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monitor your mail as it moves through the USPS network. Communicate any issues you are seeing with the USPS. There are businesses that provide tracking and reporting services, so you may want to explore those options instead of trying to develop something in-house, which can be expensive as well as inaccurate.

the basics and review all aspects of mailings to improve the total ROI. Service Standards and Service Performance On October 1, 2021, the USPS will implement changes to service standards for some First-Class Mail letters and flats. The USPS also plans to change service standards for some First-Class Package Service (FCPS) pieces — at the time this article was written, the PRC was in the process of a proceeding to review the USPS’s request for FCPS service standard changes. The USPS rationale for these changes is to reduce its reliance on air transportation and move much of FirstClass Mail to ground transportation, which it said is less costly and more reliable. The USPS plans to establish a goal of meeting the new service standards 95% of the time, and has noted repeatedly that it had not met the existing service standards for these pieces in some years. How can mailers maximize their USPS service performance? Mailers can do a comparison of the old service standard versus the new service standard using files available from the USPS, but keep in mind that may not show your actual service experience because it compares the 24

SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com

“standards,” not the actual performance your mail experiences. More meaningful would be to compare the service you have actually been experiencing with the new standard — there are providers out there who are performing these kinds of analyses for their customers. Second, as laid out above, using a commingler/comailer helps improve service performance because it results in maximum levels of presort as well as entering mail as close to the destination as possible. There are other things mailers can do to improve service performance — some of which may seem basic, but you would be surprised how many companies don’t consider these techniques. Start with ensuring your letters/flats are automation-compatible so they are processed on USPS equipment versus having to be sorted manually. If you are mailing flats, evaluate whether they could be converted to letters (which generally experience better service performance as well as being a lower price). If you are mailing large Marketing Mail postcards, consider switching to the new First-Class Mail larger postcard category for better service. Make sure your mail has unique Intelligent Mail barcodes (IMb) on each piece, and use a tracking method or service to

USPS Reorganization In 2020, the USPS began a structural reorganization of its leadership ranks as well as geographic organizational changes, reducing its 67 district offices to 50, streamlining reporting relationships from the field to headquarters organizations, and establishing accountability within those organizations. The USPS has said more is still to come in terms of its organizational changes, and of course it will take time for all the people and positions impacted by these changes to move around or retire, meaning there has been and will continue to be much HR “churn” and distraction within the organization. What can mailers do? Identify the local USPS resources that you should work closely with and develop relationships with any newcomers to those positions. If a position is vacant or eliminated, identify who within the USPS you should be working with. Local relationships with USPS managers are invaluable to mailers. Of course, if you encounter difficulty at the local level, you should reach out through your association, as they will have contacts within USPS leadership to help get issues resolved. USPS 10-Year Strategic Plan In March 2020, the USPS published a new 10-year strategic plan, Delivering for America. There is a lot of information in the plan on strategic direction the USPS plans to take on many fronts, not just improving its finances. Whether you agree with everything in the plan or not, it is a plan the USPS is following and often refers to, which does bring some transparency to the USPS’s direction and objectives. There are several initiatives in the plan (aside from the price and service changes discussed above) that the USPS is moving forward with over the next year or so, and mailers should be sure they are looking at these areas and planning any business changes accordingly. First, the USPS is changing its processing and logistics network, which will impact all categories of mail and parcels.