Understanding Postal: Web Exclusive - Stay Close to Postal ... Now More Than Ever
Cross-channel marketers who have historically left postal matters in the hands of their service providers may find that the rapidly changing postal landscape requires more hands-on knowledge and involvement than ever before.
As the USPS and its business customers continue to face economic pressures, “business as usual” no longer meets the needs of the Postal Service or direct marketers. Both are finding new ways to reduce costs and increase revenues, which means that direct marketers need to be more aware than ever of how changes to the USPS’ processes and requirements can impact their businesses. Here are a few areas to stay close to in 2010.
Keeping Addresses Current
The USPS is more committed than ever to ensuring mailing addresses are complete, correct and current. Effective January 4, new requirements for address quality were put in place — and the postage consequences for noncompliance can be significant. For catalog (Standard mail) mailings, a penalty of 7 cents per piece for the entire mailing could be assessed for address quality (i.e., move update) deficiencies.
Catalogers who own or maintain their own address lists must ensure that processes are put in place to meet the requirements — a task which cannot always be left to your service providers, who are likely to have you sign a document to ensure that you're responsible for any noncompliance postage consequences, not the service provider.
Meeting USPS Catalog Design Requirements
Another area where noncompliance with USPS requirements can have significant consequences is that of your catalog's physical design. Although the USPS delayed implementing some design changes for catalogs (such as the “droop” requirement, which now is scheduled to take effect in June), there are likely to be additional requirements implemented during 2010 that'll impact catalog designs.
In April 2009 the USPS said it may propose additional changes in catalog design and preparation requirements, including new requirements for inserts (e.g., blow-in cards) within catalogs. These rules will require that all catalog marketers — whether claiming USPS automation discounts or not — meet USPS automation design requirements, and new requirements for Flats that are “flimsy” or too rigid.
Tightening Mail Acceptance Processes
The USPS has identified business mail acceptance as one of its significant deficiency areas stemming from the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act of 2002. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act requires the USPS to comply with SOX, which impacts its financial controls and processes, including those involved with postage payment and mail verification/acceptance. Specific business mail acceptance deficiency areas identified by the USPS include unsigned postage statements; ensuring postage is paid/collected accurately and promptly; and ensuring that mail is presented at the right facility and time to comply with customer agreements and mailing documentation.
The USPS will be focusing on tightening control and oversight of its business mail acceptance function in 2010, which means that catalogers and other business mailers may encounter postal clerks doing things differently than they have in the past. This may require additional documentation or adherence to different processes than before.
These are just a few of the areas the USPS will focus on in 2010 as it continues to address cost reduction, revenue protection and compliance with its statutory and regulatory requirements.
In addition to working closely with service providers, catalog and business mailers should avail themselves of other resources to keep on top of postal issues, including membership in postal industry associations, reading trade publications and websites, attending industry conferences, and working closely with other companies in their postal supply chains.
—Kathy J. Siviter, president, Postal Consulting Services (firstname.lastname@example.org).