Mailing Systems Technology May/June 2017

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Boot Camp for Mail Center Managers

By Mark M. Fallon

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18 Three Trends in the Market You Didn’t Think Affected the Mail Center… and How to Capitalize on Them

20 International Addresses… Demystified By Raymond Chin

By Bob Brock

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The 10-Year Review of the USPS Rate System Is Upon Us By Kathleen J. Siviter

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Mail & Technology Merge

Did Video Ever Really Kill the Radio Star? By Vincent DeAngelis

Connecting Point

Education Can’t Stop After National Postal Forum By Chris Lien

The Trenches

How Are You Doing with Dataspeak? By Mike Porter

Postal Affairs

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IMpb Compliance Is Changing July 2017. Are You Ready? By Bob Schimek


What to see at NPF

APP ARTICLES View on Website

26 11 Common Mail Mistakes That Could Be Impacting Your Bottom Line By Adam Lewenberg


Real Life Management

Coaching: Our Tool to Help People Reach Their Full Potential By Wes Friesen


When the Going Is Good, Don’t Get Complacent


A Unique Mailing Product = Found Money


Using Interactive, Personalized Video for More Impactful Direct Mail

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Editor's Note

Take Your Mail to the Next Level By Amanda Armendariz

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VOLUME 30, ISSUE 3 MAGAZINE STAFF Publisher Ken Waddell Editor Amanda Armendariz Editorial Director Allison Lloyd Contributing Writers Bob Brock, Raymond Chin, Vincent DeAngelis, Wes Friesen, Adam Lewenberg, Chris Lien, Mark M. Fallon, Mike Porter, Bob Schimek, Kathleen J. Siviter Audience Development Manager Rachel Chapman Advertising Ken Waddell (o) 608.442.5064 (m) 608.235.2212 Design Kelli Cooke RB Publishing Inc. PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098 Tel: 608.241.8777 Fax: 608.241.8666 Email: SUBSCIRBE Subscribe online at Subscriptions are free to qualified recipients: $20 per year to all others in the United States. Subscription rate for Canada or Mexico is $40 per year, and for elsewhere outside of the United States is $45. Back issue rate is $5. Send subscriptions to: Mailing Systems Technology, PO Box 259098, Madison WI 53725-9098 Call 608.241.8777 Fax 608.241.8666 E-mail Online at REPRINT SALES ReprintPro 949.702.5390 All material in this magazine is copyrighted ©2017 by RB Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. Nothing may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. Any correspondence sent to Mailing Systems Technology, RB Publishing Inc. or its staff becomes property of RB Publishing Inc. The articles in this magazine represent the views of the authors and not those of RB Publishing Inc. or Mailing Systems Technology. RB Publishing Inc. and/or Mailing Systems Technology expressly disclaim any liability for the products or services sold or otherwise endorsed by advertisers or authors included in this magazine. MAILING SYSTEMS TECHNOLOGY (ISSN 1088-2677) [Volume 30 Issue 3] is published six times per year, (January/February, Annual Industry Buyer’s Guide, March/April, May/June, September/October, November/December) by RB Publishing Inc.,PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098, 608-241-8777. Periodical postage paid at Madison WI and additional offices. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: Mailing Systems Technology PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098

TAKE YOUR MAIL TO THE NEXT LEVEL WITH AMANDA ARMENDARIZ As mailers, we have one basic goal: to get our mail to the right person, at the right time, at the best price. The steps we take may differ depending upon our industry, of course, as do our goals; after all, a large insurance company mailing mainly explanations of benefits (EOBs) has different objectives for their mail pieces than a direct marketer who is utilizing hard copy mail to drive sales. But when you break it down to the basics, we all use mail because it’s been proven, time and time again, that it is a trusted medium that works. That’s one of the things I love best about the National Postal Forum — it’s the chance for all of us, no matter how we use mail, to come together for a few days and discuss our goals, our obstacles, and our ideas. It’s a fantastic networking opportunity that allows us to discuss those particular quirks for our industry that those who are not mailers simply don’t quite grasp. I am so thankful to be attending the 2017 NPF, and I look forward to the chance to meet and chat with many of you while there. One thing I’d particularly like to hear about from our readers is how they are making their mail a success (which is, after all, the theme of this issue). As I stated above, we all have one main goal as mailers, but the ways that we can reach this goal are beyond varied… in fact, it can seem downright overwhelming at times. So I’d love to hear success stories from mail professionals who have taken their mail above and beyond. And if you don’t feel like you’re quite there yet, no worries. This issue is a perfect one to really delve into because it’s jam-packed with ideas to make your mail succeed. If you’re new to the mail center, Mark Fallon’s article on boot camp for mail center managers is a great introduction to the industry. If you’re feeling like costs are creeping up more than they should, don’t miss Adam Lewenberg’s article on 11 common mistakes that could be eroding your budget. And if international addressing is giving you a headache, Raymond Chin’s article on demystifying international addresses is a must-read. As always, we are your industry partner, and we strive to be the ultimate resource for you as you take your mail operation to the next level. Please stop by our booth at NPF to say hello, or drop me an email at to let us know how we’re doing. As always, thanks for staying connected with Mailing Systems Technology. | MAY-JUNE 2017



By Wes Friesen



ne of the great privileges we have in leadership roles is the potential opportunity to help develop and grow the people we are trying to serve. One valuable tool we have is coaching. Ian Berry hits on the value of coaching when he observed, "Coaching is a unique process of human development, one that works to change a person's life for the better and help him/her achieve a number of specific objectives." Coaching in simple terms involves a coach working with a coachee in order to help the coachee improve and be even more successful. We often think in terms of sports coaches, and we know that even the world's greatest athletes rely on coaches to help them develop and become better at what they do. Coaching also applies to the business world and to our personal lives — we can all benefit by both giving and receiving coaching. Let’s start by looking at the traits of a good coach before looking at a simple coaching model and concluding by examining the keys to successful coaching. Ten Traits of a Good Coach All of us have the potential to be good coaches that can benefit those we are trying to coach. I suggest the number one trait for a coach to be successful is to really care about people and have a desire to help them grow and develop. I concur with Byron and Catherine Pulsifier when they declared, “The best coaches really care about people. They have a sincere interest in people.” Let's explore the following list of 10 specific, desirable traits for us to intentionally pursue and practice: 1. An Organized and Committed Approach Use some of the tips in this article and elsewhere to develop a thoughtful approach to your coaching.


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2. Process-Oriented Develop a process that includes important characteristics such as having standards and goals, monitoring, and feedback. 3. Participative Feedback Feedback should be encouraged and flow both directions. 4. Objectivity Try to be impartial and rely on actual results, not only subjective assessments. 5. Knowledgeable/Skills A good coach has knowledge and skills in the areas where she is coaching. 6. Balanced/Fair The best coaches provide lots of positive encouragement and feedback. Good coaches also provide corrective input but not too much, which can be discouraging. 7. Flexible A good coach exhibits flexibility and adjusts to meet the needs of the coachee. 8. Patient/Tolerant Patience by the coach will help the coachee feel less stressed and more supported when mistakes happen. 9. Tough/Firm There are times when a coach needs to be tough and provide constructive input. Jack Welch speaks to this by saying, "Good coaches provide a truly important service. They tell you the truth when no one else will." 10. Realistic The best coaches realize that we all have limits to how far we can develop — very few become the "Michael Jordan" of their profession. The GROW Coaching Model One popular model to help us be good coaches is the GROW approach. GROW is an acrostic defined as follows: G = Goal Setting The coach works with the coachee to define short and long-term goals. R = Reality The coach helps the coachee explore the current situation and present reality — both positive and falling short of meeting expectations.

