The Election – Is Success Only On The Back Of The USPS?

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

Election 2020

A lot of focus has been placed on the USPS for the success of mail-in ballots on the election.  Accusations of fraud, inability to handle volumes, sabotage and more have been made.  In reality, the USPS is only one of three entities that are involved in the voting process. Read on to find out who the other players are and how they figure into not only this election but all others.

The Government -States/Counties

Government is responsible for a number of areas related to mailed ballots:

  1. Keeping voter rolls up-to-date
    States/Counties are responsible for keeping voter information up-to-date. This includes:
  • Adding new voters
  • Changing addresses
  • Removing voters (e.g., moved out of state, deceased, etc.)
40 million people move

Databases such as Dept of Motor Vehicles, Social Security Administration and Election Registration and Information Center (for member States) are used.  Mail list integrity depends on how frequently updates are made and how close to mail dates.  Accuracy varies from state to state.  States that regularly use mail ballots (such as Colorado) have an effective process to keep the voter rolls in good shape.

Note:  Accuracy of mailing lists directly impacts mailed ballots.  Inaccurate information results in voters not receiving ballots, ballots delivered to the wrong address or delivered to deceased individuals. 

2. Issuing ballots
Individual States/Counties choose how ballots will be delivered.  First-Class Mail is more expensive and is delivered in 2-5 days; Marketing Mail (including non-profit mail) takes 3-10 days but is less expensive.  States/Counties prefer Marketing Mail to save taxpayer money.
Some States/Counties knowingly send ballots to voters even if they have moved out of state.  This can result in fraud.

Note: Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General, has indicated the Postal Service will deliver all ballots as First-Class even though States will pay for Marketing Mail rates.

3. Educating Voters
States advise constituents when ballots must be returned to be included in the vote, which varies by State.  There are two options – ballots must either be postmarked by election day or received by election day. It is the State’s responsibility to effectively inform voters what is required.

NOTE:  States must educate voters on ballot requirements and advise them to return ballots at least 10 days before election day.

4. Counting ballots
Counties automate the process of opening and matching ballot signatures.  States that do not typically handle mail in ballots must acquire this equipment – virtually impossible at the last minute. 

Note:  the USPS is not involved in vote counting, only delivering ballots. 

Bottom line:  The quality of State’s mailing lists directly impacts who receives ballots.  How well they educate constituents regarding when ballots must be received impacts the vote. Counting votes is up to the States and will be slowed based on available equipment.  The USPS has no control over these issues.

Printers

Printers produce approximately 200 million ballots for the election.  There are a limited number of printers who can handle such large-scale efforts and have both the security and quality control measures in place.  Without a high level of quality control, duplicate ballots can be generated and mailed.   

Bottom line:  Duplicate ballots can be put in the mail stream if quality controls are not in place.   

USPS

The Postal Service is the caboose of this train and their performance is impacted by the above factors.  Luckily, they are highly automated and can handle enormous volumes.  Consider these facts:

  • USPS handles 45 million single piece First-Class letters* daily.
  • The volume of holiday cards (1.3 billion**) far exceeds the mail-in ballot (200 million) in about the same timeframe.
  • First-Class letter volumes have declined (16.2% from 2016 to 2019*). the USPS has plenty of capacity to handle the increased volume from mailed election ballots.
  • First-Class mail is processed exclusively by equipment, which speeds up processing.  All pieces are sorted and put in correct sequence for the mail carrier to deliver.

Admittedly, there has been some operational issues affecting mail delivery since July of this year.  There are a number of factors impacting USPS performance:

Did you know - mail
  • COVID-19 – over 40,000 USPS workers have been affected by the Corona virus due either to acquiring the illness or being quarantined due to exposure from a co-worker.
  • Air transport slowdown – the pandemic reduced the number of flights that move the mail.
  • Unions – restrictions do not allow the USPS to move people from one position to another to cover absent personnel.  There have also been soft strikes (e.g., blue flu) to protest the elimination of overtime at the Post Office.

Bottom line:  the Postal Service is more than capable of delivering high volumes of mail on a daily basis.   Postmaster DeJoy has reversed planned changes at the USPS until after the election to ensure ballots are delivered on time.  Deliveries have started to improve. 

For more information debunking a number of accusations leveled at the Postal Service, check out this blog:  Postal myths debunked

Bottom line, success is dependent on all parties involved, not just the USPS.

