Preparing For Postage Assessments

By now you are likely well aware that starting in November 2016 the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) plans to implement assessments (based on October 2016 data) for non-compliance with the requirements for a number of USPS initiatives such as Intelligent Mail® Full-Service, eInduction, Seamless Acceptance and more. November is not all that far away, so it is a good idea for you to become familiar with what these assessments involve, how they will work, and what you can do to try to minimize any potential assessments.

What mailings are evaluated?

There are four areas of USPS validation that will be impacted by the implementation of these postage assessments:
Intelligent Mail Full-Service

– Move Update
– eInduction
– Seamless Acceptance

Read more: http://www.windowbook.com/Learning/Postal-Concierge-E-tips

Counting The Steps

You’ve probably heard the advice from fitness experts: count the steps you walk during the course of a day; the more steps you take, the better your fitness level will be. In fact, these experts encourage people to add steps to their daily routine in order to help increase fitness levels. This is definitely sound advice for your physical fitness, but what about the steps you take in your daily work processes? We’re not talking about footsteps here, but process steps. In that case, the total opposite is true: the fewer process steps you perform, the more productive you are – and this is especially true for routine, redundant tasks. We often hear from mailers who say that they only use electronic documentation (eDoc) for Full-Service mailings, and that they use hard copy for everything else because eDoc is not required. At first blush that may make sense, but the reality is that going back and forth between eDoc and hard copy is actually creating extra steps.

Read more: http://www.windowbook.com/Learning/Postal-Concierge-E-tips

Submitting eDoc for USPS Promotions

Virtually all of the USPS® Promotions and Incentives programs require that mailings be submitted electronically into PostalOne!®. Because of this, we often get questions from mailers regarding what specific data needs to be in the Mail.dat® files to claim the incentives, or, how to troubleshoot issues when submitting these files to PostalOne!

Promotion and Incentive Eligibility
Mail Owners and Mail Service Providers (MSPs) need to become familiar with the eligibility and enrollment requirements for the various promotions and incentive programs. The requirements are different for each program, so it is important to access the requirements guide for each individual program.

Eligibility may be dependent on the class of mail, processing category, Full-Service participation, postage payment method, previous mail volumes, and many other variables – not to mention the content of the mailpieces themselves.

Read more: http://www.windowbook.com/Learning/Postal-Concierge-E-tips

Local Keys

If you are submitting electronic documentation (eDoc) to PostalOne!®, one of the critical pieces of information required to identify postal facilities are the locale keys. Locale keys are unique identification codes that are assigned by the USPS® to each postal processing and delivery facility. This allows for very precise identification of the postal facilities that mailers are using for their origin entry and for any additional entry points at which mail is entered. There are a number of fields in the Mail.dat® file where these locale keys may be populated for communication of this information to the USPS and other entities in the mailing process.
Read More: http://www.windowbook.com/Learning/Postal-Concierge-E-tips

Top Ten Reasons to Use eDoc

The value and benefits of using eDoc with the USPS have been both documented and proven now for quite a while. Amazingly enough, however, there are still a lot of mailers who only use it for their Full-Service mailings. Even worse, there are just as many – or more – who don’t use it at all!

It is very clear that the USPS intends to eliminate hard copy postage statements and other documentation. In recent postal and industry meetings, the USPS already indicated that this will become a reality in the not-too-distant future. If you are delaying implementation of eDoc, or implemented it only for Full-Service mailings, you need to gear up and make the transition. Read more: http://www.windowbook.com/Learning/Postal-Concierge-E-tips

eInduction

In November 2013 the USPS® opened a new program to mailers called eInduction. eInduction is intended to replace the current hard copy PS Forms 8125 and 8017 clearance documents used for drop shipments of origin and destination mail. This is all part of a continuing effort by the USPS to convert hard copy postal documentation into eDoc. Since the program began, the USPS has equipped acceptance facilities with scanners, which scan the container barcodes to ascertain whether or not the containers have been properly verified and paid for at the origin post office. They continue their efforts to equip more and more facilities with these scanners.

