottom Line

Although enterprises recognize the potential cost savings that can be associated with paperless adoption, survey data shows that there will not be a major shift toward digital communications over the next two years. As shown in Figure 1, digital only delivery is expected to increase only incrementally in the near term. Customer preferences are paramount in today’s world, and this has resulted in an increasingly blended channel delivery system.

A Consumer Perspective

On the consumer side, research also proves that consumers of all

There’s no denying that the digital transformation is upon us, but customers remain firmly attached to physical documents when it comes to their transactional communications. For example, respondents to the same survey mentioned above reported that over 42% of the bills and statements they receive are printed and received by mail. Meanwhile, 39% of bills and statements are received in both digital and printed format. Ultimately, consumers like having both print and digital versions of these communications. Printed transactional documents will likely remain popular due to ongoing concerns about the security of online transactions and the risk of fraud and identity theft.

The desire to streamline business practices means that companies are reconsidering everything, including traditional communication practices. Now more than ever, it’s important to put the customer first and prioritize their preferences. Brand loyalty is dependent on a friction-free customer experience.

As technologies continue to evolve and customer expectations shift, customer communications remain a vital component of successful business operations. The ways in which companies communicate with their customers can make or break relationships, set the tone for future interactions, and even impact a customer’s perception of your brand. To pave the way for continued loyalty and growth, enterprises must extend their transactional document delivery options, recognize and honor unique consumer preferences, and connect with customers in a well-established and trusted manner.

Karen Kimerer of Keypoint Intelligence has experienced the many challenges of expanding current market opportunities and securing new business. She has developed a systematic approach to these opportunities, addressing the unique requirements of becoming a leader in our changing industry. She is wellversed in 1:1 marketing, web-to-print, direct mail, book publishing, supply chain management, data segmentation, channel integration, and photo products.

MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 9
The desire to streamline business practices means that companies are reconsidering everything, including traditional communication practices.
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Figure 2: Frequency of Mail Collection

AN OMEN OF THINGS TO COME

When the comments of an organization’s top executive to its board of directors are published in a press release after they’ve met, it’s likely that such a statement is less intended to report on the meeting’s proceedings than to provide curated information for public and media consumption. Any candid discussions among the organization’s leadership are kept confidential.

For example, when the Postal Service’s Board of Governors convened November 9 and 10 at USPS Headquarters, the first day’s session was closed — i.e., it’s where frank discussions occurred — while the second day’s session was public and Board members offered carefully crafted official comments. Among those was a prepared statement by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

Aside from the usual courtesies and dollops of praise, the PMG’s statement strove to most favorably frame both the results of the recently concluded fiscal year and official expectations for fiscal 2023. The challenge for readers of such artfully constructed prose is to discern the meaning that’s behind the veneer of scrupulously selected phrasing.

DeJoy stated:

“... Over the last two years we have stabilized our operations, evolved our products, improved our service, strengthened our balance sheet, halved our projected losses and motivated our employees to join us in this transformation...”

It’s true that the executives leading the key functions clearly understand their missions and have data-driven plans to make their operations more “precise” (a DeJoy word). However, the churn continues in field management, and the necessary embrace of HQ processes and procedures by field managers — despite a “line of sight” organizational structure — remains to be proven.

Saying that the USPS has “improved” service — by lowering service standards and excluding billions of mail pieces from service measurement — is like a teacher claiming educational success when in fact, the criterion for an “A” was lowered to 82 and underperforming students were excluded.

Regarding his financial observations, DeJoy fails to note that two factors — price increases of over 13.3% in less than a year, and legislative relief from $59.6 billion in health care funding obligations

— are why the numbers look better. Mail volume — especially of competitive products — continues to slip, and ratepayers are being driven away by his zealous pursuit of more revenue at all costs.

DeJoy continued:

“...We still face significant losses, our carriers still drive 30-year-old vehicles, our plants and post offices still have significant deferred maintenance and are not aligned for the intended mission and our technology and business processes need to be brought into the modern era... While we are committed to our public service mission, we must move at the speed of private industry, if not faster, to effect this transformation before we again begin to drain our cash position... We need to configure one from within our existing infrastructure while serving the nation. It is the only successful path forward to avoid future government funding... With stakeholder cooperation, this will take five years to mostly accomplish. Without stakeholder cooperation, a lot longer...”

DeJoy is conspicuously impatient and wants to transform a 247-year-old institution within the decade of his Plan, willfully ignoring — as revealed by his desire to “move at the speed of private industry” — that the Postal Service is a public service, not a business, that is heavily burdened by public, political, and legislative expectations, constraints, and obligations. The USPS is not XPO.

Interestingly, his comment about the risk of again draining “our cash position” suggests a level of recognition that he has limited time to afford what he wants to do. However, this may not necessarily mean he sees the need to rein in ever-growing personnel costs before they fatally outrun the revenue from ever-shrinking mail volume — notwithstanding his aggressive price increases.

He also repeats his disdain for government funding, reflecting his disconnect between ratepayers’ willingness to pay and the costs for public services he endorses. Whether for a sprawling and mostly unprofitable retail network or for less cost-efficient six-day delivery, commercial mailers — who supply the lion’s share of revenue — should not be assumed to be limitless supporters of DeJoy’s philosophical rejection of appropriate public funding for mandated public services.

By “stakeholders,” the PMG likely means the unions, Congress, and com-

10 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
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mercial ratepayers. However commercial ratepayers, and their representative organizations, continue to annoy him. Having dismissed their objections to declining service and higher prices as “irrelevant” and “noise,” DeJoy continues to advance the oxymoron that, despite being “stakeholders,” they shouldn’t have a stake in anything other than paying postage. Their response to this attitude will continue to be simply leaving the mail.

The PMG noted: “...Unfortunately, with all that has been accomplished financially, our 2023 budget will not show the breakeven results we were striving for. As our CFO will later show you, our budget for next year includes close to $3 billion dollars of CSRS costs and $1.5 billion of inflation costs over what we planned... Financial predictability and success will come when we get the administrative correction for CSRS and we begin to bare [sic] the fruits of the changes to our network underway. In the meantime, the leadership team and the whole organization will continue to grind out the cost and revenue improvements we can attain — while delivering improving service performance — as identified in our 10-year plan...”