O = Options Here the coach helps identify and evaluate different strategies and actions to meet the intended goals. W = Will This is where a commitment is made by the coachee — what will you do, and by when? The 10 Keys to Successful Coaching Following are some practical keys to help ensure a mutually beneficial coaching experience: 1. Set challenging and clarified expectations. At the onset of a coaching engagement, it is essential to clarify expectations of both the coach and coachee. And since the purpose of coaching is to help the coachee improve and be more successful, mutually defining what success looks like is important as the next key emphasizes. 2. Create a vision that inspires. Defining what success looks like includes creating a vision of the future — a future that inspires the coachee to want to take the journey to achieve that vision of being a better person. Ara Parasheghian spoke to the role that coaches can play when he said, "A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are." 3) Build ownership and commitment. The coach needs to help the coachee own the coaching process and vision and be committed to work at having the vision become reality. Gordon Dryden observed, "People will exceed targets they set themselves" and we know that is often the case. 4. Build accountability. At the heart of the coaching relationship is a mutual accountability of the coach and coachee to each other and to following the expectations and pursuing the vision that have been set. 5. Create a development-focused partnership. The primary focus on the

coaching partnership should be on the development of the coachee. This doesn't rule out secondary benefits such as developing deeper personal and professional relationships. 6. Ask, don't tell. The most effective coaching takes place when the coach leads the coachee to discover and learn what they can on their own. Asking open-ended questions is an effective tool a coach can use. Phil Dixon illustrates this when he shared, "Probably my best quality as a coach is that I ask a lot of challenging questions and let the person come up with the answers." An example of an open-ended question could be, "How would you like to grow this month?" 7. Listen deeply. After asking open-ended questions, it is imperative to listen deeply. Listening deeply includes focusing on the person and clearing your mind, giving full attention including attentive body language, asking clarifying questions, and restating back key messages to ensure your understanding. 8. Don't be judgmental. Coaches should avoid the perception of being judgmental as it will cause coachees to clam up and not share their full thoughts and feelings. 9. Provide good feedback. Effective coaches provide continual feedback, primarily positive but also corrective. Feedback should:  Be timely. Ideally it should occur as soon as practical after the interaction, completion of the deliverable, or observation is made.  Be specific. A statement like "You did a great job," although positive, is too vague for future growth. We need to be more specific about what was done well or what should be improved for the future.  Focus on the "what," not the "why." Avoid appearing judgmental. Start with "'I have observed ..." or "I have seen..." and then refer to the behavior. Focus on the behavior and not the person. Describe what you heard and saw and how those behaviors impact the team and others.  Use a positive and sincere tone of voice. Avoid a tone that exhibits anger, frustration, disappointment, or sarcasm. 10. Focus on moving forward positively. Staying positive and focusing on pursuing the vision of improvement and growth benefits the coach and coachee. Pete Carroll is a football coach who has led his teams to college and pro championships. He encourages all of us that coach by saying, "Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen." My best to you as you help your teams and employees reach their full potential! ¾

Wes Friesen is a proven leader and developer of high-performing teams. He is also an accomplished university instructor and conference speaker and is the President of Solomon Training and Development, which provides leadership, management, and team building training. His book, Your Team Can Soar! Powerful Lessons to Help You Lead and Develop High Performing Teams. has 42 valuable lessons that will inspire you. Wes can be contacted at or at 971.806.0812. | MAY-JUNE 2017



By Vincent DeAngelis



ecently, a group of my friends and I were sitting around a fire pit discussing popular songs from our high school years when the conversation turned from friendly banter to a competition of who sang what and what were the lyrics. The conversation started with the standards of that year: “The Logical Song,” “Shattered,” “Renegade,” “Tusk,” and the like. But soon we moved to more obscure tunes and the ever-popular one-hit wonders. This brought back the memories of “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now,” “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right,” and “Knock on Wood,” just to name a few. As each of us receded into the far reaches of our memory bank to stump each other, I blurted out, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” This 1979 single by The Buggles was from the LP (long playing album). Now, be honest, how many of you had a nostalgic moment there? It was the Age of Plastic. Like many of the songs of that album, “Video’s” theme was the promotion of technology while being concerned about the effects of such technology. This is really a prescient thought because MTV didn’t launch until nearly two years later. And did video ever really kill the radio star? It appears not. Music is alive and well. Perhaps the media types have changed (MP3, CD, streaming), but the day the music died is not here yet. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself). As a matter of fact, vinyl is back. But why? Could it be that it is because vinyl sounds better, as some would claim? Or is it the simple act of having to go to a turntable every half an hour to change the album to the next side

makes one feel more “connected” to the music? Technology Often Offers Enhancements My point is that there need not be an answer or decision. Very rarely does technology “kill” something that works. In fact, many times it enhances what it was supposed to replace. Could the fact that vinyl reached a 25-year high in sales in 2016 be because people have more opportunity to access music and then choose what they want on a higher-quality medium? Whatever the reason, it is apparent that the music industry gives people choices and, in many cases, consumers access the same music via different, but complementary, vehicles. No Replacement for the Tactile Value of Mail Which brings me to mail and, more specifically, the linchpin of the United States Postal Service’s digital strategy: Informed Delivery. Nothing replaces the tactile value of hard copy mail, but the USPS recognizes consumers’ increasing desire to interact and communicate digitally with everything, including their mail. Informed Delivery integrates hard copy mail and digital marketing campaigns, thus creating the opportunity for users to act on their mail pieces sooner and for mailers to expand their customer reach. Advantages for Recipients Eligible residential consumers can sign up for Informed Delivery and receive grayscale images of the exterior, address side of incoming letter-sized mail pieces. Mailers who participate in Informed

Very rarely does technology “kill” something that works. Delivery interactive campaigns can provide customized, digital content (such as color images or a link) in coordination with their hard copy mailings. Informed Delivery allows recipients to preview their mail and digitally interact with this mailer-provided content, while mailers benefit from additional impressions — once when previewed on the online dashboard or via the notification email and again when the hard copy mail piece is retrieved from their customer’s mailbox. Additionally, all Informed Delivery users within the household — not just the intended customer — have visibility into incoming mail and mailer-provided content. Informed Delivery has been piloted for several years and consumers love it. They especially like the convenience and visibility into their mail that the feature provides. As for mailers, the USPS plans to create an Informed Delivery Campaign Portal to allow mailers to create and manage Informed Delivery campaigns and view results data. So, while video certainly has not killed the radio star, digital certainly has not killed mail. ¾

Vincent DeAngelis is Vice President, Postal Relations, and Shipping Product Management, Neopost USA. Neopost USA provides hardware and software to mailers and shippers of all sizes. Neopost-brand solutions enable businesses to send and receive physical mail, digital documents, and traceable packages. More importantly, Neopost solutions help our customers connect with their customers by establishing individualized, one-to-one business relationships. Visit for more information.


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When the Going Is Good, Don’t Get Complacent

Mailers, you deserve a pat on the back. In the latest Mailer Scorecard Performance Metrics report by the USPS®, mailing service providers have met or exceeded the thresholds in all categories. Since its introduction, businesses and providers have educated themselves, improved, and worked with the U.S. Postal Service® to maintain a high level of performance on the Mailer Scorecard metrics. In the changing and oft-challenging direct mail communications world, meeting and exceeding goals in this new Scorecard era is worth a pause for congratulations. Well done! These moments are fleeting – there are more big changes ahead for mailing service providers, such as Informed Visibility® and Informed Delivery®. While the Postal Service is still in beta testing for those two products, now is the time for providers to stay diligent on data quality. There’s a number still looming that needs work – 4.4 billion mailpieces were categorized as “Undeliverable As Addressed” or “UAA” in the 2016 fiscal year. Somewhat remarkably, despite all the changes in technology, UAA mail has hovered around 4 percent of the total mail volume since 1998. Many of new policies and procedures the USPS is putting in place, like Informed Visibility and Informed Delivery, are aimed at impacting that number – and the billions of wasted dollars associated with UAA mail.