How eInduction Works
With eInduction, the mailer tells the USPS that a pallet is “eInduction” by populating the “CSM eInduction Indicator” in the Mail.dat® pallet record with a “Y”. This can be done in the original PostalOne!® submission, the “ready to pay” submission or even in a “transportation update” after the postage is paid. When PostalOne! sees that a pallet is flagged for eInduction, the information about that pallet is pushed to the entry facility that is going to be inducting the mail, thereby making it available to the wireless “Surface Visibility” scanners at that facility. When a load arrives with eInduction pallets, the USPS personnel can scan the pallet and instantly know whether it is in the right place and that it has been paid for – no 8125 required at all. The date-and-time stamped scan – or “start-the-clock” event – is also provisioned back to the mailer as part of the Full-Service data they are entitled to receive (if the contents of the pallet are Full-Service qualified mail). This information is also available in the Facility Access and Shipment Tracking (FAST) as part of the close-out information for that appointment.

It’s important to note that it is also possible to do eInduction if the entry facility is not equipped with Surface Visibility scanners. The induction process uses updated Intelligent Mail® Data Acquisition System (IMDAS) software. At these sites, the USPS acceptance employees use IMDAS scanners to scan the IM container barcode and collect the appointment data. No validations take place at the entry point at Non-SV locations.

What’s In It For Me?
There are a number of reasons you will want to participate in eInduction:
1. To reduce the number of PS8125 and PS8017 forms you need to print and have “round stamped”.
2. To reduce or eliminate the rejection of shipments by an entry facility for problems with 8125 forms or other reasons. This is a benefit even if you ship mail to a consolidator under a Drop Shipment Manifest System (DSMS) agreement.
3. To streamline your mail induction process. Using this process speeds up processing of this mail, as it eliminates the need for postal clerks to manually reconcile containers against paper documentation, and it enables quicker appointment processing in FAST.
4. To obtain more reliable and timely information about the induction of your pallets through MicroStrategy Reports. Mailers have tools to actively manage their accounts and understand what is happening to their mail at the container level.

If you are shipping under a DSMS agreement, you currently don’t have to create 8125 forms. You would still enjoy the other three advantages listed above if you helped your consolidator take advantage of the eInduction program.

Participation
To participate in this program, you must notify the USPS that you wish to participate in eInduction. To do this, call the FAST Help Desk at 1-877-569-6614 and provide your name, company name, address, phone number and eDoc Submitter CRID. The USPS will make sure that your DMU clerks are properly trained for eInduction and will also help you set up a login to access special MicroStrategy reports for eInduction users. Following the training of your DMU or BMEU clerk, your CRID will be activated for eInduction and you will be notified that you are authorized to participate. You should also contact your postal logistics carrier and find out what documentation they would like you to provide for your eInduction pallets. DAT-MAIL users can simply provide them with an 8125 that says “eInduction” on it instead of being round-stamped (see example below), or you can still provide them with a round-stamped 8125 if they require it. If you provide a regular 8125, it will be very important to enable the option to print “eInduction” on your eInduction pallet placards.

Additional information

For more detailed information on the eInduction program, download the Postal Service eInduction Guide for Mailers. There is also a guide to the Microstrategy Reports for eInduction. Mailers may also check with their District Business Mail Entry office to obtain more information or to ask questions.

Getting Help From the Window Book Experts
Window Book can help you participate in eInduction using our DAT-MAIL solution. Window Book also offers our Mailing Optimization Analysis. Call us at 1-800-524-0380 for more details or to sign up for your FREE Mail Optimization Analysis!

Are you working harder or smarter?

If you’re submitting electronic files to PostalOne!® for just the Full-Service mailings you process, chances are you’re working a lot harder than you really need to be. Oh, you say, “but sending files to PostalOne! is a lot more work than submitting hard copies.” On the surface, that may appear to be the case, especially if you do not do electronic submissions very often. The fact is, though, if you have two different process flows, one for Full-Service mailings and one for everything else, you ARE working harder than necessary. And, who wants to work harder than they need to? Any workflow is easier if all the jobs are processed in the same manner, and submitting jobs to PostalOne! is no exception.