*2019 USPS Postal Facts

**Dec 10, 2019 Link.USPS.com, About the Business, Season’s Greetings

Other resources:

National Association of Secretaries of State Voter registration maintenance requirements: https://www.nass.org/sites/default/files/reports/nass-report-voter-reg-maintenance-final-dec17.pdf

Examples Show Using The Right Shipping & Communication Tools for Reduce Costs

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

This blog will provide real-world examples of how the right tools can increase productivity and reduce costs. These examples were chosen to illustrate how worthwhile it is to consider more than just price when solving your communication challenges.

Our last blog, “4 Considerations To Ensure You Have The Right Tools For Your Shipping &  Communications”, outlined a number of areas that are not typically considered when acquiring mailing or shipping equipment. In other words, sometimes what you don’t think about can often lead to unforeseen costs that impact your bottom line.

Business Case #1 – Improved Efficiency

Shipping Solution

Take for example, one of CMS’ Clients that manually folded and inserted over 7,000 checks and statements each month.  This required 3 staff members to put other tasks aside and allocate a total of 18 hours each month to this project.  At an industry average hourly rate of $15, this cost the company $3,240 every year.

By introducing an easy-to-use folder/inserter, this process was reduced to a single employee for 1 hour each month. As a result this change provided a savings of over $3,00 each year in labor that could be utilized toward revenue-generating tasks.

Business Case #2 – Reduce Costs & Improved Visibility

One of our legal Clients required delivery confirmation each time legal papers were mailed.  Their employees were manually filling out over 250 Certified Return Receipt green cards each year, waiting for the return confirmation and filing the green cards.  Using 2020 postal rates, this law firm was spending $6.90 for every Certified Mail Return Receipt letter sent – over $1,725 in postage each year.

We introduced our ConnectSuite software, which enabled them to send Certified Return Receipt Mail electronically (ERR).  This not only saved the Firm $1.15 on each letter sent, in short they gained:

  • A savings of 5 hours/week by eliminating manual preparation of green cards
  • Full audit trail and archiving of Certified Mail and other required legal documents
  • Elimination of physical file space for storage
  • Electronic storage into their document management system

Additionally, this firm was better prepared for future planned expansion.

Business Case #3 – Enhanced Efficiency & Confidentiality

Another one of our clients was mailing 1,000 business critical multi-page mailings daily. These were customized to each of their clients which ranged from 5- 8 pages. This company employed one full-time employee dedicated to this task.  He manually grouped mailings based on the number of inserts in each envelope because their folder/inserter could only run the same number of pages at one time.    

As a result of assessing their situation, we introduced the OMS software. OMS uses barcode technology to identify all pages that should be included for each client. The advantage of barcodes:

  • Eliminate the need to pre-sort groups of mailings based on the number of inserts
  • Fully automate the inserting process without the need to change set-ups
  • Ensure 100% accuracy – right contents go to the right person

Subsequently, this company is now able to prepare their 1,000 mailings in one hour, vs. the 8 hours it took manually.  Consequently, their dedicated employee can now be utilized on other revenue-generating projects.

Business Case #4 – Upgrade to Savings

One of our Clients was trying to “make do” with a mailing system that was not designed to automatically weigh envelopes of various sizes and weights.  One-at-a-time weighing was draining employee’s time and efficiency in their mailroom. 

During CMS’ Discovery stage of our Proven Process, we learned they were shipping many packages via UPS and FedEx that could have been shipped through the USPS at a significant savings. 

As a result of our Discovery, we recommended a three-part solution:

  1. Upgraded Mailing System with a dynamic in-line weighing capability that could automatically weigh different size and weights of envelopes on the fly.  This system saved approximately 13 hours of labor each month.
  2. Neoship Software that allowed them to: 
    • Compare shipping rates to identify the best rate
    • Allowed shipping from remote locations.
    • Consolidated reporting.
  3. Training on proper utilization of the USPS IM®pb to reduce Priority Mail rates by 13% and First-Class parcel rates by 40%

Subsequently, the net benefit to our Client was a savings of approximately $1,200/month in expenses. Additionally, our suggestions improved visibility through reporting and being able to allocate employee resources to more important tasks.

Business Case #5 – Outsourced Solution

An auditing/inspection Client had been expanding significantly in the past few years. However with that growth they were then faced with how to best manage their communications.   Since there was some question whether they level of growth would be sustained, they were reluctant to hire additional employees.

