Last fall, I spent eight weeks in six cities across the US, providing postal training to around 120 people. Several times, mail owners, mail service providers and other people I work with in the direct mail industry told me, "Make it stop" or "You have got to be kidding." (I edited out some of the other comments.)

The USPS' "Vision 2013" Five-Year Strategic Plan does give some hope. The USPS is going to focus on "what matters most to customers." They understand that they need to "reduce customer effort to make doing business with them simpler and easier."

But what is the reality? Check this out: We are facing Move Update requirements, address placement for flats, new requirements for letter-size booklets and self-mailers (oh, and did I mention that the size of those letter-size pieces is not the same as we currently mail?), staggered Intelligent Mail Barcode full-service or basic implementation, postage price increase in January for shipping products, a price announcement in February that will become effective in May and what's this about a lower automation rate for IMB in late fall and on and on it goes. Maybe by 2013 "postal" will be easier.

The reality is to determine how you and your company are going to cope with the challenges. Well, I can't make it stop, and I am not kidding about all the postal challenges we are facing. Postal is not going to be easy in the near future (and I'm not placing any bets on the goal in "Vision 2013").

The biggest management challenge identified in Mailing System Technology's November/December survey results of 644 mail managers from 16,000 mail centers was budget, followed by compliance with postal regulations. How do the postal challenges and changes affect you?

Change affects everyone differently. Change brings about a loss of your current state or comfort zone. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, in her 1969 bestseller On Death and Dying, noted that there are five discrete stages people go through when making an adjustment. These stages don't come in order nor are all the steps experienced, but you will most likely experience at least two.

Here's the postal change "reality check" in stages:

1. Denial: "I feel this can't be happening - not to me."
2. Anger: "Why me? It's not fair! I am a good mailer and don't have any problems with my Slim Jims!'" "I am not going to put more tabs on my pieces - even if they are getting ripped up and not delivered! The pieces that do make it are bringing me enough of a response!" "My addresses are good, and I want to put my address on my mailpiece wherever I want to. After all, don't I own the mailpiece?" "I'll continue to use 'or current resident' and I don't care who I offend with my mail."
3. Bargaining: "How about you let me get feedback on the quality of my addresses for two years and I'll worry about changing my process then. (That's about the time when I'm retiring and someone else can deal with it.)" "If the USPS would at least tell me what postage price benefit I'll get and when, I actually may be able to support the ROI and increased IT, equipment and staff expenses to my CFO."
4. Depression: "I am losing mail volume, laying people off and wondering how to stay in the mailing business." (That
is reality.)
5. Acceptance: "It's all going to be okay, Virginia; it's all going to be okay by 2013."

The changes are here to stay, and they are not easy, nor do I feel they ever will be. As we move through each one of the changes and stages of acceptance, I would like to make "it" go away. The best help I can offer now is to keep reading Mailing Systems Technology and keep up with next challenge. You know they're coming.

Wanda Senne is the National Director of Postal Development for World Marketing. She primarily focuses on establishing and maintaining ongoing communications between the USPS and World Marketing and provides postal training programs for World Marketing and its clients. Wanda has worked in the mailing industry since 1978 and is a member of MTAC, PostCom, MFSA, NAAD and the Atlanta PCC. Contact Wanda by calling 770-431-2591.