Read more: http://www.windowbook.com/Learning/Postal-Concierge-E-tips

Common Mail.dat File Errors

If you submit Mail.dat® files to PostalOne!®, you already know how frustrating it can be when you get error messages, indicating that there is a problem with the data in your Mail.dat files. Identifying just what those errors are, and then pinpointing where in the Mail.dat file those errors are located, and knowing how to fix the errors can be complicated. This week, we share some of the more common errors we see when assisting clients.

read more: http://www.windowbook.com/Learning/Postal-Concierge-E-tips

Improving Your Mailer Scorecard Results

Alright, alright, alright. So you’ve ramped up all your processes and systems for participation in Intelligent Mail Full-Service®, or at least for participation in eDoc. You’ve successfully submitted Mail.dat® files to PostalOne!® and have worked through the various validation errors or file rejections that you received when you first started this process. So, you’re golden, right???

Well, not so fast….even if your files are successfully transmitted to PostalOne!, that does not necessarily mean there are not still errors in your files. That’s right…errors can still exist, even if you don’t receive any error messages from PostalOne! How the heck are you supposed to find out what these errors are? That is where the Mailer Scorecard comes in.

Mailer Scorecard
Just like a report card back from your school days, the Mailer Scorecard tells you how you are doing as a mailer. The Mailer Scorecard, available on the USPS® Business Customer Gateway, provides a wealth of information and reports on your electronically submitted mailings.

The Mailer Scorecard includes a Mailer Information tab, which includes all the data regarding your mail volumes, breaking it down by class of mail, processing category and so forth. In addition, there are tabs for Full-Service validation, eInduction validation, and Seamless Acceptance validation. On each of those tabs is detailed information on the items that PostalOne! is validating, including the validation results on your mailings. The information on the Mailer Scorecard is tallied on a calendar month basis. The data is even color coded to help you hone in on any problem areas. For example, anything in green text means that your validation results have improved by 5% or more over the previous calendar month. Text in red indicates that your validation results have declined by 5% or more over the previous calendar month. And any items highlighted in yellow are areas where your mailings have exceeded the allowed error threshold.

For now, all of this data is informational only, intended to help mailers pinpoint areas where their mailings have quality issues so that mailers can take corrective action. However, some time later this year, likely in July, the USPS plans to start implementing postage assessments for mail that exceeds the allowed error thresholds. Bottom line, mailers need to be paying attention to their Mailer Scorecard results NOW so that any necessary process improvements may be made BEFORE those assessments kick in.

Common Mailer Scorecard Errors
One of the most common Mailer Scorecard errors for Full-Service validation is with the By/For information, which is the identification of the various entities involved in the mailing. The “For” part of this equation is the Mail Owner, or the entity responsible for the content of the mailpiece and who ultimately benefits from the mailing. The “By” part of the equation is the Mail Preparer (the entity physically preparing the mailing) and the eDoc Submitter (the entity submitting the Mail.dat files to PostalOne!).

All of these entities must be correctly identified in the Mail.dat files submitted to PostalOne! Typically, this identification is done using the Customer Registration ID (CRID) or Mailer Identification (MID). There is a variety of fields in the Mail.dat file where this data may be populated, so it is very critical that mailers understand where these fields are located, how to get them correctly populated, and to make sure there are no conflicts with this data. This, of course, assumes that you even have the correct CRID and MID data to begin with. Luckily, the USPS offers search capability on the Business Customer Gateway, so that mailers may validate the CRID/MID information. This search capability is provided for both individual searches and bulk searches, where files containing CRID or MID information for multiple clients may be submitted at one time for validation.

Correcting Mailer Scorecard Errors
Once you have analyzed the data available on your Mailer Scorecard, it is important to use this data to review your mailing process to determine where in your process these errors are occurring and make any necessary changes. The Mailer Scorecard includes a “drill down” function that allows users to drill down to the specific mailing jobs with errors and then to the specific errors. The Mailer Scorecard will provide error codes and a recommended solution. The error codes can also be looked up in the PostalOne! technical guides.

Some of the error messages, however, might be a little cryptic, so you may need to submit a ticket to the PostalOne! Help desk to ask for help in deciphering the error message and, more importantly, how to correct the error. Your presort and post-presort software vendors can also be helpful in this area.