When there was No COA. 75 percent of UAA mail cannot be

delivered is because it’s deemed “the customer no longer receives mail at address.” That’s partially because 40% of U.S. movers do not submit a COA (Change of Address) to the Post Office. That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road for the mail owner. While the USPS, by law, cannot change or alter an address, owners can use data housekeeping tools like Address Resolution Service (ARS) and Proprietary Change of Address (PCOA) to append data in a primary address. Doing Your Own Advocacy. Work with customers to help them

understand the importance of good data hygiene. Work with your processing and production staff to identify common addressing problems like run-ons, alpha/numeric switches, etc. Empower everyone to be an editor. Do not discount the power of one – one more sale that your customer’s marketing team can attribute to direct mail means more business for you. Learn more about the ways you can solve UAA mail dilemmas. Visit

Lessening UAA mail is about staying educated, staying diligent and reaching across the table to your partners for support. Start Simple. One of the most common causes of UAA mail is

sending mail to a deceased individual. A bit morbid, but using a suppression service to flag and/or remove addresses of deceased persons is a simple way to cleanse data and reduce UAA.



By Chris Lien



altimore will be the setting this May for one of the largest annual gatherings of industry professionals across the entire mail supply chain — the National Postal Forum (NPF). Held once a year in the spring, the four-day conference provides an unparalleled venue where industry experts and USPS managers provide the most comprehensive educational and networking platform possible for meeting the needs of a dynamically changing mailing industry. The Forum represents a true connecting point — a way for industry professionals to become better educated about USPS changes and regulations and a way for postal officials to really put their ear to the ground and get direct feedback. But is once enough? With ever-present changes in policy, legislation, and buyer behavior on one side, and the increasing demands of the end customers on the other, is it possible that just gathering one time a year can really be sufficient to stay educated? There are a multitude of ways that you can continue connecting with peers and USPS officials after NPF and throughout the year.  Online Education Perhaps the biggest barrier today with regards to attending educational events is travel time and costs. Participating in online events, classes, or certification can alleviate those costs, and it starts with the revamped Postal Pro website. Formerly RIBBS, the re-designed Postal Pro site features improved search functionality, modern styling, and an easy-to-navigate menu. Many vendors

and industry associations offer forums and online live events that provide excellent channels to connect with fellow users or members. For example, the BCC Software User Forum is a highly active group of mailing and marketing service providers, sharing tips for handling a variety of situations. We also offer a free monthly webcast — free and open to both customers and non-customers — called “Lien In.” In a roundtable format, we bring together professionals and experts from across the industry for an open discussion of current trends and topics.  Postal Customer Council Throughout the country, there are Postal Customer Council (PCC) chapters providing excellent opportunities for both education and networking. “[Being involved with PCC] is one of the core areas that’s being underutilized,” remarked Michelle Brown during our Lien In webcast in January. Brown is the Fulfillment Director at Xpressdocs and an active member of the PCC Chapters in Fort Worth and Dallas. “The PCC isn’t just monthly education. It’s the networking. Networking with your peers, but also networking with the postal industry. There’s a plethora of postal employees at most PCC events.” She went on to add that not only are events educational, but she also makes connections that she can return to with questions down the road. Find your local PPC chapter on the new Postal Pro under the “Industry Forum” tab.  Industry Associations Speaking of new websites, Idealliance (formerly IDEAlli-

“[Being involved with PCC] is one of the core areas that’s being underutilized.” — Michelle Brown, Fulfillment Director, Xpressdocs

ance and Epicomm) launched a new site earlier this year, and it truly highlights all of the benefits of the educational opportunities, certifications, and more that are available to members. Like the BCC Software User Forum, the Idealliance forums are bustling with active conversations and product advice. For some, attending one event might be all that is possible, due perhaps to budget constraints or busy schedules. If NPF is that one event, you’ve made an excellent choice. Network. Receive professional certifications. Attend the presentations and really engage in meaningful conversation with the representatives in the exhibit hall. I will be at our booth in the front of the exhibit hall and presenting twice during the conference's educational sessions and hope you see you. Please stop me and say hello. ¾

Chris Lien is the president of BCC Software and has been active in the mailing industry for over 20 years. During that time, he authored several software solutions utilizing Mail.dat for electronic auditing, distribution and logistics planning, palletization, and electronic postage payment. He has been heavily involved in industry associations such as the Association for Postal Commerce, EPICOMM, Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, and Idealliance.


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A Unique Mailing Product = Found Money For decades, the document outsourcing industry has sought an ever-elusive goal of profitably capturing the collective mass of small to very small mail volumes produced by businesses and individuals every day. A breakthrough product promises to do that and more for the entire industry. Any printer, mail shop, quick-copy center, association, business network, software developer, or other appropriate vendor that wants to profit from collecting these small volumes can join in, in a variety of ways. Postalocity processes all customers, all document designs, and all job volumes big and little, together, as if coming from one source. Processing is immediate, providing on-screen proofs before acceptance. As mail pieces arrive, Postalocity is oblivious to job volume, customer base, ownership of mail pieces, design and placement of address blocks or clear zones. Finished documents are produced in commingled print batches sent to an appropriate printer, all fully automated… all of which makes Postalocity truly fully scalable. Postalocity \pōs-təl-'ä-sə-tē\ noun Of, related to, or pertaining to all things postal. Print batches are sent to partners that are qualified and certified for the type of work to be produced. Partners can print their own, share and accept print, or not print at all, free choice. Any print shop that prefers to lay full claim to their jobs, can. Or, any job can flow into Postalocity’s general production network, allowing for geographic distributive print to select certified partners for expediting postal delivery. When a print partner with some unique capability joins, and Postalocity adds that capability to its offerings, suddenly all members can sell that service, and Postalocity will commingle and batch the print files to the appropriate partner. Mailers do not have to fit templates; Postalocity permits free and open design. Users do not have to fit windowed envelopes; Postalocity uses personalized closed-face envelopes, and users can develop a gallery of attractive envelope artwork. Direct typing for single letters, raw data, and .pdf uploads are all supported. Recipient addresses pulled from the .pdf’s or addresses in .csv lists are both supported. Certified mail, postcards, bifold and trifold self-mailers are all supported, and more is coming. International mail is supported with an established 50-country/250+-print partner network for worldwide geographic distributive print.

End users essentially control an automated mailroom via the program’s web site, experiencing a fully digital option to send real mail through the US Postal Service. Fear of human error from mail shops is veritably eliminated, as the user has full control over document errors. Most document oriented mailrooms and equipment can be eliminated. Properly implemented, savings of 50 cents or more per outbound mail piece can be realized. Commercial resellers such as business networks and associations, quick-copy centers, mail and print shops, can gain new revenue streams with new offerings. Promote the portal as is, or white-label it to your own branding. Any suitable vendor can be in the document outsourcing business within minutes. Mail or Print Shops can choose to resell the service, or sometimes use Postalocity as just an internal tool. Offload those small nuisance jobs in seconds, bill them as you wish, and these small jobs suddenly become very profitable. Lay claim to your own printing, or flow jobs into geographic production. Sell new types of work you are not equipped to do, and let Postalocity’s network handle the production. Become a certified print partner and receive geographically distributed work from the Postalocity network. Software developers can use Postalocity’s API calls to introduce USPS real-mail functionality into their software’s menus, and then enjoy receiving effortless, lucrative, found money. You can even create a directly competing outsourcing service by building your own user interface. Joining starts with creating your free account at, with or without calling us. Reseller application and agreements are available on your account’s profile page by clicking the account name. We look forward to contributing to your success. 316.262.3333


By Mike Porter




rint and mail service providers are doing business in a “data first” marketplace. Their customers have invested in data analytics to improve the customer experience. If print and mail vendors can use data to create personalized and compelling customer content delivered to the right audience at the right time, they will have made the leap from commodity provider to partner. This is a good place to be in a competitive marketplace. Transforming from vendor to partner is not automatic. If they aren’t comfortable with sales calls that stray away from traditional conversations about paper and ink for most of the meeting, salespeople will struggle. Some organizations will hire salespeople with consultative selling experience in another field and teach them about printing and mailing. Others may take salespeople who already know the printing and mailing business and train them in data analytics and consultative selling. Either way, service providers must usually change their sales strategies.

