U.S. Postal Service (USPS) rules and regulations are moving targets. Ask anyone who provides mailing services and they will tell you that staying abreast of current requirements is a challenge at best.
It hasn’t always been that way. Until the mid-1990s, running a mailing department in a small commercial printing company consisted of bringing in part-time employees to hand-stuff envelopes, then sorting by ZIP code and bundling mail pieces for delivery to the local post office. Larger mailing and fulfillment facilities tended to have heavier duty, more sophisticated equipment, but the process was essentially the same.
The USPS began its move toward automated mail processing in 1996, fundamentally altering the process of acting as a mailing service provider. Today, to provide maximum rate discounts to their customers, mailers must maintain excruciatingly precise records. One of the primary requirements is to have CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) certified software. CASS certification indicates that the software manufacturer is in compliance with USPS rules concerning address matching, including ZIP+4, carrier route, and five-digit coding. This software must be updated six times a year and fees for those updates begin at about $1,100 annually, depending on the software vendor.
Mailers must also compare their customers’ mailing lists to the USPS National Change of Address (NCOA) database on a regular basis in order to maintain discounts. Many software vendors bundle this service with CASS certification.
Another change that is critical to providing the best service to your customers is the move to shape-based mail rates. Simply put, mail pieces that comply with shape-based dimensions and address/indicia placement receive deeper discounts than those that do not. The reason is simple: automation. In its drive to automate its processes as much as possible, the USPS is willing to offer incentives to mailers for providing mail pieces that can be automatically sorted by its equipment. If a piece does not comply, it must be hand-sorted, therefore, it costs more to mail it.
Shape-based mailing offers two benefits to mailing service providers. First, it gives you an opening to get in front of your customers in order to explain the rules. This means you also have the opportunity to point out the ways you can help your clients save money. That’s always a good thing. Second, if the mail piece is designed to easily move through the USPS automation, it will also move easily through yours. And it’s a simple point of fact that the fewer touches a job requires, the more profitable it will be.
The repeatedly delayed, Intelligent Mail barcodes (IMb) are another example of a major change in the rules of engagement that should ultimately bring improvements to the entire system.
The USPS is also trying to find ways to make the mail more user friendly. This summer, it offered special discounts to mailers who printed special QR codes on the front of mailpieces. With some of the next-generation variable data solutions available, it is becoming easier to participate in this type of promotion. This also significantly increases the mailing service provider’s options for meeting with customers to explain the ongoing attractiveness of direct mail as part of their marketing mix.
GRAPH EXPO attendees will find solutions—hardware, software, and information—in the Mailing & Fulfillment Center on the show floor; the largest display of its kind anywhere.
Free Mailing Session Today:
How to Leverage USPS Regulations to Grow your Business
12:30-1:30 pm, Room S405ab
Speaker: Jane Friddell, Vertical Market Manager, Pitney Bowes
As a print and market solutions provider, mailing services should be an integral part of your offerings. To be successful, it is vital to understand the USPS regulations and programs and how they can be leveraged to grow your value to your customer, which will result in a growth in revenues. Topics to be discussed are the IMB, QR codes, Every Door Direct Mail, mail piece design, and other USPS programs. By understanding these programs, you will learn how to integrate these services with your more traditional print services to grow your business.