Postal Service Publishes Revised “Guide to Move Update”

And now for something you’ve all been waiting for… or not.  A revised “Guide to Move Update”.

According to the USPS, “the Move Update standard is a means of reducing the number of mailpieces in a commercial mailing that require forwarding, returning, or treating as waste by periodically matching a mailer’s address records with change-of-address orders maintained by the Postal Service™.”

The new version of the Guide to Move Update is now postaed on the USPS RIBBS website and can be accessed by clicking on this link:  https://ribbs.usps.gov/index.cfm?page=moveupdate.

Some of the updates include the following new subsections:

  • Overview of the Change of Address Process
  • What is a PAF and Why is It Required?
  • Non-US Mailers and NCOALink
  • NCOALink MPE

The Quick Start Guide at the beginning of the Guide has also been reworked to emulate the DMM Quick Service Guide – and the Move Update Questions and Answers section was revised and clarified.

FASTforward License Extension Information

In February 2009, the USPS announced that the FASTforward method for move update processing would be “retired” as of June 30, 2012.  In February 2011, that June 2012 date was extended to October 1, 2012, and licensees were told they would continue to receive weekly data fulfillment through September 28, 2012.

On June 18, 2012, the USPS National Customer Support Center in Memphis, TN sent out a letter to all FASTforward licensees.  In the letter was information about the extension and the License Agreements.  Below is an extract from that letter:

“Current licensees will have their FASTforward License Agreement extended to September 30, 2012, per section 3.0 of the license, which states ‘The term of this shall be one (1) year, which shall begin on the date this agreement is executed by the Postal Service Contracting Officer, plus any extensions made pursuant to this Paragraph 3…’  Therefore, you will NOT be invoiced or charged for an annual renewal of your current FASTforward license.  Your current license will be extended to expire on September 30, 2012 at 11:59 a.m.  Be advised that any mailings processed under this license after the expiration date will not qualify for Move Update compliance.

The letter goes on to provide some information about FASTforward licensees switching to become NCOALink Mail Processing Equipment (MPE) Data User Licensees or using the NCOALink MPE WAN (Wide Area Network) method.

If you are a FASTforward licensee and have questions about the information in the letter – or you did not receive a copy of this letter – you can contact the USPS NCSC Licensing and Certification Department via email at ncoalink@usps.gov or by calling them at 1-800-589-5766.

 

Intelligent Mail®: More Than Just A Barcode

 

If you have been working on integrating Intelligent Mail (IM) your mailing processes, you already know that there is much more to this program than just a new barcode. In fact, printing the barcode may be the least complex part of the whole integration!

 

If you are just getting started with IM, or have not yet begun, you really ought to devote some time and planning to your integration process. If you think you can just ignore it, hoping it will all go away, think again. The United States Postal Service® (USPS) has invested millions of dollars in the IM program, and it really is the next generation of technology for mailing. Mailers who do not embrace this new technology will find themselves left out in the cold; unable to participate in the latest postal initiatives. Before you pooh-pooh the whole idea as not worthy of any investment in time or resources, consider the following:

 

The USPS is implementing a postal discount for mailers using IM, effective November 29, 2009. While the discounts don’t sound like much ($.003 per piece for First-Class and $.001 for Standard, Periodicals and Package Services mail), these small amounts can add up quickly for large volume mailers. This initial discount is only the beginning; at some point in the future, many discounts will be tied to the use of IM.

 

Use of IM allows you to take advantage of a number of mail tracking options. You can track individual pieces of mail or just containers of mail. This information can be extremely valuable to better pinpoint delivery dates of mail. This can help you or your clients in any number of ways:

  • Timing your direct mail message to related television, radio, newspaper or internet marketing messages.
  • Planning your staffing and other resources in call centers, product warehouses, shipping centers, retail stores, or internet sites.
  • Longer term analysis of direct marketing efforts to pinpoint the most successful times of the year, days of the week, etc.

IM also allows you to have proof that your mail has entered the postal stream and more importantly, you can track it through the USPS processing chain.

 

For mail service providers, if you don’t offer IM, your competitors will! Most businesses can’t afford to lose work for any reason, and never has that been truer than in this challenging economy. Before you dismiss IM as being too costly or time consuming to implement, consider the potential cost of lost revenue if you delay implementation or elect not to do so at all. IM is a critical part of just staying in the game at this point, so make sure you take this into account in your financial analysis.

 

IM helps improve address accuracy. With Full Service IM, mailers receive free ACS (Address Change Service). This service, which currently has a price of $.26 per correction, is FREE with Full Service IM and can provide up-to-date address information for your customers and prospects who have moved. Moreover, this service also provides helpful error codes on addresses which may not involve a move but may not be entirely accurate for postal delivery purposes. Keeping addresses current and accurate not only saves postage, but helps you stay in contact with your customers.

