As mail service providers, we all know there are a multitude of factors that contribute to the success or failure of a commercial mailing. As Mike Porter, President, Print/Mail Consultants, stated recently in his column Can You Afford to be Mailing Out Mistakes?, quality control procedures are instrumental in preventing costly mistakes. In addition to good QC procedures, I believe proper training, software and equipment maintenance as well as management support are key factors as well. It is communication that is at the core of all of these elements. We need to have good lines of communication both inside and outside our own company, particularly in data processing. We are the middle man between the customer and mailing production.

To have a "successful" commercial mailing and a customer who is pleased, we must first define what success will mean to our customer. What is the objective? Is it time-critical material, a personalized appeal or invitation, or is it simply for promotion or information purposes with no time sensitivity? To help them reach the objective, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of what is expected. Also necessary are complete and correct data as well as the time to produce the project. Can the client's expectations be met, and if so, will it be profitable for them? If the expectations are unrealistic or if the cost would be too great, the customer should be informed as soon as possible.

Data Processing is an important piece in the communication puzzle. We have close communication with the customer (the job creator and mail list owner), in-house CSRs (who know what the project requirements are), pre-press (who need an understanding of USPS design requirements) and mailing production (who need proper postal paperwork and list sortation, in addition to having/receiving them in time to meet the mailing deadline date). Of course we also cannot forget the need to maintain constant communication with the USPS (who make, interpret and change requirements as often and as much as they see fit).

Networking online with other mailers in user forums and discussion groups, such as the Mailing Systems Technology - LinkedIn Discussion Group, is a great way to stay current on changes, get helpful information and exchange ideas. Getting involved in your local Postal Customer Council is very helpful as well. We need to have cooperative working relationships in all these areas to ensure that we have the communication necessary to prepare and complete quality projects and mail them on time and on budget.

Good communication reduces job interruptions. There is no need to stop and get clarification when objectives and instructions are understood. Interruptions slow production and increase the likelihood of mistakes being made. When objectives are universally understood, issues can be detected, shared and resolved early on in the process.

Our ultimate goal should be to have a customer who is pleased and who will return to us with their next mailing project. Each participant has its own particular page in the "mail project album." We need to be able to see not just a "big picture;" we need to envision the whole "album." We need to look at and understand what each involved party needs: to see the project through their eyes and from their perspective, so that we can successfully reach the goal. There would be nothing better than to see the picture of a smiling customer on the last page of the album because that would indicate that the objective has been met.
Melinda Bozak is the Mailing Lists Manager at Printing Concepts, Inc.