After meeting with them, our recommendation was to partially outsource a portion of their larger mailings. Outsourcing to a mail production facility using Neotouch provides several advantages.  This solution allows them to:

  • Develop communications using their existing office applications.
  • Forward materials to Neotouch’s state-of-the-art production facility for printing, folding, inserting, metering and mailing with a single click of their mouse.
  • Provides the ability to email communications to their Client’s, a capability they did not have previously. 
  • Trace and archive (up to 11 years) all documents.

Above all, this solution is scalable and allows our Client to dedicate employees to revenue-generating tasks.  Projected savings as a result of our recommendations was well over $7,000 per year.

These cases provide just a few examples of the benefits of thinking outside the box.  CMS is your 360° Advocate, we are here to listen to your needs, solve issues and provide on-going support.  We are your local resource for all questions, concerns and needs.  Call us today to see how we can help you – 303-761-0681.

Does your company have the RIGHT tools?  Take our Assessment and find out.  Then share what you learned that surprised you!

360 degree advocate logo

4 Considerations To Ensure You Have The Right Tools For Your Shipping & Communications

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

In today’s work environment, it’s more important than ever to have the right Shipping & Communications tools to help your company be competitive.  When it comes to communications and package shipping tools, businesses typically default to the least expensive options.  Using price exclusively can lead to acquiring systems that won’t meet your company’s needs, lead to equipment failure, down-time and ultimately costs more in the long run.

When organizations mail/ship items, they are essentially printing money.  These costs need to be evaluated and controlled.  You may think that mailing/shipping tools and workflow software can’t significantly impact your balance sheet and/or can’t be controlled.  On the contrary!  

This blog explores factors that should be considered when assessing mail room tools.  We’ll cover some over-arching guidelines to keep in mind in the evaluation process.  For detailed considerations, we’ve developed a Mailroom Tools Assessment.
 
1. Get Feedback
Internal
Start your assessment by talking with your employees. They can tell
you what’s working and what isn’t.  Start by review your company’s
internal workflow:

  • Who is doing the job – dedicated staff exclusively or with untrained staff as volume spikes.
  • What is the job – standard jobs (e.g., invoicing) or ones that must meet privacy regulations.  What are the challenges to getting the job done?  What are associated costs?
  • Where is it done – centrally or remotely.
  • When – how frequently do jobs occur; are they repetitive or one-offs.
  • How is it done – are processes documented; are they manual, automated or outsourced.
  • Why is it done this way – based on how “it’s always been done”, inadequate training, or because best practices have not been established. 
Shipping & Communications Tools

The goal is to identify gaps and cost impact.  Explore hindrances, challenges and frustrations in getting tasks done. Do your
employees have customer feedback that suggests dissatisfaction with your company’s processes?  Now is the time to
obtain all feedback, positive and negative.


External
Get feedback from your customers.  Call two or three of your larger
customers or ones who you know would be willing to be open and
honest with you. 

Explore whether they are happy with your communications and how
they receive them.  What would they change? What you uncover could
be surprising.  For example – they may consider it wasteful that a return
envelope is included with your statements when they pay with ACH. 
There are tools to address that!

TIP:  understand what’s working and what isn’t to identify your vulnerabilities.

2. Review Existing Capabilities & Equipment
Look at the strengths and weaknesses of your existing mailing and shipping systems, processes, tools and people.  Anything done manually, should be a candidate for an automated solution.  Use our Assessment Tool to help.

Know your numbers:

  • Confirm current equipment expenditures (lease, maintenance)
  • Validate (in writing) all equipment Lease End Dates (LED)
  • Confirm all cancellation dates and requirements

TIP:  Including employees engages them and reduces resistance as new tools and systems are incorporated. 

Blue sticky note with letter costs

3. Review or Develop Your Business Plan/Projection
A big piece of your business is managing money. To be successful, you need a plan.  Many companies don’t have a business plan or never consult it.  An annual plan will focus your efforts, help determine what tools you need, when they can be acquired, and will contribute to a smooth transition.

TIP:  Without a plan you can end up with the wrong communication tools.

4. Explore New Solutions & Vendors
Engage with current and new vendors:

  • Share your challenges and plans.
  • Be open to new industry capabilities.
  • Meet at the vendors office (ideally) or at least face-to-face to become familiar with new industry options and capabilities.
  • Get hands-on experience before you commit. 
  • Make apples-to-apples comparisons between competitive systems to determine the best solution.
  • Get feedback from existing customers to identify strengths/weaknesses of the vendor’s solution and support.

NOTE:  Beware of companies (such as Pitney Bowes) using primarily telesales.  By nature, their focus is an immediate sale, not a long-term relationship based on a customized solution and local support when you have issues.     

