TABLE OF CONTENTS
Editor's Note Does Uncertainty Lie Ahead? By Amanda Armendariz
Real-Life Management Conflict: A Potential Blessing in Disguise! By Wes Friesen 08 Software Byte Address Cleansing Best Practices (The 3 Cs): Current, Correct, and Complete By Lisa Leslie
Postal Insights Ignoring the Signs By Leo Raymond
The Trenches The Mission of a Mail Piece By Mike Porter
Inkjet Info Cutting Through the Clutter with Direct Mail By Karen Kimerer
Intro to International Mail Failing and Failed Postal Operators By Merry Law SPONSORED CONTENT
WHO TO SEE AT NPF FEATURES 18 How to Improve Sustainability in Your Print and Mail Operation By Alain Fairise 20 The Struggle Is Real: Navigating the Hardships Facing Mail Managers Today By Mark Fallon and Neal Fedderman 22 Ready to Support USPS Network Redesign By Kathleen Siviter 28 Are You Prepared? Forced USPS Postage Meter Migration Happening June 30, 2024 By Adam
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VOLUME 36, ISSUE 3
President Chad Griepentrog
Publisher Ken Waddell
Editor Amanda Armendariz firstname.lastname@example.org
Alain Fairise, Mark Fallon, Neal Fedderman, Wes Friesen, Karen Kimerer, Merry Law, Lisa Leslie, Adam Lewenberg, Mike Porter, Leo Raymond, Kathleen Siviter
Audience Development Manager Rachel Chapman email@example.com
Advertising Ken Waddell 608.235.2212 firstname.lastname@example.org
Design Kelli Cooke
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MAILING SYSTEMS TECHNOLOGY
(ISSN 1088-2677) [Volume 36 Issue 2]
is published six times per year (January/February, March/April, May/June, July/August, September/October, November/December) by MadMen3, PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098, 608-241-8777. Periodical postage paid at Madison WI and additional offices.
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DOES UNCERTAINTY LIE AHEAD?
BY AMANDA ARMENDARIZ
Many of you may be first picking up this issue of Mailing Systems Technology at the National Postal Forum. For some of you, it may be your first time ever even hearing of us (although we certainly hope that this is the start of a long subscribership!)
One of the things I always enjoy most about our partnership with NPF is getting to partake in the sense of excitement that permeates the show as well as the gathering of professionals to brainstorm ideas about what will keep our industry not just surviving, but thriving. It is always so gratifying to hear what presenters, attendees, and vendors think needs to be done to help our (admittedly rather struggling) industry. These ideas aren’t always on the same page, of course, and at times they are diametrically opposed, but no matter what, these thoughts can be used as a jumping off point to help the print and mail sector.
And, unfortunately, our industry does need help. News articles with titles like, “USPS Is Losing a Lot More Money
in 2023 Than It Expected” and “Why It Matters That US Mail Volume Is Dropping Precipitously” are constantly showing up in our feeds, and the picture these articles paint isn’t pretty. Yes, volumes are declining, and yes, financial losses are high. The question is, what can be done about it?
I’m sure that will be the main source of conversation this year at NPF, and with so many bright minds meeting in one place, I’m optimistic that some good ideas will be put forth to help right the ship. After all, given its proven effectiveness, mail should be a critical part of any company’s customer communication strategy, so we need to ensure the mail stream is thriving and healthy.
As always, thanks for reading Mailing Systems Technology.
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CONFLICT: A POTENTIAL BLESSING IN DISGUISE!
BY WES FRIESEN
“We can work it out. Life is very short, and there’s no time for fussing and fighting my friends.” John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote and sang those words many years ago. But these words are still relevant today, aren’t they? Conflict is an inevitable part of human relationships and exists in every organization and team. The good news is, conflict handled well can be healthy and lead to greater successes. The bad news is that conflict handled poorly can result in employee dissatisfaction, lower productivity, poor customer service, increased employee absenteeism and turnover, increased stress, and, in the worst case, litigation based on claims of harassment or hostile work environment.
Author Thomas Isgar warned, “Conflict can destroy a team, which hasn’t spent time learning to deal with it.” I agree.
Let’s start with a discussion of when conflict can be healthy. Healthy conflict occurs when there is a work environment where people can voice disagreements and have candid conversations about the important issues at hand. A healthy exchange of ideas and different viewpoints can result in sharper analysis, more creativity, and well-crafted initiatives moving forward. This type of healthy conflict creates a psychologically safe environment where teams can thrive.
Consultant Steve Goodier speaks to the value of different perspectives: “We don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note. Only notes that are different can harmonize. The same is
true with people.” The key is to disagree without being disagreeable, and once decisions are made, to have everybody support them. Since there is potential for conflict to bring benefits when handled well, let’s look at some keys to positively resolving conflict.
1. View Conflict as an Opportunity. Leadership guru Warren Bennis cut to the chase by saying, “Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity.” Healthy conflict resolution can improve the quality of our processes, initiatives, and relationships — and make our teams stronger.
2. Pick Your Battles. Some conflicts are minor and will resolve themselves without our intervention. Sometimes the best action we can take is no action.
3. Hit Conflict Head On. If a conflict is important enough to be addressed, let’s not avoid it but take it on and drive to a peaceful resolution. Unresolved conflicts can escalate and become harder to resolve as time drags on, so we are wise to resolve sooner versus later.
4. Stay Calm and Avoid Arguing. Conflicts escalate when we get angry. And we tend to stop listening to understand as we get angry. To remain calm, it’s helpful to look at the big picture and realize that most disputes eventually get resolved, and very few have long-lasting consequences. Also, realize that arguing only makes things worse. Dale Carnegie, author of the all-time classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, wrote, “You can’t win an argument. You can’t
because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.”
5. Listen to Understand. One of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective people is to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Dean Rusk counseled, “One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears — by listening to them.” By active listening, we dignify people and give them a chance to fully share their perspectives. We also build the foundation that can lead to acceptable resolutions.
6. Ask Good Questions and Gather Information. Few conflict situations are clear cut, so we need to ask good questions and gather information before jumping to conclusions. Good questions focus on asking what happened and soliciting relevant information. Open-ended questions such as, “Can you tell me what happened?” can draw out useful information in a non-judgmental manner.
7. Attack the Problem, not the Person. Personal attacks backfire, as Abigail Van Buren emphasized when she said, “people who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes.” And Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” Remember the goal is to resolve the conflict and underlying problems, not to punish the people who are involved in the conflict.
8. Practice the Power of the Apology. There have been times in my life where I said or did something that I later regretted — what about you? Since we are all human and will occasionally mess up, the wise thing to do is fess up and apologize. I appreciate this quote from author Lynn Johnson, “An apology is the superglue of life. It can repair just about anything.” Demonstrating humility and admitting our mistakes is good for us and sets a positive example for our team members.
9. Identify Points of Agreement and Disagreement. Henry Ford observed, “If there is any secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as your own.” Author Harper Lee wrote, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”
10. Look for the Win-Win. W. Edwards Deming encouraged us, “To adopt a new philosophy of cooperation (win-win) in which everybody wins.” Greg Anderson explains, “The Law of Win/Win says, ‘Let’s not do it your way or my way; let’s do it the best way.’”
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11. Be Creative. Try brainstorming and thinking outside the box to find creative resolutions. Being creative with resolutions takes longer, but can yield a true win-win solution. Sometimes it can be helpful to look for ideas from others outside the team — such as from other teams inside or outside the organization, consultants, trade journals, conferences, books, webinars, etc.
12. Focus on the Future, not the Past. The secret to conflict resolution is to treat it like problem solving and focus on what can be done to resolve the immediate problem at hand. Once that is done, look at the past to analyze what went wrong, and then identify improvements so that future results meet expectations.
13. Celebrate Agreement. Reaching mutual agreement on what we will do to resolve the conflict is often stressful and hard work! Reaching agreement is also valuable and worth taking the time to celebrate — which may be as simple as a handshake, fist bump, or high five.
14. Develop a Resolution Plan. Once we have mutually agreed upon the resolution to the conflict, we need to document a resolution plan so there are clear action steps and assignment of responsibilities. Having a plan will increase the probability of the resolution being implemented as agreed upon.