Though the USPS Office of Inspector General determined years ago that the Postal Service had already overfunded its obligations to the Civil Service Retirement System by tens of billions of dollars, the other agencies who manage the system and calculate what’s owed have resisted revising the numbers lest doing so disrupt the larger federal budget that assumes CSRS assets. Whether DeJoy has the political leverage to remedy this particular injustice remains to be seen.

Regardless, the PMG’s comment again reflects his ambitious expectation to balance the USPS books in just a few years. It also reflects his unwillingness to recognize that the imbalance isn’t simply because ratepayers didn’t pay enough for the services they used. Significant costs were imposed externally, and the costs of employee compensation and benefits were self-imposed by decades of postal management.

Saying that his “leadership team and the whole organization will continue to grind out the cost and revenue improvements” projects a future of shared effort and sacrifice but such a claim is conspicuously meaningless. If history is any guide, the odds of significant reductions in operating and labor costs are no better now than ever, and the only grinding will be on postal ratepayers to extract more postage.

Unfortunately, DeJoy persists in his belief that, regardless of why, by whom, or for what costs occur, ratepayers should be expected to pay for them compliantly. The notion of effective cost control has always been espoused by postal management but, especially regarding labor costs, has yet to be demonstrated, including by DeJoy’s administration.

As expected, the PMG cited his 10-year Plan as the conclusive definition of how the Postal Service’s future will be assured, and that all of his organization’s efforts will be singularly focused on its implementation. As has been observed before, having a plan is important, as is aligning work to its objectives. However, as also has been observed before, a plan’s success relies on the validity of its underlying premises, both initially and continually.

Much has changed since DeJoy and his inner circle produced the Plan yet he remains dogmatically convinced of its immutable relevance. Time will tell if his self-assurance is justified but, if it’s not, it will be ratepayers, not DeJoy, who will suffer the consequences. 

JANUARY-FEBRUARY 23 11
2023
Leo Raymond is Owner and Managing Director at Mailers Hub LLC. He can be reached at lraymond@mailershub.com.

THE EU IMPORT CONTROL SYSTEM’S NEXT PHASE

In March of 2021, the EU introduced the first phase — Release 1 — of its ICS2, which required pre-loading information for any item requiring custom clearance. Data was required for package to the EU before transport, and items could be refused before loading on transport. The data is generally referred to as Advanced Electronic Data (AED) in the US, known as EAD in many other countries. The new import controls coincided with a volume loss of about 20% in international letter post volumes (items weighing up to 4.4 pounds), according to a recent Universal Postal Union (UPU) study.

Scheduled for March 1, 2023, the second phase of the EU’s import controls, ICS2, applies to freight forwarders, air carriers, postal operators, and express carriers. Postal operators, allowed to submit partial data under the first phase, will be required to coordinate with their air carriers to submit complete data. This information will be provided by the mail owner and passed through their mail service provider or consolidator, if either is used. Packages without proper information will not be delivered.

With Release 2 on reviewing the AED, the customs authority in each EU country issues a status. For pre-loading,

these are requests for screening, for [more] information, for amendment [to the information], as well as do not load, and acceptance complete. The prearrival status categories are requests for [still more] information and for amendment, missing Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) filing (from the carrier), and acceptance complete. The “acceptance complete” status indicates the data is satisfactory and the item will be accepted on receipt by customs. It does not indicate that customs will clear the item into the country. It is unclear at this point, prior to the implementation of Release 2, whether the USPS will forward requests for further information to the mail owner or the mail submitter, if they are different.

For goods sent by mail, the information provided in the AED comes from the USPS’s Shipping Services File (SSF) for commercial mail and from the customs forms. Mail submitted with an SSF must have a customs form attached to each item. Obviously, the information in the electronic SSF must match the physical customs form. The more complete and detailed information provided to the USPS, the more likely the items will not be delayed by the review process.

In an Industry Alert on November 7, 2022, the USPS announced the requirement for Harmonized System (HS) Codes in all 27 EU member countries, “Effective March 1, 2023, new European Union (EU) regulations will go into effect, requiring a Harmonized System (HS) tariff code on customs forms (CN22 and CN 23) and Advance Electronic Data (AED), for all EU-bound goods. With this change, the Postal Service will require an HS code for EU-bound goods.” (bold in the original)

In addition to HS codes, a detailed description of items is required. Current descriptions are often inadequate to meet the new requirements. The Industry Alert had some examples of acceptable descriptions; a more complete list can be found at https:// taxation-customs.ec.europa.eu/system/ files/2021-03/guidance_acceptable_ goods_description_en.pdf. Using fuller descriptions, HS codes can be found in Schedule B on the U.S. Census Bureau website at https://www.census.gov/ foreign-trade/schedules/b/index.html. A number of apps have been developed to determine the HS code based on descriptions. Since the HS codes have implications for fines and legal action for the mail owner and possibly the mail service provider, software to determine the codes should be carefully vetted.

The EU authorities seem unconcerned about what information the airlines have or do not have regarding the freight and mail they carry or the concerns of the postal operators expressed individually and through the UPU. At UPU meetings in late October 2022, postal operators from highly developed countries expressed concerns, as did those from less-developed countries. It is likely Release 2 will be implemented in 2023 whether a slight delay is granted or not. Prepare now!

Merry Law is President of WorldVu LLC and the editor of Guide to Worldwide Postal-Code and Address Formats. She is a member of the UPU’s Addressing Work Group and of the U.S. International Postal and Delivery Services Federal Advisory Committee.

12 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com INTRO TO INTERNATIONAL MAIL

AUTOMATE MORE: SIMPLIFY POSTALONE!

Throughout the industry, everyone from small mailers to the largest mail service providers (MSPs) are looking for ways to improve the bottom line by adding automation and simplifying processes.

You may be unsure how to improve processes further. You’ve likely already taken steps to:

✓ Upgrade/add equipment

✓ Improve your standard operating procedures (SOP) to optimize efficiency

✓ Realign and cross-train staff to meet production demand

✓ Add or enhance your post-presort solution (such as a Mail.dat editor with QA features) to simplify processing jobs and catch errors before they become a costly problem

So, what else is out there to help mailers?

First, I’ll run through the most common challenges users face when using PostalOne! Then, I will suggest ways an automated solution should mitigate, if not completely remove, these challenges.