Resources
The PostalOne! Help Desk is available to provide assistance to mailers who need help in understanding the Mailer Scorecard data and the various error messages. They can also help you trouble-shoot errors in submitted Mail.dat files. There is a guide available for making a request for more detailed Mailer Scorecard error data.

Window Book has many utilities available to assist mailers with improving their Mailer Scorecard results. Our DAT-MAIL™ software provides easy access to make edits and corrections in Mail.dat files, particularly with regard to the often troublesome By/For data. DAT-MAIL also includes a BCG Export and Import utility, both of which may be used to easily take advantage of the bulk search capability on the BCG for your clients MID, CRID, permit and Nonprofit Authorization data. We also offer educational webinars on the Mailer Scorecard, and even offer FREE Mail Optimization Analyses to help you get your mailing operation optimized to submit mailings electronically. We even provide on-site or remote consulting services to help you review your Mailer Scorecard results and help you pinpoint areas in your process where the corrections may be made.

Don’t miss out on our educational mailing webinars! Log on to our webinar registration site to sign up.

Window Book’s newest smart postal solution, PostalWeb™, completes the PostalOne! automation circle by providing easy downloading of finalized PostalOne! postage statements directly to your servers, and includes options for email notifications and even emailing of these finalized postage statements! (Coming soon: automatically download your confirmation pages!)

Better Manage Spoilage and Shortage in eDoc

We all know that “stuff happens” during the mailing process, and when it does, you may need to pull some pieces from your mailings. There are lots of words to describe these pieces…pulls, deletes, mutes, rejects, spoils, shorts…sound familiar? Whatever you call them, these are pieces that get pulled from your mailings for a variety of reasons. Perhaps some of the mailpieces get damaged during processing, or you may run out of some of the mailpiece components before the job is finished. So the question becomes, “How do I make the adjustments to report these types of spoilages or shortages in my eDoc?” And that’s a very good question because in the eDoc world, you not only need to submit accurate postage statements, but the Mail.dat® files that represent the mailing job also need to be adjusted.

PostalOne!® accepted reporting methods
Within the Mail.dat file set, there are three (3) different files that may be used to report Spoilage/Shortage: the Piece Detail Record (PDR), the Piece Barcode Record (PBC) or the Postage Adjustment Record (PAR). A Guide to Intelligent Mail for Letters and Flats from the USPS provides information on four (4) methods for reporting spoilages or shortages using PostalOne! The acceptable methods vary depending on the type of mailings you are processing – and only Method 4 (below) is allowed for postage-affixed mail. Here are the four current acceptable methods:

1. Available for situations where the postage for wasted and shorted pieces is paid as part of the total postage detailed on the postage statement. This method is used if the mailer wishes to re-use the unique Intelligent Mail® Barcode (IMB®) from the spoiled or shorted pieces and the postage has already been paid. In this case, the PDR or PBC files must be edited to identify the spoiled or shorted pieces, however, the only way to obtain a refund for the spoiled pieces is to submit a hard copy PS-3533 (yes, hard copy!) along with documentation of the spoiled pieces. Important note: refunds are not granted for shorted pieces.

2. Available for First-Class Mail® and Standard Mail® only: The postage is adjusted on the postage statement so postage is paid for only the pieces that actually get mailed. As in Method 1, the unique IMB from the spoiled or shorted pieces may be re-used, and the PDR or PBC files must be edited to identify the spoiled or shorted pieces. In this case, because postage has not yet been paid, the Mail.dat files may be edited and submitted to PostalOne! as an updated release, so the postage is not paid for the spoiled or shorted pieces.

3. Available for First-Class Mail and Standard Mail only: The postage adjustment is reported as a dollar amount and piece count for the entire mailing. For this method, the PAR file is used. In this method, the unique IMB’s may not be re-used, and the spoilage is reported as a percentage or number of pieces rather than reporting each individual spoiled or shorted mailpiece. Since this method does not tie back to the individual mailpiece ID, it CANNOT be used for manifest mailings.