15. Execute the Plan and Follow Through. Plans by themselves have little or no value unless they are executed. This is an extremely important step, where we sometimes fall short. We need to diligently “plan the work, then work the plan” as my former boss and mentor Bruce Carpenter emphasized.
16. Reflect and Derive Lessons Learned. After the resolution plan is executed and the dust settles, there is great value in taking time to reflect and identify lessons learned. Much of the value that comes from conflicts is the after-the-fact reflection and identification of lessons learned that can help us be better managers and improve the success of our teams in the future.
Author Thomas Crum once said, “The quality of our lives depends not on whether or not we have conflicts, but on how we respond to them.” Most of us don’t like when conflict happens, but when it does, let’s look for the hidden blessings and use it as an opportunity to make ourselves and our teams stronger for the future!
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 email@example.com or at 971.806.0812.
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ADDRESS CLEANSING BEST PRACTICES (THE 3 CS): CURRENT, CORRECT, AND COMPLETE
BY LISA LESLIE
You’ve heard it before — and you’ll definitely hear it again. It’s all about the data! While it may be obvious that addresses are critical to those who mail, it’s amazing how much undeliverable mail is out there: Over one billion dollars’ worth a year.
First, let’s review some basic terms:
ACS UAA: Address Change Service: Undeliverable As Addressed
There are five main reasons why mail is considered undeliverable:
1. The individual, family, or business to which it is addressed has moved
2. The address is incomplete, incorrect, or illegible (aka NIXIE)
3. The addressee is unknown or deceased
4. The addressee refuses or fails to claim the mail
5. The necessary postage has not been paid
USPS BlueEarth Secure Destruction is available to all ACS customers sending First-Class letters or flats, and there’s no additional cost! To learn more and enroll, please visit: https://www.uspsdelivers. com/secure-destruction/
CASS-Certified Software applies the correct ZIP + 4, delivery point, and/or carrier route codes. It also standardizes the address, city, and state elements of an address (e.g. Blvd vs. Boulevard).
Move Update: Mailers who claim First-Class Mail presorted or automation prices, USPS Marketing Mail prices, and/ or Parcel Select Lightweight prices must demonstrate that they have updated their mailing list at least 95 days before the mailing date.
NCOALink is a secure dataset of approximately 160 million permanent change-of-address (COA) records. This is constructed from names and addresses of individuals, families, and businesses
who have filed a change-of-address request with the Postal Service, along with cases where the Postal Service knows the customer has moved but they did not notify the USPS.
o NCOALink FSP = Full-Service Provider, which includes 48 months of changes
o NCOALink LSP = Limited Service Provider, which includes 18 months of changes
DSF2 Delivery Sequence File (2nd Generation) contains vacant, residential, business, and seasonal address information, along with identifying if an address receives mail at a curbside mailbox or by a doorslot. This information will allow for more targeted mailings. DSF2 processing is one of the approved methods for sorting mail in walk-sequence order (when not using a simplified address).
DPV Delivery Point Validation processing identifies potentially undeliverable addresses by verifying that each address matches to a valid USPS delivery point (providing insight into those that don’t, so you can correct them when possible). Included in DPV are the following:
o LACSLink Processing includes address conversions made by local governments, such as street name and house number changes (e.g. RR5 Box 234 becomes 5471 Apple Dr)
o SuiteLink Processing matches business names and ZIP + 4 to known USPS data, appending secondary (suite) numbers to addresses where available.
PCOA stands for Proprietary Change of Address. Believe it or not, 40% of the millions of Americans who move annually never fill out a COA with USPS. Those looking for additional ways to update files with more current (and therefore more correct) names and addresses often use PCOA, which is typically comprised of compiled address data from magazine subscriptions, credit card and utility company data, and some vendors. It reaches back 60 months, which can help reactivate some older customer segments that NCOALink can’t find.
Suppression: I’d almost say this adds a fourth ‘C’: Cull. Suppression refers to scrubbing files to remove unwanted records from a mailing (not necessarily from the list, but flagging those records
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you may not want to mail). For instance, files typically include some deceased individuals; this information should be removed. Suppression of inmate addresses may also make sense, depending on the mail piece. Suppression saves on mail production and postage costs that would otherwise be wasted, along with improving ROI (better overall response rate). The Data & Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service is another important list to use with marketing lists. Codes for each type of suppression should be available to make it simple to pick and choose which unwanted address types you want to suppress for any particular file.
All of these services help to boost the overall deliverability of your mail files, improving the value of each mailing. If you can find more movers, this improves how current and correct the file is. Adding Suite and Apt numbers, Zip + 4 and DSF2 creates more complete records.
It’s all in the numbers:
The average resident in the US moves 11-12 times during their lifetime.
Overall moves within the US were 8.4% (27 million people) in 2021. That’s an average of 2.25 million every month!
While moves have been declining over time (34.9 million people moved in 2017), what’s remained consistent is that about 78% are in-state moves, meaning it’s just as important for local and regional mailers to update lists as it is for national mailers.
If 60% register their change of address, that’s about 16 million individuals (seven million households). No, this isn’t an exact science as there are some who move out of a family home and others move as a family unit. Overall, though, it’s still a lot of people — and a lot of wasted money when mail doesn’t reach its intended recipients.
On the flip side, this means 11 million people never registered for NCOA in
2021! By adding PCOA, you may have an uplift of three percent. For example, on a 500,000 piece mailing, even after running the file through CASS/ NCOALink, 15,000 still won’t make it to the correct address. If each mail piece costs $2.50 to produce and mail, that’s a cost of $37,500 for mail that will never reach its targeted recipients.
Help your business and your clients by implementing a strong data cleansing process so their files are as current, correct, and complete as possible. Consider offering additional valuable services, such as PCOA, which will allow clients to reach more of their intended audience, creating better response rates, higher ROI and reducing waste. Make sure your address lists are current, correct, and complete!
Lisa Leslie is Strategic Account Manager, BCC Software, a BlueCrest Company.
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IGNORING THE SIGNS
BY LEO RAYMOND
There are many human qualities that can be seen in two ways, depending on whether the observer believes them to be positive or negative.
For example, someone who perseveres is praised by supporters as determined, courageous, and steadfast, but criticized concurrently by skeptics as dogmatic, obstinate, or stubborn. Persons who show self-confidence in the face of challenges are praised as tenacious, bold, and assured, while others may find such behavior to be intransigent, brash, or reckless.
Those terms and more have been used to describe Louis DeJoy’s style as Postmaster General. However, whether a supporter or opponent of DeJoy, all observers have to agree that he can’t tolerate criticism, and angrily brushes aside anyone who dares question or disagree. While making the changes he’s undertaken at the agency may require DeJoy’s focus and fortitude, those qualities may not serve him well when they morph into myopia and a disregard for caution.
That the USPS was in financial trouble when he arrived isn’t debatable, nor was the need to take action to avoid an eventual financial collapse. Whether how DeJoy has chosen to tackle the situation is the wisest approach is another matter.
Perhaps advised by senior executives who’d long harbored their own unfulfilled views, DeJoy decided that postal finances had to be turned around — quickly — and that the key was increased revenue from higher postage rates. Commercial mailers, he was persuaded, had for years failed to pay enough to cover the costs for the service they demanded.
However, there were some critical flaws in such a perspective that his inner circle chose to omit. First, Congress had long treated the Postal Service as a captive cash cow and in 2006 had saddled it with an infeasible obligation to fund 75 years’ of future retiree health costs in only a decade. That was not a burden recommended or imposed by mailers. Second, DeJoy’s predecessors (and his current deputy) had time and again agreed to generous contract terms with the postal labor unions, acting even recently as if the USPS was still enjoying the lucrative 1980s — when mail just “happened.” Mailers had no voice or vote in those agreements, either. Finally, decades of ineffective management had allowed the operating networks to become inefficient and expensive. Ratepayers wanted service, true, but were not involved in designing or operating the networks required to provide it.
Most inarguably to his credit is the one action which probably he alone could have made happen: passage of the Postal Reform Act of 2022, which eliminated at least $57 billion in unpaid past and future prefunding obligations.
