Help for Transition to Intelligent Mail
Because the switch to full-service Intelligent Mail is so important, the USPS and most software vendors are now offering a lot of support to mailers making the transition. For its part, the USPS is working on ways to make TEM testing faster and easier as well as providing webinars and information on the RIBBS website. Software vendors are offering webinars, instruction manuals, and even step-by-step guidance through the Intelligent Mail qualification process.
Mailing service providers do not need to be afraid of full-service Intelligent Mail. Like all major technology-based steps the USPS has taken since reclassification in 1996, the requirements initially sound formidable—and, in fact, may have been so for early adopters. But as the January 2014 deadline nears, there is increased activity from many sources to help mailers take the needed steps for compliance.
Should Small Mailers Make the Transition?
It has been many years since the USPS began its transition to technology-based mail processing. First in relatively easy-to-implement steps (like CASS-certification), and later in requirements that had more impact on production requirements and cost (like move update compliance in 2008), the USPS requirements have presented mailers with a choice: bear the costs of compliance, or forego automation-based postage discounts.
I believe January 21014 is the latest example of a decision point for mailing service providers who handle a small volume of mail annually.
I define “small volume” as fewer than 120,000 pieces annually, or less than 10,000 pieces per month. Another measurement would be any mailer who did not receive a tech credit from the USPS.
With the fixed recurring cost of being in the mailing business currently at a minimum of $2,200 annually for a mailing permit and the subscriptions to mail list management software and National Change of Address (NCOA), before adding any costs for full-service Intelligent Mail or for track-and-trace services to decipher the information generated by Intelligent Mail, small mailers may find that full-service compliance adds more extra cost than the postage savings through automation discounts.
Besides the cost, mailers will also have to pass additional verification steps related to Intelligent Mail for each mailing presented for acceptance. This means more chances that a mailing will not be compliant, resulting in a delay for mail entry and frustration for the mailer.
Therefore, as counterintuitive as it seems, it may be less expensive and more efficient to charge customers the automation rate for postage, even though the discount is not claimed—meaning the mailer will collect less for postage than the actual cost. This is a business and customer service decision that small mailing service providers will need to make without delay.
For mailers who are already committed to making the transition to full-service Intelligent Mail, the time to begin is now. Only six months remain before the January 26, 2014 implementation date, and mailers will want to be fully comfortable with printing the full-service IMb on mail pieces and container tags, making appointments for entry using FAST, preparing Mail.dat files, and submitting documentation through eDocs.