Let's get something out of the way right away: Intelligent Mail is not mail that can think for itself. However, it may actually be mail that can talk. And, if you listen closely enough, you will be able to make more intelligent decisions about how to run your business. Really.
"Intelligent Mail" is the latest program from the United States Postal Service that Postmaster General John Potter refers to as the "key to the future." It is driven by the Intelligent Mail barcode, which is an information-rich 4-state barcode, and it has quite the tale to tell mail owners who use it in conjunction with the Full Service option announced in January 2008.
Two of the benefits available to mailers participating in the Full Service option are free Address Correction Service (ACS) notifications (via OneCode ACS) and free "start-the-clock" notifications. "Start-the-clock" is the USPS term for the date and time they accept the mail and induct it into their systems. That information by itself may or may not be valuable to everyone, but using that in combination with OneCode Confirm tracking services can be invaluable to mailers.
So, what does Intelligent Mail actually "tell" mailers?
One important question Intelligent Mail can answer for mailers is "What's wrong with me?" Using OneCode ACS tells mailers what is wrong with their addresses. Even though everyone runs their mailing lists through CASS Certified software, and most run them through an NCOALink interface for move update compliance, by the time the mail actually gets into the USPS delivery system, enough time has passed that there may be quite a few changes to the USPS address databases. ACS will flag any problems or errors and provide this information back to the mailer electronically, allowing the mailer to easily update their database with the latest information. By making timely updates to their databases, mailers can better ensure accurate and timely delivery of their pieces the next time they mail. This multi-system approach to address hygiene also helps the USPS achieve their goal of reducing Undeliverable-As-Addressed mail by 50% by the year 2010.
Another question Intelligent Mail can answer for mailers is "Where am I?" Using the OneCode Confirm system to track their outbound mail (a/k/a, Destination Confirm), mailers gain more visibility into the system, letting them gain a certain sense of confidence as to when their mail is getting delivered. This knowledge drives so many other critical business decisions: when to place follow-up calls, when to start the next mailing, when to have extra Customer Service Reps available for inbound calls, etc. Additionally, if a mailer chooses to use the Origin Confirm service for their Business Reply Mail, they can make other important decisions such as when to have extra staff on hand to receive and process the return mail, or when they can expect payments to start hitting their receivable accounts. These decisions can be made because the mailer is being told by the Confirm system when the return mail is on its way back to them.
See? Intelligent Mail is truly talking to you. All you have to do is listen.
Anchor Software, LLC
Director, Product Management & Postal Affairs