He’s also undertaken a wholesale revision of the Postal Service’s transportation, processing, and delivery networks in order to make them more efficient and less costly. Though few debate the need for and value of such an effort, the initial steps are causing a level of concern that the process is being rolled out faster than thoughtful planning and analysis would require.
Nonetheless, with the idea now engraved in his thinking that ratepayers had to pay more, DeJoy set out to maximize the pace at which the red ink would be eliminated. What is becoming clearer, however, is that DeJoy’s obsessive demand for semi-annual rate increases is resulting in accelerated loss of mail volume, well ahead of what might be the normal attrition and diversion to electronic media. Concurrently, actual volume has yet to support his conviction that the package business is the key to the Postal Service’s future.
Three price increases have been imposed in less than 16 months (August 29, 2021, 6.8%; July 10, 2022, 6.5%; and January 22, 2023, 4.2%) with another of about 5.6% planned for July 9, 2023 — a total of 23.1%, or 31.1% for Periodicals and other “underwater” products, in less than two years.
In the 72 weeks from early October 2021 through early February 2023, mail volume has been lower, compared to the same period the previous year, over 69% of the time; in the past year, that number has risen to 75%. The picture for packages is even less encouraging. Based on USPS data, from early April 2020 through early April 2021, package volume grew every week, compared to the same period the previous year. However, for over 82% of the weeks in the following weeks through February 2023, year-over-year package volume has fallen.
Meanwhile, postal leadership has been dismissive of commercial mail producers and their representatives who warn that ratepayers can and will seek alternatives to the mail if the obsession for more revenue continues, as recent months are starting to indicate.
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Mail volume loss to electronic media has been ongoing for decades, but transactional mailers are increasingly encouraging customers to “go paperless” to reduce postage costs. Advertising mailers, setting budgets for late 2022 and early 2023 mailings, have reduced volume to offset higher postage prices. After benefitting from government COVID test kit mailings, competitive products are far from showing the volume growth the PMG expects.
To commercial mailers — who know the business of mail — these data are signs that constant price increases are threatening USPS volume and revenue; unfortunately, Louis DeJoy is too determined — or obstinate — to notice.
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Leo Raymond is Owner and Managing Director at Mailers Hub LLC. This content is based on information from the Mailers Hub enewsletter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE MISSION OF A MAIL PIECE
BY MIKE PORTER
In the world of high-volume mail production, it’s easy to get so buried in the details or caught up in handling the crisis of the day that we don’t pay much attention to the real reasons we’re sending something through the mail. On the surface, it seems obvious — we mail because our internal or external customers are paying us to do so. Other times, the short answer about why to mail might be to bill customers for products and services or inform them about the status of their insurance claims. But really, every mail piece has a bigger mission.
Some mail piece missions are pretty dull, like fulfilling regulatory requirements. For most others, though, the mission is related to convincing the mail recipient to take action or change the way they think about something.
One thing I learned in a business writing class a long time ago was that you should never lose sight of your goal. You write to effect change. If your effort isn’t likely to change anything, it’s time to question the decision about sending the communication at all.
I create content for a living and it’s surprising how often, when discussing a proposed white paper or article, I stump clients when I ask, “What do you want people to do when they read this material?” They haven’t really given it much thought. Common sense tells them they should publish something, but they have neglected to consider a purposeful impact of the piece. The same thing goes for material delivered through the mail.
When you think about it, affecting someone’s behavior or changing the mind of a human being by delivering some paper and ink to them is actually a pretty amazing feat. Who knew mail was so transcendent?
This greater purpose of mail is why quality control, reviews, and proofs are so important. A mistake or half-hearted attempt at any point along the design, development, production, or distribution process can cause mail pieces to fail in their mission. Even if the execution of the printing and mailing operation went smoothly, a mail piece that fails to
impress the targeted recipients is a failure, and that’s bad for everyone involved. Here are some common mail pieces and the missions they may be designed to accomplish:
1. Direct Mail Marketing
The focus of direct mail advertising used to be convincing prospects to make a purchase right from the mail piece. Some direct mail still works this way with coupons, catalogs, or offers. Often, though, the mission of the mail piece is encouraging mail recipients to take an action that exposes them to additional steps in the selling process, such as watching videos on the internet or visiting online landing pages. Each of these steps has their own mission.
2. Bills and Statements
Informing customers about what they bought, how much to pay, and when to pay are the basic functions of transactional documents like bills and statements. Getting customers to pay on time, reducing reliance on expensive customer service help, or enticing customers to consider more purchases may also be objectives for these widely read documents companies send through the mail.
3. Insurance Claim Information
Insurers provide these documents to inform customers about which claims were submitted, how much was covered by insurance, remaining deductible amounts, etc. Besides furnishing insureds with valuable information, these mail pieces hope to decrease expensive calls to customer service. Making these documents clear and understandable with plain language and directing customers towards self-service support options helps these items fulfill their mission.
4. Event Announcements
The mission of event announcements is to convince mail recipients to attend the event. To accomplish this task, the announcement should be clear about when and where the event is to be held, the cost, and, most importantly, the benefits recipients will receive if they attend. Registration can be encouraged via personalized QR codes or pURLs that pre-populate online registration forms with registrant data.
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5. Welcome Packets
Organizations send welcome packets to confirm a purchase, distribute mandated materials, encourage referrals, and inform customers where to find additional help and information. The main mission here, besides satisfying regulatory obligations, is to make customers feel good about the decision they just made. Balance the transactional/legal content with material that supports the customer’s choice to sign up and reminds them of the benefits.
6. Legal Notices
Privacy notices and other legal documents can be pretty boring, and readership is probably low. Staying compliant with the law is the main mission, but that doesn’t mean the mail piece must be intentionally uninspired. It might be worthwhile to include a cover page with some more readable content that summarizes the denser portions of the communication or includes a message from the CEO.
7. Donation Appeals
Making it easy to donate is critical, and most mail pieces do a great job of directing donors to online destinations or other channels where they can commit their support. Convincing donors they should part with their money, however, is the primary objective. Unless the mail piece can get the donor’s attention and tug at
their emotions, the mechanics of how to donate won’t matter.
Deadlines, job set-ups, material handling, postage, and all the other elements of high-volume mail production are still important, of course. You might say that attending to those items is your mission as a mailing professional. Paying attention to what that mail is actually meant to accomplish, or getting someone to define the mail’s mission, is just as critical, in my opinion. To paraphrase my old writing teacher, “Don’t start producing until you know why you’re doing it.”
Mike Porter works with companies in the printing and mailing industries to help them raise awareness for their companies, improve their rankings on search results, inform potential customers about the value of their products and services, and keep prospects interested as they proceed through the buying process. Learn more about his services at www.pmccontentservices.com. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.
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This greater purpose of mail is why quality control, reviews, and proofs are so important.
CUTTING THROUGH THE CLUTTER WITH DIRECT MAIL
BY KAREN KIMERER
Over the past decade, businesses have increasingly turned to digital marketing strategies to reach their target audiences. While digital marketing has proven to be effective in many ways, it’s still important not to overlook the power of print. A printed mail piece such as a brochure, postcard, or catalog can be much more memorable than even the most sophisticated digital marketing efforts. There are a few reasons for this.
First and foremost, a printed mail piece is tangible. It’s something that can be held in your hand, touched, and even smelled. This tactile experience creates a deeper connection with the piece and with the brand it represents. This is in stark contrast with an email or social media post that can be easily scrolled past and forgotten.
Printed mail can actually stand out in a world that’s bombarded with digital noise. Consider the number of emails you receive in a given day or how you might scroll through social media feeds while completely ignoring the marketing ads that attempt to get your attention. In today’s electronic era, it’s easy for digital messages to get lost in the shuffle. Meanwhile, a printed mail piece might catch your attention precisely because it’s not digital. In addition, well-designed printed mail pieces can take advantage of various design elements that digital marketing cannot. For instance, a printed piece can use various paper stocks, finishes, and inks to create a unique look and feel. Incorporating die cuts,
embossing, and other finishing techniques can add dimension and depth to a printed message. Personalization is another way to create a stronger connection with your audience and make a printed piece feel more relevant and important.
