Certified Mail, a service that provides a mailer with a receipt and verification that an item was delivered or that a delivery attempt was made, was launched by the Postal Service in 1955. Today, nearly 200 million pieces of Certified Mail are delivered each year.
Certified Mail serves a critical legal purpose as proof that documents were mailed and notices were received. For many mailers, using this service is still a manual process. They fill out each form, place the barcoded sticker on the envelope, and then collect and store the forms when they are returned. Certified Mail is expensive to prepare and difficult to track.
According to the U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General’s Delivering Piece of Mind: Certified Mail and the U.S. Postal Service report, the time has come to focus on enhancing Certified Mail. The challenge is that many of the standard actions around Certified Mail still involve physical process, and the OIG’s report states that modernizing the service to better meet mailers’ needs is necessary.
The Postal Service is bridging the gap between physical services and customers’ needs for digital information. For example, Informed Delivery, which provides users with digital previews of their mail, was introduced. And Informed Visibility, which leverages GPS data to provide commercial mailers with near real-time visibility as mail pieces move through the mail stream, was also created a few years ago.
Certified Mail, however, is not being modernized as quickly as other services.
Why does modernizing Certified Mail matter to businesses and their service providers? Simply put, businesses send Certified Mail because they have to. It is not a discretionary choice; it is mandated by statute or federal code. Certified Mail serves a critical legal purpose: It serves as evidence that documents were mailed to other parties and that those documents were received. It is also the notice required by law that triggers the execution of key business and legal processes in many industries.
The statutes that drive Certified Mail specifically say Certified Mail or Certified Mail with Return Receipt requested. When it comes to proof of delivery, for certain types of mail in specific markets, Certified Mail is the only proof that can be used as evidence. This is why it has not experienced a significant decline.
In certain industries, regulations mean that the timely and accurate delivery and receipt data is crucial when it comes to asset recovery or compliance. For example:
- Loan services: accelerating asset recovery in servicing of car loans, home mortgages, and other loans.
- Insurance: ensuring that notice of cancellations are received to resolve disputed claims.
- Banking, utilities, and insurance: complying with escheatment laws related to unclaimed bank accounts, insurance policies, and utility deposits.
- Self-storage: auction of contents for abandoned storage units.
The postal industry is responding to the need to modernize Certified Mail. A new category of intelligent Certified Mail solutions is emerging from software and service providers. These solutions integrate tracking data from the Postal Service’s IMb and IMpb systems to provide near real-time analytics and dashboards of Certified Mail status and delivery events.
As enterprise mailers gain easier access to dashboards and analytics, they are increasingly leveraging the Postal Service electronic services:
- Proof of Acceptance (electronic) has been held by the IRS, state, and federal courts as prima facia evidence that the Postal Service physically took possession of mail on a specific date and time. IRS code indemnifies taxpayers from fines or penalties if the Postal Service took possession of mail that was never received.
- Return Receipt (electronic) provides city, state, time, date, and signature within 24 hours or less of mail delivery. It carries the same legal status as physical forms and is commonly used to replace the legacy green card.
While you’re waiting for the Postal Service to fully modernize Certified Mail, there is no need to be in the dark when it comes to your delivery information. Enterprise mailers have new opportunities to modernize Certified Mail. Innovations in analytics, dashboards, and APIs leverage the integration of IMb and IMpb tracking data to bring increased visibility to Certified Mail across the Enterprise.
The payoff is reduced costs, improved client satisfaction and accelerated business processes. If you’re in one of the markets mentioned above, it means you can eliminate days out of the Certified Mail process. From the time you put the piece in the mail to the time you receive proof that the piece was received could take up to 30 days. With the digitization of Certified Mail, the legal and recovery processes can be expedited because you have easy access to information.
The industry is leading the way by launching a first generation of intelligent Certified Mail solutions that you can use to see Certified Mail delivery information within hours and move forward with your critical processes. If Certified Mail is important to your enterprise, then it might make sense to take a closer look.
Angelo Anagnostopoulos is GrayHair’s VP Postal Affairs and has over 25 plus years in the industry working with the largest mailers in the country and sits on many major postal industry groups. Charles Crutchfield is the co-founder of SimpleCertifiedMail.com.
Recently, the two companies announced a partnership announcing a first-in-class, intelligent enterprise-focused Certified Mail and analytics solution for large mailers that speed the preparation, tracking, and management of Certified Mail end to end.