Top 7 Challenges

 Updating the MDR Client everywhere it’s installed

 Tracking eDoc submissions

 Monitoring jobs on the Gateway

 Downloading postage documents

 Creating reports

 No way to fix jobs that fail validation

 Cryptic feedback/error messages

Today, there are tools available that address all seven challenges by removing the need to log into PostalOne! (many times a day, as I’m sure some of you can attest!), click and scroll through a multitude of screens to perform tasks and access data. The challenges noted above are addressed by finding a solution which:

 Tests and updates the MDR Client automatically

 Automates submitting jobs up to the Gateway

 Includes a separate dashboard

 Provides messages in plain English, with helpful, readily available information

 Automatically downloads and prints statements to a network printer

 Creates flexible reports for a variety of departments

Delving a bit deeper, the optimal solution should automate the entire cycle by

updating the MDR Client as it becomes available (which typically is on a Sunday), providing a submissions engine that uploads jobs, fixes simple validation errors, resubmits jobs automatically, and avoids mid-process failures. Next, having a color-coded dashboard draws users’ attention to jobs requiring immediate action. Finally, the solution should download statements (via PDF or XML) to a network folder and/or printer, so they’re readily available. Additionally, allowing users to create customized status reports by selecting from available fields provides the flexibility to meet every department’s needs.

Given the current economic environment, it’s now a prime initiative of most companies to improve efficiencies and employee retention as well as prepare for future growth. Automation is key to improving your bottom line, while also improving morale and customer satisfaction. Reducing errors and turnaround times simultaneously helps in meeting your clients’ urgent deadlines without compromising service. Simplifying tasks makes it easier to train employees (you don’t need a Mail. dat expert). Additionally, with a robust solution, those with cyclical or seasonal mailings (holiday, political, nonprofit, etc.) can now easily scale operations to meet demand without adding administrative staff.

An Illinois MSP commented after implementing a PostalOne! automation solution, “Our very first site saved over 14 labor hours per week just by not having to manually upload jobs to PostalOne! and download finalized statements.”

In closing, since there’s a push to move mailers into Full Seamless Acceptance (don’t forget the $1.00/thousand piece incentive for MSPs), it’s more important than ever to be certain that your IMbs match to your eDoc and that every part of your mailing is correct and complete. Look for tools to help improve your business and you’ll be well-positioned for the future. 

MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 13 SOFTWARE BYTE
Lisa Leslie is Strategic Account Manager, BCC Software, A BlueCrest Company. Visit www.bccsoftware.com for more information.
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WILL AI AFFECT YOUR MAILING BUSINESS?

Everyone’s talking about artificial intelligence (AI). You may wonder how (or if) AI will affect the business of creating and distributing mailed communications, or in the marketing of your business. It’s a question worth considering. You can’t afford to ignore the impact this technology can have. It would be like relying on clipboard batch balancing to validate mail piece integrity on the mail inserting line instead of barcodes and tracking software. You’ll take longer to do the work and risk being left behind by your competitors.

AI can automate processes, improve efficiency, or help management and staff make better decisions. From a production and management standpoint, print/mail operations may find that AI allows them to simplify equipment operations. Intelligent equipment may handle tasks like monitoring machine performance, setting up jobs, or scheduling maintenance. This could allow you

to widen your search for employees and hire people with desirable skills, but less experience.

Production control dashboards can already show managers the status of their mail center production floor at a glance and issue alerts if something goes wrong. AI might detect patterns or suggest improvements, such as identifying production bottlenecks, making scheduling decisions, raising awareness about unprofitable jobs, or determining the cause of falling production statistics.

I suspect we’ll soon see AI playing a role in network security to find weak spots or automatically shield data if it detects an intrusion.

What About Marketing Content?

Much of the AI buzz I’ve seen lately has been about content generation. Programs like DALL-E and ChatGPT have gotten people excited about having machines to create content for them.

As a longtime content creator, I’ve been following this new technology as it develops. There’s no doubt that AI-generated content has come a long way in the last couple of years.

AI-generated content is getting better, but don’t think you can turn content generation over to the software. The platform may provide you with material to publish, but be wary of quality, accuracy, and relevance. AI can be a tool, but you can’t take your hands off the content-generation wheel. You should also know that Google doesn’t like automated content. If Google determines AI has written your articles, they could downgrade your page ranking in search results.

Structured content, like a report or a summary, would be a good use of AI technology. An AI platform can even generate some narrative applications, depending on the topic. I have experimented a bit and noticed that for specialized topics relevant to the printing and mailing industry, AI doesn’t have much to say. The generated text tends to be rather generic and repetitious. I think if I were writing on topics covered more widely on the internet, the AI would do a better job.

Like any research tool, AI works best if you know how to pose your questions. Could a novice who knew nothing about

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THE TRENCHES
AI-generated content is getting better, but don’t think you can turn content generation over to the software.

the mailing business direct AI to write an article about postal address hygiene? Probably, but it would lack the depth and insight a human expert can offer. Writers from outside the mailing business don’t know what they don’t know, so their AI-generated content will be limited and not as creative as the material produced by human writers.

A big part of the value I provide my clients is knowing what topics to cover to keep their audiences interested and engaged. Conditions change rapidly in our industry, and I need to generate articles relevant to existing conditions. So far, the best AI engine I’ve seen can’t keep up. The material used to train the AI is a year or so behind.

Watch Out for Errant Content

Also, AI-generated content isn’t always accurate. I tried asking AI to write an article about the latest postage rate increase, and it tried, but in doing so created misleading text. The AI engine began the piece by stating the January 2023 postage increase was the first in three years. If only that were true!

I guess a machine won’t be authoring this column anytime soon. It just doesn’t know enough about the mailing business — yet. You’re stuck with me for now.

Overall, though, I am optimistic about the application of AI in the printing and mailing industry. I think we’ll find places where the technology’s capabilities are a

good fit. I advise my clients to learn what they can about AI. Ask hardware and software vendors what they are planning and watch for opportunities to leverage the benefits of this powerful technology. Just be sure to consider how introducing AI will affect your business and your staff and monitor results to minimize any negative consequences. 

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps his clients meet the challenges they encounter in document operations and creates informational content for vendors and service providers in the document industry. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, send a connection request on LinkedIn, or contact Mike directly at mporter@printmailconsultants.com.

VISIBILITY TO IMPROVE DIRECT MAIL RESULTS

Those of us in the direct mail business know that mail is an important marketing channel that gains the attention of customers and prospects while pairing synergistically with other marketing channels to drive improved performance across all channels. Creating successful direct mail campaigns requires a compelling mail piece delivered at the right time while also leveraging available tools to us to drive the best possible response and targeted in-home delivery. Two of the most important tools at our disposal are Informed Delivery and Informed Visibility from the United States Postal Service.