Digging for Answers Data-centric salespeople will ask a variety of questions to better understand their customers’ businesses. The answers help them suggest marketing solutions consistent with the customer objectives. Some of the information commonly gathered includes:

Selling Results, Not Print A print/mail service provider bases their data-centric sales approach on helping customers achieve their goals. Instead of selling postcards, self-mailers, or even complete campaigns, data-focused salespeople sell results. This requires a clear understanding of customer objectives. Without this insight, salespeople revert to pitching products the print/mail provider has to sell, instead of supplying solutions to the problems customers want to solve. Customers often verbalize their goal for marketing campaigns as increased sales, but consultative salespeople dig deeper to learn about the specifics. Perhaps customer interests include other achievements, such as facing off with a particular competitor or selling more products to existing customers.

 Who buys the customer’s products or services?  Where are the customers located? What qualifies them as buyers (age, income, business size, etc.)?  Besides postal mail, in which channels are the buyers likely to spend time?  Why do they buy these products (what problems do these products solve)?  What causes buyers to purchase these products (triggering event or condition)?  How long does it typically take a prospect to progress from awareness to purchase?  What steps do buyers usually take before they purchase? Do they visit the company website? Watch a video demonstration? Download a free trial? Visit the factory?

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Service providers will be able to compose relevant communications and construct calls to action designed to persuade prospective buyers to take those steps that lead to sales. Read reviews or seek advice from friends?  What content does the business have on hand to satisfy the needs of prospective buyers? Salespeople should know how to keep asking questions to clarify what their customers aim to achieve in the short term and the long haul. Perhaps recognition as a leader in their industry is important to the customers. Maybe they want a reputation for low-cost products or they cater to an exclusive high-end clientele. Armed with answers to questions like these, print/mail service providers can identify the data that helps them aim messages at their customers’ target audiences. Service providers will be able to compose relevant communications and construct calls to action designed to persuade prospective buyers to take those steps that lead to sales. They can show customers how they will use the data to control variable message components. This is a radically different customer conversation than one concentrating on list size, cost, and schedules.

Why a “Data First” Strategy? The benefits to such a sales approach are clear: Higher Margins – Selling value based on effective data use is more lucrative than selling print impressions. The ROI is more visible, and service providers can reduce waste. No longer will it be necessary to win business based solely on price. Differentiation – The ability to use data to improve customer document performance will be an advantage. Most of the competition will continue selling commodity print and mail. Customer Retention – Wider and deeper customer relationships come with the data first territory. These bonds will evolve as print/mail service providers interact with customer representatives beyond print buyers or purchasing departments. Integration with customer processes also makes accounts more resistant to poaching by competitors.

New Customer Relationships Cultivated relationships with customer representatives is necessary to manage a data-focused sales approach. Many of these relationships will be with executive-level people. They have a broader perspective on the business and can describe long-range goals they want the business to achieve. Relationship-building skills are probably more important than sales techniques when dealing with this group. It is necessary to establish trust and gain a clear understanding of the customer’s needs before any real selling begins. In data-driven environments, proposals should focus on solutions, not products. Executives do not want to discuss print and mail details with salespeople. This tactic sends conversations right back to commodity bantering with lower-level employees. Solutions that help customers reach their identified goals are the import-

ant part. The documents service providers create and mail are just one step on the path leading to the desired result. Not One and Done An important topic to cover with customers when talking about data-driven solutions is how to measure the results. This isn’t an area that comes up when selling commodities like sales letters or postcards. Print/ mail vendors have no stake in mailed communication performance, but partners do. Partners want to know if the campaign isn’t generating expected results so they can help their customers alter the approach to achieve more responses and conversions. New sales strategies based on data first approaches can be difficult to design and implement. If you need help, please get in touch with me. I can refer you to training and coaching resources that can prepare the salesforce for consultative selling. ¾

Mike Porter writes extensively on topics of interest to companies and individuals working in the customer communications business. Visit to learn more about his writing and consulting services or follow him on Twitter @PMCmike or LinkedIn. | MAY-JUNE 2017



By Bob Schimek



f you mail competitive parcels (Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, First-Class Package Services, Parcel Select, and Parcel Select Lightweight), you are likely familiar with the current fee of 20 cents per piece that is assessed by the Postal Service on non-compliant packages. The fee can be assessed based upon three different categories:  IMpb Barcode Provided: 95% threshold  Address Provided: 98% threshold  Shipping Services File (version 1.6 or newer) Provided: 91% threshold In addition to the current compliance categories, the Postal Service has also been measuring the quality of IMpb barcodes, address information, and the shipping services file, but it has not been assessing for these verifications. The current compliance categories are focused on the presences of the data. Did the piece have an IMpb barcode? Was a full 11-digit delivery point (or delivery address) provided? Was a shipping services file submitted for the pieces? In July, the Postal Service will be merging the quality verifications with the current compliance categories and begin assessments for the three IMpb quality categories. The change will simplify verifications by keeping only three categories instead of expanding to six by adding the three additional quality validations. The current thresholds, noted above, will remain for IMpb Barcode and Shipping Services file, but the validations for these thresholds will be changing. Based on the new validations that will be performed, the

Address Information Quality threshold will be reduced from 98% to 89%. The 95% Barcode Quality verification in July will require:  The IMpb to have a valid MID.  The IMpb to be unique for a minimum of 120 days. The Shipping Services File verifications in July will require:  The entry facility to match between the actual scan of the piece and the data in the file that was submitted.  The file must have a valid “post office of account” ZIP Code.  The file must have a valid payment account (permit number).  The file must have a valid method of payment, which could include permit, federal agency, PC postage, smart meter, other meter, and stamps. The Address Quality verifications in July will require that:  Every package must include a full, valid destination delivery address and/or 11-digit Delivery Point Validated ZIP Code.  If both the 11-digit ZIP and address are provided, the address must match to the ZIP+4 Code.  When the address is provided, it must include a valid primary street number.  When the address is provided, it must include valid secondary address information (unit or apartment numbers).

ware. CASS software can also determine if an address is missing necessary secondary address information. If the address is a business, CASS software can append the necessary secondary information using Postal Service SuiteLink data. If the address is a residential address, the CASS software can only identify that the secondary address information is missing, but it cannot provide it because the Postal Service does not allow access to secondary residential address data due to privacy restriction. The reduction in the address threshold from 98% to 89% was primarily driven by this secondary address information requirement. To better ensure compliance with this requirement, it may be necessary to consider integrating CASS software into your order entry systems and prompt for the additional information at the time the address is being captured. If CASS cannot be used at the point the address is being acquired, another possibility to consider is using data enhancement services that are likely also available to you through your CASS provider. It will be important to carefully watch these new validations to ensure you avoid costly assessments. In particular, pay close attention to the 89% threshold, since it is likely the Postal Service will be looking to increase it over time, so it might require some changes in your current fulfillment process. ¾

It is important to understand that to determine if an address has a valid primary street number, you must use CASS-certified soft-

Bob Schimek, Senior Director of Postal Affairs for Satori Software, serves as primary liaison with the USPS on technical matters affecting the mailing industry. His 27 years of industry knowledge and leadership provide product management and strategic direction for Satori Software’s mailing solutions. Schimek currently serves as Chairman of the Board for PostCom, Chair of Idealliance’s Mail.dat Work Group, and as an Idealliance representative for MTAC.


