Dec. 6 2010 05:19 PM

On September 30th, the Postal Rate Commission rejected the USPS' exigent rate increase on the grounds that that USPS did completely meet its burden under the law for its exigency filing.

While the cost challenges for the USPS are still unresolved, it is believed organizations that rely on this critical medium to communicate with their customers should look at the implications of these events.

One could argue that without the exigent rate adoption, the USPS will be even more focused on bringing costs in line with revenues.

So, how does the denial of the proposed exigency affect the IMb? For mailers receiving workshare discounts, a renewed focus on their part may be required to ensure their mail is automatable. Mail that is not automatable may face continued challenges for postal discounts and delivery. From a customer data quality standpoint, do you know how much of your mail is automatable? From the USPS' standpoint, it needs to save everywhere it can, and increasing its efficiency in processing and delivering mail is one of the highest priorities.

Most mailers run CASS for address correction and FastForward or NCOALink for Move Update. However, how are mailers handling the 3-5% CASS failures that may result in undeliverable or non-automatable mail? Also, how are mailers handling other CASS returns such as missing/incorrect apartment or vacant location, or Move Update, PO Box Closed, Moved Left No Forwarding Address, or after 18 months, FastForward updates?

The USPS will be able to look at a particular mailing during the mail processing or the attempt to deliver via the IMb and determine the deliverability. If mail fails automation and requires manual intervention, the USPS will have the ability to determine the reasons as well as the mailer (via the Mailer ID). Like with any organization, this information will be invaluable for the USPS to make continuing adjustments to its system and commercial model.

The Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMBC) with the Address Change Service (ACS) can provide the USPS, and the mailer, total Undeliverable As Addressed (UAA) statistics. This information can be used to check the process effectiveness of "upstream" CASS and Move Update.

For example, if you are receiving a lot of "unable to forward" failures, this could mean you are not closing the loop on Move Update changes that result in old addresses being mailed after 18 months from move date.

From an organizational standpoint, the IMBC feedback can be directly applied to enhance the customer service experience. Studies validate that it's much more cost effective to retain customers than it is to acquire new customers. Clearly, businesses need to consider an emphasis on both but it should be easier to retain customers if there's value in the offering, relevance and timeliness in the communications. Mail delivery failures retard the communications process and reflect on the company's reputation to deliver service.

With tools such as OneCode (used with basic IMBC) or Full-Service IMBC ACS, "post-mailing" feedback is provided quickly (days, not weeks), linked to customer accounts and data sources, and often allows for automated resolution. Along with proactive management of "pre-mailing" returns, the opportunity for significant enterprise value exists.

As the USPS continues its efforts to overcome the challenges of its current business model, responsible organizations can best retain and grow customers, protect their workshare discounts and support their delivery channel partner, by ensuring the overall quality of their mail.

Kevin Conti is Director of Mailing Solutions at Pitney Bowes Software. David Robinson is currently the Director of Address Quality for Pitney Bowes.