The future for intelligent mail is bright

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By now, many mailers are familiar with the basic structure and objectives of the United States Postal Service's Intelligent Mail program and new postal barcode. This has been augmented by the Full Service program, which began Nov. 29, 2009, requiring participating mailers to use unique Intelligent Mail Bar Codes on mail pieces, trays and containers, and to electronically submit postage statements and mailing documentation, among other requirements.

The benefits to those adopting the program are real, providing discounts on first-class and standard mail pieces, as well as flats.

Many mailers have also graduated to electronic mailing document submission via the Postal Service's PostalOne! system, which provides a streamlined, Web-based process for mail entry, payment, tracking and reporting.

For the future, the Postal Service is planning additional service enhancements, collaborating in work groups under the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee to support those efforts.

Many mailers pursuing all these aspects of the Postal Service's Intelligent Mail program have focused on the Intelligent Mail Bar Code element, and others on the PostalOne! processes. Beyond this are other opportunities for many mailers in leveraging Intelligent Mail visibility services, such as CONFIRM, which provides near real-time tracking information of mail pieces, and Address Change Service, a notification of address changes, which is free with the Full Service program.

For many, these optional services provide great business value, justifying their investment and changing the game for mailing communications. The Address Change Service alone can easily increase the response rate of direct mail marketing efforts.

But what really matters is actionable information that can be leveraged for marketing, financial and operational scenarios. For example, mail-based intelligence can be used to optimize call center staffing, marketing windows and triggered events.

Forward-thinking mailers will view all these Intelligent Mail programs as a competitive advantage to grow their businesses while reducing operating costs. Progressive list processing and mailing services companies have developed business cases around new Intelligent Mail Bar Code-based products and services, such as “virtual returned mail,” that may expand their market shares, differentiate their services and create substantial savings by eliminating time and material waste.

The following is a best practices checklist that may provide some considerations for mailers:

  • Work to understand potential business opportunities or problem solutions and build the business case for Intelligent Mail.
  • Leverage outbound CONFIRM tracking and Address Change Service to maximize business benefits.
  • Convert appropriate remits or business-response applications to leverage inbound CONFIRM services.
  • Coordinate the “undeliverable as addressed” process with Address Change Service and work flow applications.
  • Provide your vendors with Intelligent Mail Bar Code data connected to the customer and document, if some of your marketing mail is produced by third parties. This allows tracking and dashboards on this mail to be consistent with in-house mail.
  • Develop automated reporting and query applications to ensure postal data get leveraged by your entire organization or your customers.
  • Develop Address Change Service-based mail quality reporting dashboards by application to reduce postage costs and ensure compliance.
These practices, and continually evolving approaches to Intelligent Mail, will help organizations be prepared to manage challenges and opportunities in their mailing communications for 2010 and beyond.

Kevin Conti is director-communications intelligence for Pitney Bowes Business Insight. He can be reached at [email protected]

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