A price-only decision at this stage will haunt you.  Longer term leases have lower prices but the contracts may outlive the value of the solution.  A higher monthly lease may provide the flexibility to give you a competitive edge in today’s fast-changing environment (think of COVID’s impact). 

TIP:  Factor in savings achieved from all areas (e.g., labor, materials, down-time) when evaluating real cost.

Business as usual is not an option anymore.  Be open to new ways of approaching your business – change can be difficult but worth it in the long run. 

Check out our detailed Mailroom Assessment Tool that includes specific questions to help you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.  You’ll find it here:  Assessment

What has been key in your evaluation process?  Share your experiences with us!

How Much Money Are You Wasting?

By Paul Johnson, President Complete Mailing Solutions

Since we originally posted this blog (11/2/2016), doing business has been turned upside down.  Many businesses now have employees working remotely (#wfh) due to the Corona pandemic.  Often, workers will come to the office for short periods to get essential tasks done. As well, workers need tools at home to keep business moving. Now, more than ever, mailing equipment and tools need to be easy to use,  maximize productivity and be cost-effective to keep business moving. We thought it’d be a good idea to re-visist
How Much Money Are You Wasting?

Oh, the humble folder/inserter. No one gives it much thought. However, it’s an unsung hero for saving both time and money for your organization.
Are you:

  • Pulling staff from day-to-day tasks to heImage of a Dollar signlp stuff envelopes, causing delays in other projects?
  • Paying for temps to help process statements or mailings so your staff can stay focused on their work?
  • Processing multiple page invoices or statements manually?

On average, an office worker can manually stuff 2 inserts in about 95 envelopes per hour, compared with a minimum of 1,350 envelopes on an entry-level machine, or up to 12,000 envelopes on more sophisticated models. Matching, folding and inserting multiple pages by hand reduces that average exponentially.

Old school thinking says: “Employees are at work for 8 hours anyway, so what does it matter?”
Progressive thinking asks: “How can we maximize our employee’s time and profitability?”

Utilizing the right tools can:

  • Improve employee morale –tedious, disruptive projects can increase frustration
  • Increase accuracy – reduce error rates inherent in manual processing
  • Improve timeliness of communications – missed deadlines can result in revenue delays
  • Maximize communications – seasonal volume and #/type of inserts are easily accommodated
  • Impact customer satisfaction – prompt communications lead to greater customer satisfaction

A folder/inserter, working in tandem with output management software, provides greater flexibility, accuracy, cost-efficiency and timeliness when sending communications to your customers. The need to handle communications with varying number of inserts manually is a thing of the past. Technology adapts automatically, so you can tailor communications to specific customer groups on the fly.

Want to quickly identify areas for potential cost savings and productivity improvement? Check out our Labor Cost Comparison to better understand the savings available with a folder/inserter. It includes an ROI Calculator to help you determine specifically how much you can save.

How have you improved profitability in your company? Share your experience with us!

#folderinserter #outputmanagementsoftware #oms #remotework #wfh

Why Isn’t the U.S.Postal Service Profitable?

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

Since we originally posted this blog (07/2017), the Coronavirus has turned the world upside down.  Like many businesses, the United States Postal Service, arguably one of the key most essential services, is struggling even more in the face of this international pandemic.  In fact, mail volume declined about 30% in March and is projected to be down 50% by the end of June.  Unlike UPS and Fed/Ex, the USPS is not allowed to raise pricing at will to compensate for a change in demand.  At a time when the Postal Service is needed more than ever, Congress needs to get serious about providing assistance to sustain this service on which all Americans rely. #USPS_Is_Essential
Read on to find out why the USPS is in the condition that it is:

“Have you ever wondered why the USPS isn’t profitable?”

What if Congress passed a law requiring businesses to prefund employee healthcare and pensions for 75 years in advance? Can you imagine how that would impact your company financially? It’s interesting that Congress requires 100% funding for 75 years in advance for the USPS when,according to The Motley Fool,the U.S. Government is only 42% funded.

But, wait, there’s more…

  • What if you couldn’t increase your pricing based on changing market conditions (such as rising fuel costs or competitive pressures)?
  • What if you were required to distribute your goods/services to a broader market, even if that market was unprofitable?

If you’re like most executives you’d say: “No way! We can’t survive in that environment!”

