Whether you are just now adding mailing services to your quick printing operation or are an established mailer, it is likely that you've needed a "how to" source of information on mailing services. That may be why you read this column or why you participate in your local Postal Customer Council (PCC). In fact, as the United States Postal Service continues its transition to technology-based mail processing operations, the burden on all mailers, including quick printers, to alter internal procedures to accommodate changing USPS requirements is accelerating.
The problem is less that of finding out what the USPS is changing than it is determining how the changes affect your specific mailing customers and, by extension, the way you provide mailing services. Between 1996 and 2006, the rate of change was slower paced and easier to manage. But since 2006 it has accelerated, with significant changes such as shape-based postage rates, expansion of move update requirements, and implementation of intelligent mail barcode occurring within months of each other.
It is not going to get any better. And that's why quick printers who are also mailers need to find good, reliable sources of training material or learn for themselves how to translate new USPS requirements into internal operating procedures.
In recent years, as copier technology has shifted from analog to digital and the cost of variable data software declined, it has become feasible for quick printers to produce individually personalized documents ranging from customized insurance policies to one-to-one marketing materials. This has led some quick printers to become what I'll term "partial service" mailers. In contrast to full service mailers, whose product knowledge includes all classes of mail and postage rates, partial service mailers use mailing services as essentially another post press process like bindery. Direct mail pieces were often postcards, requiring only addressing and bulk mail preparation, which limited the amount of mailing knowledge one needed to provide the service.
Mail Shop in a Box
In 2007 Xerox began developing Volume 2 of its Digital Print Series (a complement to its ProfitAccelerator Digital Business Resource collection), called Mail Shop in a Box. The topic was the result of a survey conducted by NAPL in which printers named digital services, mailing services, and finishing services as their top three capital investments for the fourth quarter of 2008 and 2009. Developed in collaboration with The Bennett Group, a well known training and consulting group within the mailing industry, Mail Shop in a Box is promoted as a seven-step, easy guide to adding mailing capabilities to a digital print shop. It is available to current Xerox customers or those in the process of becoming Xerox customers.
I had the opportunity to review Mail Shop in a Box, and can report that it is well written and content rich. Included are two tools that I found especially helpful—a booklet that explains shape-based postage rates and a remake of USPS Letter-size Mail Dimensional Standards Template (Notice 3A) and Automation Template (Notice 67). These are used to confirm mail piece eligibility for classes of postage and automation compatible postage rates. Because shape-based postage rates were implemented in 2007, anyone who was a mailer at that time has by now fully integrated those requirements into operational practice. However, the booklet and template are still good tools for educating new customers and training the shop's graphic designer, customer service reps, and salespeople.
The heart of Mail Shop in a Box is an interactive CD. The "interactive" part means that, just like on the Internet, there are highlighted words that are links to other parts of the text or to external Internet sources. Besides the seven-step guide to adding mailing services, the CD also contains a glossary of postal terms and references to other resources available to Xerox customers.