Perhaps this is why direct mail continues to play a powerful role in modern marketing strategies. This article explores the impact of direct mail, considers why marketers continue to use it, and discusses how digital integration can further affect a direct mail campaign.
The Power of Print in a World of e-Mail Overload
Recent data from Statista reveals that the American remote worker receives an average of 170 emails per week. Meanwhile, the average household mailbox gets fewer than seven direct mail pieces weekly. To put this in perspective, think about how you’d manage your incoming mail if you received, on average, 28 pieces of physical mail six days a week. Would you start to feel indifferent if so many brands were sending you printed advertisements?
Because consumers receive only one direct mail piece each day on average, brands have an opportunity to use print to stand out and connect with their audience. As a result, it’s not surprising that business respondents to a recent Keypoint Intelligence survey said that their direct mail spend was nearly equal to their digital marketing spend. What’s more, 68% of respondents plan to
increase their direct mail spend over the next two years (see Figure 1).
As marketers continue to compete for mindshare, they must find a way to put that print to work so they can get the most from their investment. After all, it’s quite difficult to measure engagement with static mail. It should therefore come as no surprise that nearly 70% of marketers responding to this same survey are integrating a digital call to action with their printed direct mail. The primary drivers are a need to measure campaign effectiveness and a desire to improve the overall customer experience.
Direct mail and email continue to sit at the top of the list when it comes to the most popular channels used to reach an audience. When marketers are asked why they continue to use direct mail, one of the top reasons is that print is easy to use. It provides a tactile experience that engages the audience in its own unique way. If used correctly, direct mail can be very effective, which might be why over a third of survey respondents plan to make direct mail a priority moving forward (see Figure 2).
The great debate over whether printed or electronic content is better for retention and prompting people to act continues to unfold. The answer often depends on the type of content consumed and personal preferences, but here’s what we do know — when reading content online, our brains are being retrained to skim and scan. Much of what we read on-screen tends to be basic text messages and social media posts that are easy to understand. According to researchers at the University of Maryland, “when people read on-screen, their eyes scan the pages and words faster than if they’re reading from a piece of paper.” Fast skimming of new messages can make connecting with a brand and truly absorbing the marketing message difficult. Even so, today’s marketers must consider the most impactful medium while also focusing on the media that their customers are using the most. While printed content is potentially more powerful, the massive shift to mobile devices for many daily activities cannot be ignored. Therefore, a mix of communication channels is often the best solution. The nature of the product or service being promoted is another important factor in determining how to allocate media budgets. Large format catalogs may be more effective when selling fine home furnishings or high-end clothing, but quick on-screen marketing
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messages may be more effective for transactional purchases.
When promoting a brand through print, it is important to remember that a good digital experience is also necessary to complete the sale. In the end, the objective is to offer the customer the best possible experience, regardless of the medium employed. Therefore, integrating digital links with printed direct mail is a best practice. Keypoint Intelligence’s research confirms that 96% of survey respondents are using a call-to-action in their printed direct mail to pull the recipient into a digital experience. On average, those who
do include digital links with their printed pieces report a 5.7% improvement in response rates (see Figure 3).
Preferences for Direct Mail by Generation
The effectiveness of printed direct mail also has a lot to do with consumer preferences. Research published by the United States Postal Service (USPS) reveals that many people would be disappointed if they stopped receiving physical mail altogether. As might be expected, responses to this question varied by age (see Table 1).
Although the oldest respondents were the most likely to state that they’d be disappointed if they stopped receiving direct mail, the fact is that well over one-third of respondents across all age demographics would miss receiving printed direct mail. This might have something to do with the amount of time we spend online. According to recent data, the average American spends a little over seven hours looking at a screen each day. To put this into perspective, some people spend more time looking at screens than they spend sleeping!
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All businesses understand the importance of building relationships with their customers and prospects; the customer experience has become key for success in today’s world. In many cases, though, the different generations will have definable preferences when it comes to communication style. For example:
Gen Z consumers tend to value authenticity, diversity, and social responsibility. They typically support brands that align with their values and are transparent about their actions and beliefs. Gen Z also tends to prefer personalized and interactive experiences, and they love visual content and YouTube videos.
Millennials value convenience and efficiency. Brands that offer fast and easy online shopping experiences are more likely to appeal to this age group, so this is all the more reason to integrate online shopping opportunities with printed direct
mail. Millennials are social media power users, so printed direct mail that links to Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok may be effective.
Gen X consumers want brands to be honest and straightforward about their products and services. They also tend to be more skeptical of marketing messages and may conduct their own research before making a purchase. A direct mail piece with a digital link can be the perfect way to quench their thirst for information.
Baby Boomers often prioritize quality, reliability, and customer service over trendy or flashy marketing campaigns. They typically value established brands with a proven history of providing value to their customers. A solid straightforward direct mail campaign will often serve their interests well. A QR code that leads to customer testimonials can be the icing on the cake for this generation.
The Bottom Line
Direct mail is an essential part of any successful marketing strategy. Consumers of all ages crave a mix of digital and physical interactions with the brands they love, so make sure you’re reaching them across a variety of channels! Investing the time into understanding your audience’s needs will help ensure that each dollar spent in direct mail reaches its full potential. When used correctly, the direct mail channel can generate real results — now and in the future.
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 well-versed in 1:1 marketing, web-to-print, direct mail, book publishing, supply chain management, data segmentation, channel integration, and photo products.
16 MAY-JUNE 2023 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
FAILING AND FAILED POSTAL OPERATORS
BY MERRY LAW
The postal sector worldwide suffered during the COVID pandemic — closures, lack of staff, very limited international flights — while the number of packages in the mail increased. All of them have had to manage severe natural threats with extreme storms, flooding, earthquakes, and wildfires in the last few years. The postal operators in the developed world have recovered. The less developed countries have had the same problems added to any previous problems with poor services. This is not to say all developing countries have poor service; some have very good service.
Some of the countries with poor post-pandemic delivery are those with poor pre-pandemic delivery. Many of the countries in Latin America and Africa and some in Asia had poor delivery for many years with little or no improvement over decades. Postal services were often seen as a cost center with little opportunity for profits or, in countries with government fraud, little opportunity for kick-backs. (Again, this is not the case with all developing countries.)
Mailed items can disappear from the postal service — or from customs. Delivery is spotty to non-existent in some areas of these countries. They face other complications that have contributed to this situation: massive immigration from other countries, civil war, terrorism, drug cartels, and internal migration creating large informal settlements or squatter camps. Little has improved with changes of government or when the postal operator has been reorganized.
During the height of the pandemic, postal operators in some developing countries closed for varying periods of time. Since the pandemic, some of these have struggled to fully reopen and provide effective postal services.
Postal operators from Afghanistan and Bangladesh in Asia to Ecuador and Mexico in the Americas to South Africa and Zimbabwe in Africa are struggling. That better postal service may not be the highest priority is understandable, but it’s still a problem for the international postal network and for international mailers. Developing countries and the international community have realized
that effective postal service is integral to economic development.
The list of countries with insufficient or poor delivery is lengthy. Mailers — publishers, financial services, retailers, membership associations, and others — are often unaware of the limited service in those countries. A few are on the USPS’s international service disruptions web page (https://about.usps.com/newsroom/ service-alerts/international/welcome. htm), but many are not. The countries on the list are subject to US government sanctions, have notified the USPS about an issue, or notified the Universal Postal Union (UPU), which forwards the notices to the postal operators of member countries.
Countries with failing or failed postal operators may be reluctant to notify the USPS or the UPU of problems. It’s not simply a matter of pride or respect, although that certainly comes into this. As long as they receive mail from other countries, they receive fees to deliver that mail. Remember that postal service is usually seen as a cost center. When international mail arrives, it becomes a source of income. If the mail is delivered, the recipient country does deserve a fee for that domestic delivery. If the mail isn’t delivered, what happens? Unless the country sending the mail files a complaint, nothing happens. Countries are generally reluctant to file complaints against other countries unless the situation is grave.
