The primary ways to improve service and image in your mail and distribution services can be accomplished through pride, professionalism and performance.



I believe it all starts with pride. Pride is evident in how you think, act and look. It's powerful and contagious. While interviewing a manager recently to determine his areas of responsibility, I kept hearing, "I just oversee receiving and distribution services." By using "just," this manager was diminishing his responsibilities. Just and pride don't go together. What department other than payroll regularly services 100% of your organization? And payday isn't every day, but the mail service is. You have enormous visibility and the opportunity to interface with all the departments in your organization. What other department in your organization requires the same day-in and day-out intensity, accuracy and timeliness? You must take pride in the flexibility you and your department maintain for the short window given for mail processing.


Here's an example of how the manager of a New York City investment bank compensated for interruption in delivery schedules beyond his control and improved customer perception of delivery services: A customer satisfaction survey indicated that only 53% of the bank customers thought the mail service delivery was timely. The mail center manager established a contact person at each mail drop so that when the delivery schedule could not be met, someone from the mail center e-mailed the contact person to let him know the reason for the delay and the expected delivery time.


By taking these steps, the manager demonstrated the pride he and his staff take in meeting schedules, educated the customer on the variables that impact the operation and how they deal with them and eliminated incorrect conclusions being drawn by the customers. Several months after the communication network was established, another mail survey showed 97% customer satisfaction in delivery service. However, the manager insists the actual delivery service did not change but the education and communication of the customer resulted in improved customer perception. Pride is an intangible that motivates you to go that extra mile. If you let pride begin with you, the energy will flow upward to management and horizontally to your staff.



You operate a business within a business, and by the very function, it is a professional responsibility. You are part of a multibillion dollar industry. Eliminate the first mail run of the day and you'll get an inkling of your customer's evaluation and dependency on your service. Mail centers have been replaced by a vital, full-service communication operation that requires professionalism. While the number and types of services vary from operation to operation, the degree of professionalism with which you operate is not determined by the size, location, budget or even type of automation. Professionalism means setting and achieving high standards. The principles of professionalism can be applied to a mail operation that processes 1,000 or 500,000 pieces daily, whether they are located in the sub basement or the top floor. Nothing brings a clearer message home than the surge of facilities, management, companies and their marketing efforts. They are selling professional management of mail centers, making a profit, satisfying high standards through professionalism and forcing the question of whether mail operations are really part of the core business of a corporation.


New career paths are also developing because of the recognition for skilled professionals in mail operations. The mail center should no longer be considered the entry and exit spot for advancement. Plenty of career opportunities are available within. Look at the various publications and Web sites supporting our industry, and note the number of managerial positions advertised. For each one you see, there are at least 10 that are being filled through the network. Recently, I received a call from a colleague who told me a management position was open and the salary was six figures. The job requirements included operational experience and top management skills. A western university advertised some years ago for a mail center manager with the responsibility of an $11 million budget. The salary was open for negotiation, and an MBA and a CMDSM certification were preferred. Every individual in the mail operation has the opportunity to achieve professionalism. However, you need to initiate the change first, and then you will see the rippling effect it will have within your operation. In order to attain professionalism, you need to take action, set standards and achieve them.


Mail center managers need skills in the following areas: Operational budgets Mailing costs are no longer considered fixed costs. The budget requires innovation in the allocation of funds. Costs acceptable today may be viewed by administration as excessive tomorrow. There are numerous ways to re-examine the operating costs through postage, overnight and ground packages reductions, cross utilization of employees, equipment acquisition, additional shifts, outsourcing non-vital functions and reduction of customer service levels. Personnel management Involves many areas of responsibility with your customer being the ultimate person to be serviced and satisfied. Management requires: Knowing the job, supporting your staff and balancing supervision with the freedom they need for successful operations, encouraging employee involvement in process improvement and maintaining a personal demeanor both within the mail center and outside the mail center.


One example of these attributes would be establishing policy for the courtesy of mail carts when using elevators along with customers. Do your employees defer to a crowd of passengers waiting for the elevator, or do they try to squeeze the mail cart on? Are the carts piled too high for safe delivery? This is an area that is often overlooked but certainly noticed by the customers of your mail center. Workload distribution requires you to be a master of juggling, efficiency and accuracy in accomplishing your daily goals. The approaches to management in the last 10 years are products of decentralized decision making. Management expert Tom Peters says liberation management can be good because it encourages employees to become responsible for the welfare of the company. Empower employees with training and authority to manage their jobs, extending from daily decision making to determining long-term changes that might result in better performance. It also means the employees are in the best position to figure out how to improve their performance. They are the eyes and ears of your operation. You need to encourage ongoing communication with your employees and acknowledge their recommendations. We have found during our past 10 years of evaluating mail centers that the most valuable information collected is from interviewing and observing the employees.