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BOOT CAMP FOR MAIL CENTER MANAGERS Tactics to mastering the tools of mail center success. By Mark M. Fallon


n May 30, 1984, I reported to basic training (“boot camp”) at Fort Dix, New Jersey. I still carry the lessons I learned during those nine weeks. I didn’t learn everything I needed to know, but I received the fundamentals to start my military career. The training I received became the base for all that followed, whether special training, like Airborne School, as well as my general duties as a soldier and an officer. With that concept in mind, Pat Ring and I developed the “Boot Camp for Mail Center Managers” class for the National Postal Forum. Before becoming the Associate Director of Mail Services for Boston


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University, Pat spent decades with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). In the class, we try to share the basics needed to be a successful manager in the world of print and mail. Any introduction to the world of mail starts with the USPS — the linchpin to an industry employing over 7.5 million people and accounting for over $1 trillion to the national economy. Led by Postmaster General Megan Brennan, the 509,000 employees of the USPS process and deliver over 154 billion pieces of mail each year to 156 million addresses. That includes your business and your customers. In addition to knowing the website address — — you should

know the people who work at your local mail facility. This includes your postmaster, the Business Mail Entry Manager, and the district Business Service Network (BSN) representatives. Take the time to introduce yourself and discuss how you can work together to be successful. Depending upon your operation, this may mean the delivery of your inbound mail, the proper preparation of your outbound mail, or both. You need to know who to call… and where to look. The USPS has developed online tools specifically for the business mailer: Postal Explorer – – This resource allows you to search every USPS manual and Quick Service Guide with a single click.

 PostalPro – – This replacement for RIBBS includes access to technical manuals, USPS presentations, Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) documents, and much more.  The Business Mailers Gateway – https:// – This is where you can manage your mailings online, monitor postal accounts, access IMb tracing and your Mailer Scorecard, plus a dozen other business functions. Schedule time on your calendar to make yourself familiar with these sites. Ask your local BSN representative to guide you through the Gateway, making sure you can access your company’s information. Reach out to your local Postal Customer Council (PCC) for assistance. WHAT’S A PCC? The Postal Customer Council is a professional association comprised of USPS employees and business mailers. Through educational programmers and networking events, the PCC helps professionals in the mailing industry improve themselves and their organizations. Basic membership is free, and most events are low-cost affairs. You can find your local PCC through the PostalPro website. Other organizations to consider: DMA – Data & Marketing Association IPMA – In-Plant Management Association MSMA – Mail Systems Management Association NACUMS – National Association of College and University Mail Services  Xplor The mailing industry has a unique culture — people are willing to share their experience and expertise with their peers from other companies. There’s probably someone who has encountered the same challenges you face today. To meet them means networking, which means joining and participating in professional associations like the PCC. A great resource for networking online is LinkedIn ( Many industry leaders post links to the articles and presentations they’re reading. The conversations taking place in the LinkedIn Groups are engaging and informative. Some of the groups I belong to include: Mail Geeks, Mailing Systems Technology, NPF-National

Postal Forum, and Postal Affairs in Direct Mail. LinkedIn’s email notification system is a great reminder to check out what people are discussing. But your training doesn’t stop with associations and networking. And the USPS is ready to help. Completing the Mail Design Professional (MDP) training and achieving the MDP certification will provide a good foundation for anyone — managers, supervisors, clerks, and operators. Training is offered at the USPS Business Mail Academy in Norman, Oklahoma, and it is available online ( as a self-study course, for free. The certification exam is only $90. Other programs at the Business Mail Academy include:  Executive Mail Center Manager (EMCM) EMCM ATP (Annual Training Program) Periodicals Professional Certified Direct Mail Professional (CDMP) A key attribute of a high-performing operation is the use of documented standard operating procedures. Clear procedures must be written for all major activities. Work and production schedules should be included with the procedures. Preparing and updating procedures must be given a high priority by the mail center manager. All procedures should follow one consistent format, with the author and revision date noted. System changes (e.g., new equipment, postage rates) or staffing changes should be updated immediately. Procedures should be posted in the shop and reviewed as part of regular employee training. All procedures should be reviewed and updated on a bi-annual basis. Not all procedures need to be evaluated at the same time. Instead, the procedures can be broken down into sections and a set of procedures assigned to a manager to review and rewrite as needed. Written procedures should include:  Start-of-day procedures  Workflow procedures Recognizing suspicious packages Proper wear and use of personal protection equipment  Inventory procedures Machine procedures End-of-day procedures Security practices

Security may be the last item on the list, but it must be first in mind for you and your employees. Review your security plan and make certain that it includes measures to protect your employees from harm and safeguard the mail that you handle. Examine the physical layout of your mail center. Ensure that all access points are secured from unauthorized entry. Prohibit non-mail operations employees from entering the mail center to pick up mail or packages. When you develop your security program, contact local police and emergency departments to review the plan, and, if possible, ask them to conduct training for your staff. Request additional materials for training, such as the latest warnings issued to law enforcement. Ensure you have the correct telephone number for the closest hazardous materials (HAZMAT) unit. As always, use the resources of your local postal officials. The United States Postal Inspection Service has been tracking and solving letter bomb crimes since the early 1900s. The postal inspectors were on the front lines of the investigations into the 2001 anthrax attacks. Also, they’re developing countermeasures to reduce the vulnerability of the USPS and the mail. The security of your mail center is an important issue. While the threat to you or your staff is minimal, it’s real. Don’t fall prey to fear or take rash actions that may create a crisis. Instead, educate yourself and your employees. Develop a sound plan and have it reviewed by experts. Remain vigilant and conduct regular evaluations. Be safe. Like my training at Fort Dix, the purpose of this article is to introduce you to the basics of mail center management. But it’s just the beginning. It’s up to you to continue your education and training. Use resources like Mailing Systems Technology to stay current with trends and technology. Attend educational events at your PCC. Network with fellow professionals and learn from their experiences. Continue to learn and grow as an industry professional. Welcome to the world of mail! Huah! ¾

MARK M. FALLON is President & CEO, The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. Contact him at 508.485.9090 or | MAY-JUNE 2017


Three Trends in the Market You Didn’t Think Affected the Mail Center… and How to Capitalize on Them By Bob Brock


oday, we share information in ways — and at speeds — that would have been inconceivable not long ago. Still, many mail centers haven’t changed in decades, especially when it comes to inbound mail processes, despite 40% increases in mail costs. Mail remains an integral part of many business operations, but all too often, getting that mail is inefficient — or even downright impossible, as modern workstyles keep employees on the move in and outside the office. However, there are new business trends occurring that should reshape the way businesses look at mail, enabling them to embrace a more modern approach. Three 18

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of these trends are, broadly stated: compliance, real estate, and digitization. Compliance Challenges People refer to this as “the digital age,” but when it comes to legal matters, paper records and communications remain incredibly important. For example, take a subpoena — or a note from the FDA, or any other pressing legal document — that is sent to an employee in a New York office, but he or she may be working out of the San Francisco office that week. With traditional mail handling, that employee has no way of knowing that document is awaiting their arrival in New York. A judge may not care why the employee missed

the time-sensitive mail piece, and the employee may find themselves in breach or in other kinds of trouble with the court. Forwarding addresses can help, but forwarding mail can be slow, and modern work often demands more flexibility than leaving a forwarding address allows. Furthermore, digitization creates a permanent electronic record of inbound communications, helping to ensure compliance with discovery and regulatory needs, as well as making record lookup faster and easier. How can you address and capitalize on these challenges? Look for new ways to accommodate remote, mobile, and hot-desking (the office

Real Estate Challenges As property costs go up and newer workstyles (such as mobile work, remote work, and hot-desking mentioned earlier) increase in popularity, physical office spaces are shrinking. That leaves less space for mail centers, yes, but it also means it’s harder to pinpoint where a mail recipient will be on a given day as employees move within and between offices. With traditional mail delivery, that can cause delays, missed messages, and a greater expense for managing your information.

practice of allocating desks to workers only when they are required) employees by deploying a service that enables mail to follow recipients wherever they go. One way to accomplish this goal is via email with intelligent delivery services. By digitizing incoming mail and alerting recipients, you unify the inbox, thus enabling the worker to work anywhere. There are services available today that can gather data on frequent behaviors, such as an HR department’s preference to always physically receive large mail pieces, or take note on an employee’s habits of working out of other offices to help design a more efficient delivery process for critical information. Pressing matters of compliance aren’t the only type of time-sensitive mail, though. Even those who don’t work in highly regulated or often-litigated industries need to be able to communicate quickly, accurately, and effectively. However, the office itself is changing, which means the way offices’ mail is handled is changing, too.

