Fast Delivery: Mail Strategies for Reliable Communications
Patrick Donahoe retired as Postmaster General of the USPS on February 1, having led the organization since 2011. In early January, Donahoe gave his farewell address at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Among his topics was the “lower standards for mail delivery” brought on by the USPS closing over half of its mail processing network. The ‘lower standards’ is slower delivery. (See http://about.usps.com/streamlining-operations/area-mail-processing.htm for additional details.)
The slower delivery is not evenly spread across the class and type of mail. High quantity outbound First-Class mailings will be largely unaffected by the slowdown because they benefit from pre-sort and commingling methods to by-pass many of the shuttered processing facilities. As a result, outbound billing statements and renewal notices, for example, should experience little delivery slowdown. However, consumer inbound First-Class mail is another story. During Donahoe’s farewell address he stated, “Return mail will be slower. And so the check that is in the mail will be slower.” The same can be said for policy or service renewals sent by mail.
Having payment checks and service renewals come in at a slower rate is not good news for finance directors and product managers, whose job is to accelerate payments and renewals. However, there are strategies to deal with the delivery slowdown, one involving the USPS itself.
- Convert to Electronic – The most obvious strategy is to convert mail response to electronic. By and large, most companies have done well in this regard but now there is even greater incentive to move the needle toward electronic. But there are limits converting consumers to electronic. Many consumers remain loyal to mail because of the perception mail payments are processed slower than electronic ones, and the fact that mail delivery is slowing down even more may only harden that preference. Also, there are the lingering fears of data and security breaches associated with electronic transactions that hold some people back from leaving traditional mail.
- Participate in IMb® – For those customers still responding back by mail, there are excellent remedies. Perhaps the best one comes from the USPS itself, and its Intelligent Mail barcode program. IMb® assigns a unique identifier to each piece of mail that allows it to be tracked through USPS processing. Each mail piece is scanned at various points in the processing and that information is captured and stored in an IMb® database. Mail servicers, such as Venture Solutions, have access to the information that allows them to track the progress of each mail piece. Typically, IMb® is used to track outbound mail but it can be just as useful for tracking inbound mail. This is done by adding a unique IMb® identifier to the return mail piece. This allows the mail servicer to track inbound mail and report on it. That way the finance directors concerned about their inbound cash flow, and product managers concerned about their renewal notices, have a way to measure and assess the progress of inbound payments and renewals.
The inbound mail strategy best for your company should be part of an overall mail strategy. A mail strategy has many factors that need to be considered, such as the size and purpose of individual programs, customer preferences and experience, budget and communication goals. Venture Solutions specializes in putting together all these factors and developing a mail strategy that best fits an individual company. Click here to learn more about our solutions.
I’d like to thank Venture’s USPS expert, Diane Dotzler, for her input for this blog posting. Be sure to follow our blog to learn more about the mail changes taking place in 2015.