Informed Delivery

For those who aren’t already taking advantage of Informed Delivery, it’s a program that provides subscribers with a daily email showing what will arrive in their mailbox that day. Marketers can leverage those daily emails, adding supplementary color images, a call-to-action, and a link to an online experience to reinforce the messaging in their mail piece.

Informed Delivery boasts an ever-increasing number of subscribers, now more than 50 million, covering about 30% of eligible entry points. The open rate for the email notifications is strong, usually between 65% and 70%. This makes Informed Delivery an ideal way to generate additional digital touches for your mail piece, which is why we like to call it mail’s built-in digital overlay. In addition, the post-campaign reports are a great source of actionable marketing data, detailing how many recipients opened the emails and clicked through to your landing page,

and leveraging matchback to align report data with your mail file on who those recipients are.

Informed Delivery can also provide visibility to household members who don’t manage the mail. With Informed Delivery they can bypass the “mail manager,” before that person filters the mail going to other household members. USPS VP Innovative Business Technology and golf fanatic Gary Reblin has a great story about how he became more aware of golf catalogs arriving at his home once he had Informed Delivery because he saw them in his Informed Delivery feed, even if his wife (their household’s mail manager) managed to “lose” them before he had a chance to review the mail.

Annual promotions are a great way to test out Informed Delivery at a lower cost. The 2023 promotion will run August through December and offers a five percent discount for eligible postage. If you aren’t already using Informed Delivery, testing a few campaigns during the promotional period is a great way to try it out while offsetting postage costs. Making your mail piece more effective while paying less postage: what’s not to like?

Our clients frequently test Informed Delivery during the promotion to earn the discount, but continue to create campaigns after the promotional period ends due to improved response. And the word is spreading — the Postal Service reports a 273% increase in the number of campaigns completed in October 2022 compared to the same month in 2021.

Our team has observed similar growth in Informed Delivery usage, as during the first four months of the 2022 promotion, we managed more than 1,400 campaigns with Informed Delivery that encompassed nearly 668 million mail pieces.

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Informed Visibility

While Informed Delivery amplifies mail campaigns through digital channels, Informed Visibility provides data to enhance in-home delivery and ensure your mail piece reaches the recipient at the optimal time, coordinated with communications in other channels.

Informed Visibility allows mailers to track movement of mail pieces, handling units, and containers through the USPS processing network. This function is known as Mail Tracking and Reporting (IV-MTR). IV-MTR provides insight into how the USPS network is functioning and allows you to adjust production and drop schedules to foster optimal performance.

This type of insight is critical, as there are significant changes to the processing network on the horizon. The Postal Service is combining delivery units into Sorting and Distribution Centers (SDC) and replacing its 21 Network Distribution Centers (NDC) with a new network of 65–80 Regional Processing and Distribution Centers (RPDC), which will most likely impact delivery of your mail. IV-MTR will help you recognize how delivery patterns may shift in response to the network changes, allowing you to adjust mail drops to ensure desired in-home dates are met. If you aren’t already using Informed Visibility mail tracking data, now would be a good time to start before network changes begin in earnest.

The same unique Intelligent Mail barcodes on mail pieces, handling units, and containers that make IV-MTR function can also provide a wealth of data for following mail movement throughout your internal production processes. This can provide visibility into your processes, which helps teams better understand processes and improve efficiencies. IV-MTR is especially useful when managing multiple small mail groupings, such as postal-optimized mail that may be made up of a mix of direct pallets and commingled mail, to ensure all mail is completed accurately and on time.

As well as mail tracking, Informed Visibility also can provide information on mail quality. This function is known as Mail Quality Data (IV-MQD). IV-MQD can help you manage your Mailer Scorecard by offering the option to set up a data feed with frequency options of daily, weekly, or monthly. Its reports allow you to dig into and review the details of any errors or warnings shown on the Scorecard to identify root cause before they result in penalties.

Taking full advantage of IV-MQD to improve internal processes requires a commitment to ongoing oversight of mail data and a dedication to correcting issues as they are discovered. It is also often a collaborative process. As root causes are identified, you may be surprised by the number of departments that touch any given mailing, highlighting opportunities to improve hand-offs and communications during the manufacturing process. This in turn can drive a cycle of continuous process improvement and higher quality mail, which can be delivered more efficiently by the Postal Service, making in-home dates easier to achieve.

By taking full advantage of these tools offered by the Postal Service, direct mail becomes an even more powerful tool for marketers, with mail pieces delivering the right offer to the right audience at the right time to align with companion channels while delivering robust response and return on investment. 

Kurt Ruppel, Director Postal Policy and Marketing Communications for IWCO Direct, is a 40-year veteran of the direct mail industry. He is the company’s resident expert on postal regulations and is “dean” of IWCO Direct’s Education Center. Kurt is the MTAC Industry Focus Area Leader for Marketing Mail Letters. He represents EMA on MTAC, and formerly served as Chairman of EMA’s board of directors and is a member of the board of DTAC.

MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 17
Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Keeping your critical communications running so nothing comes between you and your customers www.mailgard.com • Paul J. DePaoli 203.572.3887 • paul.depaoli@iwco.com

POWERING CORRECT ADDRESSES: GOING BEYOND NCOA TO REACH ELUSIVE CUSTOMERS

Tips for reaching millennials and others who move without filing a USPS address update

Mailers rely heavily on the US Postal Service’s NCOALink dataset — nearly 160 million permanent change-ofaddress records including individuals, families, and businesses that have updated their information by filing a change-of-address with the USPS. But according to Census Bureau data, more than 43 million Americans move every year — but far fewer file a change-of-address update. As much as 40% of all address changes are not reported to the Postal Service; last year just 36 million address changes were reported.

Millennials are not only three times more likely to move, they also represent a disproportionate number of those who don’t file address changes. It’s just in their nature as digital natives to consider filing such corrections less important to their day-to-day activities. Yet USPS data shows that this demographic values physical mail, pointing to digital fatigue and acknowledging that receiving personal mail makes them feel special. This valuable target group is worth the effort for direct marketers.

To minimize undeliverable as addressed (UAA) direct mail, marketers are well-advised to run NCOA in tandem with multisource change-of-address (mCOA) and proprietary change-of-address (pCOA) as standard operating practice. This method saves time, production costs, and postage associated with UAA — for just pennies per record.