4. The electronic documentation in either Mail.dat or Mail.XML™ states only the pieces mailed. This method is used when there is either no spoilage or shortage to report, these pieces have already been identified and removed from the Mail.dat files before they are submitted to PostalOne!, or the mailer plans to request a postage refund using PS-3533 and does not need to make any count adjustments in PostalOne! This method may be used for any class of mail. Currently this is the ONLY spoilage method available for postage affixed mailings, such as metered mail, stamped or precancelled stamp mailings.

Note: For Periodicals mailings, spoilage/shortage may be reported, but is ignored by PostalOne!

Reporting spoilage/shortage
If you are submitting your mailings electronically (eDoc), you can no longer just edit the postage statements for spoilage/shortage, rather you need to adjust the Mail.dat files themselves. The reason for this is that PostalOne!, not your mailing software, generates the electronic postage statements and qualification reports. PostalOne! generates these documents based on the information submitted within your Mail.dat files. The only way PostalOne! can generate accurate documents is for the Mail.dat files themselves to be accurate, which is why being able to edit these files is so critical.

So, how do you go about making these types of Mail.dat file edits? The easiest way to perform these edits is by using post-presort software, such as Window Book’s DAT-MAIL™ software. Using post-presort software, mailers are able to enter a percentage or number of spoiled pieces to update their files and documentation for Method 3 above. Mailers also have the opportunity to enter individual mailpiece ID numbers, or to import a file containing these ID numbers for the shorted/spoiled pieces so that the Mail.dat files can be accurately flagged with the appropriate spoiled/wasted indicators for the other methods. DAT-MAIL even allows users to scan the IMB’s from the spoiled pieces and import the scanned barcode file into the software to automate the process of making the necessary adjustments. Once these adjustments are made, the edited files can be submitted to PostalOne! and users may use DAT-MAIL to generate numerous reports to document the spoilage/shortage claimed.

Timing
Unless you rarely have any edits to make to your Mail.dat files, it is a good idea to submit your files first as an Original Release to PostalOne! This allows you to make any necessary edits or changes to the file prior to paying for postage. In the case of reporting spoilage/shortage, it is necessary to make the Mail.dat file edits and submit the edited files BEFORE the file has been submitted as Ready to Pay or been finalized by the USPS. Once the files have been submitted as Ready to Pay, the only way to alter them is to cancel the job on PostalOne! and start over. Once the USPS has finalized the statements the only way to make any changes is to request that PostalOne! cancel the job or reverse the postage payment and re-submit.

As always, we STRONGLY recommend that you practice submitting jobs with spoilage/shortage, including cancellation of jobs, using the TEM environment of PostalOne! prior to going into production. This practice allows you to become familiar with how this process works and iron out any bumps in your internal processes.

Postage Refund Requests
Mailers who are not able to make spoilage or shortage adjustments electronically must use hard copy form PS-3533 to request a postage refund from the USPS. These forms were revised a number of years ago to be uniquely barcoded, which is why these forms are no longer available online or through mailing software. Mailers may request these forms from their local post office and follow the instructions on the form for completion. Keep in mind that mailers may be required to provide specific documentation of the spoiled pieces in order to receive a postage refund. This documentation is outlined in the form instructions, or may also be included in any agreements mailers may have in place with the USPS, such as Optional Procedure agreements.

Resources
The PostalOne! Help Desk is available to provide assistance to mailers who need help in understanding the various methods of reporting spoilage/shortage or to help them trouble-shoot errors in submitted Mail.dat files.
Window Book has various spoilage/shortage methods available in our DAT-MAIL software. We also offer educational webinars on the spoilage reporting process, and even offer FREE Mail Optimization Analyses to help you get your mailing operation optimized to submit mailings, including those with spoilage or shortage, electronically.
Don’t miss out on our educational mailing webinars! Log on to our webinar registration site to sign up.

Window Book’s newest smart postal solution, PostalWeb™, completes the PostalOne! automation circle by providing easy downloading of finalized PostalOne! postage statements directly to your servers, and includes options for email notifications and even emailing of these finalized postage statements! (Coming soon: automatically download your confirmation pages!)