Profitability image shown by magnifying glass and chart

Welcome to the Postal Service! These are just a few restrictions that the USPS must grapple with. Each of these individually would have a significant hit to the profitability and sustainability of a company. Collectively, they’re nearly untenable.
Remember, the USPS does NOT receive and revenue from the American taxpayer, their only source of revenue is for products and services!
And the list goes on:

  • They cannot add a fuel surcharge to pricing (as FedEx and UPS can) to maintain profit levels.
  • They are required to provide service to people and businesses in remote areas even though it may be highly unprofitable. In fact, the USPS delivers packages for UPS and FedEx in geographic areas UPS/FedEx consider unprofitable.
  • Although the USPS is not a government entity, it is governed by Congress and the Postal Rate Commission (PRC), which restricts potential avenues for expansion into other products and limits competition with other companies (such as UPS and FedEx). Congress has been influenced by competitors to get the USPS to abandon new products. Here are some examples cited by The Motley Fool:
    • Plans to develop an online payment system in 2000 were scuttled when the Internet industry cried foul.
    • Public copy machines.
    • In-store sales of phone cards and money transfers.
    • Selling postal meter cartridges (Pitney Bowes objected).
  • The USPS is required to invest exclusively in government bonds while private companies can invest in a wide variety of securities to improve profitability.
  • The USPS is forbidden by law to lower prices to get more business.

There is much criticism of the Postal Service for losing money. However, without unreasonably burdensome restrictions, it would likely be a different story. Not only do many of these restrictions not make sense, they directly undermine the success of the USPS. Many would have us do away with the Postal Service altogether. Yet, they provide a tremendously valuable service to our country across a huge geographic expanse and at very low rates. Services in Europe that are comparable to our
first class
delivery, cost at least two to three times more than in the U.S. Many projections around elimination or privatization (full or partial) of the Postal Service paint a picture or greatly increased prices and decreased service levels and quality.

So, what’s the answer? How about if we consider a simple solution? What if we just got out of the way (by relieving the USPS of unnecessary burdens) and let them run their business as a business?

For a more recent post see why we think It’s Time to Allow the USPS to Compete Fairly

Now Is Not The Time to Fold Your Wings!

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

We are in uncharted territory as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.  The landscape is changing daily, making it difficult to make business decisions and navigate.  Its impact will clearly be far reaching, although to what extent we cannot know.

economic slowdown graph

If you’re like most businesses, you are probably drowning in the midst of crisis management, trying to figure out the logistics of keeping your business going.  Businesses often react to challenging times and market downturns by folding their wings and becoming very conservative with expenditures.  In some areas of the business, this is wise. For example, you don’t want to make large investments in tangible products if consumers will not be able to purchase them for some time. 

However, history tells us there is one area where investment should continue – marketing and communications.  How you keep your company stays in front of your current customers and prospects can dramatically impact how quickly your business will rebound and be stronger once things improve. 

While it may not be possible to keep marketing expenditures at the same level as in a growing marketplace, you can make wise choices that will help your business maintain market share during a downturn and be poised to grow once the economy starts to turn around.  In fact, history has shown that continuing marketing efforts during times like these can increase sales and market share dramatically down the road.

Why You Should Keep Your Marketing Communications Flowing

  1. Your competitors have probably gone dark – The natural tendency is to stop marketing efforts.  However, is it very likely that your competition is doing so.  This “opens up the airwaves” if you will, so to that your name and message has a lot less clutter to break through to be heard.  It speaks clearly to the consumer that you are in business, ready and willing to provide your product or service.  Once things get back to normal, consumers will remember you name (especially since there may be a question regarding which businesses still are in existing). 
  2. It Takes Time For Marketing Communications to Be Effective – It takes time for marketing efforts to ramp up and take hold again.  The adage is that it takes 21 exposures to a marketing message to get through.  You can easily lose 3-6 months to build up awareness again if you have not been communicating.  If your competitors have gone dark, now is the perfect opportunity to grab more market share in the future.
  3. Things will return to “normal” – While consumers and businesses may have cut back purchases for the time being, there will be an end to the current situation.  At that point, pent up demand will burst forth.  By keeping your company top of mind, the natural inclination will be to contact you first for whatever goods or services they want. 

So What Should You Be Doing?

There are many marketing tools that don’t require heavy expenditures that will keep your name in front of consumers:

  • Your Website
    • Update your site with relevant COVID-19 messaging.  Are you still in business?  Do you have full or reduced hours?  Can you still handle requests?  How are you keeping your customer’s safe?  All these convey that you’re in business and doing everything possible to meet your customer’s needs.  We’ve added a pop-up to our website that provides this information as well as a banner on our home page that lets viewers know we are monitoring CDC guidelines.