Digging Deeper for Correct Address Data

Tapping into an mCOA database can provide marketers with as much as five years of address change data. These proprietary

options contain millions of records from sources such as magazine subscriptions, catalog houses, insurance companies, credit bureaus, mail-order retail management systems (RMS), and others.

A pCOA database goes back 360 months — that’s 30 years — to identify movers in your customer list. The file consists of data collected from multiple private sources including banks, credit card companies, magazine publishers, plus additional proprietary data such as a historical database. An optimized pCOA tool pulls Move Update data from external sources, benefiting from, for example, the high accuracy of clean, validated, standardized address data generated from e-commerce platforms. Reviewable FTP site data has proven to reveal 40-50% more moves than NCOA processing alone. For data managers tasked with supporting smarter mailing campaigns, it’s important to note that NCOA, mCOA, and pCOA work together. It’s not either/or, and smart data tools fill in the blanks with the strongest data culled from multiple sources.

Private and Proprietary Tools Supplement NCOA Processing

NCOALink is so effective as a Move Update process because it is the only method that identifies UAA before a mailing. By helping mailers reduce UAA as well as the costs of wasted printing, packaging, and postage, it is green from end-to-end. Even so, NCOA processing misses 50-60% of the people that move every year, largely weighted to the millennial sector of the population based on their resistance to filing updates with the USPS. While it’s true that millennials may want to avoid or limit bulk mail, they certainly want to receive their Amazon shipments. Data pro-

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cessed against both NCOA records and pCOA and mCOA tools results in a greater number of records that are correct, updated, and enhanced.

Finding and Connecting with Customers

Marketers are starting to acknowledge that millennials face a different reality in terms of putting down roots. Where an older generation was focused on getting married, finding a long-term job, and buying a home, today’s twenty-something has much less of a stake in the same kind of “traditional” path. Is your target working from home or are they still at the office? Have they moved out of the city and into a different or more rural area, or perhaps a family home? And most importantly, have they made these changes without formal notification to the USPS?

Campaign marketers must keep pace with this shift from the traditional, especially when it comes to address data management. Proven, standard tools and services such as NCOA processing will always apply, but they are best complemented with proprietary options to complete the picture. Clean, accurate mailing lists are a key factor in ensuring strong campaign results, enabling direct marketers to tap into psychographics, demographics, socioeconomic data, and real insight that helps them reach valuable customers and prospects. From a basic cost perspective, accurate address data also reduces postal costs,

helping mailers qualify for postal discounts and eliminating the waste of undeliverable mail.

Bad addresses are costing businesses millions. For a mailer and their mail house, this is just bad business — starting with potential liability for financial penalties, along with poor customer communications, limited marketing effectiveness, lagging account receivables, and fewer sales.

One of the four Move Update approved processes, NCOALink, is critical in solving these challenges. It is the only USPS-certified method that identifies moves pre-mailing to save a mailer money. But even utilizing NCOALink isn’t enough. Because undeliverable mail means wasted resources and lost opportunities, mailers must look to proprietary change of address services to complement these efforts. By understanding their options and prioritizing their focus on address quality, they can cut costs, save time, and reach and engage with the otherwise elusive millennial. 

Greg Brown is vice president of Melissa (www.melissa.com), a provider of global data quality and address management solutions. Melissa is an NCOALink Full Service Provider licensee of the USPS and its MAILERS+4 postal automation software is USPS PAVE Gold certified to presort mail to qualify for postal discounts on First Class, Marketing Mail (Standard Mail) and Periodicals. Connect with Greg at greg.brown@melissa.com or LinkedIn.

MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 19
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5 ANSWERS FOR IMPROVING ADDRESS & DATA QUALITY

The appearance of your direct mail and transactional mail is, of course, very important. However, all that time you spent on developing and producing your mail is wasted if the data and address details are incorrect. Each month, businesses are wasting money and time due to a database filled with bad address information. Thankfully, there are a number of companies that will help you fix this dilemma. And to save you from searching, here are 5 companies that may have just the solutions and expertise to help you. Contact them today.

Anchor Software, LLC is a leading provider of data quality, postal processing, document design, and VDP software. Anchor was established in 1998 to provide comprehensive software solutions for direct mailing and marketing organizations, financial and insurance companies, government agencies, utilities, and any organization that maintains and enhances its own or other companies’ lists. Anchor Software’s solutions help to improve the quality of data by incorporating its innovative and proprietary algorithms within the software to provide the most up-to-date address information and overall data-quality available. Our products include CASS™ certified address matching, NCOA change-of-address processing, and PAVE™ certified presort.

BCC Software offers a full suite of address quality services to ensure complete, correct, and current addresses for timely, predictable, and ultimate delivery of every mail piece. BCC Software is a non-exclusive direct licensee of USPS data providing both regulatory complaint services such ZIP+4 assignment using CASS Certified technology, 18 and 48-month NCOALink® change of address updating, DSF2® for saturation sequencing, and additional address quality services such as geocoding, apartment appending, deceased suppression, and proprietary move update for a five-year change of address correction. Our on-demand services are available through our software as well as secure file transfer.

GrayHair understands the value of clean address data. Supported by our unparalleled postal knowledge, our solutions focus on enterprise-level mailers dealing with complex mailing operations and data quality challenges. We combine standard industry tools, proprietary business rules, and data sets into tailored best practices that help our clients achieve the industry’s lowest possible undeliverable mail rates. GrayHair’s repeatable process not only reduces postage costs but also enhances marketing campaigns, reduces instances of fraud, and improves mailing operations.

With 38 years of experience, Melissa delivers the best address verification and national change of address processing services available. We offer flexible deployment of our products, such as our LeadGen APIs, so you can access accurate mailing lists and sales leads 24/7 for increased ROI. Recently, Melissa has acquired ZipInfo, a leading provider of excellent national ZIP Code, Geocode, MSA/CBSA, FIPS and Congressional District Databases, and we are committed to continuing to support everyone who has relied for years on their accurate, ZIP-related data.

Peachtree Data specializes in data quality and append services. With over 29 years of experience, we help our clients achieve better results by using better data. We can also enhance your existing data. Adding demographic, email, landline, and cell phone numbers to your database allows you to learn more about who your customers are. This is critical when trying to target your next campaign or improve your commications with existing customers. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you with your next marketing campagin or data hygiene challenge.

