Mailing Systems Technology September/October 2021

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DEPARTMENTS 05 Editor's Note

The Ups and Downs of 2021 By Amanda Armendariz

06 Real-Life Management The Pygmalion Effect: We Get What We Expect By Wes Friesen

08 Inkjet Info


The Construction Zone: Elements of a Noteworthy and Engaging Piece of Mail


By Karen Kimerer

10 The Trenches

What to Do About Small Runs?

By Mike Porter

12 Strategy and Culture Connection

Struggling with Unmotivated Leaders and Teams? Time to Strengthen Your Culture By Bruce Gresham


30 Say What? 14 The State of the Industry

How did this last year treat mailers and their organizations? Part one of our annual survey takes a look at wages, certifications, and more.

By Amanda Armendariz

18 USPS Promotions: Strengthening Your Bottom Line and the Industry By Mark Rheaume

20 Certification: The Sign of Being a Mailing Professional By Mark Fallon



22 Weathering the Storm: What Lies Ahead for the Mail Industry By Kathleen Siviter

26 The Pandemic Brought You Customers, but What Now? By Greg Brown

28 The Latest Tech Trends to Update and Streamline Your Mail Center Operations By Morgan Stevenson

SPONSORED CONTENT 13 How to Mitigate Higher Prices and Slower Delivery

EDITOR’S NOTE VOLUME 34, ISSUE 5 MAGAZINE STAFF President Chad Griepentrog Publisher Ken Waddell Editor Amanda Armendariz Contributing Writers Greg Brown, Mark Fallon, Wes Friesen, Bruce Gresham, Karen Kimerer, Mike Porter, Mark Rheaume, Kathleen Siviter, Morgan Stevenson Audience Development Manager Rachel Chapman Advertising Ken Waddell 608.235.2212 Design Kelli Cooke

MadMen3 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 ©2021 by MadMen3 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, MadMen3 or its staff becomes property of MadMen3. The articles in this magazine represent the views of the authors and not those of MadMen3 or Mailing Systems Technology. MadMen3 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 34 Issue 5] 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. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: Mailing Systems Technology PO Box 259098 Madison WI 53725-9098



021 has truly epitomized the concept of a roller coaster year. I started out so optimistic as the COVID-19 vaccines were being rolled out at a rapid pace and numbers started dropping. I thought to myself, “Yes! We are back on track to normal, and soon, we can put this all behind us.” Of course, as we all know by now, that is not the case. Most of the country is still reporting high (or very high) levels of cases, even if the overall numbers are dropping slightly, and breakthrough infections are much more common than we had originally thought would be the case. Not surprisingly, this pandemic continues to impact the overall economy and the mail industry specifically. It’s no surprise to mailers that volumes continue to decline, while our industry just experienced the second rate increase of this year (and unfortunately, it sounds like this is going to become the new standard from here on out). In her article on page 22, Kathleen Siviter gives a great analysis of what exactly the mailing industry can likely expect in the near future, and how we can weather the storm of a global pandemic, declining

mail volumes, and increased costs (just to name a few issues facing our industry!) One thing that the last year has shown us is that we’re all in this together, and when we come together as an industry and stand by the value of our product, we all come out ahead. Mail works. You know it, I know it, marketers know it, and consumers know it. It still maintains a sense of legitimacy that is often lost in digital marketing efforts (especially if those efforts are not combined with a physical mail piece). The volume declines and rate increases are frustrating, but at the same time, it would be a mistake to abandon this form of messaging as we communicate with our customers. I am excited to see what the next few months (and, indeed, 2022) hold for the industry, and I’m hopeful that brighter days are ahead. As always, thanks for reading Mailing Systems Technology. | SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2021





enry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” His quote illustrates the power of self-fulfilling prophecies, which is at the core of something called the Pygmalion Effect. Researchers and practitioners have found that people tend to perform up (or down) to the level that others expect of them. If the leader of a team conveys positive belief and expectations in her team, positive results will likely occur (that is the Pygmalion Effect). The opposite is also true: if the leader projects a lack of belief and negative expectations in her team, negative results are likely to occur (that is called the Golem Effect). Understanding and applying the Pygmalion Effect is very important to our success and the success of our teams! It Starts with the Manager Managers and leaders need to believe in ourselves that we have the ability to inspire, develop, and positively influence our teams (the effect of believing in yourself is called the Galatea Effect). Harvard professor J. Sterling Livingston explains: “What managers believe about themselves subtly influences what they believe about their subordinates, what they expect of them, and how they will treat them. If they have confidence in their ability to develop and stimulate subordinates to high levels of performance, they will expect much of them and treat them with confidence that their expectations will be met. But if they have doubts about their ability to stimulate subordi-



nates, they will expect less of them and will treat them with less confidence.” We also need to make sure we believe in the potential of our teams and the individual members. Consider questions such as, “Do I believe that team member skills and performance can be improved with effort? Do I believe that team members can be inspired to make that effort?” I would suggest that virtually all people have untapped potential and can be even more successful. Author Brad Smith put it this way, “A leader’s job is not to put greatness into people, but rather to recognize that it already exists, and to create an environment where the greatness can emerge and grow.” The first significant research on the Pygmalion Effect was completed by Harvard researcher Robert Rosenthal in educational settings. He found (and subsequent researchers validated) that, “When we expect certain behaviors of others, we are likely to act in ways that make the expected behavior more likely to occur.” As leaders, we get what we expect and will consciously and subconsciously act in ways to help make the expectations happen. Strategies to Apply the Pygmalion Effect How can we use the Pygmalion Effect to improve the confidence and performance of our teams? 1. Set high expectations, but not too high. Business expert Charles Kettering emphasized, “High achievement always

takes place in the framework of high expectations.” Our job as leaders is to clarify and set expectations so our teams know what success looks like. When we set high expectations that our teams buy into, everybody can work together to meet those expectations and feel good about the results that come. Research has shown that it is important for the expectations to have some stretch, but at the same time be realistic. Specifically, research by Harvard University and the University of Michigan found that the degree of motivation and effort rises until the expectancy of success reaches 50%, then begins to fall after that even though the expectancy of success continues to increase. The key to maximizing motivation, effort, and performance is to have goals that are neither too easy nor are considered too hard (unrealistic) to attain. 2. Give people a great reputation to live up to. In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie recommends, “Giving others a great reputation to live up to.” As leaders, we can cast a vision of our teams being high-performing and excelling, then actively work to help our teams own the vision and build a reputation they can be proud of. 3. Use confident language. We can express our confidence to our teams that we believe they are qualified and able to meet the goals and expectations we have agreed upon. I’m sure you have had experiences like mine when a boss or someone we respect expresses confidence in us, and we rise to the occasion. Norman Vincent Peale once said, “People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking they can do things. When they believe in themselves, they have the first secret of success.” We have the privilege to help people believe in themselves! 4. Provide positive feedback and reinforcement. Esteemed management expert Michael LeBoeuf has identified what he terms the Greatest Management Principle in the World. The principle? “Things that get rewarded get done.” This is similar to what psychologists like BF Skinner have found and named “positive reinforcement” – if a behavior gets a favorable outcome or reward, that behavior will likely be repeated. As leaders, when we see individuals and teams meet or exceed expectations, let’s positively reinforce

