Sunday, November 28, 2010

High Costs and Lack of Training Are Barriers To Intelligent Mail

High costs that outweigh any postage discounts and poorly trained Postal Service employees are keeping most business mailers from using Full Service Intelligent Mail barcodes, an extensive study concludes.

Of the 290 business mailers surveyed by USPS’s Office of Inspector General, 58% said they did not use Full Service IMbs because of high start-up costs and software requirements. Only 23% of the surveyed mailers said they were using Full Service.

“The man hours that go into making a mailing Full Service compatible are not worth the postage discount,” said one large mail owner (more than 1 million pieces annually). Another estimated it would have to spend more than $100,000 on new print heads and software upgrades to be able to create Full Service mailings.

The OIG report, released a few days ago, recommended that the Postal Service consider new Full Service incentives “to offset program start-up costs.”

But money is not the only issue, and perhaps not even the biggest one, the report indicated. Mailers will find their mailing vendors – “mail service providers” in postalspeak – reluctant to handle full-service mailings because the Postal Service’s employees and information systems are so poorly prepared to handle them.

The OIG recommended that USPS provide more training to Business Mail Entry (BMEU) clerks and PostalOne! help desk employees. Management largely shrugged off that recommendation, but the OIG considers the issue so significant that it won’t consider the matter closed until it receives written confirmation that corrective action has been taken.

Full Service Intelligent Mail barcodes uniquely identify each mailpiece. IM barcodes are part of the Postal Service’s plan to track and manage mail volumes in an automated way, but Dead Tree Edition has nicknamed them “FUBAR codes” because of the program’s many problems.

The OIG report includes some instructive comments from mail service providers, including these:
  • “USPS employees know little or nothing about this service and this is frustrating mailers with the IMB Full Service.”
  • “Provide better BMEU training during initial mailings so the clerks and their managers know & understand the process (better than I do - I shouldn't be teaching them).”
  • “The PostalOne! help desk most of the time does not have a clue they don’t respond to e-mails all the time and the wait time on the phone is too long.”
  • “To make matters worse, even the USPS personnel (in Memphis) are confused as I've had to correct and educate them.”
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Robert Mitchell said...

Which is better: to write mailers checks to pay for their investment in new equipment or to provide larger Full Service discounts? Would either be more palatable if it were funded by jacking up the rates for non-participants, all under a cap? If the workshare language in the new law does not bar it, higher markups could be so selected for the latter group. Whether their rates would then include a penalty is open to question. And then one needs to ask: If a non-participant becomes a participant and postal revenues decline, will postal costs decline too?

Anonymous said...

We have been using Full service IMB since July of this year and have run into too many problems to list them all here. The #1 issue seems to be untrained BMEU employees. Our local BMEU was not equipped to handle our mailings when we started. There favorite reason for my mail failing to receive the additional discounts was that they couldn't scan my tray tags and pallet labels. After numerous occurences, it turned out to be faulty Post Office scanners. After new scanners were brought in, errors disappeared. Right now I am 1 of 2 mailers submitting Full Service IMB mail to the BMEU. After contacting the a larger BMEU, I was able to get alot of the issues resolved. My advice is do not accept your local BMEU's reason for errors or failures, go higher up to more properly trained Postal units for help.
As to the Postal 1 Help Desk, I do not have to wait for the call to get answered. I do not e-mail them due to the long response time, I call directly and always get the help I needed.

Anonymous said...

We are not using Full Service IMB because of all the reasons mentioned in previous comments. Deeper postage discounts are NOT an incentive to us since our clients expect to receive the benefit of any postage discounts ... thus, the deeper discount incentive is a flawed idea because it does not offset my costs of implementing full service IMB. With full service IMB we bear all the cost of adding equipment and infrastructure and don't receive any of the benefit.

Anonymous said...

There favorite reason for my mail failing to receive the additional discounts was that they couldn't scan my tray tags and pallet labels.

"Favorite reason" displays a totally judgemental and biased disdain for those clerks. It is not their fault, they are only working within the training and the tools that have been provided to them.
The article is right-on. The scanners and acceptance procedures have been updated and revised since implementation. Much info has not disseminated to the field. The IMB and its features are constantly evolving. And the scanners do have problems.