Undeliverable-as-Addressed (UAA) mail is an ongoing issue for those in the mailing industry. In FY2017 alone, the UAA mail volume reported by the United States Postal Service (USPS) was 6.1 billion pieces of mail, consistent with the trend of 4.2% of total mail volume mailed annually. Mail can be classified as UAA or return to sender (RTS) for a variety of reasons. The primary reasons are related to a move by the recipient, incorrect or illegible address, or an incomplete address. The challenge for mailers is how to manage the returned mail and understand the full impact it has on their business.
As mailers, we tend to think of the physical mail piece and the expense related to print, handling, and postage that is tied to the piece. As an organization, there is a need to look at all functional areas and how that physical UAA mail piece impacts each area. Identifying the true impact of UAA mail is similar to the metaphor of peeling back the layers of an onion. Analyzing the full impact can be a slow process — and one that many do not even realize they need to consider when dealing with UAA mail.
First, let’s think about the physical mail piece and what it takes to handle the UAA mail as it is returned to an organization. What is the volume of UAA mail you receive? Keep in mind that UAA mail is trending at about four percent of the mail volume processed by the USPS; if you are unsure of the volume of UAA mail you are receiving, the simple estimate is that you are probably trending between three and four percent of your outgoing mail volumes. Once the UAA mail is received, what is procedure for handling, sorting, and returning it to the internal department that sent the mail piece? The work hours involved in receiving and handling the physical mail piece add up rather quickly.
The next layer of the onion is how to manage the return mail data that is being received. As an organization, do you have the employee resources to effectively work and research why the mail piece was returned? Uncovering why a mail piece was returned is a very manual process, and most organizations do not have the dedicated employee resources to manage a manual UAA mail process. Are there internal policies and procedures that need to be followed regarding changing an address in your customer account records or system? Industry compliance regulations also have bearing on how an organization handles UAA mail.
As we continue to peel back the layers of the onion, the financial impact on UAA mail seems the most challenging and the toughest to quantify for most organizations. When looking at budgets, organizations will have a budget for mailing costs but not one for UAA costs. Yes, we can put financial numbers to employee work hours, and we can also calculate print and postage costs, but that doesn’t yet give us the true impact. Peeling back the layer of what the financial impact of the actual mail piece is (yes, I am referring to what is inside the envelope) becomes the bigger challenge for many organizations. Are you losing current revenue or future revenue as a result of UAA mail? What is the average invoice or statement amount you are not collecting? What is the future revenue that is lost by the mail piece not being delivered? This now turns into a tougher analysis for an organization.
As you start thinking of all of the ways UAA mail can impact an organization, remember that there are many functional areas of an organization that have not even been discussed that also add to the overall financial impact of UAA mail. Some of these functional areas include IT, operations, call center teams, and sales. The ability to peel back these additional layers of the onion in your analysis efforts can help make the picture clearer when it comes to how UAA is truly impacting your organization.
How to Fix the Problem?
Once you have done the work in analyzing how UAA mail is impacting your organization and what current processes you have in place, the next step is determining if what you are doing is the most cost-effective way to handle the issue for your organization. Is there an opportunity to decrease the financial impact that UAA mail has on your organization? Automating and digitizing the UAA mail process is what many organizations are looking to accomplish. Streamlining cumbersome, labor-intense manual processes have the greatest gain for the overall organization.
Evaluating the options on how to automate and digitize UAA mail, not to mention determining what options are the right fit for your business, can seem as difficult as understanding the true impact of UAA mail. Investing in equipment and resources to automate and digitize is not always the best financial investment. The USPS offers solutions that can help with the automation of UAA mail. Mail service providers (MSPs) also have solutions that help to automate, digitize, and streamline UAA processes. As proven by the trend of UAA mail reported by the USPS every year, it continues to be an issue that the mailing industry faces. The complexity in analyzing and resolving the impact of UAA mail will continue to rise as industry regulations continue to get more complex and numerous. As you peel back the onion to uncover the true impact of UAA on your business, remember that you do have options to help you address and resolve the issue.
Jane Sinkko is Product Manager, Business Mail, Pitney Bowes Presort Services. She has over 25 years’ experience in the mailing industry, helping clients drive revenue and develop innovative first-class mail solutions. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, For more information, visit https://www.pitneybowes.com/us/shipping-and-mailing/on-demand-and-presort-mailing-services.html.