and reward with our words and our actions. Sincere words of praise cost little but can have great value. Adding positive actions (rewards) further reinforces the desired outcomes and behaviors. Rewards can be as simple as bringing in pizza or more substantive such as handing out gift cards or bonuses. 5. Celebrate achievements. One of my favorite principles is that “success breeds success.” When we take the time to celebrate achievements of our individuals and teams, it reinforces the accomplishment, builds confidence, and motivates people to want more of that success. 6. Promote positive gatherings. We can set a positive example by using team meeting time to compliment and build the confidence of our folks. During team meetings, we can make time for people to share positive accomplishments they are proud of. We can also encourage team members to compliment and express appreciation to others — both privately and in team meetings. 7. Wipe the slate clean. Do any of you ever make mistakes? Me, too. Mistakes

can provide great learning opportunities. I like the sentiment expressed by Michael Alter (President of SurePayroll) when he stated, “Mistakes are the tuition you pay for success.” And the great basketball coach John Wooden said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” Repeated careless mistakes need to be dealt with, but proactive mistakes should be used as learning opportunities, and then forgiven and slates wiped clean. 8. Train and coach. To help our teams reach the expectations we are striving for, we need to ensure that our folks have the skills and abilities needed. It’s up to us to proactively get the training our folks need and provide encouraging coaching along the way. I resonate with this quote from Virgin CEO Richard Branson, “Train your people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” We can tap into available training provided by our company’s HR departments and supplement with additional training as needed. It’s also valuable to cover technical and “hard skill” training, along with “soft

skill” training, covering topics like effectiveness, relationship building, and time management. Pygmalion expert and University professor Dov Eden sums up by saying, “Leaders get the performance they expect”. Let’s expect great things from our teams and enjoy the success that follows!  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. Your Team Can Soar! can be ordered from or (under Book) or an online retailer. Wes can be contacted at or at 971.806.0812. | SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2021





irect mail is a bit like today’s Olympians; they both require a higher level of performance and steadfast effort to secure a medal and a position on the podium. As time passes, new competition arrives to set the bar even higher. Just like direct mail, pushing the envelope (pun intended) to achieve greatness takes work, strategy, and practice. Delivering noteworthy direct mail involves raising the bar, applying a well-defined strategy, and performing a solid execution. For a simple analogy,

consider a gymnast that is competing on the balance beam — this gymnast can no longer expect to get noticed with a simple flip for the dismount. The same is true for marketing — merely sending a letter, package, brochure, or postcard to a large audience will not get noticed or yield the desired returns. Creating a Successful Direct Mail Campaign Businesses that are not mindful of how to create a compelling piece of direct

mail will likely fail to capture the benefits that it can offer. So how exactly do you earn a spot on the podium? One of the most critical elements of a successful direct mail program is starting with a clear vision of what you want to achieve. The obvious goal of a direct mail campaign is to achieve brand awareness and gain market share, but there’s more to the equation. To be effective, you must develop a solid understanding of who your ideal customers are, their communication preferences, where they hang out, and what influences their buying habits. This information will set the stage for developing direct mail that gets noticed. Even in today’s digital age, direct mail remains one of the most widely used forms of customer communications. Although direct mail’s response rates have declined over the past few years, it still gets noticed. In fact, data from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found the average response rate for direct mail is 4.4% — compared to a mere 0.12% for email. Multiple Touches Matter! According to recent research from Keypoint Intelligence, consumers actually want the brands that they do business with to reach out to them. As shown in the chart below, the greatest share of consumer respondents must receive two or three marketing messages before they take action. This was true for print as well as digital channels.

Figure 1: Number of Marketing Messages Required to Take Action



Figure 2: Factors Involved in Reading/Reviewing Direct Mail

As you develop your direct mail campaigns, you must plan for multiple touchpoints if you hope to reach your audience. Deciding ahead of time on the number of communications that will be sent can make it easier to design and deliver messages that resonate. The Power of Segmentation By identifying subgroups within your targeted audience, you can deliver more meaningful and tailored direct mail messages. Some of the more popular categories for segmentation include age, gender, income, geographic location, employment status, and marital status. In the past, it might have been acceptable to use one message and one design for everyone on your mailing list. To be sure, this was the cheapest and most efficient option. In today’s market, though, a “one size fits all” approach simply won’t cut it. Consumers expect the companies that they do business with to treat them as individuals, so marketers must adopt a new way of thinking when developing their direct mail. Fortunately, the digital and inkjet presses on the market make it easy to create targeted direct mail pieces that are truly relevant to the recipient. Keypoint Intelligence’s research confirms that personalized and relevant content can be a huge influence in prompting consumers to read their direct mail. In fact, nearly half of consumers state that personalized and relevant content was the factor that made them

most likely to read or review their printed mail. This should come as no surprise — a mailer promoting a serene, relaxing vacation destination will likely fall flat for an active family that is seeking excitement and entertainment. The chart above also shows that consumers cite a familiar and trusted sender as the second highest influencer of reading direct mail. This supports the earlier data point about gaining traction with multiple touchpoints. In marketing, familiarity comes with frequency. Most importantly, the data in the previous chart demonstrates that personalized and relevant content is roughly three times more important than design/imagery and four times more important than interactivity. If you hope to attract attention with your direct mail, it is more important than ever before not to put your target audience in the same bucket as everyone else. So first things first — send offers that resonate with the recipient’s needs and interests, then enhance that experience with great design and engaging content. With the proper foundation, print enhancements can also work well by breathing new life into an otherwise stagnant format. The use of unique colors or metallic elements, interesting paper textures, and creative finishing processes can generate a tactile and tangible experience between the brand and customer. Effective direct mail must also include response mechanisms that are easy to

use. Even the most beautifully designed marketing piece will fall short if it takes too much effort to engage and respond. Today’s technologies enable a quick and easy connection from a direct mail piece to a website or phone conversation. In addition, quick response (QR) codes can really nudge your audience to perform a desired call to action. The Bottom Line The deconstruction of a direct mail campaign points directly back to strategy. A solid strategy requires an understanding of what your target audience wants. Your direct mail piece could be a true work of art, but it will fail to pay dividends or move the needle if you haven’t already established an understanding of your ideal audience. Once you have this understanding, segment your images, messaging, and approach to connect with your audience in a meaningful way. With today’s production inkjet presses, marketers have more opportunity than ever to improve their dismount and really stick the landing.  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. | SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2021



in the mail center as operators make frequent machine adjustments and swap out materials. This isn’t an unsolvable problem, but it’s going to take some planning, some work, some software investments, and possibly some IT support.



