Mailing equipment is analogous to bindery equipment, requiring similar floor space and skills to operate. But if a printer does not have enough volume to run the equipment daily, then subcontracting the work to an outside lettershop may be a better option. You’ll save floor space, worker training, and the cost of acquiring equipment. As mail volume has fallen, lettershops may have excess capacity, with the benefit of faster turnaround times and lower minimum charges.
Fixed Cost of Providing Mailing Services
An often overlooked cost of providing mailing services is the ongoing fees for permits and USPS compliance. Setting aside the initial cost, here is what you can expect annually:
• USPS permits: A $195 annual fee for permission to mail with permit imprint. A separate permit is required for each post office facility where mail is entered.
• CASS/DPV updates: Six-times-a-year updates of the USPS database of deliverable addresses; required to mail at discounted postage rates. Available through mail list management software vendors, fees begin at about $1,100 annually.
• Move update compliance: Comparison of customer mail list to USPS National Change of Address database; required to mail at discounted postage rates. Available from mail list management software vendors and other service providers. Fees are $1 per 1,000 records with a minimum (usually $40), or unlimited service for a year for a flat fee (starting at $1,100; some vendors combine this with CASS/DPV update service).
Besides understanding the mechanics of mail list preparation and operating equipment, a mailing services provider owes customers a thorough knowledge of USPS requirements to qualify for discounted postage rates.
• CSRs need to guide customers through decisions that impact the effectiveness of the mail piece, from the target audience to the specification of the mail piece itself. They must understand how mail moves well enough to help customers decide what class of postage is most appropriate for the job. They must be able to manage customers so the mail list, PAF form, and postage deposit are received on schedule without either jeopardizing the requested mail date or creating a production emergency in the shop.
• Designers must know the physical characteristics of the categories of mail, the size and location of the mail panel, and where indicia can be placed.
• The production team needs to maintain the production schedule so the requested mail date is always met.
• The owner needs to stay current on changing postal regulations and requirements and adjust internal procedures accordingly. The owner must be prepared to take over from CSRs to calm upset customers for perceived lapses in shop performance or for problems caused by the USPS.
If you want to provide mailing services, commit to maintaining high standards of professionalism, understand the resources – money, staff, and time – that are required to gain proficiency, and seek a partner rather than doing it yourself if that means better services for your customers.