How can you address and capitalize on these challenges? With an inbox unified by intelligent delivery services, recipients can choose to confirm their current location on the fly. That way, when recipients want to receive physical copies of their mail, they can do so on the first delivery attempt. The way to capitalize on the new world of work is to be more efficient. Evaluate how your mail center looks at analytics… and whether they’re being used at all. Design analytics to further enable smarter business decisions by observing metrics that drive real insights around how mail moves — within the business walls and beyond to those mobile, remote, and hot-desking locations. How often is mail received digitally in the office versus on-the-go? How often is physical mail delivered when digitization is an option? The list goes on. Based on that information and analysis, adjust processing patterns so the mail is managed based on recipients’ preferences, no matter where their work takes them. Digitization Challenges Implementing a process that manages digitization accurately, seamlessly, and in accordance with unique business regulations can be an overwhelming task. The handling of so many types of documents is strictly regulated, especially when it comes to confidential and litigious matters. Recipients need to be confident they will receive their mail accurately, securely, and on time. That means a digital operation has to be reliable, secure, and efficient. Digitization is on the rise across enterprises. Businesses love digitization not only because it speeds up the sharing of information but also because, when leveraged properly, it can pro-

vide a lot of additional data. That data can become actionable insights, multiplying the efficiency gains inherent to digitization. But those gains aren’t worth it if the actual act of getting mail to recipients is negatively impacted. Furthermore, employees can be slow to adjust to the new approaches of digitizing mail delivery. How can you address and capitalize on these challenges? For that reason, you should look for an intelligent approach that takes into account unique workstyles and slow adopter challenges. By enabling users to view where their mail is coming from and choose the appropriate method to receive content, you’ve made mail simple. Empower users with a menu of choices to receive an electronic copy and destroy the physical copy, receive an electronic copy and deliver the physical copy, only receive the physical copy, or reject the mail piece outright. This provides the assurance that wherever work takes them, they’ll get their mail on time in the format that best matches the way they work. These services aren’t just unifying the inbox; they’re decluttering it, too. Technology alters the workplace — regardless of what form it takes — and creates new technology requirements to address the trends in compliance, real estate, and digitization. Enhancements to the manner in which inbound mail is managed can help cut one of the last lines that tethers workers to traditional, fixed working locations. The implementation of new intelligent delivery services can empower the mail center of tomorrow to reach internal recipients, in the form they prefer, no matter where their work takes them; helps cut down on spam; and streamlines office operations. Does your mail center do that? ¾

BOB BROCK is Vice President, Legal and Managed Services, Ricoh USA, Inc. He is responsible for Managed Services sales within the US as well as the legal vertical and off-site services revenue for Ricoh in the Americas. With more than 30 years of experience, Brock’s efforts in growing Ricoh’s services portfolio have contributed to building the organization’s reputation as a best-in-class services provider. | MAY-JUNE 2017


INTERNATIONAL ADDRESSES‌ DEMYSTIFIED International addressing is a whole new game for some mailers. But with careful attention, you can be as successful with international communications are you are with domestic ones. | By Raymond Chin


ften when we work with international mailing addresses, we have such a near-focused approach to the topic that the addresses appear to be opaque and impossible to decode. As we spend more time looking at the address elements, we can see that, although the art and science of international addresses can be challenging, it can still make sense. Understanding the common elements and the international patterns is critical. Let’s look at some of the general challenges that can be tackled. In domestic addresses, we are accustomed to seeing a primary address line containing the house/ business number and street type such an avenue, boulevard, or circle. If available, secondary information, like floor, suite, or unit, is presented on the next address line. Lesser-used terms (such as pier, hanger, or lot) could also appear in second20

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ary information. In most countries, these lesser-used terms are separate parts or address elements. In Germany, Wacholderweg or Einsteinstrasse could be presented as a compound term that includes a street name and street type. In France or Spain, the street type may precede the house/ business number, as in Rue de la Paix or Calle Rodrigue, while in the United States, these uncommon terms come after the street name. Generally, in international addressing, you run across similar elements but may see them in a different order in native or local languages. In international addressing, the matching and delivery process is strongly based upon the outlying descriptors beyond the normal street name, town, province, or postal code. The importance of final delivery also requires focus on elements such as building name, locality, or district, in whatever order the country specifies.

When it comes to postal codes, most people domestically understand the value for postal delivery. On international addresses, it is just as important. Often, people will omit a postal code or not properly format it. Not all postal codes are strictly numeric. Based on the country of the address, some postal codes have spaces or alpha characters and may contain punctuation. Proper formatting is key for machine matching and usability. The inherent knowledge to include a postal code makes sense to most people, but when you add the formatting and proper order placement, it can be daunting. Most people understand the logic of town, province, and postal code elements ordered on a city/state/ZIP line, with some countries preferring the order to be postal code, town, and then province presented in the mailing address. Varying the elements ordering can often delay or harm postal delivery.

When system changes are planned to support international addressing, people often think in programmatic terms such as increasing the length of address lines from 30 characters to 50 or 60 characters or increasing the number of address lines to seven or eight lines to capture the other data elements. That does not go far enough. The challenges are not only on the delivery person but also fall on data processing and management of the international address. A key strategy within the postal arena is to parse the elements into separate buckets, give them appropriate names, and manage based upon stored elements. The Universal Postal Union (UPU), a constituent part of the United Nations, has developed the standard S42-8 for international postal address components and templates, which defines the rules for formatting the addresses for each country. The eighth version of S42-8 was published in February 2017, supporting over 50 countries and has a companion standard, S53-2, for exchange of name and address data in XML. Together, S42-8 and the expected S53-2 attempt to make a worldwide homogeneous standard for storage and naming of the elements along with bundling

of elements into workable components. The value of the UPU standard nomenclature on the address elements allows for proper address storage, re-composing, and address validation among all countries worldwide. The result of properly handled and stored address elements provides the foundation for handling variations and nuances among addresses worldwide, both domestic and international. For example, in New York City, in the address 347 East 53rd St, East is a directional, while in East End Avenue, East is part of the street name. With properly stored elements, address templates can be formatted per UPU- and postal agency-approved address formats. Also, intelligent management rules or the rendition of the address label can be applied. S42-8 uses the Postal Address Template Description Language (PATDL) to support the rendition of the UPU address elements identified in S42-8 to enable proper address label formatting for most major countries within the guidelines of the postal agencies for delivery and readability. The UPU specifications include integrated rendition instructions for final presentation of addresses and

support of integrated tables for validation and abbreviation of element data. Although the various orderings and combinations of the elements can be confusing when looking at international addresses, there is a longer-term solution for data management, parsing, storage, and data exchange among various entities. These are supported by participating postal agencies and approved through the UPU governing bodies to support worldwide addressing initiatives and can be extended to incorporate geocoding initiatives now being considered. With the continually increasing number of international deliveries, these standards will gain more acceptance in daily address validation and usage to take the mystery away from the nuances of international address formatting and presentation. ž

RAYMOND CHIN has worked as a consultant and postal addressing advisor for various companies over the course of 30 years. His knowledge of both domestic US and international addressing has been gained through his activity in industry events. He can be contacted at | MAY-JUNE 2017


THE 10-YEAR REVIEW OF THE USPS RATE SYSTEM IS UPON US A look at the PRC’s upcoming review of the PAEA and what the potential, far-reaching impacts could be.