wo trends in the document print and mail business are seemingly at odds. Companies are switching to high-speed continuous feed inkjet printing devices at the same time print run sizes are shrinking. Those two trends might present some challenges for your operation. The adoption of high-speed inkjet makes sense. These devices can print lots of pages in full color and do it in a hurry. Print shops can reduce costs by replacing multiple slower machines with a single inkjet device, saving money on labor and maintenance. The speed of the presses should allow your company to produce more material in shorter time, possibly even eliminating a shift. A big benefit of inkjet comes to companies formerly constrained by monochrome toner devices that printed on pre-printed shells. They will no longer have to maintain an inventory of application-specific forms. White paper will go into the press and full-color documents will come out. These economies are only possible, however, if operators keep the press running. Frequent stops and starts between 10


jobs are wasteful. As print volumes for individual jobs decrease, the job run times may not be sufficient for optimal throughput. The printing manager doesn’t see this as a problem. He can combine formerly separate print jobs and make large print runs that keep his new inkjet presses humming along. Printing Efficiency and Mailing Efficiency — Not the Same “Hold it!” says the mail shop manager. “We’ve got to mail all those pages. Those jobs you want to string together use different outbound envelopes with the client’s logo and return address printed on them. Some of those jobs call for specific return envelopes or pre-printed envelope stuffers. Combined jobs might be great for printing but inserting them will cause problems.” Just like the inkjet presses, inserting platforms are built for high-speed, high-volume production. Too many job changeovers put a dent in productivity. It makes little sense to create print at lightning speed, only to have it back up

Variability Increases Complexity Ideally, all the jobs in your shop use the same outbound envelope. Maybe online bill-pay or digital donations have eliminated the need for return envelopes, and you’ve abandoned pre-printed inserts in favor of onserts printed in-line with the document pages. If so, lucky you! In my days in the service bureau business, that wasn’t the case at all. We experienced a great deal of variability in job specifications. We used job-specific outbound and return envelopes and many inserts. The mailing addresses on client transactional documents did not always line up for a standard #10 window envelope. Because the data came to us in print-image format, our clients controlled the position of the address block, not us. If your situation is similar, combining print jobs won’t be useful unless you take steps to standardize the applications so you can insert and mail them efficiently. Standard Envelope Design To handle inserting jobs of combined print applications, start with the envelope. Since inserting machines can support only one style of outbound envelope at a time, your standard envelope choice must be compatible with all the documents in the combined print runs. Mailing organizations have five choices: 1. Double window envelopes with space for the sending and return addresses. 2. Large single-window envelopes where both addresses show through the window. 3. Single-window envelopes and inserter-mounted inkjet heads capable of spraying the return address and logo. 4. Closed-face envelopes and inserter-mounted inkjet heads capable of imaging the entire face of the envelope.

5. Print envelopes separately and match them with the contents as you insert. The best choice for your standard envelope depends on the jobs you run. Examine the documents to be mailed to see where the mailing addresses and return addresses are positioned on the page. Document re-engineering software can re-position data in print-image files. You can move addresses so they align with envelope windows, but you wouldn’t want to attempt a fullblown document re-design with such tools. If you decide on a closed-face envelope, moving the address blocks is not an issue. The positions of the addresses on the documents won’t matter. An analysis of the documents is critical. Decide which applications you can group in a single print run and which you cannot. You may direct the jobs that must remain separate to slower print devices designed for shorter runs and continue to insert them as individual jobs.

When it comes to the inserting operation, combining jobs to make new presses more efficient requires thought, analysis, planning, and adjustments. Tracking and Integrity Another critical factor to consider is the data file that drives your intelligent inserting equipment. You may call this an MRDF or something similar. Information in this file will contain data useful for maintaining integrity during the inserting operation. The file will also control the inkjet heads if installed on the inserters and will play a part in tracking and reprints. When you combine jobs for printing efficiency, the job-based balancing you formerly used for quality control won’t apply. Keeping track of every page as it progresses through your shop is a bit more complicated. You may require help from IT or vendor professional services to get it set up and working. Inkjet printing has plenty of advantages, but short runs can erode expected productivity improvements. When it comes to the inserting operation, combining jobs to make new presses more efficient requires thought, analysis, planning, and adjustments.  Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps his clients meet the challenges they encounter in document operations and creates informational content for vendors and service providers in the document industry. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, send a connection request on LinkedIn, or contact Mike directly at | SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2021






o you believe the old adage that people are your number one asset in the business? If so, your company culture is a close second. Your company’s culture is the determining factor in how motivated your people are on a consistent basis as they struggle through tight turn times, supply chain challenges, and labor shortages. Culture is made up of direction, purpose, pride, and identity, where all participants feel part of something bigger. They belong to something, and it belongs to them. It is important to have the culture defined so people know what they belong to.

Individuals at all levels display and share their enthusiasm for the vision of the company and their belief in where you are headed. The culture requires people who adhere to a consistent system, yet gives people freedom and responsibility to work within the framework of that system without someone standing over them or looking over their shoulder at all times. The individuals and departments are willing to take risks and try new approaches. Set up individual and company success celebrations when SMAARRT goals are met or significant actions are completed.

Direction & Purpose The vision, SMAARRT goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Agreed upon, Reasonable, Relevant, and Time Frame), and action plan that make up the company strategy should be very clear and constantly refined and reviewed.

Pride & Identity The adage with which we started — “people are your number one asset” — is actually wrong. The right people are your most important asset. When the culture is properly aligned, there are high expectations and


standards of performance that are consistently raised to ensure you recruit and retain the right people. Compensation is not used to “motivate” the right behaviors from the wrong people, but to attract and keep the right people. Challenge, opportunity, and development are used to motivate. Sustained great results depend upon building a culture full of self-disciplined people who take disciplined actions consistent with the business strategy. But the culture is not just about action. It is about getting disciplined people — with a common set of values — who engage in disciplined thought who then take disciplined action. How to Make It Happen There are several ways to start your journey to define a new culture or strengthen an existing one. Get the individual leaders outside the environment — even if it’s just walking around the parking lot — and have a conversation. The key is to listen more by asking more and deeper questions. You can also organize smaller teams to tackle a specific issue, or to identify issues that need to be solved. Develop a flight path of actions that will be taken during the next 30, 60, and 90 days with a clear outcome that needs to be reached. Conducting individual employee interviews, launching voice of the employee surveys, or developing 360-degree leadership assessments can also be used. The key is to start, and to start with a small, committed group of leaders and front-line employees. 

Bruce Gresham and the team at Applied Vision Works ( use practical methods to help business owners, leaders, and teams reach their goals faster. Connect via 704.726.6728, bgresham@ or via LinkedIn by scanning the QR code at left with your smartphone camera.