20 PARCELindustry.com  JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2022 AnchorComputerSoftware.com | Sales@AnchorComputerSoftware.com | 800.237.1921
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sales@peachtreedata.com | 678.987.4600
| Melissa.com | info@melissa.com | 800.MELISSA
| GrayHairSoftware.com | engage@grayhairsoftware.com | 866.507.9999
20 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com

2023 USPS Promotions Fact Sheet

The 2023 USPS postage-savings promotions are here! This handy fact sheet from PostalPro breaks down the basics. Some of these promotions will have started by the time you receive this publication, so don’t delay. Register for the ones that best suit your organization, and watch the savings roll in.

MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 21

THE POWER OF ASSOCIATIONS

"Aman only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people." –

What was the last training course you completed? What was the last conference you attended? What professional organizations do you belong to?

These are just a few of the questions we ask managers and employees when conducting operational reviews. We want to understand how the organization is keeping up to date with the changes in our industry. And we want to learn if the company is investing in their employees.

Too often, the answers are disappointing. The company has cut the training and travel budgets. Management doesn’t see the value in conferences or associations. There’s too much work, and no time for education.

Occasionally, we meet individuals who have found a way around the obstacles and lack of support. They’ve taken responsibility for their own professional development. They pay for membership dues, course fees, and conference registrations with their own funds. They attend association events on their own time.

Successful people understand that education isn’t an expense, it’s an investment — in their job, in their career, and in themselves. They aren’t waiting for someone else to decide what they need to learn; they’re going after the information on their own. They know that knowledge is a fundamental building block for success.

One of the most important educational investments is in belonging to the right associations. The investment may not be money, but time. Most mailing associations have low or no

membership fees. Many meetings and events are either hybrid or online, eliminating the need for travel. However, listening to a webinar while answering emails isn’t real participation. Active listening and actual engagement are a requirement.

In our industry, the largest group of associations is the Postal Customer Councils (PCCs). Composed of over 100 PCCs in all 50 states, this is the organization to which all mail managers should belong. Run in partnership with the US Postal Service (USPS), PCCs exist to share information with business mailers on postal products and service updates.

PCCs also hold meetings dedicated to professional development, including networking and education. Each month, PCCs across the country post their events on the USPS PostalPro website. Online events are generally free, and all events are open to members and non-members alike.

Another USPS sponsored association is the Mailers' Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC). Similar to PCCs, MTAC is where the USPS shares technical information with mailers and receives their advice and recommendations. MTAC has quarterly meetings at the USPS headquarters in Washington DC, plus online meetings with workgroups and task forces.

What’s important to note is that companies and individuals aren’t MTAC members. Associations are the members, and they appoint people to represent them. For example, the In-Plant Printing and Mailing Association (IPMA) belongs to MTAC — representing their membership.

Speaking of IPMA, that’s another important association for internal operation managers. As the name suggests, IPMA focuses on both print and mail. In addition to their national conference, the association schedules “road shows” at various in-plants across the country. Also, IPMA offers the Certified Graphic Communications Manager (CGCM) and Certified Mail Manager (CMM) certifications.

For managers who work at college and universities, there is the National Association of College and University Mail Services (NACUMS). The NACUMS website hosts Cunimail — a bulletin board exchange for posing questions and sharing information. There is a national conference, plus regional affiliates:

 Association of College and University Mail Services (ACUMS)

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 Association of Rocky Mountain College and University Mail Services (ARMCUMS)

 College and University Mail Services Association (CUMSA)

 Mid-Atlantic Region of College and University Mail Services (MARCUMS)

 Southwest Association of College and University Mail Services (SWACUMS)

Managers should also consider joining associations related to the core industry of their company. For example, when I was a mail operations supervisor at an insurance company, I attended events and classes at the Insurance Institute of America. The education I received increased my understanding of the needs of the underwriting and claims departments. That improved the service my department provided to our internal customers.

The following industry associations are also members of MTAC. As such, they may be looking for members who can provide mailing and postal insights:

 American Bankers Association (ABA)

 Association of Direct Response Fundraising Counsel (ADRFCO)

 Association of Priority Mail Users (APMU)

 City & Regional Magazine Association

 Classroom Publishers Association

 National Newspaper Association (NNA)

 National Retail Federation (NRF)

 Package Shippers Association (PSA)

Yet belonging to a group isn’t the real benefit. Participation as an active member is where the substantial rewards lie. Attendance at association functions is just the first step. Joining a committee or volunteering to assist with an event leads to more involvement — perhaps even to holding a position as a leader or board member.

Holding a leadership position in an association provides the opportunity to give back to the industry. The mailing industry is unique in the willingness of people to help others outside their own companies. Working together, we improve the conditions of everyone. Whether shaping postal policy, explaining new technologies, or teaching new techniques for processing mail, association leaders push our industry forward.

Holding board positions also expands the prospect of networking with fellow professionals on a higher level. Shared experiences strengthen bonds and grow relationships. In turn, this expands the sources of knowledge and opportunity. People are much more likely to support people they know.

Another aspect of being a leader is mentoring. The continued success of our industry relies on engaging the next group of leaders. Through associations, we can attract new people to the world of mailing.

Experience, not age, is the most important characteristic of a good mentor. My first mentors as a mail manager were people I met through the PCC. After my first meeting, they called me up to ask what I thought of the presentation. Then they invited me to help plan an event, then join the board. Pivotal moments in my career.

The power of associations extends beyond the next meeting or conference. By joining together, we improve the conditions of our industry and gain the knowledge to improve ourselves. And most importantly, we get the opportunity to help others. 

Mark M. Fallon is President & CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. You can contact him at mmf@berkshire-company.com.

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A CUSTOMER PROFITABILITY ANALYSIS SHOULD BE ON YOUR TO-DO LIST

Less is more, especially if you’re talking about unprofitable customers.

If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ve realized by now that some customers are more high maintenance than others. What might not be apparent is the degree to which high-cost, low-value customers are draining your resources and cutting into your profits. From frequent corrupt files and document changes to customized stock, these customers are often more trouble than they’re worth.

The best way to identify when to retain their business and when to walk away is to conduct a customer profitability analysis, which, when done correctly, can yield some eye-opening insights about your business.