    • Highlight any special offers to encourage sales.  At CMS, we’re promoting a special offer to our customers, which is prominently featured throughout our site.

    • Update and refresh your site to make it more appealing and user friendly.  Drop under-performing products and services that are a drain on resources and your bottom line.

  • Email Campaigns
    • With a significant number of people working remotely now, utilize email campaigns, on a regular basis, to inform customers and prospects of your status and make attractive offers to encourage sales. At CMS, we are using this time to test content, offers, frequency and scheduling of our emails.

    • Provide value-added information to consumers that will help them cope with the current situation. Share positive stories about people helping others, jokes, fun games to lift people’s spirits and help them through. If these can be related to your product or service (without it turning into an obvious sales message all the time), all the better.
  • Social Media
    • A perfect way to share helpful and encouraging messages and let people know you’re still in business.

    • Share and repost helpful information or how your customers, friends, family have stepped up to help one another. Now is the time to share as much positive news as possible.
  • Mail and Parcel Shipping
    • The USPS is still going strong. If you’re mailing invoices and statements to current customers, consider adding marketing messages and offers that will help encourage additional sales. We offer tools, like OMS500, that allows you to easily customize messages on invoice and statements.

    • If you are still shipping parcels, include a thank you message to your clients to convey your appreciation of their business. At CMS we are including along with a Thank You note along with a special offer to our customers.
  • Share Your Gratitude
    • While this is a tough time, we’re all in this together! Take a moment to reflect on the good things that are happening in the midst of all the negative press. Pay it forward to others with offers to help or special offers to ease the burden for your customers. We have weekly video staff meetings to keep in touch, share news and pull together as a team. Take a deep breath – we will come out of this stronger and closer!

Now is definitively not the time to put your head in the sand.  So don’t give up on your Marketing Communications, with focused effort, your business can survive and be even stronger once this storm passes.

How are you communicating with your customers?  How have you been expressing your gratitude to your customers, family, friends and community.  Share your ideas and experiences with us!

It’s Time to Allow the USPS to Compete Fairly

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

Unfair Restrictions

Businesses function on foundational economic rules – pricing is determined on demand, the cost of doing business and profit needed to stay healthy and grow.  Pricing can be changed whenever it is warranted.  However, there is one glaring exception to this economic model – the United States Postal Service.

While the USPS is not a government entity, it is governed by Congress and the Postal Rate Commission (PRC).  As a federally mandated entity, they are required to function within specific parameters, among them:

Post Office Signage
  • Prefunding 75 years of retiree health benefits (this mandate was passed in 2006 and required funding within a ten-year span, at a cost of about $110 billion).
  • Basing price increases on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which limits how much rates can change.  If costs are higher than the CPI increase, the Postal Service must absorb the difference.
  • Providing pickup and delivery service to all areas within the United States, six days a week.  As housing and businesses expand to wider and wider areas, the USPS is required to provide service, even though it is not cost effective to do so.  And, they are not allowed to add a fuel surcharge to cover additional expenses (as UPS and FedEx can).

No other private enterprise or federal agency is required to function under these constraints.  The prefunding of retiree health benefits alone is primarily responsible for the majority of the USPS’s financial losses since 2013.

Both consumers and businesses rely heavily on the Postal Service’s ability to deliver mail and parcels.  In fact, UPS and FedEx rely on the USPS to provide “last mile delivery” in areas where it is not affordable for them to do so.  How does this allow the USPS to compete? This is an unfair advantage provided to the competition.

We have blogged about this situation before and provided even more details of how the USPS is at a disadvantage, but now is the time for change so the USPS can compete fairly in the marketplace.

The Postal Service – A Vital Institution

The Postal Service is a historic institution, established by our founding fathers in order that all people may have equal access to communications.  This principle was mandated within our Constitution to ensure its survival and is a fundamental part of the nation’s infrastructure.  The USPS mandate is to bring the nation together, and their commitment is providing secure, reliable, affordable delivery of mail and packages.  No tax dollars are used to support operating expenses.  Rather, the USPS relies exclusively on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

Today, the USPS employs over 633,000 career and contract workers (2019).  As such, it has significant impact in local economies, both in direct activities from its workers as well as the broader economic activity that it enables.  If it were a private sector company, it would rank 40th in the 2018 Fortune 500 and 123rd in the 2017 Global Fortune 500.  Unfortunately, it has been losing money for more than a decade due to the many restrictions placed on it while its main competitors (FedEx and UPS) are free to raise prices, ad hoc, to ensure a profit.