HOW TO MITIGATE HIGHER PRICES AND SLOWER DELIVERY In most situations, increased prices are offset with the promise of better service. In the case of the USPS®, however, the price changes that went into effect on August 29, 2021, could mean that USPS’ customers start seeing slower delivery services as early as this fall according to the restructuring plan proposed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. The USPS hopes that, by coupling higher prices with slower service, they will be able to improve their financial situation. Currently, customers expect delivery within one to three days of shipment. The new plan will aim to restructure the service standards in which the USPS would commit to delivery within one to five days. In March of 2021, DeJoy predicted that these changes — in conjunction with the rest of his “Delivering for America” plan — would ameliorate approximately $160 billion of the expected losses for the USPS over the next 10 years. A notice published in the Federal Register states that: “The addition of one or two days to current service standards for First-

Class Mail® would enable the Postal Service to convey a greater volume of mail within the contiguous United States by surface transportation, achieving a better balance of costeffectiveness and on-time reliability. It would also enable the Postal Service to enhance the efficiency of its surface transportation network.” This service change would see the USPS deliver approximately 40% of its mail more slowly, while about 60% will be delivered as usual. It is estimated that 21% of its current mail volume will be delivered in four days and 10% in five days. These changes, however, may not be as noticeable as expected. A representative from the USPS said that its three-to-five-day standard for First Class Mail delivery was met only 83.6% of the time during the third quarter of the 2020 fiscal year, compared with 88.9% at the same time in 2019. DeJoy himself recognizes that his “Delivering for America” plan calls for some “uncomfortable changes,” but he added that, “We are confident we are

headed in the right direction, which is slightly away from what we have done in the past, which has not worked.” With the proposed changes in mind, it is incumbent on mailers to ensure they understand the impact they may have on their customers’ mail pieces. First and foremost, slower delivery may require an adjusted timeline for mail piece production. If, as expected, the proposed changes go into effect in November 2021, mailers will be amidst the busy holiday mailing season. In order to meet service level agreements for in-home delivery dates, mailers may need to receive customers’ collateral sooner so production can begin. In addition, mailers need to undertake a renewed focus on data quality. Ensuring that addresses are complete, correct, and current can help ensure delivery not simply to the mailbox, but to the correct recipient. As service standards are diminished, additional delays due to out-of-date addresses becomes even less desirable. Finally, mail tracking becomes even more important as service standards are adjusted down. Knowing where a mail piece is in the USPS-network arms mailers with information they can use to assist their customers; tracking mail pieces helps not only the mailer by providing information regarding planned delivery, but in turn enables their customer to staff appropriately to meet expected demand around the delivery date.


THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY How did this last year treat mailers and their organizations? Part one of our annual survey takes a look at wages, certifications, and more.

By Amanda Armendariz


oy, what a year. I admit that at this time last year, I (rather naively) thought that the pandemic would be under control by now, given the promising news about vaccine development and the fact that Delta was still just the name of a popular airline, rather than a highly transmissible variant of the virus. So, I was hopeful that by the time we did this annual survey, the negative effects of the economy would be much less pronounced.

Number of Full-Time Employees Supervised




6-10 11-15 16-20 20+

Unfortunately, this was not the case. COVID-19 continues to impact every aspect of our lives, and the mail center is no exception. We saw decreases in salaries in almost every category, while managers, supervisors, and staff had to take on additional responsibilities. Take a look at the responses to see how your experience compares. As always, thanks to everyone who took the time to complete the survey. We wouldn’t be able to do this without your input!

4% 4%


As is usually the case in our annual surveys, the majority of our respondents’ mail center managers supervise five or fewer employees. However, this year’s 71% is still quite a marked increase from last year’s 60% that reported managing this amount of staff.




Mail Center Managers


Male vs. Female



The gender disparity of our respondents’ mail center managers increased compared to last year’s 56/44 split. 14




6% CMM

The number of mail center managers who hold the CMDSM certification increased this year, while the number of managers who hold the USPS EMCMP and CMM certifications went down. Certification is a significant measure of success for people in our industry, as Mark Fallon indicates in his article on page 20, so we hope that next year, these numbers will be quite a bit higher.

Average Salary and Time in the Industry

Managers and the Economy 100

This year’s average salary went down quite significantly compared to last year’s $64,825. The average time in the industry also went down compared to last year’s 22 years. Sixty-one percent manage other departments or functions, compared to last year’s 48%, which means that (at least among our respondents) people are having to do more work for less compensation.

The number of respondents who report that the economy has had no effect on mail center managers went down compared to last year’s 48% (which is really no surprise, given that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world).

90 80 70 60 50






20 10




17 Years





Has had no effect

Salary freeze

Took on additional responsibilities

Working additional hours


Number of mail managers decreased

Salary concession

Continuing Education 100 90

What type of training did managers have access to/plan to attend in the past 12 months?

80 70 60

For the next 12 months, only 46% say managers in their organization will attend some sort of training (whether in-person or virtual).

50 40 36%



20 10 0



7% 0%

National Postal Forum (if it hadn’t been canceled due to COVID-19) National mailing “schools” National industry or associationspecific mailing conference (MSFA, NACUMS, Non-profit, DMA)

Local PCC conferences/meetings







14% 0%

Vendor’s user conference

None, due to budget cutbacks

Other non-mailing national conferences (i.e., management training courses)

None, didn’t find the time to attend

Other non-mailing local conferences Online continuing education classes On-site continuing education classes

None, training is not allowed for mail center managers None, everything we had planned to attend was canceled due to COVID-19 None, no training needed this year | SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2021


The Lowdown


 Sixty-one percent of our respondents have supervisors in their mail center.

100 90

Impact of the Economy


Not surprisingly, the number of supervisors who have seen no effect went down dramatically compared to last year’s 44%. More organizations are experiencing a salary freeze for their supervisors or a reduction in the number of supervisors, as well.

70 60 50

 Forty-eight percent are male, and fifty-two percent are female. This is a much more balanced breakdown compared to last year’s 78/22 split, where the majority were male.  Seven percent of supervisors hold the USPS EMCMP certification, four percent hold the CMDSM, and seven percent hold the CMM. The number who hold the EMCMP went down compared to last year, but the number who hold the latter two increased.

40 30 20


 The vast majority (81%) supervise between 0-5 employees.




10 6%



 The average salary is $48,500, a decrease from


last year’s $51,111. Has had no effect

Salary freeze

Took on additional responsibilities

Working additional hours

Salary concession

 On average, the mail center supervisor has been employed for a little over 13 years.

Number of supervisors decreased

 Thirty-three percent supervise other departments or functions, a marked increase from last year’s 11%.


Training & Education 100 90 80 70

Forty-seven percent of respondents say that supervisors should be able to attend training (whether in-person or virtually) in the next 12 months.

What types of continuing education/ training did supervisors have access to in the last 12 months?