A customer profitability analysis provides visibility into every touchpoint on the customer journey and uncovers specific costs related to which and how many resources each customer is using. While a customer profitability analysis can show some impressive results, it doesn’t have to consume a lot of bandwidth. With access to the right information, print service providers (PSPs) can conduct a single customer profitability analysis in as little as an hour. For PSPs that want more precise data, the customer profitability analysis might be more involved.

Reasons to Perform a Customer Profitability Analysis

Let’s say you’re working close to production capacity and you’re wondering whether you have the resources to bring more customers on board. One option for increasing your capacity would be

to invest in more equipment and hire more workers, which could require a significant investment. The better option may be to make room in your portfolio by replacing unprofitable customers with profitable ones.

Performing a customer profitability analysis can also be useful to determine what customer behavior needs to change. For example, if a customer profitability analysis identifies that a customer has thin margins or is unprofitable, the reasons could be that the customer makes letter changes often (i.e., uses a lot of CSR and IT resources) or uses custom stock (i.e., uses more labor because their jobs are not combinable). In these cases, you may want to begin charging them for letter changes or convert them to a standard stock.

Getting Started — Calculating Costs

To get your customer profitability

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analysis started, the first step is to identify your costs, which generally fall into one of two categories — variable and fixed. From here, you can construct an analysis based on either contribution margin, fully absorbed margin, or both. Contribution margin considers only the costs that it takes to service a specific customer account. Usually, these are your variable costs like stock, CSR and IT costs, direct labor, clicks, toner/ink, and sales commission. Fully absorbed margin is really an extension of your contribution margin and includes costs that can’t be allocated to specific customers. Usually, these are your fixed costs, such as rent, utilities, indirect labor, and more.

Identifying specific variable costs related to a customer for contribution margin can be achieved as follows:

 Stock – cost of stock multiplied by price per piece

 CSR and IT costs – total hours spent multiplied by labor cost per hour (includes taxes and benefits). Note, a system to track CSR and IT time by customer/job is extremely helpful to capture this correctly

 Direct labor – number of pieces per hour multiplied by direct labor cost per hour (includes taxes and benefits). Note, be careful not to impact a customer profitability analysis with your production inefficiencies

 Clicks/toner/ink – number of sheets/ feet multiplied by cost per feet or average toner/ink cost per sheet. Note, for high-coverage jobs, this can be customized to capture higher costs

 Machine cost – see below for cost driver allocation

Cost Drivers

To allocate resources that cannot be attributed to one customer, a cost driver for those resources is needed. This cost driver will effectively allocate the total cost for that resource amongst the jobs/customers that are using it. For example, an inserter is used to service more than one customer. The total cost to run an inserter includes cost to own/ lease, maintenance, supplies, etc. The

inserter has a total average capacity of X amount of packages, which would be the cost driver. To allocate cost to a specific job/customer, the proportion of the total capacity that job/customer required compared to total capacity would be multiplied by the total cost to determine the allocable printer costs for that job/customer.

Fully Absorbed Margin

To determine fully absorbed margin, all of the other costs your company incurs need to be allocated to a customer. To determine this, you would use the cost driver process explained above. However, determining the cost driver for each type of indirect cost is not as straightforward because there is not a direct link between an activity and these costs. Therefore, cost drivers can vary from cost to cost if there is some rationale behind them. Below are some examples of cost drivers that can be used:

 Revenue

 Volume (packages, sheets, etc.)

 Number of jobs

 Number of files

For example, to allocate occupancy costs, volume may be used as the cost driver since equipment and, correspondingly, space is usually driven by the amount of packages produced.

Using What You’ve Learned to Cull Customers

As you conduct the profitability analysis, you’ll start to notice some trends. If any of these red flags sound familiar, you may be dealing with an unprofitable customer:

 You receive a high volume of change requests. If your customer is calling every other day with a new request, they’re probably taking up more time than they’re worth

 The customer offers a low volume of work

 The customer uses non-standard or customized stock

 Your work for the customer only involves print and mailing. These jobs

are a red flag because the high-value data services are excluded

 The customer has time-consuming pull requests that aren’t offset by cancellation fees

In terms of frequency, it is optimal to run a profitability analysis against suspect customers at least once a year. Once you’ve identified unprofitable customers, there are choices to consider. You can change your customer’s behavior in terms of how they do business. You can also increase your pricing or implement minimums. Your final option is to terminate the relationship.

When culling customers, start by identifying those that provide high-value projects and consume minimal resources. Next, identify any customers that provide value, even if they consume significant resources. After you’ve identified customers that provide a low volume of business and consume a lot of resources, ask yourself whether they have the potential to grow business in the future. If the answer is no, then chances are good that culling the customer is in the best interest of your business.

Unprofitable customers consume a lot of resources, but unless you perform a profitability analysis, you might not realize it. Performing a customer profitability analysis — or hiring someone to do it for you — is a step every business should take to maximize the value of their customer portfolio. If you can get a handle on which customers cost more than they bring in, you will no doubt begin to see big differences in the profitability of your business. 

Ed Horowitz is Vice President of Operational Consulting for Transformations, Inc., developer of Uluro, a comprehensive Customer Communications Management (CCM) software. A CPA, Horowitz’s wealth of experience and achieved industry success in operational excellence helps customers and prospects understand how to use Uluro more effectively optimize their workflow operations.

Visit https://www.uluro.com/ for more information.

MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 25
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AN IN-DEPTH GUIDE TO THE 2023 USPS RATE CHANGE

The United States Postal Service raised its rates on January 22, 2023 for the third time in 17 months (see Figure 1), with some of the largest increases in history and at significantly higher rates than inflation. We can expect these rate spikes to continue as the USPS has stated that two increases per year will be the new norm. We have been creating for our clients comparison charts that go over the changes in rates to show how these changes will affect budgets. The reason we do this is to provide a true comparison of how costs will change versus the overall average percentage increase that the USPS talks about. Based on the type of mail you send, the increase could be higher or lower. Also, when you look at the new rate charts provided by the USPS, they typically will not show the level of detail needed (such as previous and new rates or side by side) to see these differences. Hopefully, this article will help you budget by seeing the impact of the most common services that you use today. At the end of this article, there is a link to an Excel tool where you can plug in your mail volumes to see the impact to your organization.

First-Class Mail Single Piece: 2% – 9% Increase

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Figure 1 Figure 2

letters

up

Here is a link (https://postaladvocate.com/rate-change-tools/) to a simple chart of all the rates discussed.

