This originally appeared in the September/October, 2018 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.
Certain things in life, like wire clothes hangers and tangled holiday lights, are just so annoying that we’ll do just about anything to avoid them. In the mailing world, another thing belongs on that list – hard copy postage statements.
Reasons for Using Hard Copy
In today’s digital world, it is difficult to understand why some mailers still handle hard copy postage statements. We’ve been told by clients that there are reasons for using these hard copy statements, such as:
- The mail owners insist on getting hard copy statements for proof of mailing or billing purposes.
- The job is not claiming Intelligent Mail Full-Service prices.
- There is no Mail.dat file for the job.
- My logistics provider insists on hard copy 8125 clearance documents.
- PostalOne!® is down and the mailing must go out today.
- The accounting or customer service departments insist on hard copy statements for billing purposes or to be placed into a job jacket.
- Detached Mail Unit requests a hard copy statement to make it easier to find the job on PostalOne!
Whatever the reason, mailers continue to generate and handle these hard copy documents, which is the least efficient method for managing this information. How can we change behavior and move toward more efficient, electronic means of processing these statements?
Take Away the Reasons
The simple answer is to take away the reasons for handling hard copy statements. However, even if there is no longer a logical reason to do something, people are creatures of habit, and they tend to follow the path of least resistance. As such, it is often difficult to change habits and learn new ways of doing things, even if the new ways are more efficient. The first step is to challenge the “We’ve always done it this way” mode of thinking. When you encounter this type of response, ask “Why are we doing it this way”?
Or, “Is there a better way to do this?” This gets people thinking about alternate ways of processing these statements and encourages more open thinking.
The second step is to ensure that proper tools are in place to take advantage of more efficient electronic means to process these statements. The easier it is to perform a task, the easier it is to learn a new way of doing it, and the more likely it will be that people adopt new habits.
Another step is to meet any resistance with facts and the ability to demonstrate the impact of the efficiencies of electronic statements.
Challenging the Reasons
- Those reasons for using hard copy statements that we mentioned above? There are effective challenges to all of them:
- Mail owners who insist on hard copy statements for proof of mailing can be provided electronic files as a PDF or other format; these can be easily transmitted to them and printed on their end. This type of process can be automated using software or custom written scripts. This may take some educational effort to work with your clients or, in some cases, implementing document handling fees for processing hard copy documents will do the trick.
- Jobs that don’t mail at Full-Service can be submitted electronically to the USPS; no hard copy statements are required. For mailers who submit both Full-Service and Basic mailings, it is more efficient to process all mailings the same way, rather than going back and forth between electronic and hard copy. With the proper software tools, submitting mailings electronically is quicker and easier than hard copy, so there is no need to have both processes in your mailing workflow.
- Jobs for which there is no Mail.dat file can be submitted electronically using the Postal Wizard. Once the job is submitted, electronic statements are available on the PostalOne! dashboard. Again, proper software tools make it much easier to provide the means to generate Mail.dat files (even for low volumes) and to easily download Postal Wizard-generated statements from the PostalOne! dashboard.
- Mailers who drop ship to additional entry points should participate in eInduction, which not only streamlines the acceptance process for this mail, it eliminates the need for hard copy 8125 clearance documents. eInduction may be used even for entry points that are not equipped with Surface Visibility scanners, so there is no need to create hard copy 8125s for those facilities. If your logistics provider is still insisting on hard copy 8125s, educate them on the need to go electronic, or research alternate providers. Once again, with the appropriate software tools, the shipment data can easily be shared electronically.
- When PostalOne! has an outage, the last thing mailers should do is generate hard copy statements. The PostalOne! Contingency Plan clearly specifies that mailers should maintain a log of jobs processed during the outage period and submit that log to the USPS acceptance office rather than hard copy statements. Software tools can make the generation of this log as easy as a few mouse clicks.
- Companies have varying policies regarding retention of accounting and mailing data, so there may be departments in your company that still require hard copy statements. This does not mean that hard copy statements need to be generated by the mailing department. Having an electronic workflow, with automated transfer of PDF or XML format files, can free the mailing department from the onus of hard copy documents while still allowing other departments access to the data. This allows the impacted department to print out hard copy documents as needed.
- While it is a good idea to maintain good relationships with your detached mail unit (DMU) or business mail entry unit (BMEU), it is not reasonable for the USPS to be requesting hard copy documents for electronic submissions. If they are requesting these documents, it is a training issue that may need to be addressed with the postmaster or district level acceptance office. Alternatively, making the electronic files accessible via automated tools allows the acceptance office to print out the documents they require and not put the onus on the mailer.
Whatever reasons you encounter for resisting the elimination of hard copy statements, it is easiest to tackle them one at a time. With education, persistence, and the proper software tools, making the case for electronic statements becomes easier with each success, and once the efficiencies of electronic statements are realized, you’ll wonder what took you so long!
Jeff Peoples is founder and CEO, Window Book.