 

IM helps streamline mailing processes and reduce paperwork. Part of the USPS cost savings of the IM program comes from the requirement to submit electronic documentation via the internet. This cost savings accrues to mailers as well, in reduced costs for printers, paper, toner, etc. and reduced administrative costs of processing and storing all the hard copy documentation. This can also result in reduced amounts of time to process and present mail to the USPS and reduced time for mail verification and acceptance by the USPS.

 

If you are still procrastinating on integration of IM, don’t be afraid. There is plenty of help available. The USPS has numerous online guides and other information available, including recorded tutorials. Many of your suppliers, such as software vendors, logistics suppliers, mailing equipment manufacturers, etc. can offer all kinds of assistance and educational materials. Mailing and other industry associations can also provide a wealth of information. You need look no further than your local Postal Customer Council (PCC) for help and interaction with other mailers in your area who are also implementing IM.

 

The November 29 implementation date for IM discounts is just around the corner. The full impact of IM will go far beyond that date however, and the sooner you get on board, the sooner you can take advantage of the many benefits of IM. Don’t delay!

Monica Lundquist, Postal Affairs Manager, Window Book, Inc.

ACS Full Service: Will it REALLY work? By Monica Lundquist, Postal Affairs, Window Book Inc.

 

ACS Full Service: Will it REALLY work?

Some recent mailing industry discussions have involved all the uncertainties regarding Address Change Service (ACSTM) services under Intelligent Mail®. There is still a lot of confusion and miscommunication surrounding this topic. However, one element which is very fundamental is not being discussed, and unfortunately it could be a real show-stopper.

Many mailers do not realize that the USPS handles address corrections differently for the various processing categories of mail. One of the methods the USPS utilizes is a system called Postal Automated Redirection System (PARS), which reads the address during postal processing, bounces it against the USPS Change of Address (COA) database, and then automatically applies the new address and forwards the mail (depending on the class of mail and service endorsements) to the new address. The processing equipment used to process this mail is predominantly for letter size mail.

For mail that is not forwarded, the USPS uses a different method. In these cases, the address corrections are triggered at the mail delivery carrier level. When the carrier determines that the recipient is no longer at the address on the mailpiece, or that the mailpiece is otherwise undeliverable as addressed, the piece is sent to a Computerized Forwarding System (CFS) center for further processing. The CFS sites are where the ACS notices are generated. Before this is done, however, the mail carrier manually crosses out the barcode on the mailpiece so that the piece does not get re-directed to the old or bad address. Therein lies the problem. If the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) is obliterated by the mail carrier, it will not be able to be scanned at the CFS centers, which means that the USPS will not be able to process the address corrections in the Intelligent Mail environment.

Theoretically, it should be as simple as training all the mail carriers to stop crossing out the barcodes on this Undeliverable As Addressed (UAA) mail. However, since there are tens of thousands of mail carriers across the country, the likelihood of this training getting accomplished quickly and thoroughly is not very high. This is particularly true given the financial straits of the USPS.

The November implementation date for the Intelligent Mail postage discounts is not all that far away. This problem is not being actively discussed, so how can mailers be assured that they will be receiving their address corrections when they convert to Intelligent Mail? This is particularly concerning for Periodicals mailers, who are required to receive and pay for address corrections through the USPS. Many Periodicals mailers have adopted the ACS service over the years as a method of reducing the cost of the address corrections. Since these mailers are already paying for address corrections through the USPS, very few utilize other methods of obtaining address corrections, such as NCOALink®, because of the additional costs. The free ACS service as part of Intelligent Mail Full Service is particularly attractive for these Periodicals mailers since they can now obtain these corrections free of charge, whereas in the past there was a charge per correction. Getting corrections for free, however, is no deal if the process results in not being able to get any address corrections at all.

An alternative is for mailers to continue to print the ACS participant codes and keylines on the mailpieces. This would allow the USPS to access this human readable data in cases where the IMb is obliterated or otherwise unreadable. However, this does not address the issue of the type of service requested by the mailer. Traditionally this would be indicated in the type of ancillary endorsement printed on the mailpiece (e.g. Change Service Requested). Under Intelligent Mail, however, the only endorsement permitted is Electronic Service Requested, so that would not be of any help in cases where the IMb is not readable. Also at issue is how these address corrections would be charged. Theoretically if the IMb is unreadable, the ACS notices would no longer be free but would rather be charged at traditional rates. However, if the USPS causes the barcodes to be unreadable, how will that be charged?

Mailers who plan to use Full Service ACS should be working with their mailing associations so that this concern can be communicated to the USPS. These mailers should also be working with their fulfillment suppliers or database managers to be actively participating in testing for the Full Service ACS program so that any potential problems can be identified quickly.

Everyone in the mailing industry wants Intelligent Mail to be successful, and only through timely communication can potential problems be identified and corrected quickly.

Monica Lundquist

Postal Affairs Manager

Window Book, Inc.