Undeliverable as addressed (UAA) mail is a clunky name for a big problem: Mail not reaching its intended recipient because the address is incorrect, incomplete, or illegible. UAA mail is costly to both the Postal Service and its customers – about $1.5 billion a year for the Postal Service and $20 billion for the mailing industry, according to a report we issued last month.
But the costs of UAA go beyond just returning, destroying, or forwarding undeliverable mail. For mailers, there are direct costs, such as printing and postage, and indirect costs, such as lost opportunities. A direct mailer has no chance for a sale if the piece never reaches the customer. And an undeliverable invoice either slows down cash flow or, if the piece never reaches its intended recipient, results in no payment at all, as Pitney Bowes notes in a white paper. Furthermore, a company’s customer service costs can jump if irate customers call after getting a late fee for a bill delayed by an incorrect or incomplete address.
Then there is what some mailers call a customer relationship management (CRM) cost. Address software provider Melissa Data explains, “CRM costs reflect the damage to customer relationships that result from failed communication.” The CRM cost of UAA mail can be calculated a few ways, but the simplest might be to determine the customer’s annual value (say he or she spends $600 a year on a cable bill) and divide it by the customer’s expected response rate (for this cable company let’s say 5 percent). In this case, the CRM cost of a UAA mailpiece is $30.
Despite concerted efforts by the Postal Service and mailers to reduce UAA mail, it actually increased by 2.1 percent to a total of 6.6 billion pieces from fiscal years 2011 to 2014, our report notes. We found the Postal Service’s strategies to reduce UAA have been ineffective because of how complex the address verification process is and because mailers have to abide by conflicting laws and regulations. For example, companies in the financial and insurance industries are legally required to send mail to the last known address even if Postal Service systems indicate a change of address has been submitted.
Still, we expect certain Postal Service programs to help. The Postal Service has made it easier for recipients to change addresses online. And on the business mailer side, the Seamless Acceptance program, which relies on electronic documentation, should help by providing greater visibility into data associated with each mailpiece. The data will let the Postal Service associate UAA mail with the sender and provide opportunities to craft entirely new solutions to ensure address standards are met.
How does UAA mail affect your operations? What other ways could the Postal Service and industry reduce UAA mail? How do you price the lost opportunity of undeliverable mail?