• on Apr 20th, 2015 in Delivery & Collection | 1 comment

    Are all mailboxes equal? Not when it comes to advertising mail, which seems to invoke three critical factors normally associated with real estate – location, location, location.

    It costs the U.S. Postal Service less to deliver mail to curbside mailboxes or neighborhood cluster boxes than to your door. That’s why there’s been talk of possibly eliminating door-to-door delivery as Canada Post has recently announced. But the move could cut more than costs; it could also cut the effectiveness of ad mail, which provides about $16 billion of revenue annually to the Postal Service.

    We worked with the market research firm InfoTrends in surveying 5,000 households across the country to determine how much people engage with advertising mail. What we found was intriguing: People with to-the-door delivery had a much higher “read-and-response” rate to ad mail than people with curbside or cluster box delivery. A related trend: People with to-the-door delivery are less likely to throw their ad mail away than those who collect their mail at the curb or cluster box.

    It’s all detailed in our new white paper, Modes of Delivery and Customer Engagement with Advertising Mail, in which we suggest that the Postal Service and ad mailers work together to understand these delivery trends, which could have a critical impact on how much mail advertisers continue to send.

    In the meantime, tell us your experience: Do you have to-the-door, curbside, or cluster box delivery, and how much time would you say you spend with ad mail? If you have experienced a change from one type of delivery receptacle to another, did your behavior change? If so, how?

  • on Sep 15th, 2014 in Products & Services | 10 comments

    The aptly named Business Service Network (BSN) is charged with servicing the U.S. Postal Service’s 23,000 largest customers by addressing service issues, answering questions, and fulfilling other requests. Given the annual postal spend of this customer group – almost $38 billion in fiscal year 2013 alone – it clearly behooves the Postal Service to keep these customers happy.

    But retaining large commercial customers takes more than just putting out fires and answering questions. That’s why BSN employees have been encouraged to reach out to many commercial accounts to gain a better understanding of what customers need and with any luck, they can thwart service problems before they occur. Outreach also builds customer loyalty. And while the BSN’s 300 employees aren’t tasked with selling products and services – the Sales group does that – their face-to-face contact with commercial customers creates a key opportunity to do so.

    Our recent audit of the BSN shows just how valuable customer outreach can be. We found that the customer accounts BSN staff proactively contacted spent significantly more on postal services than those who were not contacted. And we estimated the Postal Service could have generated an additional $382 million by proactively contacting all BSN customers. Our report found other opportunities for improvement, too, such as resolving issues more quickly, collecting more customer feedback, and redesigning the BSN staff evaluation process.

    At the same time, the Postal Service is realizing it needs to beef up the BSN. During a recent meeting with mailer groups, management outlined some planned BSN enhancements. These include streamlining customer surveys, seeking ways to increase “personal” contact with commercial customers, reaching out to smaller customers, and treating all customer issues with the highest level of urgency.

    Share your thoughts on the BSN. What other ways could the Postal Service serve its commercial customers? Are there loyalty programs the Postal Service could try? 

  • on Jan 27th, 2014 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 3 comments

    It’s back to the future for the requirement that all letter and flat automation mailings be Full-Service Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) compliant to obtain discounts. Mailers were expecting implementation this week of the Full-Service requirement, but the U.S. Postal Service pushed back the date until 2015 because the Postal Regulatory Commission ruled that the mandate constituted a price increase that would have busted the inflation-based price cap.

    Many mailers welcomed the delay, as few felt the entire industry – the Postal Service included – was ready for full-service, which included the requirement that barcodes keep their unique sequence of numbers for at least 45 days before the barcode sequence is used again. A number of large mailers have been Full-Service IMb compliant for months and have taken advantage of the benefits of IMbs, including tracking of service performance, identifying bottlenecks, and coordinating follow-up marketing efforts. But many mid-sized and smaller mailers were not ready for the added requirements, which include electronic submission of postage statements and use of unique IMbs on trays and containers. And concerns were growing that the Postal Service’s systems are not yet capable of handling the expected increase in IMb data.

    The Office of Inspector General raised similar concerns in a fall audit report. In particular, we found the Postal Service had fallen short in developing a comprehensive plan for the continued development and use of IMb data. Notably, the Postal Service’s plans around the use of IMb data have grown considerably since its original vision of the program and it has not taken into account the needs of all mailers. The Postal Service needs to upgrade its data storage capabilities and data systems to accommodate the growing use of IMbs and to support stakeholders’ needs.

    The silver lining in this delay could be that it gives the Postal Service another year to develop a comprehensive IMb data plan that includes detailed input from all business users and identifies costs and milestones for the life of the IMb program. It also gives mailers more time to get ready, while letting those already in the Full-Service IMb program keep their modest discounts.

    • Share your thoughts on the Full-Service IMb and the delayed implementation date.
    • Do you think another year will make a difference in the readiness of mailers? Of the Postal Service’s systems?
    • What incentives would you like to see to encourage smaller mailers to make the conversion to Full-Service IMb?
    • If you are already Full-Service compliant, what value do you get from the program? 

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