An example of this would be the fieldwork we were doing for a government agency in New Mexico with the challenge to modify mail distribution. The agency covered a radius of approximately 35 miles and the mail was moved via vans, trucks and on foot. Management had been at the drawing board for a year and made no improvements in service. Employee morale and customer satisfaction were low. It took my associate and I four days to drive and walk each route with the delivery personnel. The suggestions from the mail route staff were fabulous. Together all the delivery personnel and I sat down and worked out several solutions that enabled them to eliminate one run a day, improve customer service with consistent delivery and resolve the problem of heavy loads through improved distribution.


I believe that structured, meeting-type environments setup to discuss new ideas and suggestions are most worthwhile. Including your employees in the decision process is important and guarantees ownership and successful implementation. Fewer managers are needed at a company in which workers manage their own jobs. Companies can adapt to change more quickly when decision-making is decentralized.


Coping with New Technology

Understanding and implementing integrated strategies is the key to maximizing efficiencies regardless of your mail operation size. The ultimate goal is for everything to work · together, providing you with information, production and production levels necessary to run mail operations efficiently. Are you open to change and innovation? Are you willing to invest time with vendors? Attending conferences and visiting the exhibition hall is an excellent opportunity to get up to speed on new systems and compare products. Networking with other professionals can prove to be invaluable when evaluating new technology.  Also, Mailing Systems Technology has a discussion board on its Web site where you can post questions for comment.


Motivational Talent

Here, you are the cheerleader and coach for your staff. You are responsible for the incentives and disciplines of your entire staff. Lou Holz, former Notre Dame football coach said: "You can pay them to perform, but not to excel." You need to establish guidelines for professional conduct regarding absenteeism, promptness as well as employee demeanor on the job. More and more companies are establishing "dress-down policies" or casual business dress. Employees often misinterpret the definition of casual dress, and it is up to you to set a dress standard. Establishing recognition of your employees has been most successful in building efficient team effort and is probably the most underused motivation. The most overlooked, powerful and desired employee incentive is a thank you. Many managers have told me they have better success with spontaneous recognition then with annual cash incentives.


Educational Goals

Whatever the motivation, education should be an ongoing and two-way process. Education means you will see yourself on occasion as the student and other times you will be the teacher. When you are the student, you will see yourself in many roles:


1.         Taking courses at a local college in areas such as computer science, management and accounting or time management.

2.         Gaining industry-specific knowledge and training skills such as Professional Mail Management Skills Program or a Mailpiece Quality Control (MQC) program.

3.         Attaining certification as a Certified Mail Distribution Systems Manager (CMDSM) and a Certified Mail Manager (CMM).

4.         Attending conferences such as MailCom, the National Postal Forum and Xplor.

5.         Joining professional associations such as Mail Systems Management Association (MSMA), International Pub-lishing Management Association (IPMA) and Postal Customer Councils (PCC).

            6.         Subscribing to industry publications helps to keep you current many offer free introductory subscriptions.

            7.         Utilizing books on professional mail management, videotapes on professional mail management, consultants specializing in professional mail management.

            8.         Communicating effectively on how to utilize your mail services as well as the U.S. Postal Service, overnight, ground and street couriers and promote the innovations you have created.

            9.         Establishing focus groups comprised of high-volume departments to develop ongoing communication and transfer of information. Take them on a tour of a postal processing center so they can see the importance of automation compatible mail.

            10.       Holding tours of your operation, especially if a new service or equipment is added.

            11.       Holding in-house seminars on how to use mail services at your company more effectively.

            12.       Educating, which shows through training programs the impact of improperly or incompletely addressed USPS and interoffice mail.


Customer Relations

It's important to know your customers better. Mail service surveys, feedback from staff observations and spot checking high-volume department mailings keeps you in touch with customer mailing practices and needs. Having a mail services guide is a wonderful tool to eliminate a lot of misunderstanding, and it will reduce operational difficulties for you.



Performance can be interpreted in fact and perception. Fact is what is being done in your business within a business. Having volume and productivity measurements, quality assurance audits and performance goals give you the factual performance. Identifying areas within the operation that disrupt or slow productivity enable you to set future goals. Perception on the other hand is how customers view your operation and services. Quite often your program is measured outside your business by perception more than fact. Drop the ball, and I'm sure you've experienced the results. Generally, when everything is running smoothly, there is no perception from the customer's viewpoint. That's your challenge: Build perception through pride and professionalism, and it will improve your performance. Remember the road to success is always under construction.


Jacquelyn McPeak is president of Mail Management Consulting, Inc. For more information, call 610-869-8699 or e-mail her at