60 50 40 30 20

33% 20%




10 0







National Postal Forum (if it had not been canceled due to COVID-19)

Local PCC conferences/meetings

National mailing “schools”

Other non-mailing national conferences (i.e., management training courses)

National industry or associationspecific mailing conference (MSFA, NACUMS, Non-profit, DMA) 16



Vendor’s user conference

Other non-mailing local conferences




Online continuing education classes On-site continuing education classes

None, training is not allowed for supervisors

None, due to budget cutbacks

None, everything we had planned to attend was canceled due to COVID-19

None, didn’t find the time to attend

None, no training needed this year

Average Wages of Mail Center Staff

Non-Managerial Staff

2019 - $15.52

2020 - $16.75

2021 - $15.26

2019 - $14.80

2020 - $18.45

2021 - $17.17

2019 - $16.00


2020 - $18.17

 Seventeen percent have an employee incentive program, an increase from last year’s 12%.

2021 - $16.75

10 2019 - $20.70

 Only four percent are represented by a union, a significant decrease from last year’s 22%.

2020 - $21.24


2021 - $21.91

 The average number of years employed in the industry were 11.75.

2019 - $13.64


2020 - $15.25

 This year’s non-managerial staff were fairly evenly split by gender (51% male, 49% female).

2021 - $14.84


The Lowdown:

0 Entry-level

Inserter operators

Highest hourly wage

Mail handlers

Addressing machine operators

Staff and the Economy

Staff and Training Opportunities





15% 50% 30% 20% 0% 40%













90 100










90 100

Existing staff work additional hours

Attend local PCC meetings/conferences

Off-site equipment training provided by vendors

Salary freeze

Existing staff do additional tasks

Attend national mailing conferences



On-site equipment training provided by vendors

None; non-managerial staff do not get training beyond on-the-job training

Has had no effect Salary concession





hat is the four-letter word that adds incredible value to anything? You guessed it: “Free!” The USPS is not often thought of for offering “free” anything, which is an unfortunate misconception in our industry. The truth is that for many years, the Postal Service has been offering “free” postage to mailers through its annual promotions, in which we are all welcome to participate. Why mailers choose not to participate is beyond me. These promotions are easy to partake in, and the benefits are great for everyone. If perceived complexity is an issue, a simple call to the USPS is all that’s required for someone to help you register and participate. This “free” postage comes in two main forms: discounts at the time the mail is prepared for acceptance, and postal credits we can earn and redeem on future mailings. In a time when postage rates are going up and the industry is rightfully concerned, any opportunity to mitigate those increases should be reviewed and realized whenever possible.



In 2021, there are six USPS promotions offered. Some are more appropriate for your business than others, but not knowing about them or not participating means you are choosing to ignore the money they can save you, your business, and your customers. As experts, we must educate and promote these programs and take full advantage of each — or stop complaining about the postage costs. The promotions cover a good range of mail classes but are class-specific in most instances. They are intended to increase participation across various mail classes to drive volume and provide added value to the mail piece. Here are the six 2021 promotions (some have already ended, but we include them so you have a good idea of what was offered this year and what you can probably expect in 2022) as well as a look at the details of each of these (discounts/credits) and some statistics from the industry related to participation, credits earned, ideal/target/ successful strategy, and future changes proposed for next year.

Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Mailpiece Engagement Promotion (2% discount off eligible postage) Leveraging the physical aspects of mail as well as the advances in print technology, marketers can enhance how their customers interact and engage with mail to drive increased response rates. During this promotion, eligible mailers who incorporate a multi-sensory experience (special visual effects, sound, scent, texture/tactile treatments, or even taste) in their mail piece receive a postage discount. This promotion and the Emerging and Advanced Technology Promotion seem perfect for creative marketers who want to measure the effects of these tactile and technological enhancements on ROI/ response. They should be free to do so, and this promotion makes it more affordable than ever to conduct these tests. Current promotion performance as of June 7, 2021:  Volume: 792M, which is a 47% increase compared to 2020  Revenue: $183M

 2% is equal to $3,734,694 in discounts to mailers  Participants: 81 (and 319 mail pieces), which seems low and presents us all with an opportunity  Most common techniques used in 2020:  Specialty paper that uses visual/ textural elements: 84%  Specialty paper that uses sound/ smell elements: 6%  Interactive mail pieces: 6%  Specialty ink: 4% It was proposed in the price change filing in May that the two percent discount be increased to four percent for 2022. This is welcome news and increased incentive for all of us. Promotional Period: February 1 – July 31, 2021 Emerging and Advanced Technology Promotion (2% discount off eligible postage) To ensure that direct mail continues to be a relevant part of the marketing mix, this promotion encourages incorporating technologies such as “enhanced” augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality, near field communication (NFC), video in print (ViP) featuring shoppable video, integration with voice assistants, and digital to direct mail technology applications into their mail campaigns. Current promotion performance as of June 7, 2021:  Volume: 2,426M, which is a 19% increase compared to 2020  Revenue: $536M  2% is equal to $10,938,776 in discounts to mailers  Participants: 266

It was proposed in the price change filing in May that the USPS create a tiered structure for Emerging Tech where some technologies qualify for a two percent discount and some for a three percent discount. More good information to incent us all to participate. Promotional Period: March 1 – August 31, 2021 Earned Value Promotion (Receive $0.02 credit for each BRM, CRM, and/or Share Mail piece) This promotion offers earned credits to eligible businesses who use Business Reply

Mail (BRM), Courtesy Reply Mail (CRM), and Share Mail pieces. Mailers who register may receive a postage credit for each mail piece that is placed in the mailstream and scanned during the promotion period. This is my personal favorite. I think this is especially attractive to utility and other companies. They utilize reply envelopes to facilitate a great many of their payment transactions and should be participating without question. As of June 7, 2021, here are some recent statistics:  Volume: 363M pieces  That is $7,260,000 in postage credits earned!  USPS Revenue: $189M  Participants: 531, which is a 43% increase compared to 2020 It was proposed in the price change filing in May that the USPS make no changes to the promotion’s incentives (two-cent credit per piece, no mailer thresholds). Promotional Period: April 1 – June 30, 2021 Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion (2% discount off eligible postage) This promotion incorporates marketing messages that use color, dynamic variable print, and personalization. By using color messaging in bills and statements, business mailers can enhance the value of mail and foster a better connection and response from customers. This promotion seems perfect for creative marketers and organizations who may have the opportunity to leverage the “real estate” on their documents to highlight and generate revenue from their partners and associates. These opportunities have existed for years and now that they can earn postage discounts, this promotion makes it an even better practice. The MTAC reports I have accessed for the data presented here did not provide an update on the next three promotions (each has a start date after the MTAC report was generated on June 7). It was proposed in the price change filing in May that the USPS increase the Color Transpromo discount from two to three percent. Who can think this is anything but good? Promotional Period: July 1 – December 31, 2021

