As mentioned in my last column that discussed the delay in the required implementation of IMb, the good news is that if you haven't started the process of getting your Full-Service Certification you still have time. The United States Postal Service (USPS) offers Full-Service Certification (FSC) to mailers who apply for certification and can demonstrate their mail quality.

Two Types of Full-Service IMb Certifications - Standard and Platinum
A Standard Certification is awarded to mailers who meet or exceed Full-Service Verification thresholds established by the USPS. Mailers must have been submitting Full-Service mailings for at least 90 days and monitoring their mail quality following the criteria listed in a USPS-provided Mailer Scorecard. Mailers that meet or exceed the quality thresholds listed may fill out a Full-Service Certification Registration Form and apply for certification. Upon receipt of the registration form, the data from your mailings for the previous three months will be analyzed. If the established quality thresholds in the Mailer Scorecard are met, your company will be listed as a Full-Service Standard Certified mailer and you will be notified of your status. A list of mailers holding the Standard Full-Service Certification will be posted on the USPS RIBBS web page. This list is updated weekly to incorporate any new mailers obtaining this certification.

For Platinum Certification, in addition to meeting the Full-Service Verification thresholds that those applying for Standard Certification must meet, mailers vying for Platinum status must maintain a Quality System that meets Total Quality Management standards, perform and pass three internal audits per year, and pass an additional external quality audit completed by a Certified Quality Auditor (CQA) every three years. Along with a step up in improving mail quality, there are other advantages to achieving a Full-Service Platinum Certification in your mail preparation process. They include:

· Certification into a program that is recognized for the highest quality mail preparation
· Access to industry standards that promote more efficient handling of the mail
· More consistent service in mail delivery and mail production
· Review cycles and training that supports continuous improvement and standardized processes

Additionally, mailers who prove they regularly meet or exceed the high quality standards of the USPS for Platinum status are listed prominently on the USPS website. It is good to note that all mailers earning the Standard and Platinum Full-Service Certifications will undergo an annual review by the USPS to determine continued eligibility.

It is important to remember that the Intelligent Mail barcode is the result of the Postal Service's efforts to develop more robust codes capable of encoding more information. Full-Service IMb offers greater overall data capacity than existing barcodes and provides business mailers with more accurate and detailed information about their mailings, all of which enables better decision making. Applying for certification -whether Standard or Platinum - can seem overwhelming. However, if you send out a significant number of First Class pieces every month the savings can be substantial, making the time spent worth the work.

For the latest information on the Intelligent Mail barcode visit the Rapid Information Bulletin Board System (RIBBS) website at:  

Harry Stephens is President/CEO and founder of DATAMATX, one of the nation's largest privately held, full-service providers of printed and electronic billing solutions. As an advocate for business mailers across the country, Stephens is actively involved in several postal trade associations. He serves on the Executive Board of the Greater Atlanta Postal Customer Council, Major Mailers Association (MMA), PCC Advisory Committee (PCCAC), and the Board of the National Postal Policy Council (NPPC). He is a board member of The Imaging Network Group (INg), an association for Transactional and Direct Mail Marketing service bureaus. As an expert on high-volume print and mail, he has frequently been asked to speak to various USPS groups. You can contact Harry Stephens at