So, what about the mailers? Mailers need to track complaints from customers for missed issues of periodicals, missed financial statements, or non-delivery of merchandise by country at least. Other international mailers may be willing to share or exchange what they know about where delivery is problematic. International mail service providers are often aware of countries with poor delivery records, too, and may be willing to discuss this with their customers.
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.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MAY-JUNE 2023 17 INTRO TO INTERNATIONAL MAIL
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As the world becomes increasingly aware of the impact of human activities on the environment, businesses are facing pressure to adopt more sustainable practices. This includes print and mail operations. With increasing energy insecurity, higher consumer expectations, new regulations, and growing demand by investors for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance, pressure is ratcheting up for more sustainable practices.
The good news is there are steps that can be taken to improve the sustainability of print and mail operations, whether it’s among your many duties at a privately owned business or if you help run an in-plant operation. While setting ambitious, longterm goals is good, it’s important, as well, to think in the short-term to ensure that action is actually taking place. Here are steps can you take now to make a difference.
Make Sustainability a Part of Your Business Strategy
Integrate sustainability into your company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan so management, employees, and partners are all aligned with broader company environmental and financial goals.
Develop a strategy to reduce your carbon and overall environmental impact.
Oftentimes, sustainable practices over the long term are good for an operation’s bottom line because reducing inefficiencies and waste saves money. Additionally, running a more sustainable print and mail operation can help your organization’s brand image.
Reduce Paper Usage and Waste
Look for ways to reduce paper usage in your operation and consider implementing digital workflows where possible. Encourage customers to opt in for electronic delivery of invoices, statements, and other communications. There are software-asa-service (SaaS) solutions available, for example, that automate outbound document workflows and replace inefficient manual processes. Time-consuming manual processes lower employee productivity and increase the likelihood of errors, which can lead to waste. For print and mail service providers, there are solutions that can automate various business processes.
When you use paper, choose ecofriendly options. This includes paper that is made from recycled materials, certified by organizations like the Forest Stewardship
Council (FSC), and produced using renewable energy sources. Eco-friendly paper is often more expensive than regular paper, but it can help reduce the impact of your operation on the environment.
Adopt Energy-Efficient Equipment
Another way to improve the sustainability practices in your print and mail operation is to adopt high-efficiency equipment. This includes printers, folder inserters, and mail systems that are designed to ensure high-quality impressions and efficient machine operation. Keep your machines running in peak condition.
Incorrect or incomplete addresses not only waste time and postage costs, but also materials, resulting in higher volumes of returned mail. Preventing failed deliveries will reduce your carbon footprint. Additionally, recipients who mistakenly receive mailings will throw them out, adding to the waste stream.
Whether your focus is direct marketing, order fulfillment, or transactional mailings, accurate contact data is essential. Use a comprehensive contact data quality solution that will validate contact data as it’s entered
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across digital channels, correct existing records for compliance and customer experience, and maintain an up-to-date database as people and businesses move. Not only will this improve your sustainability, but it will also help the postal system do the same. According to the United States Postal Service, the cost to forward, return, and dispose of undeliverable pieces of mail was more than $1.38 billion in 2021. That cost is then passed on by the USPS in the form of postage increases.
Combine Documents in the Same Envelope
Modern letter folding and envelope stuffing systems not only remove the manual process of sending multiple documents within the same envelope, but they also ensure the right documents are inserted and go to the right recipient. The addition of automation software creates intelligent barcodes for each document that direct the folder inserter to group, sort, collate, and process documents based on pre-defined business rules. Combining offers or inserts intended for the same customer or
household into one envelope reduces the number of necessary mailings and transforms ordinary mail into high-impact and actionable communications.
Recycling is an important part of sustainability initiatives. Make sure to recycle all paper waste generated by your operation, including envelopes, packaging, and scrap paper. When possible, recycle ink cartridges and toner cartridges, as well as any other equipment that has reached the end of its life.
Go Multi-Channel with Communication Campaigns
Multi-channel campaigns provide a value-add to your customer base while increasing the effectiveness of campaigns and improving the customer experience. Support your mail operation with a multi-channel document delivery offering.
Measure and Monitor Your Impact
It is essential to measure and monitor your environmental impact to understand where you can improve. Consider
tracking your energy consumption, transportation-related emissions, and waste generation to identify areas where you can make changes to your operation.
Running a sustainable print and mail operation is essential to minimize the environmental impact of your business. By choosing sustainable materials, using energy-efficient systems, optimizing and automating your business processes, reducing paper waste, ensuring address accuracy, and measuring and monitoring your impact, you can create a more sustainable operation that benefits both your business and the planet.
Alain Fairise is Chief Solution Officer, Mail Related Solutions for Quadient, a leader in helping businesses transform their customer experience by creating meaningful connections through digital and physical channels. Fairise is a strategic leader with more than 20 years of experience helping businesses of all sizes enhance customer experience with the latest mail-related and digital communications technology. He can be reached at a.fairise@ quadient.com. Learn how Quadient can help your business by visiting mail.quadient.com.
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By Mark Fallon and Neal Fedderman
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL: NAVIGATING THE HARDSHIPS FACING MAIL MANAGERS TODAY
Many of the hardships facing managers today aren’t new to our industry. However, the pandemic intensified the growing challenges facing operations managers — including budget cuts, worker shortages, and shifting roles in the company.
The two most common struggles we’ve seen are (a) hiring and retaining effective staff, and (b) being recognized and respected by management. Without our employees, nothing gets done. If senior managers don’t understand how print and mail supports the organization, they won’t support requests for investment and growth.
The most important element of any operation is the people who do the work. Finding, training, and maintaining a motivated workforce has always been a challenge. The twin trials of the Great Resignation and Great Retirement have exacerbated the problem.
Brain Drain Is Real
The explosion in online purchases created a staffing crisis. While robots have
supplemented the labor force in some warehouses, humans are still the most critical component in the supply chain. The competition for workers intensified, with companies offering starting wages higher than the old industry average.
Older employees took a second look at their futures. When the brevity of life is the main story on the national news, how we spend our lives comes into focus. How we evaluate the cost-benefit of working more years changes. Time and money suddenly have different weights in our calculations.
The term “brain drain” describes what happens when knowledge of customers, processes, and procedures disappears with departing staff. Managers are faced with a diluted talent pool when experienced employees leave. If unprepared, the transition to the new state is exceptionally difficult.
Managers need to take immediate steps to implement the twin goals of documentation and cross-training. Key information isn’t safe if it only resides in the memories
of one person. Operations break down if only one person is trained on a specific process or piece of equipment.
Going forward, managers should formalize cross-training on the different types of equipment and processes. With the limited staff, this would allow for greater coverage and flexibility when there is a vacancy due to illness, vacation, or career change. Formalizing and documenting training will be helpful with new equipment and new staff.
To keep track of employee development, managers should create a cross-training matrix for all functions and equipment in their department. The matrix can be used to document the existing processes, functional knowledge by associate and identify any gaps.
Too often, print and mail operations don’t have any documented procedures. Clear procedures should be written for all major activities. Work and production schedules can be included with the procedures. Preparing and updating procedures must be given a high priority by management.
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And by management, that includes the leaders of the department — and the people who are their senior managers (people who may not appreciate the work that takes place in the print and mail operation, or even understand what happens on a daily basis).
Make Sure You’re on the Same Page
The most common challenge is the language barrier. Terms for measurement, postal regulations, and technology aren’t common to the rest of the world. At times, it may feel like there are two different languages, or at least a different vocabulary. One side only sees apples, while the other expects oranges.
Both sides own the problem. Whenever possible, mail managers need to use plain English to explain what is taking place in their shop. Telling an executive that the company needs to “apply for a CRID and then decide upon the appropriate STID for the IMb and Mail.dat” won’t have much impact if they don’t have a mailing background. They may better understand the issue if you say that the “US Postal Service requires customers to request a unique client identification number, and then indicate the level of service on the mail piece and the accompanying data file.”
Managers should also learn the vocabulary of their company, especially in financial
matters. New equipment, software, and training need to be identified as “investments” not “expenses.” Explain how the dollars spent will offset labor, material, and postage costs.