The price of a stamp and metered letters are seeing a $.03 increase to $0.63 and $0.60. A single piece flat is increasing from $1.20 to $1.26 but the additional ounce rate is staying the same at $0.24. Post cards are seeing the largest increase at $0.04, or a 9.1% change (see Figure 2).

Automation letters are going up three to four percent, and flats are going up by 10-24% (see Figure 3). The largest increases are at the highest sort levels, which will impact most large-volume mailers dramatically.

With any increase, it becomes more important to look for ways to reduce costs. These are the options available (also see Figure 4):

 Use meters or online postage to save $0.03 on letters.

 Consider presort services if you run over 500 pieces per day or have one-time mailings over 1,000 pieces.

 Automating your mailings in-house can have drastic postage savings.

 Presort and automation levels go up to 3.5 ounces for the same base rate.

 Flats and post cards can have the same automation rates as letters.

 Consider moving generic content mail from First-Class Mail to Marketing Mail.

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First-Class Mail Commercial: 3% - 24% Increase
Automation
are going
three to four percent, and flats are going up by 10-24%.
Figure 3
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Figure 4

Marketing Mail letter rates are increasing at approximately three percent, while flats are going up five to 10% (see Figure 5). The best way to save money is to move mail closer to its final location utilizing destination entry level discounts. The savings for letters are increasing to 10-11% whereas flats are holding at the DNDC level, but increasing 15% when moved to the sectional center facility (DSCF) as you can see from the table in Figure 6.

Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, and First-Class Package Service: 3-10% Increase

The rates listed in the charts in Figure 7 are the average rate increase. Actual rates change by as little as one percent to as much as 26% based on weight and zone. One of the biggest changes is there was a specific zone called “Local, Zone 1 and 2.” This has now been split into two separate zones, where Zone 2 is seeing the highest increases.

The best way to reduce costs in this area is to convert your items from retail to commercial base rates. You must process your items through an online postage solution that can generate a 4” x 6” shipping label with the address, barcode, and return address embedded. USPS.com only allows for retail rates, so you will need to look at third-party solutions that start at about $15 per month. These average savings for items less than 10 pounds (the most common for the USPS) are the following:

 Priority Mail - 19% Savings

 Priority Mail Express – 14% Savings

 First-Class Package Service – 28% Savings

Conclusion

Increases of 15-38% in 17 months are unheard of and are impacting every organization. Mailers are going to need to look

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Figure 5 Marketing Mail (Formerly Called Standard Mail): 3-10% Increase Figure 6 Figure 7

for savings strategies to help offset these changes. Our recommendation is to create visibility to all mailings and look for automation methods to reduce the cost and streamline production.

To budget for this increase, you need to look at the type of items you are sending, and the weight and zones that are most common to truly estimate the impact. We have developed a Microsoft Excel-based budget calculator that you can download for free (https://postaladvocate.com/ratechange-tools/) to help you plan. Some of the most popular USPS classes are going up at the highest rates, but luckily there are ways to help mitigate this through automation and technology.

Adam Lewenberg, CMDSS, MDC, President/CEO of Postal Advocate Inc., runs the largest Mail Audit and Recovery firm in the United States and Canada. They manage the biggest shipping & mail equipment fleet in the world and their mission is to help organizations with multi-locations reduce mail and parcel related expenses, recover lost postage funds, and simplify visibility and oversight. Since 2011, they have helped their clients save an average of 55% and over $80 million on equipment, presort, avoidable fees, and lost postage. He can be reached at 617. 372.6853 or adam.lewenberg@postaladvocate.com.

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Additional Rate Change Items Rate Change Budget Calculator January 2023

VOTE BY MAIL AND 2023-2024 ELECTIONS

2023 is an off-year election with some state, city, and local races. However, now is the best time to get everything ready for these and the 2024 elections. In so many elections, Vote By Mail is a topic that continues to be at the forefront of many election discussions. To help those decision-makers, industry professionals, and other city, county, and state employees who have been tasked with finding the options to optimize their information and processes, we’ve compiled a list of 4 companies that have the answers. Please check their websites and reach out to them with your needs and questions.

Vote-by-mail is more transparent, reliable, and accessible to the nation than ever before. Relia-Vote from BlueCrest is the only integrated, secure, end-to-end vote-by-mail solution for processing both outbound and inbound mail ballots. It’s ideal for large to medium counties or municipalities who need to costeffectively, and securely, automate the processing of election ballots while staying compliant with state voting regulations and USPS® postal regulations. With BCC Software’s Track N Trace® mail piece tracking service now integrated, states, counties and municipalities can automate their vote-by-mail and absentee process. Save time, labor and postage costs while having full insight into the entire process.

Since the pandemic, Vote by Mail has continued to increase in popularity, offering convenience and better accessibility for voters. Ensuring address accuracy by identifying voters who have moved contributes to a well-managed election process — helping to reduce the cost of waste and UAA mail, strengthen voter trust, and maintain election integrity. As a USPS® NCOALink® Full-Service Provider Licensee, Melissa matches existing voter lists against the last 48 months of permanent changeof-address records filed with the USPS, and offers proprietary change-of-address processing using reliable, multi-sourced data to identify those who don’t file a notice. Be sure to take advantage of our limited time offer – free list processing for states and counties — call for details!

Managing a safe, secure vote by mail program requires extra attention to data hygiene. Peachtree Data has been helping mailers reach their intended targets for almost three decades. Offering a range of tools designed to validate and update addresses, screen for deceased individuals, flag duplicates, and identify vacant addresses, Peachtree Data can help election administrators achieve maximum deliverability, while simultaneously reducing potential fraud associated with mailing to an incorrect address or a deceased voter. Allow us to provide no-cost testing to help establish a baseline for data quality, and to help map a strategy for effective vote by mail data hygiene.

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For 109 years, W+D has been serving the envelope and mailing markets as the world leader in envelope converting machines. In more recent years, W+D BB intelligent direct mail and ballot inserters now dominate in the high-performance complex mailing segments where accuracy and the highest nets on the belt are demanded. The W+D BB intelligent inserters produced 63 million mail-in ballots or about 68% of all mail-in ballots requested in the last US general election. This means W+D inserters produced more than 85% of mail-in ballots sold by for profit printer/mailers. W+D –your mailing solutions partner.

sales@peachtreedata.com
678.987.4600
Melissa.com | info@melissa.com | 800.MELISSA
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