Mobile Shopping Promotion (2% discount off eligible postage) This promotion encourages mailers to send mailings that highlight the connections between the mail piece and digital shopping. It is designed to conveniently enable these connections/interactions/ experiences. The platforms most used are quick response (QR) codes, snap tags, watermarks, and other advanced technologies. Again, your organization’s creative staff would welcome information on this promotion. Building strong relationships with this group is valuable, and now they can access deeper discounts while stretching their creative spirit! It was proposed in the price change filing in May that the USPS shorten the promotion period from five to four months. This is a loss to some but the incentive is still great and should be taken advantage of when possible. Promotional Period: August 1 – December 31, 2021

Informed Delivery Promotion (2% discount off eligible postage) This promotion is designed for business mailers who launch Informed Delivery interactive campaigns with their physical mail pieces to reach and engage customers. Do you subscribe to Informed Delivery? If not, do so now. If you do, then you have seen the links available to some of the mail piece images you receive. This promotion is what enables those connections. Free money at its best, and actionable data is an added value. It was proposed in the price change filing in May that the USPS increase the promotion period from three to five months and increase the discount from two to four percent. That’s doubly good news for the industry and our customers — and more reason to participate in these promotions! 

Mark Rheaume is a Services Engineer, Enterprise Services Sales Engineering, at Ricoh USA, Inc. He has over 35 years of industry experience developing, designing, and implementing solutions. Mark is and has been an active member in several postal industry associations as a board member, speaker, and writer. These associations include: MTAC, Idealliance, NPOA, PCC, MSMA, Mailcom, NPF, and Printing Industries of Minnesota. He can be contacted at | SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2021




hen you visit a doctor’s office, they have their medical school diploma hanging on the wall. If they’re a specialist, they’ll also include their certification in the specific field, like sports medicine, cardiology, or neurology. The framed documents are evidence that they have the knowledge to address a patient’s concerns. The same is true for automobile mechanics. At repair shops, mechanics proudly display the certifications they’ve earned (especially when the company services high-end vehicles). Owners want to know that their $75,000 car is being worked on by a mechanic certified on that model. Similar opportunities exist for the mailing industry. There are certifications for front-line employees, supervisors, and managers. They’re offered by the US Postal Service (USPS) and professional associations. When we conduct operational reviews for companies, we always include a section on education, training, and certification. During the report presentation, we emphasize the importance of certification at all levels. We stress that in addition to being professionals, the department should be able to present evidence of professionalism. Of course, it’s not just the certificate hanging on the wall, or the letters that

follow a name. The process of achieving certification is where a person gains the most. Completing the online course, attending in-person training, and putting in the hours of self-study to prepare for the exams is where the hard work is accomplished and the knowledge is acquired. Outbound mail operations — whether production facilities or office settings metering mail — are the last touchpoint before the piece is sent to the customer. These employees have the opportunity to detect poor design elements, improper addressing, and other mistakes. Just one event can pay for the testing fee for the company or department. A Real-Life Example A client asked us to help their employees prepare for the USPS Mail Design Professional (MDP) certification. Every employee went through the training — the manager, the supervisors, the operators, and the clerks (including the clerks who delivered and picked up mail around the company). Everyone passed. One day, one of the mail clerks noticed a large stack of flat envelopes ready to be metered. The department had checked “First-Class Mail” on the work order. From her MDP training, the clerk knew that the weight of the piece would require Priority

Consider the following opportunities for certification for yourself and your employees:

Mail postage. She also knew that all the pieces were identical. She brought the work to the mail center and spoke to her supervisor. They contacted a manager in the department and confirmed that the pieces were identical. The supervisor explained the option of using USPS Marketing Mail. When the manager heard the price difference, they agreed to the change. There were hundreds of pieces, meaning hundreds of dollars in savings. Often, the rewards for achieving certification aren’t immediate — for the individual or the company. Nor should they be. Education isn’t a “one and done” activity. It’s a lifelong commitment to personal and professional development. It’s not about what one will get from something today, but how it may impact you tomorrow. Or a “tomorrow” that is years away. We need to invest in the future — our own and our employees. As managers, we must prepare employees for the jobs they hold, and for jobs they may aspire to hold. Being a clerk or a machine operator is important but may not always feel that way. Achieving industry recognition for their knowledge can be a tremendous morale boost. Obtaining a certification may prompt a person to seek out other challenges. It may mean expanding their job responsibilities

and growing in their position. Or they may decide to apply for a supervisory role. In some cases, it may lead to them leaving the company in search of new opportunities. Helping someone grow may mean letting them move on — and that’s okay. When I achieved my first professional certification, it had minimal impact on my job. My boss said, “Congratulations,” and sprung for a cake to be shared with my coworkers. No bonus, no raise. However, several years later, I was applying for a higher position at another company. Instead of supervising five people, I would be leading 50 people, with two managers reporting to me. It was a big leap. An advantage I had over other candidates — the job description stated that applicants should have an industry certification. I had the certification. I got the job. And that job led me to starting my own company. Certification is evidence of professionalism, and it’s something for which every professional should strive.  Mark M. Fallon is President & CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. You can contact him at, or visit his blogs at or

US Postal Service Completing the Mail Design Professional (MDP) training and achieving the MDP certification will provide a good foundation for all employees. This training is designed to help all operational staff understand postal regulations for proper addressing, and formatting mail pieces for accurate postal processing. Training is offered at the USPS facility in Oklahoma, through local Postal Customer Councils (PCC), and is also available online ( as a self-study course. The Certified Direct Mail Professional (CDMP) is designed to develop and strengthen core skills to build and maintain a successful direct mail business. Key topics include omni marketing, mailing list management, mail piece creation, response rates, and technology. The Executive Mail Center Manager (EMCM) course is to enhance professionalism in mail center management. This course will give participants the guidance necessary to boost productivity, increase efficiency, maximize the use of technology, and enhance results for their department and company.

Mail Systems Management Association The Certified Mail and Distribution Systems Manager (CMDSM) program recognizes professional achievement. This accreditation process requires that an individual be evaluated, tested, and certified on a body of technical knowledge and management skills necessary for performance in the industry. Applicants can apply online at Certification. MSMA also offers a certification for the “supplier” side of the industry. The Certified Mail & Distribution Systems Supplier (CMDSS) Certification incorporates supplier themes as they relate to doing business in the mailing industry.

In-Plant Printing and Mailing Association For members that work in mail, IPMA offers the Certified Mail Manager ( Candidates must submit an application with required supporting documentation, including three letters of recommendation. The examination is administered online at IPMA’s annual conference or at an educational testing facility. | SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2021






’ve worked in the mailing industry for four decades now (hard to believe, and yes, I started as a baby!). During that time, I’ve seen our industry go through many changes — many Postmasters General, many USPS reorganizations, the staggering USPS rate increases of the pre-PAEA years, the implementation of the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb), Full-Service and Seamless Acceptance, and many more significant changes. One thing I have learned over and over is that the mailing industry is resilient, entrepreneurial, and passionate about its work. This industry has faced and weathered many storms, and while there are many challenges facing us now and in the coming year, I have no doubt that mailers will weather those storms as well, coming out just as strong! Here are but a few of the challenges our industry is facing over this

under new rules enacted by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), which gave the USPS additional rate authority categories that allowed it to increase prices above CPI. The litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals is to determine whether the PRC had the authority to make these changes, and the outcome of that proceeding is still to come.