The differences for many in-plants were highlighted during the pandemic and continue today. Beginning in March 2020, much of the world stayed at home. Thanks to high-speed internet connections and online meeting platforms, workers found that they could accomplish their jobs from a home office — or dining room table. Many people continue to work at home as jobs have transformed.
That isn’t true for the people who work in print and mail. Envelopes still have to be picked up from the USPS. Contents have to be physically processed and scanned into systems. Machines that print and insert outgoing documents require operators to be onsite. The two-tier employee status has become amplified — those that have virtual or hybrid jobs and those that come into the office.
One way to bridge this gap is to focus on the common goals of the organization. Managers at all levels have to share the same vision of the company’s future. Just as importantly, they need to understand and recognize the role of every employee in that vision.
That begins with public acknowledgment of the hard work taking place every day. Senior managers should personally visit the mail center and thank the employees. If they haven’t visited in the last 90 days, then the operations manager should extend an invitation. Increase the impact by publicly acknowledging the staff’s efforts in company-wide emails and on the corporate intranet. Sincere “thank-yous” are the first step in closing the gap.
The struggle to run a successful operation is real. The right response isn’t to settle for less, or give in to the negativity. Effective managers will take a proactive approach toward solving the problems — before they become crises.
Mark Fallon is President of The Berkshire Company; learn more at www.berkshire-company.com.
Neal Fedderman is the Senior Manager, Parcel and Mail Operation at CarMax.
Mark and Neal will be presenting “The Struggle is Real” at the 2023 National Postal Forum in Charlotte, NC.
5 Bankable Ways to Improve Performance and Reduce Mailing Costs
By Mark Fallon
The Berkshire Company and GrayHair Software recently held a webinar that provided new strategies to improve the effectiveness of your mail, the accuracy of your addresses, and lower postage costs. Here’s a recap of five ideas you can take to the bank.
1. Remember, it begins with the address. The address is the linchpin that holds the mailing together. Validate the address at every interaction with the customer.
2. Cycle O moves the goal post for best practices. The bulk of the changes is to provide mailers with additional information that will enable them to make smarter mailing and business decisions. Work with your software vendors and service providers to get ready now.
3. Return mail is an opportunity to improve. Understand the true costs of return mail, including print, postage, customer service calls, and lost sales. Work the return mail every day. Also, use ACS and Secure Destruction to further reduce volumes.
4. Take advantage of the USPS mailing promotions. The USPS promotions are designed to help offset the costs to a mailer to implement solutions that enhance the effectiveness of mail and/ or the efficiency of the mail handling. Sign up for every promotion through the Business Mailers Gateway.
5. Never stop improving your processes. Make addresses a priority. It’s part of integrity. Speaking of which, add integrity to every mail piece. Implement piece-level tracking and closed loop processing — in your shop and in the lifecycle of the mail piece.
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READY TO SUPPORT USPS NETWORK REDESIGN
By Kathleen Siviter
At the time this article was written, the USPS and mailing industry were preparing for the upcoming National Postal Forum (NPF) in May (which is where you may be first reading this article!). Mailers and shippers were excited to see two USPS executive-led sessions on the NPF schedule focused on the USPS's network redesign plan — a topic of critical importance not just to the USPS, but to businesses in the mailing and shipping supply chain who depend on efficient, cost-effective, and predictable USPS processing and delivery. The USPS at last year’s NPF first shared its overall net-
work redesign concept, and the industry is looking forward to learning more.
It is important to remember that network redesign is a huge undertaking for the USPS and will take years to fully implement nationwide, affecting the majority of its facilities and many of its employees in one way or another. The implementation will be regional and iterative to start, with the USPS (and industry) gaining information on the changes and analyzing what works well and what doesn’t so that changes can be made prior to another regional implementation. Some things may change after the first regional implementation. In addition, many constituencies will be impacted — the mailing and shipping industry, USPS employees, consumers, and more. When it comes to its employees, there are labor unions and contract rules the USPS must deal with, which include timelines and processes for facility changes that impact employees.
The Network Redesign Concept. The high-level concept the USPS has shared on its network redesign plan is that it will consist of 60-65 Regional Processing & Distribution Centers (RPDCs — but don’t get too attached to acronyms as they could still change…) located around the country. These “mega” facilities would process all types of mail and parcels, unlike today where USPS has some facilities that only handle one type of mail (e.g., flats or letters) or parcels vs. mail. The USPS would eliminate the existing Network Distribution Centers (NDCs) but utilize those facilities in new ways, some with facility modernization or improvements.
The next level of facility in the network redesign plan is the Local Processing Center (LPCs) with the number and locations
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similar to the existing SCF (Sectional Center Facility) network. It is possible that these facilities would only perform destinating processing, unlike today’s SCFs, which do both originating and destinating processing.
Lastly, while the existing DDU (Destination Delivery Unit) carrier/retail locations will not change in many places, in some cases multiple DUs will be combined into a central Sortation & Delivery Center (S&DC). These could be standalone facilities, but in many cases could be co-located with an RPDC or with an LPC. And an LPC could be co-located with an RPDC. So, in some locations, one large facility could act as all three (RP&DC, LPC, S&DC).
Regional Processing & Distribution Centers (RP&DCs). One of the biggest differences between today’s network and the RP&DC concept is that, today, parcels often travel a different processing and transportation path than letters and flats. In the network redesign, all shapes and classes of mail would be processed and transported together, increasing density and filling trucks, which will drive efficiency and reduce costs. The RP&DC facilities may be large existing facilities (SCFs, NDCs, etc.) that get converted to an RP&DC, or they may be new/leased facility space. Areas that have been discussed as being in the early implementation plans include Atlanta, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Richmond, Chicago, and Houston.
Local Processing Centers (LPCs). The Local Processing Center (LPC) network is likely to largely mirror the existing SCF network in terms of LPC locations, with around 220 LPCs. If these facilities do not perform originating processing like today’s SCFs, that would be the most significant difference. In addition,
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an existing SCF facility could become an LPC, or if it is large enough and in the right location, it could become an RP&DC or it could be both co-located in one facility.
Sorting & Delivery Centers (S&DCs). The USPS has already started implementation of Sortation & Delivery Centers (S&DCs), which combine carrier operations for multiple Delivery Units. As noted above, S&DCs could be standalone facilities, or co-located at an LPC or at an RP&DC. The USPS is aggressively pursuing the S&DC implementation plan and moving quicker on these facility changes because they are integral to supporting the USPS’s electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and vehicle deployment. The USPS will begin accepting new EVs at a potential rate of 2,000 per month, and will need to have the charging infrastructure in place to support deployment of the new vehicles.
significant differences, however, between the Postal Service and other national distribution companies… and one of the key ones is the role that third-party mailers and shippers play — a role that has a significant positive impact on the USPS’s costs, efficiency, and service performance.
Walmart, for example, doesn’t have the manufacturers of the toys it sells doing most of the container preparation and transportation to bring the toys to the Walmart store where they will be sold. But for 90+% of the USPS’s Marketing Mail and Periodicals volume and a significant percentage of its parcels volume, third-party providers sort, barcode, consolidate, containerize, and transport the product closer to its destination, reducing the number of “touches” the USPS must perform. The USPS provides price discounts for work performed by third-party providers because it reduces the USPS’s costs.
In addition, mailers and shippers go to great lengths to achieve consistent, predictable delivery of their products to the recipients, through work such as presorting, barcoding, containerization, and drop shipping product in the most optimal ways for USPS. Some service providers will choose their facility locations based on ability to achieve the desired USPS service level for their customers. All invest in equipment, space, labor, and more based on the work they perform to process and transport the products prior to USPS entry.
The USPS is learning as it goes with the S&DC implementation and told mailers in March that there were many lessons learned and changes to the implementation plans after the first S&DCs were put in place. As the USPS learns and finetunes its implementation process, it is likely that it will be able to move much more quickly in the future, so the rate of S&DC implementation is likely to increase. The Postmaster General told mailers in March that the USPS hopes to implement 100 S&DCs over the next 18 months. Since the USPS received funds from Congress to support building out the EV infrastructure, it is able to make the necessary capital investments.
