Feb. 23 2007 04:37 PM

Once again, the mailing industry finds itself standing in the batter's box, facing a Roger Clemens fastball, minus a batting helmet. May of 2007 brings us the implementation of the proposed USPS rate case with it's cacophony of changes and increases. Even USPS officials refer to the changes to rates and preparation requirements as a "monster." The mailing industry has been uneasily consumed with conversing and debating the merits and demerits of the postal proposals for many months. Our focus on the rate case has allowed that dangerous fastball with "CASS-DPV Cycle L" written on it to make its way straight for our unprotected head(s) without even entering our field of vision.


ZIP+4 is OUT and DPV is IN

By May 1, 2007, your current CASS Certified software product, which you have trusted to perform ZIP+4 encoding of your mailing lists, will be replaced with CASS Delivery Point Validation (DPV) encoding software. Your software vendor is required to put DPV encoding capable software into your hands 90 days prior to the implementation date of August 1, 2007. This requirement is not tied to the rate case. There will be no presentations to, or rulings from, the Postal Rate Commission or the Board of Governors. There will be no waiting for "will they, or won't they"? This is a done deal.


Your new DPV encoding software will definitely consume many times more space on your computer systems and will probably process many times slower. The DPV database of delivery points is much larger than the ZIP+4 database of address ranges. And the DPV software must search harder to find a valid existing address compared to the ZIP+4 searching, which only had to find the placement of an address within a range of addresses. ZIP+4 encoding is the equivalent of locating the electrical aisle in a Home Depot. And DPV encoding is similar to locating a 15-Amp Female U-Ground Straight Blade Cord Connector on a shelf in the electrical aisle.


How will this effect your company? The reality is that you will not know until you test the software with your own lists on your own computer systems. Encoding processing times will probably be the most troublesome. Hardware will have to be enhanced because it will typically take twice as long to DPV-encode a list. Maybe three times longer? If your production times and costs will increase dramatically, how will your pricing be adjusted? Certainly, your costs will be much higher than they are now.


If you want to increase your processing speeds, consider purchasing a second or a third computer system. Remember to contact your CASS software vendor and enquire about the costs of additional licenses. Since the DPV database is so much larger, you may have to invest in a DVD drive because the data may no longer be coming to you on a single CD. Some vendors may be sending you the database on multiple CDs that you will have to load onto your system.


Mailing lists that are passed through the CASS-DPV process will receive multiple return codes, markers or flags that can be invaluable in performing very basic mailing list maintenance. Again, check with your software vendor because the DPV return codes may or may NOT be the same as your current ZIP+4 return codes.


CASS-DPV processing policies and procedures that customers should incorporate:

1.         Always ask for the DPV counts from your list processor.

2.         Consider deleting any records that can't be Delivery Point Validated from any mailing list.

3.         Ask for a listing of return codes or flags from your CASS processor, and work with the various codes to improve the general hygiene of your mailing lists.

4.         Have your mailing list NCOALink (FSP) processed on a scheduled basis.

  •            Additional benefit NCOALink assures that your list meets USPS Move Update requirements.

    5.         Check CASS-DPV encoding rates before ordering print quantities or determining
                a mailing class.

  •            Delete or suppress any addresses that cannot be DPV-encoded from Standard Class mailings.

  •            Mail at First-Class rates any addresses that cannot be DPV-encoded if the ad-
                            dresses must be mailed to. You will not be able to claim any barcode discounts. No DPV = No Discounts.

  •            Update your database with any information received back from those First-Class pieces with the bad addresses.

    6.         If renting a list from a broker, only include (and pay for) addresses that have been Delivery Point Validated. Require CASS-DPV documentation accompany the list.


    CASS-DPV processing policies and procedures that service providers should incorporate:

    1.         Always provide your client with a hard copy of CASS-DPV encoding results.

    2.         Ask for specific instructions for the handling of unencoded addresses. Delete, suppress or allow to remain in the list?

    3.         Inform the customer of the financial ramifications of leaving the bad addresses in the list. Include print, processing and postage costs in your calculations and don't forget response rates. Rates will automatically increase because of the elimination of the bad addresses.

    4.         Get specific instructions in writing with a signature if the customer insists that undeliverable addresses remain in their mailing lists.

    Recommended Action Items Timeframe: 10-30 days

  •           Contact your CASS software provider
                and ask when you can expect to have the
                new CASS-DPV software in-house.

  •           Evaluate your in-house computer system.
                Consider contacting your mailing software
                    vendor to see if it can assist in the evaluation.

  •           Evaluate/update all processing forms related
                to customer service, data processing and
                mailing to accommodate new CASS-
                DPV capabilities.

  •           Institute a policy of reviewing mail-
                related websites/forums on a daily basis.

  •           Join mailing organizations, such as
                Mailing & Fulfillment Service Association
                (MFSA): 703-836-9200, 800-333-6272,
                www.MFSAnet.org; and Association for
                Postal Commerce (PostCom): 703-524-
                0096, www.postcom.org.

  •           Subscribe to USPS publications.

  •           Subscribe to mailing industry-related pub-
                lications such as Mailing Systems Technology.


    Recommended Action Items

  •           Identify possible new processing charges.

  •            Identify DPV processing costs and turn-
                around times.

  •            Incorporate DPV costs into upcoming
                bids and proposals.

  •            Determine if claiming the barcode discount
                will be worth your increased costs.

  •            Identify new in-house delivery times
                once your mail hits the USPS mail stream
                if not barcoded.

  •            Develop an education plan for your in-
                ternal staff.

  •            Get in touch with your mailing organi-
                zations (PostCom, MFSA, PCC, etc.),
                and ask questions about the educational
                readiness of the business mail entry clerks
                at your postal facility.


    Let USPS Be the Bad Guy 

    Meet with your customers and provide them with the following USPS document:


    By sharing this document, you lend credibility to the request to perform more services for your clients. After all, you are acting as an upstanding member of the mailing community and are following the new rules. Chances are that if you don't share the info with your customers, your competitors will be happy to do it for you.


    Back to that CASS-DPV fastball. Very few mailers will successfully take advantage of all that DPV brings to your company and your customers and hit the ball out of the park for a home run. The opportunity does exist, however, and it certainly can happen. For most of us, these DPV requirements, coinciding with the rate case will, undoubtedly, have that fastball hit us on the body somewhere. The last line of Ernest Lawrence Thayer's poem, "Casey At The Bat" is, "But there is no joy in Mudville: Mighty Casey has struck out." Striking out is much better than taking a career-ending hit to the temple.


    CASS-DPV is coming. Watch for it. Use it. Embrace it. Share it inside and outside your company. Capitalize on it. Stay in the mailing game, and live to play another day.


    Mary Ann Bennett is President and CEO of The Bennett Group. Call 877-743-3379, email maryann@the-bennett-group.com or visit www.the-bennett-group.com.  


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