On October 11, 2016, the USPS is resolved to implement the Full-Service assessments it has been talking about for the last few years. When implemented, the assessments will be based on a mailer’s performance during the month of September. You probably think the beginning of automated Full-Service Assessments is “old news” and that you have nothing to worry about. Well, you just may need to think again.
In April, Window Book attended two industry meetings where we had the opportunity to demonstrate new technology we developed to automate scorecard retrieval. The attendees at these meetings included mail operations managers and mail service provider CEOs who typically know how their companies are doing with the Mailer Scorecard. We asked them whether they thought they had any scorecard problems. A number of them claimed, “We have absolutely no problem with our scorecard,” but when we retrieved their scorecard results using this new tool, many of their scorecards showed serious problems that would result in large assessments. Needless to say, these managers and CEOs were completely unaware of the kinds of problems they had!
Had the assessments already been “live,” one mailer would have had to pay over $22,000 in assessments for an excessive number of OCI errors. For companies that co-palletize, these errors occur when the copal pallet information is not uploaded to PostalOne!. Another mailer — who was certain their operation had no risk of an assessment — showed a potential assessment of over $100,000 for a variety of problems. Clearly this mailer has many processes to improve before it is in the position to avoid large assessments. In this case, it was the CEO who thought they were “out of the woods” and had delegated the responsibility of cleaning up their scorecard to others. He called his team to validate the findings and was quite displeased to learn that the report produced was accurate and the assessments, if then enacted, were real!
One very important thing to keep in mind is that the lack of an assessment one month does NOT mean you’re in the clear for the following months. Even after mailers have identified and implemented the process and software changes needed to avoid assessments, human error can cause missing threshold risks to pop up at any time. Avoiding assessments requires constant vigilance, even once all known problems are addressed. And, as you start participating in other programs, such as eInduction and Seamless Acceptance, there are risks for assessments in those programs as well. On top of that, the USPS can always add additional validations and change thresholds.
The challenge for many mailers is understanding how their mail production and data processing processes impact their Mailer Scorecards. Many long-standing practices may simply not be compliant with updated and new USPS program requirements. If you can’t figure out what is causing your scorecard problems, you need to get help.
So, some words of advice:
· Do not assume anything! Look at your scorecard daily. During the first 10 days of each month you should also continue to look at the prior month’s scorecard. Your prior month’s scorecard can change right through the 10th day of the following month.
· At a minimum, on the 11th day of each month, look at your proposed assessment. Before long it will be something you will be forced to pay.
· Research any errors that look like they can exceed thresholds by the end of the month. Drill down right to the job level and figure out why the error is there. If you look at your scorecard frequently enough, you may discover you have a problem and be able to quickly correct it so you won’t exceed a threshold — thus avoiding an assessment.
· Don’t assume the errors you see “are the USPS’ fault.” Though there may still be some quirks that can impact scorecard accuracy, testing over the past few months indicates the scorecard is working as designed, and it is looking likely that the automated assessments will start in October as planned. If you don’t agree with the scores, you need to be prepared to challenge them and document why you believe they are inaccurate.
Lloyd Moss, VP of Premier Client Solutions, Window Book, has worked for postal software vendors since 1991 and has assisted hundreds of mailers of all types. Lloyd helps clients with all avenues of process efficiency within the post presort market including investigating their current systems and implementing recommended best practices mailing management solutions. He also served as a subject matter advisor on USPS eDoc and Intelligent Mail Full-Service projects for three years while at Accenture.