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Feb. 9 2010 10:44 AM

With the implementation of Intelligent Mail comes the addition of new postal acronyms. One of the most widely used is "CSA,"â❠which is the abbreviation for Customer/Supplier Agreement. A CSA is a written agreement between the United States Postal Service (USPS) and a commercial mailer and is designed to spell out the requirements for origin-entry mail preparation and the acceptance-window times necessary for mail to be considered entered into the postal network. CSAs may also include schedules of transportation times, mail containerization specifications, designated postal mail facility entry locations and time-sensitive mail entry instructions.

Intelligent Mail and CSAs
CSAs have been used in the past with commercial mailers who dealt with time-sensitive mailings, had very large volumes of mail or encountered other special situations that called for such agreements to be in place. With Intelligent Mail, however, the use of CSAs is greatly increasing. Since these agreements detail timeframes for which mail is considered to be entered into the postal stream, this serves as the point of reference for the "Start-The-Clock" designation, or "Day 0" for mail tracking purposes. In order for mail to be considered as entered on Day 0, it needs to be presented to the USPS by the mailer within the acceptance-window times detailed in the agreement. This helps eliminate any misunderstanding between mailers and the USPS as to when the tracking "clock" starts.

Customized Mail Preparation
CSAs are also used in situations where mail preparation may vary from the required or optional regulations in the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM). These situations usually occur when such mail-prep variations are for the mutual benefit of the USPS and the mailer. An example would be when the mailer performs a finer-level sortation on portions of the mail, and, in exchange, the USPS allows a later acceptance time for this mail since it will actually result in less processing and/or transportation for the USPS.

Benefits of CSAs
In addition to defining the mail acceptance windows for "Start-The-Clock" purposes, CSAs can provide a number of other benefits:

  • Synchronizing the acceptance of business mailings with USPS mail processing operating plans
  • Aligning the Postal Service's processing and network capacity with workload demand
  • Reducing the randomness of volume arrival at USPS facilities
  • Allowing the Postal Service to optimize mail flow through its processing plants
  • Informing mailers of service expectations based on the time of origin entry

Participating in CSAs
If you are not currently mailing using CSAs and are interested in finding out how to participate, you should contact your local Business Mail Entry office. Participating mailers are able to access their CSA information electronically through the Business Customer Gateway but must first add the CSA to their profile. For additional information on CSA's, please refer to the USPS Guide to Customer/Supplier Agreements.