The Timeline Is Dynamic. The USPS has not yet implemented the first RP&DC facility, and has said that when it does, it would also implement the LPC network to support that RP&DC as well as any S&DC conversions in that service area. Although the first RP&DC is rumored to be in Richmond, VA, with an implementation timeframe of late summer 2023, that could get pushed back. And some USPS officials said it could take a full six months after initial implementation of an RP&DC before all adjustments that may need to be made occur.
In March, the PMG told mailers that he hopes to implement 42 sites over the next year — 12 RP&DCs in 12 regions and 30 LPCs in those regions. It may seem to be an ambitious goal given that the first RP&DC is not yet up and running… but as noted above, once the USPS gets more experience with the implementation and adjusts its plans and processes, they are likely to go quicker.
Simple? Some have heard PMG Louis DeJoy describe the plan as “simple,” and on the surface and at a high level, it is fairly simple: a hub and spoke design similar to what many others use who have a national network of distribution facilities. There are
For the Industry, the Details Are Important. For third-party mailing and shipping service providers, many of the details of the network redesign are critically important for their business and may impact their costs and/or service offerings to customers, so the sooner they know those details, the sooner they can begin the necessary business planning. Many of these service providers want to collaborate with the Postal Service to make the network redesign a win-win for all. Third-party providers stand ready to work with the USPS to pilot test changes in preparation, containerization, entry, and more to help develop the optimal design.
Even though the network redesign may be simple at a high level, the details are what may drive significant changes for thirdparty mailing and shipping providers. Here are just a few of the questions I’ve heard from third-party service providers:
Will mailers that today drop ship some part of their volume into the Network Distribution Centers (21 facilities), in the future have to drop that volume into the RP&DC network (60-65 facilities)? If so, the volume will be spread out over more drop locations, reducing density to individual facilities. Decisions likely will need to be made by providers in terms of which RP&DCs to drop volume into based on the transportation cost, potential service performance impacts, and customer demands.
For mailers of flats, it is not yet clear what the optimal flats entry and preparation will be for the USPS in the redesigned network, which will eventually have an impact on flats prices, discounts, and costs. In addition to the network changes, the USPS also is eliminating Flats Sequencing System (FSS) equipment, preparation, and discounts. Depending on how and where the USPS plans to process flats in the new network, it is possible that additional changes to the sortation structure and discounts for flats could come.
Will the network redesign impact where Business Mail Entry Units (BMEUs) are located, or how Detached Mail Units (DMUs) work? Will First-Class mailers that today separately containerize
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The USPS has already started implementation of Sortation & Delivery Centers (S&DCs), which combine carrier operations for multiple Delivery Units.
destinations at their own cost as directed by the USPS through Customer/Supplier Agreements (CSAs) be asked to make additional separations to accommodate the network redesign and 60-65 RP&DCs? What role will the existing Surface Transfer Centers (STCs) play in the redesigned network? How much lead time will mailers and shippers have to make changes ahead of a region’s network redesign implementation?
ing of multiple DDUs into a central SDC could increase that opportunity — and make it available to those with insufficient density/volume to take advantage of it today. There may be other potential opportunities for third-party service providers depending on how USPS may change sortation, containerization, or entry incentives.
The Mailing & Shipping Industry Stands Ready. Having been through significant USPS network changes before, the mailing and shipping industry is all too aware of the positive — or negative — impacts such changes can have on their businesses and on their customers. But we want the USPS to succeed, and we are working hard to engage with the USPS as much as possible as it works through the network changes. As third-party service providers that represent the backbone of the mailing and shipping industry, we are an integral part of a complex supply chain that depends on the USPS. We stand ready to support the USPS's network redesign efforts.
At which facility types will shippers be able to enter parcels of different types? For those able to qualify parcels or mail for destination-entered Delivery Unit discounts, the combin -
Kathleen J. Siviter is Asst. Executive Director of the National Association of Presort Mailers (NAPM) as well President of Postal Consulting Services Inc. (PCSi), and she has over 30 years’ experience in the postal industry. She has worked for the U.S. Postal Service, Association for Postal Commerce (PostCom), and others, as well as providing consulting services to a diverse set of clients with interest in the postal industry. She has also worked with PostalVision 2020, an initiative designed to engage stakeholders in discussions about the future of the American postal system.
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Depending on how and where the USPS plans to process flats in the new network, it is possible that additional changes to the sortation structure and discounts for flats could come.
WHO TO SEE AT
At the National Postal Forum, there are many solution providers who will help with your mailing and shipping challenges that you should stop by and see. Here are a select group of those exhibitors that you need to make sure to stop by, talk with, and find out more about how their solutions can be the answer to your problems.
Welcome to NPF. Stop by the Anchor Software Booth #821 and speak with our experts about Anchor’s industry-leading Data Quality and Postal Software Solutions. Is your software CASS™ Cycle-O compliant? Let’s talk about recent postal changes and how Anchor will save your company time and money! Using the latest technology, Anchor’s solutions for CASS™, NCOALink®, and DSF2® are processing files in the 100’s of millions of records/hour — ask us how!
Try putting for a Hole-In-One on our in-booth putting green and win fun prizes. See you at Booth 821.
The following trademarks are owned by the USPS®: CASS™; NCOALink®; DSF2®
BCC Software is the leader in postal software solutions for any sized business with tailored solutions to optimize and automate your workflows and maximize postal discounts. From mail preparation, tracking, data enhancement, targeting, Mail.dat editing capabilities, and statement management, we have a variety of services appropriate to meet any of your direct-mail marketing needs. Stop by our booth to learn about our newest offerings, including our biggest upgrade to BCC Mail Manager, and grab some free giveaways!
When your business needs critical information delivered with speed and accountability, ConfirmDelivery simplifies the Certified Mail process. Our program saves time by eliminating the need to fill out green cards associated with Certified Mail as well as reducing the cost of postage. With our web-based program, you can process one mail piece at a time or a batch of thousands. Our software is easy to implement and highly flexible. Visit us at the Engineering Innovation Booth, #225.
Join us at booth #225 to discover how Engineering Innovation is uniquely equipped to help you press start on shipping automation. Make sure to take a break as you try out one of our arcade games and F1 racing simulators, and discover how you can bridge the gaps in your automation with our LightSort Pick/Put Technology or Chameleon Parcel Processing Solution.
26 PARCELindustry.com JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2022 SPONSORED CONTENT
| www.AnchorComputerSoftware.com | sales@AnchorComputerSoftware.com | 800.237.1921
bccsoftware.com | email@example.com | 800.337.0442
www.confirmdelivery.com | firstname.lastname@example.org | 888.960.6245
www.eii-online.com | email@example.com | 800.350.6450 BOOTH # 821 BOOTH # 225 BOOTH # 225
Manufacturer of clear luxury envelopes. Our envelopes offer unmatched exposure and quality. EnvyPak products share an engaging, interactive quality that achieves the maximum possible impact for various marketing applications. The premium, crystal-clear envelopes at the heart of the EnvyPak product line stand out from all other mailers and enhance their contents — even before being opened. Combined with EnyPak’s full-color printing expertise, the resulting custom work is at the pinnacle of today’s direct mail market. EnvyPak mailers are USPSapproved, 100% recyclable, designed to be fully compatible with automation equipment, and available in various custom shapes and sizes. Made in the USA.
This year at NPF, attendees can expect to see Kern’s range of solutions for mailers. We’ll have videos showcasing our machines in action and our team will be available to answer any questions. We’ll also have brochures, product sheets, and samples of finished mail pieces that demonstrate the quality of our equipment. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about unique features and benefits of our production mail inserting equipment, card affixing machines, digital printing presses, and automated cardboard packaging machines. NPF attendees who are looking for solutions to enhance their mailing operations won’t want to miss visiting our booth.
Kirk-Rudy will be featuring their FireJet 4c full color inkjet digital press this year. Using Memjet’s DuraFlex technology, the FireJet 4C is an all-in-one printing system that delivers high-speed CMYK color printing at near offset quality for documents, labels, direct mail, and packaging. From print to mail, Kirk-Rudy is the equipment solution.