First, mailers need to budget for and prepare for the possibility of two price changes in the same year going forward.

next year, along with some thoughts on how to deal with them. Postal Price Changes By the time this article is published, the USPS will have implemented its August 29 price change for market dominant products, barring any last minute “stay” by the U.S. Court of Appeals where events that led to this price change are being litigated. This price change is notable for several reasons — first, it comes in summer versus the January price changes that the industry has become accustomed to. Second, it was unexpected, so mailers did not budget for these increases. Third, it is the highest USPS price change for market dominant products since the current laws governing the USPS were enacted late in 2006. The reason for all these notable factors is the same — this is the first USPS price change

At the time this article was written, the USPS had just announced a temporary peak surcharge on its Competitive Services products (parcels) and also started preparing for a January 2022 annual price change for parcels (no details had been shared at this point) that may also contain new fees and other structural changes for parcels. Whether the USPS will also change market dominant prices again in January 2022 was unknown at the time this article was written. If the USPS did so, it would only be able to raise prices up to the CPI, because the PRC does not determine the annual amounts the USPS may use for the new additional rate authority until March/April, so they could not be included in a January 2022 price change. Of course, the USPS could increase prices in January 2022 up to CPI and then do another change in summer 2022 to use the additional rate authority (like it did this year). So, what can mailers do to mitigate these price changes? First, mailers need to budget for and prepare for the possibility of two price changes in the same year going forward. That does not mean it will definitely happen, or that it will happen every year, but better to be prepared than not. In addition, there are strategies that mailers should be exploring if they are not already doing so.

The USPS has increased the discounts for some of its promotions, as well as increased the length of some promotions. These programs offer mailers some significant discounts, as well as helping drive their return on investment with mail. Being able to take advantage of USPS discounts from promotions — as well as increasing response rates — will help mitigate increases in USPS prices. Another strategy mailers should be exploring is using a commingler (letters) or comailer (flats) to prepare and enter their mail. Commingle and comail are tried and true programs that have been available for some years and continue to grow throughout the industry because they have many advantages for mailers. By combining mailings from different companies prior to USPS entry, comminglers and comailers sort mail to the deepest depth possible (more than the mailer can achieve on their own, in most cases), as well as entering it deeper into the USPS network to achieve better service performance. These providers also take away from mailers the resource-intensive stresses of meeting Full-Service or Seamless Acceptance requirements. These businesses are professionals who work closely with the USPS, are familiar with its products, services, and mail entry and preparation requirements, and they can work with mailers to find ways to reduce postage costs and improve their ROI. Mailers (including printers) who are preparing and entering mail should explore the benefits of using a commingler/comailer because there are postage discounts, improved service performance, and many related services available from these providers. If you haven’t looked at these providers recently, check them out. In addition, mailers should be looking at the total picture when it comes to mail ROI. Yes, postage prices are going up, but the new rules also present improvements in workshare discounts; the promotion discounts present opportunity to improve the overall ROI of mail; and there are many ways that mailers can look to improve their overall ROI from mail -— ensuring that mailing lists are current and correct, optimizing mail piece design to obtain the best response rates, ensuring that as much mail as possible qualifies for all available postage discounts, integrating digital and hardcopy marketing, and more! Go back to | SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2021


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


“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.

For letters/flats, the USPS is planning to largely eliminate processing these pieces through its existing 21 network distribution centers (NDCs) and instead moving to a model that utilizes its 13 surface transfer centers (STCs) for letters and flats while converting the NDC facilities to become “regional distribution centers” that process parcels. This will mean changes in the way both letters/flats and parcels are prepared and entered to the USPS. Another initiative the USPS is moving forward with over the next year is development and rollout of a new USPS Connect parcel offering, starting with USPS Connect Local, which offers customers same- or next-day delivery of parcels entered at local delivery units. The details and requirements of this new offering are yet to be finalized, and the USPS envisions a regional and national level of the service as well. What can mailers do? Read and familiarize yourself with the plan. Think about the

changes the USPS has said it is looking to make in the future and how your business and its services fit in. Focus on the initiatives the USPS is planning to implement over the next year — the USPS has been sharing information and talking about these initiatives (some of which are outlined above) at MTAC, at PCC meetings, and at other venues, so make sure you are engaged in those discussions and thinking about potential impacts and opportunities for your business. The Bottom Line Keep in mind that although the USPS has laid out a broad plan that outlines many strategic initiatives and goals, there are many areas where the details are yet to be developed. That means there is opportunity to work collaboratively with the USPS on development of specific initiatives — after all, it’s a 10-year plan, not a one-year plan.

Yes, things have already started changing in the mailing environment and will continue to change as the USPS moves ahead with its plan. Look for opportunities for your business in where the USPS is heading and consider the changes you may need to make to be successful in the future. Change is never easy, and it can be a bumpy road, but it can still lead you to a good destination.  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. | SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2021


By Greg Brown



ome things in life create great impact — a wedding, a divorce, having kids… these are the kinds of events that change a person. Pandemics fall into this category, too, demonstrating how shopping needs and habits evolve with the changing circumstances of life. If you are one of the many businesses that has seen an uptick in traffic as shoppers have shifted to online shopping for anything and everything, what’s your plan to keep these customers onboard once “regular life” restarts? Creating a retention strategy is a worthwhile effort and can help ensure your 26


new customer relationships are here for the long term rather than just for convenient transactions for homebound shoppers. Consider segmenting customers, applying characteristics of recency, frequency, and monetary value to their engagement behavior. This approach offers a smart, strategic plan for customer retention based on six key steps. Find and Engage with Your Most Valuable Customers Start by identifying your most profitable customers. The Pareto 80/20 principle, which recognizes imbalance within the mar-

ketplace, indicates that retailers can expect the vast majority of their revenue to be generated from just 20% of their customers. Score customers on a five-point scale, with points reflecting the recency, frequency of purchase, and monetary (RFM) value they bring to the merchant. With this point structure in mind, merchants can then evaluate other engagement behaviors that may add value to a particular customer, such as brand endorsement or social media activity. Using these characteristics as a guide, merchants can focus resources and invest in smart, targeted operations to drive customer engagement and retention.

Reorganize your business operations to prominently feature and prioritize customer retention. Inspire and expect customer-facing employees to solve any shopper problem; for example, increase floor limits as needed for flawless, on-thespot problem resolution.

Develop useful, entertaining, and informative marketing content to entice new customers and please existing ones. Creating an emotional connection between you and your customers helps build a sense of mutual benefit into the relationship.