This is clearly an unfair playing field and the restrictions placed on the USPS is an unsustainable financial path going forward.  We believe the Postal Service should be released from the primary restrictions that have resulted in its fiscal woes specifically, elimination of:

  • Prefunding employee health benefits
  • Linkage with Consumer Price Index to cap rate hikes in order that the Postal Service can adjust rates to cover costs
  • 6-day delivery requirement – allow the USPS to determine delivery frequency (with a minimum 5-day requirement) in order to reduce costs

We feel these steps would begin turning the around the USPS’ financial health while still maintaining high service levels.

A Great First Step

On February 5th, the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation that would lift the prefunding mandate on future retiree health benefits.  This legislation, the USPS Fairness Act, was authored by Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon (you can see his floor speech here). 

We heartily endorse the passing of this legislation and encourage the Senate to follow suit.

What do you think?  Isn’t it time to allow the USPS to compete fairly? We encourage your comments and feedback on this vitally important service to our nation.

4 Benefits of USPS’ Intelligent Mail Indicia (IMI)

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

Did you know that once you download postage onto your meter it becomes the property of the USPS?  The Postal Service is dedicated to helping you get the most out of your postage meter. 

To improve customer service, ensure mail flow is more efficient and cost-effective as well as data secure, the USPS is now requiring the use of the next generation mailing indicia – the Intelligent Mail Indicia (IMI) – as new mailing systems are introduced into the marketplace.   

The Old Standard

Since 2000, the USPS utilized an Information Based Indicia (IBI) on metered mail.  The Information4-Based Indicia is a 2-dimensional barcode plus human-readable information. The barcode data contains information such as the amount of postage, origin zip code, destination,mail class, weight, and confirmation/tracking numbers: 

IBI Indicia
Old IBI indicia

While this was state-of-the-art in its day, IBI technology is no longer adequate.  One of its weaknesses is that when a mail machine user enters a specific postage amount, the Service Class is removed, which hampers the USPS from efficiently managing the movement of mail.

In addition, postage meters were required to connect with the USPS servers to download usage information every 90 days.  This made it difficult for the USPS to effectively manage mail flow and identify mailing trends in a timely or effective manner.

The New Standard

The next generation of metered technology was introduced into the marketplace in 2015 – the Intelligent Mail Indicia (IMI).  However, it has not been required to date, but will be with all new mailing equipment developed.  The IMI indicia:

  1. Captures significantly more data – in addition to information captured with the IBI indicia, the new IMI indicia also includes the type of mailing system and mail service used. 
  2. Gives the Post Office more real-time data on which to manage their logistics, identify mailing trends and optimize the movement of mail through the system.
  3. Ensures correct postage is used – Service Classes are required when using the IMI indicia.
IMI Indicia voided
IMI Indicia

The USPS now requires that all new mailing systems meet the IMI standards as they are introduced into the market. 

IMI Benefits & Best Practices

1.Accurate Postage
Mailing system users have experienced mail or packages that are returned for insufficient postage.   Conversely, they have placed too much postage for the service class used.  With the new IMI, a Service Class is required for all mail and postage will automatically be calculated.  No more manual entry of incorrect postage amounts, ensuring the correct postage is used.

Best Practice: Utilizing IMI technology will save money and help avoid mail being returned.  This will ensure important mail (e.g., invoices, statements, etc.) reaches its destination in a timely manner, which improves cash-flow and customer satisfaction.

2. More Current Information
Mailing systems using Intelligent Mail Indicia are mandated by the USPS to connect to the manufacturer’s servers every 72 hours (vs. every 90 days for the old IBI).  This ensures that the USPS receives frequent postage use information on which to manage mail flow.  It also ensures that equipment is automatically kept up to date with rate changes and other software improvements.  If a connection is not made every 72 hours, the meter will be locked out.

Best Practice:  Your meter must have a constant Internet connection via a dedicated LAN line to avoid meter lockouts.

3. Enhanced Security
The new IMI indicia meets the standards of the Federal Information Processing for data encryption.  This ensures that information is transmitted securely to and from the postage meter.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced that IBI technology no longer meets its standard of security.

Best practice: Use Pin #’s and department codes to keep unauthorized people from using your postage meter and to better track who is using postage in your company.