BOOTH # 1522
Melissa delivers a full range of fresh and affordable solutions to help you acquire, manage, and retain more customers. Visit us during NPF at Booth #1522 to learn how we can help you improve mail deliverability and streamline business operations. We offer 100s of consumer, business, and specialty mailing lists; data enhancement and hygiene services including USPS NCOALink, Canada Post NCOA, consumer demographics, and premium email/phone append; a flexible line of mailing software — all CASS and PAVE Gold Certified for address correction and postal presorting. Don’t forget to enter our Bose Headphones raffle — spin the wheel or play Jeopardy to enter! |
Nimbio is partnering with major delivery companies to make access to multi-unit properties a problem of the past. Save time opening any electronically actuated door or gate with our cellular-based controller that works with the buildings’ existing hardware. Save money with fewer failed first attempts and eliminate headaches caused by keys and codes. Nimbio also offers easy integration with partner apps and back-end infrastructure via our Cloud API. Come talk to us at NPF to find out how you can improve the efficiency and safety of your delivery drivers by integrating with the Nimbio delivery platform.
Visit booth 609 to see a demonstration of Quadient’s range of products. We will have our core mailing products on the floor and subject matter experts to answer all your questions. Our booth will feature the following mailing products: iX-9 Series with S.M.A.R.T. and iX-5 Series with Neoship. We also will display our popular Folder/Inserters with the DS-700 iQ with DEP/AIMS and DS-77 iQ while our Digital Print Group will be showcasing the Mach 6 color printer, AS-650 monochrome printer, and the new HD-MB50D document printer. Quadient Impress and our document automations specialists will also be ready to present!
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MARCH-APRIL 2022 27
https://info.melissa.com/npf-2023 | firstname.lastname@example.org | 800.MELISSA
www.quadient.com | 888.444.7362
Envypak.com BOOTH # 1022
| www.kerninc.com | email@example.com | 614.317.2600 BOOTH # 501
www.kirkrudy.com | firstname.lastname@example.org | 770.427.4203
nimbio.com | email@example.com | 800.353.3422
By Adam Lewenberg
ARE YOU PREPARED? FORCED USPS POSTAGE METER MIGRATION HAPPENING JUNE 30, 2024
The USPS is having one of its largest forced postage meter migrations in the history of the mailing equipment industry. This will impact an estimated 70% of the devices in the United States with a short window to make the changes. In this article, we will cover what you need to know about the change, how to gain visibility to your equipment, agreements, and terms, as well as what options you should consider for the future.
The USPS is decertifying all Information Based Indicia (IBI) postage meters by June 30, 2024. New devices need to be Intelligent Mail Indicia (IMI) compliant. Here is what you need to know:
Current IBI devices will need to be replaced with new devices and cannot be retrofitted.
The USPS is doing this to provide a higher level of security and visibility.
Devices will need to be constantly connected to the internet vs. only at the time of refill/updates.
We estimate that 60-70% of the postage meters in the United States will not meet this new standard and will need to be replaced (and don’t overlook the potential for supply chain issues).
This is one of the largest meter migrations in the history of the Postal Service due to the large number of devices impacted by the changes. There have been other USPS-forced migrations in the past to get to new metering standards. Examples include requiring meters to fill by a phone call vs. taking to the USPS, needing meters to fill through a modem vs. the phone, needing to have a two-dimensional barcode in the meter imprint, and others that have impacted the mailing market. The significance of this one is the high percentage of meters impacted by this change in a relatively short period of time. In past migrations, a large percentage of the nation’s meters had been already moved to the new technology through normal meter renewal cycles.
28 MAY-JUNE 2023 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
The USPS states that it is making these changes for the following reasons:
Better automate their operations
Higher security specifications due to the rise in threats and challenges
Validate correct postage amounts
Issue refunds automatically through the device
Have more control over what mail is entering its network
If you want to see the specifics of this change, you can do a search for the Federal Register “Authorization to Manufacture and Distribute Postage Evidencing Systems” Document Citation 85 FR 78234.
Below is a listing of the devices that we believe are impacted by this change. You should validate your specific device with your meter vendor to make sure our table is correct and/or to check if there have been any changes.
What You Need to Do
The most important thing is to create visibility to the equipment you have throughout your locations. You need to know the following:
Account numbers for your equipment and leases
Equipment models (to see if they match the list above) and serial numbers so you can gain access to the vendors’ web portals.
Contract expiration dates – Some of this equipment will be on leases or rentals that could expire in the future or be on evergreen agreements.
Mail volumes – It is important to know how much postage is being processed to better plan for rightsizing the future equipment.
Features needed – In the new solution, what is required for feeding, weighing, accounting, etc.
If you have multiple locations in your organization, we recommend starting with accounts payable to see where you have spend, getting copies of invoices, linking the details on the vendor websites, and having the vendors fill in any blanks to the spend. This is the easiest way to gain complete visibility to the equipment to see which devices will be impacted by this change.
As a rule of thumb, if you get the same level of equipment as you have today, you will most likely increase your costs. The question is if this is really needed. Mail volumes have gone down, online technologies have gotten better, current features may not be needed, and by validating the requirements with your end users, you can dramatically reduce costs.
Here are some examples cost-cutting:
Does the internal weighing systems and automatic feeding systems justify the costs based on your mail volumes?
Can you live with lower weight capacity scales because heavier items are typically going UPS/FedEx, or there are other scales that can be used onsite?
Are all the features in the current mailing system being fully utilized? Examples: mail accounting, custom weighing, conveyor stackers, special services, etc.
Can online postage be an option vs. low volume meters? There are 20% postage savings for parcels and can be expanded to UPS and FedEx processing.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | MAY-JUNE 2023 29
Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery
Enterprise Online Postage Options
When we look at a typical company, we find that they have a scattering of mailing solutions throughout their locations. Some have meters, some will use online solutions, some courier small volume mail to hub locations for processing, and others send users to the USPS to buy stamps at a five to 20% premium in postage. This is all due to the location needed to justify the cost of the equipment based on their mail volumes. Also, most organizations have little visibility to any of the mail spends or control with respect to how things are processed. Compare this to UPS or FedEx, who have one online platform where all users process items in the same way, where the client has complete visibility to the spends, and detailed reports for proper chargeback. With people working from home or in small offices, in many cases it is easier to send a $15 overnight vs. a $.60 letter.
The fastest growth segment in the mailing industry is enterprise online postage platforms that can be used across the organization to support all locations and users. These platforms can be set up with one enterprise fee vs. by location and are a fraction of the cost of other solutions. When we implement these systems, we are typically saving 70-90% of their metering equipment cost while providing a solution for all locations where many had been previously underserved.
These platforms add the following benefits that are not available with meters:
Five to 40% savings on USPS Parcels
Certified Mail functionality with electronic return receipts @ $1.25 savings. This includes USPS Firm Mail Book creation and one central repository for all Return Receipt signatures.
Single Sign-On to eliminate the need for usernames and passwords and to automatically remove users that leave the company.
Real-time rate shopping between USPS, UPS, and FedEx to make sure users are selecting the proper carrier and service at the lowest cost.
With the need to inventory all current equipment to see what is not compliant with these new USPS mandates, it is a great time to question if these platforms make sense vs. replacing with new postage meters, especially at the mid- to low-volume segment where most locations fall.
There is only a year left before most of the postage meters inside your organization will need to be replaced. While this may seem like a long time, when you do the work required (inventory all the current equipment, collect requirements from your end users, order the new solutions, make sure they are installed, and old equipment is removed), it is recommended to give yourself as much time as possible, especially if there are supply chain issues with the mailing equipment vendors.
If this conversion is not managed properly, you will spend more money for the new solutions, but with the proper oversight, visibility, rightsizing, and online postage options explored, there are large savings opportunities that can make you more efficient for the future.
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 56% and over $81 million on equipment, presort, avoidable fees, and lost postage. He can be reached at 617.372.6853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
30 MAY-JUNE 2023 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
Keeping your critical communications running so nothing comes between you and your customers www.mailgard.com • Paul J. DePaoli 203.572.3887 • email@example.com