Back in 2013 when the PRC ruled the proposed Full-Service mandate constituted a rate increase of about 4%, their figure was based on the extra work most mailers had to do to comply with the requirements. Knowing what we know now, this was not far off in terms of what costs smaller and mid-size mailers were facing.
Since Intelligent Mail was first introduced, software vendors have continually tried to make it easier for mailers to comply with Full-Service requirements. Presort programs can now automatically assign unique piece, tray and container barcode numbers, and most will make it easy to store and use the "By/For" information required in Mail.dat files. As a result, mailers need to do very little additional work to presort and print a Full-Service job. The extra work really comes next on the post-presort side: preparing for and interacting with PostalOne! And this explains why certain post-presort software is becoming more and more crucial to a mailer's success.
Lots of mailers need to make changes to their Mail.dat files, and in the past you waited for jobs to be imported into a post-presort product, then had to actually know something about Mail.dat to make changes. Then you validated and uploaded the files to PostalOne!, made sure the files were successfully processed, and then retrieved documents from the PostalOne! dashboard to have your mail accepted. After acceptance you went back to PostalOne! and downloaded the finalized statements for your accounting department or your clients. This is a lot of extra work and it required expertise your company may not have in abundance.
Take a good look at the post-presort market right now - you will see the amazing strides post-presort software is making in reducing the amount of labor required to make changes to Mail.dat files and interact with PostalOne!.
To simplify post-presort Mail.dat changes, some post-presort software can now hunt down new Mail.dat files on your network and quickly import them to your server. And, more intuitive user interfaces allow users to make the most common changes without knowing much about the Mail.dat specification. Why need to know the piece weight is in the MPU file or the mailing date is in the CSM file? Today's advanced post-presort software allows for easy-to-use navigation screens to handle all the most common edits in one place.
Mailers can even automate their interactions with PostalOne! whether they have a post-presort editor or not. Now there are off-the-shelf products that automate file uploads to PostalOne! and can provide e-mail/text message notifications of PostalOne! events. No more having to look at the USPS MDR Client dashboard to see if your Mail.dat files made it!
Mailers can also use vendor-supplied products and services to automatically receive PostalOne! documents via e-mail or transfer this information right to their network. No searching for or downloading postage statements and confirmation pages! Mailers can subscribe to receiving files with all of the data in their PostalOne! statements for accounting or jobshop systems. The result of this automation is not just time and cost savings, but it opens these job functions to less-skilled employees while reducing any human error factors. This cuts labor costs, training costs and helps mailers deal with employee turnover and absences.
Some mailers have used this automation to take one more step: improve operational efficiency to the point where it actually costs LESS to handle a Full-Service mailing than it did before Full- Service. I've seen mailers create e-mail notifications for their DMU's of new statements in PostalOne!. When a mail clerk gets one of these e-mails, they begin the verification process. Another e-mail signals the mailer's logistics department to load their trailers when a statement is finalized. Automating these hand-offs saves time and money.
Simpler, more reliable business processes often have a value that transcends their hard-dollar savings. Using the right software quickly transforms Intelligent Mail from a cost center to a cost-savings center. As adoption of these innovations increases, the extra cost of Full-Service will actually decrease!
Lloyd Moss 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 U.S. Postal Service eDoc and Intelligent Mail Full-Service projects for three years while at Accenture.