Communicate with all customers automatically, frequently, and appropriately. For example, welcome emails in a series are more powerful than a single message, demonstrating your continued appreciation of their business. This kind of relevant communication creates a path to ongoing customer engagement and greater revenue potential.

Use customer RFM scores as a basis for your communications. Refine your approach and be strategic; for example, identifying customers based on scores that demonstrate frequent, but low-dollar value, purchases. A series of automated “winback” emails may be ideal, addressing the need for communication but balancing it with low dollar transactions.

Anticipate the need for manual actions, triggered by certain RFM scores. Consider assigning these resources to reward customers with an RFM score of 2-2-5: They represent your most profitable shoppers and special handling may be warranted.

There will always be special cases that demand proactive, manual handling. A poor review or negative social post about a shopping experience or product? Get in touch with customers directly to offer service and support to correct the issue.

Post-pandemic, Customer Retention Strategies Are Just Smart Business For most of the last year, shoppers were notso-gently transitioned into new buying habits. The closure of physical stores — familiar and needed yet considered non-essential during pandemic days — was sudden, unexpected, and generally uncomfortable for most shoppers. Even as we progress to a better, healthier status as a community and an economy, merchants can take smart steps to retain these hard-won new shoppers. With strategy and effort, you can build a buyer-seller relationship that is both meaningful and personal for the long-term. Learn more about your customers and handle them according to their preferences and business value. Customer loyalty has been influenced the actions of companies during the pandemic — and now represents opportunity today and beyond.  Greg Brown is Vice President of Global Marketing, Melissa. | SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2021




othing is more inevitable than evolution. Evolution happens in fits and starts as determined by necessity; innovations typically happen gradually and sequentially, with one invention informing the next one. However, every so often, world events spur exponential evolutionary growth. While there isn’t much that can be done to predict the next significant evolutionary shift, there are ways to capitalize on those changes. Cue an unprecedented pandemic that has changed the way humans live and interact around the world. Of the many byproducts of the pandemic, rapid innovation allowed businesses to operate beyond their standard capacities. The boom of e-commerce pushed all mail centers to work harder, processing an unprecedented number of shipments. Mail operations reached a new peak due to the pandemic, and we are now at a point of no return; the post-pandemic mail center must continue to become more robust, powerful, and efficient. We have entered the next normal: a return to stability, but not to the way things were before. Luckily, necessity is the mother of really cool technology. We have been fortunate enough to have innovations and 28


advancements that we’re able to meet the moment when the pandemic began. We can now use these tools born out of the need to keep everyone safe and distanced to enhance our daily lives post-pandemic. Here are three technological trends that may become commonplace within mail centers around the world. The Expanded Usage of Kiosks Physical kiosks may be the most accessible type of automated service to identify. In recent years, they have grown in popularity at chain restaurants, grocery stores, and other retail settings. Yet this integration of automation into our daily lives as consumers is just the tip of the iceberg. The benefits of using kiosks continue to grow, as they often act as the first line of customer interactions, with more intuitive applications popping up every day. Even as the pandemic waged last year, many mail offices maintained business continuity through digital devices that allowed for social distancing. According to the state of Michigan, over half a million interactions were processed through state government facility kiosks in 2020. Kiosks were also an essential tool, along with digital mail, which helped clients stay connected to their

receivables while keeping them out of the office. Kiosks put that next level of distance between those who needed on-site services and facility employees themselves. As the pandemic wanes, the need for kiosk services will continue to be necessary. Now that we’ve seen kiosk usage become more established within mail center facilities and other businesses alike, there are many ways we will interact with them in the future as they become even more ubiquitous. The user experience that kiosks provide to mail center customers should become more intuitive as the years go on. A mail center machine’s programming could suggest complementary services to gain additional revenue during the time of service. Those who are mailing out certified mail could be offered additional services, such as signature and receipt verification. Kiosks could also continue to be the go-to option for peak customer service times as well as offhours. These measures can continue to close potential revenue gaps and allow for a more efficient user experience while also letting employees focus on tasks that distinctly require a human touch. We are only at the beginning of a kiosk renaissance, with more use-cases coming every day.

Carrier Integrations and Consolidation of Data Technology is rapidly evolving at a breakneck pace; each carrier is creating tools to enhance user experience and the inbound/outbound mail journey for every facility. Each new tool provides a unique opportunity for improved insights into the path of the parcels, packages, and letters that pass through a facility. However, to truly be helpful to a mail center that works with multiple carriers, these tools must be used in conjunction with an umbrella platform that houses all of the data created by each service. Mail facility managers lose valuable time jumping from app to app, trying to find the metrics and reports generated by even just one carrier. Features such as UPS’ Quantum View and FedEx Insight provide in-depth data regarding inbound and outbound shipments as well as automatic notifications designed to help increase visibility into a facility’s supply chain. FedEx’s SenseAware ID takes things a step further by providing even more checkpoints for package tracking through their sensor-based logistics. Using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), a small sensor attached to the packaging offers precise location data at nearly 10 times the number of checkpoints as traditional package scanning protocols. All of which equates to enhanced real-time data regarding the location of a package. Given advances like those described above, we are starting to see facilities consolidating their data under one umbrella platform, as it has now become essential to their operation. Instead of working day by day, a consolidated platform provides mail center managers a holistic view of their operations, making it easier to identify gaps and improve business strategy in the long run. Having access to complex data on a single platform increases efficiency while also giving managers the tools they need to streamline reporting and increase revenue. The Emergence of Hyperautomation within Mail Centers Advancements like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotic process automation have allowed companies to operate at an elite level for the past few years. However, recently, there has been a way to leverage and merge all these technologies into one process called hyperautomation. Hyperautomation as a practice involves identifying various computer-based operations to automate, select appropriate automation tools, and extend their capabilities using specific advanced technologies. It allows companies to choose different methods to automate and appropriate advanced tools to expand operations beyond standard capacities. Although we are only beginning to master this technology, many companies have already started using hyperautomation in various applications. For mail centers, a prime application for hyperautomation is customer or client interactions; center managers have the opportunity to upgrade their basic customer processes, such as customer onboarding, order taking, payments, and customer data updates. Allowing advanced technology to dictate the pace, execution, and overall experience for processes based on past data, reports, and metrics will free up the workforce to do more complex tasks.  As Digital Marketing Specialist, Morgan Stevenson is responsible for generating informative and engaging content as well as managing the social presence of SCLogic. He has several years of experience in digital, content, and social media marketing. Morgan joined the SCLogic team in 2019 and has been making an impact with his creativity since his first day.

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The user experience that kiosks provide to mail center customers should become more intuitive as the years go on. A mail center machine’s programming could suggest complementary services to gain additional revenue during the time of service. Those who are mailing out certified mail could be offered additional services, such as signature and receipt verification. Kiosks could also continue to be the go-to option for peak customer service times as well as off-hours.


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