For those of us processing Full-Service mailings today, the Postal Service’s Seamless Acceptance program isn’t anything new. However, increasing industry adoption for this program has been on hold for several years pending required USPS internal approvals related to Sarbanes-Oxley Act SOX compliance. During this time, many Full-Service mailers have started working in the Seamless Parallel environment and using the corresponding part of the Mailer’s Scorecard. While unable to fully participate in Seamless Acceptance, mailers using Seamless Parallel are able to see their scorecard results, better understand the quality metrics thresholds, and have likely created new processes based on the scorecard information available.
So, what’s changed?
- May 12, 2017: The freeze on additional mailers joining the Seamless Acceptance program was lifted. The Postal Service announced that customers who wish to participate could begin the onboarding process.
- July 5, 2017: The Postal Service announced that Automated Assessments for Seamless Acceptance were being activated.
There are three risks to consider before moving to Seamless Acceptance:
1. It's a Permanent Commitment
Once you move to Seamless Acceptance, there is no way to back out. You REALLY need to be sure you and your business are ready to make that commitment. It is a true “until death do us part” commitment.
2. Make Sure to Understand what PAF Is and the Assessment Risk
- PAF: This is not the NCOALink “Processing Acknowledgment Form,” but the Seamless Acceptance “Postage Adjustment Factor.” One of the key benefits of Seamless Acceptance is the elimination of the mail verification process; however, this can be a double-edged sword. The verification process is eliminated because the Postal Service has automated verifications that watch the mail as it flows through its processing equipment. So, if there are any problems with a mailing, there is no “verification point” to catch it, and the only option will be to pay for the problem. Similar to Full-Service, Seamless Acceptance measures mail quality on a calendar month basis (not on an individual mailing job), and the assessment you will pay when one of the quality metrics is exceeded is based on what your postage spend was for that month. For large volume mailers, using the PAF calculation, it is possible to have an automated Seamless Acceptance assessment of six figures.
- To help the mailing industry mitigate such a large risk, the Postal Service implemented a “three strikes” rule for Seamless Acceptance. On a rolling 12-month calendar, mailers in Seamless Acceptance are allowed to have up to three months where mailer quality thresholds have been exceeded without having to pay the invoice. If there are four or more months in the past 12-month that have exceeded the threshold, then the mailer will have to pay the calculated PAF that will be invoiced on the 11th day following the end of each month.
- One of the requirements for Seamless Acceptance is you must also be an eInduction mailer. eInduction uses electronic documentation to eliminate the need for paper 8125s and 8017s.
- While not specifically called out, this means that Seamless Acceptance is not for small volume mailers because you must palletize your mail to participate in eInduction, which is a requirement of Seamless Acceptance.
If you chose to accept the risks, there are also the sweet rewards of adopting Seamless Acceptance.
1. Standardized Acceptance and Verification Processes
When a mailer makes the switch to Seamless Acceptance, the role of your current mail acceptance clerk completely changes. Instead of verifying mailings, they switch to a role of performing samplings on containers that have been produced but not yet mailed. The mailer is given complete control of postage payment (through the system’s auto-finalization capability), and you decide when the mail is ready to be released to the Postal Service.
Ultimately, your company will need to carefully weigh the risks and rewards of Seamless Acceptance and decide if this is a commitment that is worth making. If you would like more information on Seamless Acceptance, Chapter 5 of Publication 6850: Streamlined Mail Acceptance for Letters and Flat has an extensive amount of information. You can find it by going to the Postal Service PostalPro site: https://postalpro.usps.com and searching for “Streamlined”. If you would like to talk with the Postal Service about moving to Seamless Acceptance, you are encouraged to contact your local Business Mail Entry Unit.
Bob Schimek is Senior Director of Postal Affairs at Quadient. If you’d like to keep an eye on Seamless Acceptance updates and other mailing industry news, visit the Quadient Postal blog: www.quadient.com/blog.