By Kathleen J. Siviter


ate 2016 marked the tenth year since the current set of laws governing the U.S. Postal Service were enacted. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) was passed into law in December 2006, and it included the requirement that 10 years later, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) would perform a review to determine if the new rate-making system that was put in place in 2006 is meeting the objectives of the law. And so the process began, with the PRC opening a “docket” (RM2017-3) on December 20, 2016, to begin the required review. The PRC initially laid out how it wanted those commenting on the review to frame their comments, as well as a rough time-


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table for the proceeding. It then began a period for public comment, which ended on March 20, 2017. Over 65 separate sets of comments were filed at the PRC in the proceeding, including comments from the U.S. Postal Service, USPS employee labor organizations, UPS, associations representing mailers and service providers, dozens of individual businesses and non-profit organizations, and others. Why so much interest in this particular regulatory proceeding? There is a lot at stake… What’s at Stake? Obviously one of the biggest things at stake in this proceeding is whether USPS rate increases for market dominant (monop-

oly) products will continue to be capped at the annual CPI. But there are many other elements in the law that the PRC is likely to review and which could be impacted by the outcome of the proceeding(s). The current law has nine objectives that the rate system should achieve, including maximizing incentives to reduce costs and increase efficiency; creating predictability and stability in rates; maintaining high-quality service standards; allowing the USPS pricing flexibility; ensuring the USPS has adequate revenues (including retained earnings) to maintain financial stability; reducing the administrative burden and increasing the transparency of the ratemaking process; enhancing mail security and deterring terrorism; establishing and maintaining a just

ity of the rate schedule and relationships between rates; pricing flexibility to encourage increased volume and operating efficiency; and other factors. [All the objectives and factors are laid out in the PAEA, which is available on the PRC’s website at] In announcing the start of the 10-year review, the PRC said its review “will engage in a comprehensive evaluation of all aspects of the ratemaking system,” including: “The annual limitation on the percentage changes in rates; The schedule for rate changes; The 45-day notice before the implementation of rate adjustments; Expedited rate changes due to extraordinary or exceptional circumstances; Class level application of the annual limitation; The rounding of rates and fees; The use of unused rate authority; and worksharing discounts.” Those using the mail for communications, transaction, advertising, and marketing don’t have to search back far prior to PAEA to be reminded of the devastating effects of USPS rate changes prior to PAEA. These rate changes were unpredictable, inconsistent, often included huge percentage increases depending on the mail class/product, and generally involved contentious and long legal proceedings costing both the USPS and the industry extraordinary legal fees. The mailing industry largely has credited the CPI rate cap with bringing stability, predictability, and affordability to USPS rate changes.

and reasonable schedule for rates and classifications; and allocating the USPS’ total institutional costs appropriately between market dominant (monopoly) products and competitive products. In addition, the law lays out 14 items that the PRC should take into account in establishing/revising the rate-making system. These include factors such as value of the mail service to sender/recipient; that each mail class/type of service bears its attributable costs and a portion of institutional costs; the effect of rate increases on the general public and mail users; the alternative means of sending/receiving mail at reasonable costs; the degree of mail preparation performed by mailers and cost reductions for the USPS; the simplic-

A Complex Conundrum In addition to the complexities that already abound in the USPS’s rate setting system, there have been significant changes that occurred during the 10 years since PAEA was enacted that make a review of whether the rate system is achieving the objectives in the law even more complex. First, Congress included requirements in the law that the USPS pre-fund retiree health benefits, which essentially resulted in USPS annual payment requirements of over $5 billion. This requirement was put in place at a time when mail volumes were seeing significant increases year over year and the Great Recession was not envisioned. When volumes tanked during the recession and beyond, the USPS ultimately was unable to make the annual payments required under the law, which largely has led to its current financial “dilemma.” How should the financial pressures from the pre-funding requirements be treated in the context of whether the USPS’s rate system has worked over the past 10 years? How should the dramatic decline in mail volumes as a result of the recession be considered? These are just a few of the complexities of the 10-year review, and neither was envisioned when the PAEA was crafted. No Surprises in Round One In terms of the main positions that could be taken in this process — keep the CPI rate cap, or eliminate the CPI rate cap — those who submitted comments to the PRC basi-

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cally stuck to “party lines.” The USPS and the organizations representing its workforce weighed in on the side of eliminating the rate cap to give the USPS more “pricing flexibility.” Those representing businesses using the mail (industry associations as well as individual businesses) took the opposite position that the existing CPI rate cap should be retained because it has kept postal prices affordable and predictable. A few who commented in the current PRC docket recommended that a different price cap index be considered instead of CPI-U, and many commenters weighed in on other aspects of the review such as workshare discounts, mail categories not currently covering their costs, appropriation of institutional costs between monopoly and competitive product categories, whether demand for using postal products/services is price-elastic or not, and other aspects of the rate system. Potential Outcomes Before we think about the potential outcomes of the PRC issuing a ruling in the

10-year rate system review, it is important to understand that there are some in the postal industry who disagree that the PRC has the authority to make changes to the existing CPI rate-cap system of rate making enacted in the 2006 law. Some believe that the PAEA did not give the PRC the authority to make changes to the rate-cap system during the 10-year review — that such changes can only be made as part of a legislative process. The way the PRC has laid out what it intends to do in the 10-year review is that in this first proceeding, it will determine whether the rate-making system established with the PAEA is meeting the nine objectives. If the PRC determines it is, then that could be the end of the review. If the PRC determines the current rate-making system is not meeting any one (or more) of the nine objectives in the PAEA, then it likely will begin a second proceeding to determine what changes are needed. When it laid out its timetable for the first proceeding, the PRC said it planned to rule in early autumn of 2017, and if it determined

that a second proceeding was needed to determine changes to the rate system, that proceeding would begin shortly after the first proceeding concludes. Based on the comments received in the current PRC proceeding as well as patterns of behavior with such proceedings since the passage of PAEA, here are some potential scenarios following the outcome of the current PRC proceeding. PRC rules that the existing rate system is meeting the objectives of the PAEA. This likely would end the PRC proceedings, but the USPS and/or its labor organizations could take up the issue in the appeals court. In this scenario, absent any other legislative change, it is likely that the USPS would move ahead with a January 2018 CPI-cap price change while the argument is taken up in appeals court. PRC rules that the existing rate system is NOT meeting the objectives of the PAEA. The PRC then would begin a rulemaking proceeding to review potential changes to the system. Those who do not agree that the PRC has the authority


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to change the rate cap, however, could take up the issue in the appeals court either before, during, or following the second PRC proceeding. In this scenario, it is harder to predict what the USPS might do in terms of its annual CPI-cap price change. It could delay doing so until the outcome of the second proceeding, or it could go ahead with it and then perhaps consider a subsequent price change if allowed under whatever changes are enacted — though legal battles likely would be going on in the background in the appeals courts. And Then There’s Postal Reform… Neither of the above scenarios take into account any new postal reform legislation passing into law — that likely would cause a significant change in the PRC proceeding depending on what is included in any new legislation. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in mid-March passed a bipartisan postal reform bill (HR 756). The legislation still has a long way to go

in the House, much less the Senate. But if it were to pass, it would dramatically change the USPS’ financial picture and could negate some of the issues being raised in the PRC 10-year review proceeding, though the USPS has made clear that it has a three-pronged approach to its future, which includes not only “positive” postal reform, but also a “favorable outcome” in the 10-year review process as well as “aggressive management action” by USPS management. Personally, I think the PRC is unlikely to issue any ruling or decision on the 10-year review until after the end of this Congressional session. That way, if postal reform legislation were to be passed before summer, the PRC could take into account whatever was included in the legislation in terms of its review. For Now… A Waiting Game Now that the comment phase of the PRC proceeding has ended, it is a waiting game to see how the agency will rule on whether the existing rate system

is meeting the objectives of the PAEA, which it said it would do by early autumn. In the interim, it’s back to the crystal ball prognosticating around potential postal reform, as well as wondering if Congress will ever fulfill its obligations to nominate and confirm candidates for any of the vacant seats on the USPS Board of Governors (currently there are no non-USPS governors) or the one vacancy on the Postal Regulatory Commission. ¾

KATHLEEN J. SIVITER is president of Postal Consulting Services Inc. (PCSi) and has over 30 years’ experience in the postal industry, having worked for the U.S. Postal Service, Association for Postal Commerce (PostCom), and a diverse set of clients with interest in the postal industry. She also serves as the Director, Community & Brand Development, for PostalVision 2020 (, an initiative designed to engage stakeholders in discussions about the future of the American postal system. | MAY-JUNE 2017




ver the last 24 years, I have found that there are some core mistakes that drastically impact costs and efficiency. As mail volumes have decreased and more has been outsourced to professionals, there is less on-site expertise. This increases the level of these mistakes as well as costs. The focus of this article is to call out the biggest issues that you may be facing and provide ideas as to how these could be fixed for the future.