4. Faster, Consistent Connectivity
Some mailers still use dedicated phone lines for their postage meters. These Dial-up connections cannot be used with the IMI due to the amount of data being transmitted and the speed of transmission.  Only dedicated LAN connections can be used, eliminating the need to check to see if the meter is hooked up to an internet connection as well as the expense of a dedicated phone line.

Best practiceURIs, along with their respective IP addresses, should be added as exceptions (whitelisted) if firewall rules currently block any sites of unknown origin.

Quadient’s new iX-3, iX-5 and iX-7 mail machines are enabled with IMI,  Take a look at these easy-to-use options that make IMI enhancements available to small businesses.  It will optimize your postage and mailing-related expenditures. 

If you have questions or to find out more about the benefits of IMI for your business, give us a call, (303-761-0681). We’re happy to help!

What You May Not Know About Postage and Your Mail Machine

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

If you have a mailing system, you know that postage must be added to your meter as needed.  Typically, postage is funded in one of three ways:

  1. Through an ACH debit (direct funding from your bank account)
  2. Sending in a check to the Postal Service (via a specified lockbox operated by the USPS)
  3. Automatic downloads with billing at a later date (much like a credit card)
small mail machine

No matter which funding method used, you may have assumed that once funds are loaded onto your postage meter, that money still belongs to you and that your manufacturer is holding the funds for you.

Not true!

Once funds have been downloaded onto a postage meter, those funds immediately become the property of the US Postal Service. The USPS authorizes the manufacturer to rent or lease the meter thru a licensing agreement, but the postage meter can never be owned by an individual or company. (Beware of EBay scams selling meters!)

What happens when you no longer need your mailing system or change systems and postage meters?

If you are changing or upgrading to a new system with the SAME manufacturer, your postage money will be transferred to the new postage meter.  However, if you are cancelling/returning the meter and not replacing it with a new one, the US Postal Service will be refunding your money.  Your meter must first be deactivated and returned to the manufacturer for processing. A request will then be made by the manufacturer to the USPS and a check issued to you. This refund process may take up to 6-8 weeks. *

When Will Your Postage Funds NOT Be returned to you?

Be aware that if there is less than $25.00 on your postage meter, the USPS will not refund your money (pursuant to Federal Reg. Section 604.9.3.1 set on 11/06/2008).

Have questions?  At CMS, we are here to help.  Call us at 303-761-0681.

*Non-Neopost or Hasler equipment manufacturers may have a different process.

The Cost of Undeliverable Mail

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

How Much Is It?

Have you stopped to consider the real financial impact of undeliverable mail?
We’ve blogged about how mail piece design can impact deliverability of your mail and provided guidelines that will help ensure your mail gets delivered. If you are like a lot of companies, once a mail piece is returned, you simply change the address and resend it – right? Just more paper and postage costs, that’s all – but is it?

Undelivered envelope with yellow sticker

Undeliverable as addressed (UAA) mail is a costly problem for both mailers and the Postal Service alike. In 2016 alone, nearly 6.6 billion mail pieces were undeliverable*. Mailers spend over $20 billion on UAA mail, while direct costs to the USPS is over $1.5 billion/year**.

If you think the only cost for undeliverable mail is reprinting and remailing costs, you’re in for a big surprise. There’s much more to the story than that. For mailers, there are both tangible and intangible costs related to undeliverable mail:

Tangible

  • Statements and late notices, if applicable
  • Labor to prepare mailings, research the correct address and regenerate and re-mail the communication
  • Delayed payment of invoices and its impact on cash flow

Intangible

  • Lost sales because the communication was never received or received too late to act upon.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) impact -damaged customer relationship and reduced goodwill from customers who are irate from not receiving correspondence in a timely manner and/or receiving late fees.

The bottom line: Companies can easily spend $25 or more per piece of returned mail. How can you determine your cost? The USPS Inspector General sited a simple way of determining this. Take the annual value of a customer and divide it by the customer’s expected response rate. For example, if a Customer is worth $600 annually and typically responds at a 10% rate, the cost of the UAA mail piece is $60 – a far cry from the cost to reprint and re-mail the original communication!

Improving Deliverability


One of the most significant factors impacting mail deliverability is address quality. With 18% of the population moving each year and 20% of businesses moving or failing, it is critical to keep addresses up-to-date to keep deliverability high. Address quality software can identify and update your customer file before your mail piece goes out the door

Need a solution to improve your mail deliverability? Click here for data quality options or call us at 303-761-0681

#mail #savemoney