Limited Reporting and Visibility – The most important element of running a successful mailing operation is to have detailed reporting on the different spends. You would be surprised how few 26

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organizations have this information. As an example, we found less than 30% of the clients we work with had any detail on their mailing spends outside of the headquarters or production area prior to our involvement. At a bare minimum, every organization should have reporting on the following: Postage spends by month Details on the largest mailing projects with historical numbers and future projections Equipment and mailing service provider costs and terms This detail can help you analyze how your costs are changing, whether or not the projects are profitable, as well as the future needs of the organization.


Not Taking Advantage of USPS Savings Programs – There are many ways to reduce costs through the USPS that many organizations are missing. Here are a few, but this topic alone could take up the rest of this article. First-Class Mail – Automate with Barcodes – If you have 500 pieces or more and can run your mailing through an approved software program to validate the addresses and apply barcodes, you can reduce costs by eight to 58%. Priority Mail – Commercial Rates – Most organizations are running Priority Mail at Retail rates through their postage meter or bringing to the USPS. There are very inexpensive software programs that can work on their own or tie into your mailing system to get commercial rates that


Not Rate Shopping Multiple Carriers and Service Levels – The line “we have always done it that way” cannot hold true anymore, and using one carrier can no longer be accepted. Many packages that were shipped through private carriers may be less expensive with the USPS and vice versa. Even within a carrier, rate and service levels need to be explored. Here are examples that prove this: USPS Priority Mail over one pound going to a business may be less expensive with faster delivery going through your private carriers if you have a decent negotiated discount. Private carrier packages less than 10 pounds going to a residence may be less expensive sending through the USPS because of residential, delivery area, and fuel surcharges. Private carrier next-day, two-day, and three-day shipments may be less expensive with the same or faster delivery shipping through that carrier’s ground service. USPS First-Class Package Service should be used instead of USPS Priority Mail for any package less than one pound. Best-in-class operations have automated tools that can compare rates through multiple carriers and service levels at the touch of a button.


have a 14% average savings. They also provide better tracking and visibility.  USPS Promotions and Incentives – The USPS has a schedule of different promotions they offer to higher volume mailers, typically geared to using the latest technologies, that can improve the value of mail. These promotions have limited time periods and require the client to be proactive in its management and refunds.


Reactive vs. Proactive Returned Mail Processes – This is one of the greatest mailing costs to an organization that few have quantified. When mail comes back as undeliverable, what steps are done to make sure the addresses get updated in your systems for the next mailing? More importantly, can there be steps to update

these addresses prior to sending the piece in the first place? Here are the processes used by best-in-class mail operations: They run their mail lists through USPS CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) tools to validate that all addresses match the national database. Next, it is run through the USPS National Change of Address (NCOA) database to validate that the recipient lives at that address. Simple address fixes are made automatically. If the address has changed, they will decide to either send the mail to the new address or reach out to the recipient to validate the change prior to updating the system.  If the mail piece gets returned, there will be deeper processes to directly reach out to the recipient to validate the correct address.

Not Comparing In-House to Outsource Costs – One of the biggest trends that we see in the mailing industry is organizations outsourcing mail functions to groups that have higher levels of resources (staff, equipment, expertise). Infrequently do we see projects that were outsourced come back in-house. To determine if this is a good fit, there needs to be a detailed costs and resources comparison. Here are the most common levels of outsourcing that we see: Presort Services – These companies will pick up your completed mail pieces and run it through their sorters to get you better postal rates. This compares to automating and barcoding mailings internally and then bringing to the USPS. Mail Service Providers (also known as mail houses) – From only a data file, they will print your documents, fold, insert, seal, barcode, and present to the USPS. Look at the mailings you are doing on a regular basis to compare your total costs against their service fees. On-Site Mail and Print Service Providers – They will set up staff and equipment at your location to manage the | MAY-JUNE 2017


production of mailing projects as well as day-to-day mail. This can take the headache out of managing the mail and print areas while making a third party accountable to service level standards. 6. Working with Only One Vendor – Many organizations will partner with one vendor and never go to the market to validate that they are getting the best rates and service levels. When we help our clients through bids, we typically find savings of 10-40%, and often the outcome involves keeping the same vendors.


Processing Manually vs. Automated – You would be surprised how many organizations are still processing items by hand vs. through simple automated equip-


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ment that is 80-90% more efficient. As you can see from the table above, we have listed the speed differences by type of job. There are starter equipment levels that can be inexpensive, and we have included the typical minimum monthly volumes where this equipment may make sense to explore.


Not Exploring New Technologies – The primary focus of the mailing industry is finding ways to reduce costs, and with that has come new solutions that should be explored. Here are a few as examples, but it is important to be researching what is available in the market to fit your needs. Postal automation software that is IMB-compliant – The USPS is trying to get everyone using its Intelligent Mail

Barcodes (IMB) and is passing on mail savings of $.001-.003 per piece for those who use it. Cloud-based software to easily add barcodes to every page of a document – These barcodes can be read by automated inserters to validate that the right number of sheets are being inserted. Simple Mail Ready Data File (MRDF) creation and optimization software – This means being able to send a file to the inserter, so when it scans a document, it knows all the details about the piece (job number, number of pages, additional inserters needed, etc.) and reports can be generated to validate completed sets. This used to be only available for the largest production mailers, but it is now an option at the tabletop equipment level at significantly lower costs. Cloud-based rate shopping tools – We mentioned this above, but now for as little as $30 per month, you can compare your private carrier rates against the USPS on a package by package basis.


Not Validating Invoices for Contract Compliance – We see orga-

nizations paying tens of thousands of dollars per year in fees and overcharges because they are not looking at their invoices and comparing them to the original contract terms. Unfortunately, most vendors are far from perfect billers, and mistakes often occur. We have helped our clients recover millions in these fees and vendor overcharges by taking a proactive stance internally; you can do the same. Here are some of the most common issues that we see: Mailing vendor invoices adding equipment insurance, reset, postage advance, late fees, and finance charges incorrectly. Invoices not reflecting corporate negotiated discount levels. Charges on equipment or projects that are no longer active.


Treating Postage as an Expense Instead of an Asset – Most organizations will send money to the meter vendors, USPS, or mail service providers to fund mailings, and these values are immediately expensed. The issue is that this money is an asset until it is used. Because of this difference, these funds are not tracked to

the same levels as they would be with other bank accounts or prepaid funds. Here are the most common places to look: Returned postage meters where the funds are never requested back. Huge balances sitting in seldom-used postage accounts. Postage meter and USPS permit accounts used to fund different locations and mail service providers with no visibility to balances.


Not Getting Involved in the Mailing Community – I am the Industry Co-Chair of the Boston Postal Customer Council (PCC), and it is amazing to me how few organizations get involved in their local mailing communities. This is one of the key ways to eliminate the mail mistakes above because we (and most other PCC and Mail Systems Management Association (MSMA) groups) make this our focus. There are local and national events as well as webinars that can educate members on how to run best-in-class operations. Here are some examples of their impact: Rate change meetings going over what areas need to be addressed, how to bud-

get for the changes, and what is needed to optimize any savings available. Vendor presentations of new technologies. USPS presentations on how to optimize services. National events that will have education and vendor sessions as well as industry certifications. The best part of these 11 common mail mistakes is they are all fixable and could lead to significant savings. The key is having the detail to what you are doing today and understanding the resources and options available to be able to dive into the specific areas that impact your organization. ¾

ADAM LEWENBERG, CMDSS, MDC, President of Postal Advocate Inc., runs the largest provider of Mail Audit and Recovery services in the United States and Canada. They manage the biggest mail equipment fleet in the world and their mission is to help organizations with multi-locations reduce mail related expenses, recover lost postage funds, and simplify visibility and oversight. He can be reached at 617.372.6853 or | MAY-JUNE 2017



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