Marketing Mail

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From a USPS Industry Alert.  See my comments below the alert.

USPS Marketing Mail™ (Standard Mail®) Markings and Labels Update

The Postal Service™ published a DMM Advisory on Friday, June 30, 2017, and Friday, July 7, 2017 providing updates about the rebranding of Standard Mail® as USPS Marketing Mail™. The update stated the Postal Service continues to work with the industry on a timeline for implementation for the required use of new postage markings, permit imprint indicia, and sack, tray, and pallet labels. As information, this messaging applies to all USPS Marketing Mail shapes.

The Domestic Mail Manual and Quick Service Guides in the applicable preparation sections were updated. Additionally, customers were advised that they should not convert to the USPS Marketing Mail markings until a date is announced.” No changes will be implemented prior to January 2019.

The USPS continues to receive requests to test the new name and to convert to the new markings since the new name appeals to many customers. If you are interested in testing, please respond to this Advisory with your name and contact information. Testing data will assist all customers as we move forward with implementation. In the meantime, we continue to request that customers do not transition to the new markings until we publish the final details through a DMM Advisory and Industry Alert.

For general questions on marketing mail or information on participating in testing please email, ProductClassification@usps.gov.

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USPS wants to be considered a business.  However, real businesses (at least the profitable ones) do not  implement, confuse, and then test a concept.  The name change from Standard mail to Marketing Mail brings nothing but confusion to all.   Is the name change going to “grow mail”?  No.  But it is going to cost industry, USPS, and ultimately ratepayers (from an organization constantly bemoaning their financial difficulties).  It also hurts the Postal Service’s reputation with savvy marketers, who are aghast at a “plan” of half-implement, then test to see if it is even a viable concept – as USPS continues to talk about final implementation when testing is incomplete at best.  Preliminary testing has indicated a drop in response rates.  Lower response rates is not going to grow the mail.

Last but not least, when these communications state postal is “working with industry”, what that equates to is that industry expresses concerns, backed up with facts, then USPS listens, and then chooses to move forward, regardless.  Putting info in the Domestic Mail Manual that isn’t to be implemented until 2019 at the earliest was a mistake.  I’m assuming that is why the messaging keeps coming out, because of the confusion caused by the DMM.  It’s not exactly making mail easier for the marketers that the USPS is claiming to be trying to reach.      

Written by Lisa.Bowes

September 14th, 2017 at 8:59 am

Posted in USPS

Move Update Assessments Approved by PRC

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See below for link to PDF of the Postal Regulatory Commission approval of USPS Move Update assessments.

The changes to Move Update will take effect January 21, 2018.

The USPS seems to have changed their from “We Deliver” to “We Assess”. 

Source: Order No. 4059.pdf

Written by Lisa.Bowes

August 23rd, 2017 at 2:32 pm

Posted in USPS

USPS: A rational approach to price setting – Postal Employee Network

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This arrogant, haughty response is just one of the myriad of reasons that the USPS, in it’s words (and more importantly actions,) can not be trusted to set their own rates.

They clearly require regulation, as evidenced by their planning, decision making, execution of projects; by where and in what they invest ratepayer dollars into, and where they focus their time and efforts.

Source: USPS: A rational approach to price setting – Postal Employee Network

Written by Lisa.Bowes

August 23rd, 2017 at 11:41 am

Posted in USPS

USPS PostalPro Website

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Like it or not, changes made to USPS RIBBs site overnight indicate that RIBBs’ days are numbered.

Better back up what you need, while you can.  PostalPro is imminent.

Written by Lisa.Bowes

August 23rd, 2017 at 10:13 am

Posted in USPS

USPS – Dependable and Reliable IT Systems

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Excerpted rom an Industry Alert this morning, see below.  To add, Informed Visibility was also down.

Attention Business Customer Gateway, FAST, and PostalOne!® Users:

The issue impacting access to the Business Customer Gateway, PostalOne! , FAST, eInduction, Electronic Verification System (eVS), Product Tracking and Reporting (PTR), Seamless Acceptance and Service Performance (SASP), Centralized Account Processing System (CAPS), Intelligent Mail Business Accounting (IMba), and other applications is resolved.

If mailers and acceptance units still experience a delay in jobs appearing on the PostalOne! dashboard, we will continue to accept the mailings under the PostalOne! and eInduction contingency plan

Commentary:  It is unacceptable for a business (as USPS wants so badly to be considered such) to even consider assessing mailers with financial penalties (using the guilty-until-you-prove-yourself-innocent method) for imperfections in mail prep and/or edoc when their own systems are unstable, unreliable, and riddled with issues. Perhaps mailers should start assessing the USPS for system issues, cost because of having to maintain a backup system, cost from having to go to contingency at the drop of a hat, USPS data problems, and poor delivery?  People in glass houses…

Written by Lisa.Bowes

August 22nd, 2017 at 9:23 am

Posted in USPS

Uniformed Launch – An Open Letter to the Mailing Industry from Postcom and Idealliance

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From the Postcom bulletin, reprinted here with permission:

UNINFORMED LAUNCH

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MAILING INDUSTRY FROM POSTCOM AND IDEALLIANCE

We know from their commercials that the Postal Service considers its customers’ business to be their business. We also know that – because they face stiff competition across the entire product set –they can be trusted to act like a responsible business partner even in the event legislation provides relief from prefunding requirements or the Postal Regulatory Commission relaxes or eliminates the CPI price cap. As they make the public case for legislative and regulatory relief, the Postal Service asks the mailing public to trust them to be responsible stewards of the mailing industry, promising aggressive management actions to promote efficiency and improve service. That’s a big ask at a time when the mailing industry faces ongoing consolidation and contraction and there are billions of dollars at stake. Unfortunately, some recent events call into question USPS’ commitment to its business customers’ interests and its ability to deliver collaboratively on initiatives deemed critical to the future of the mail.

In 2015 the USPS began a pilot program using their next platform, Informed Visibility (IV). IV would allow customers to access information about their mail on a single platform, information that today exists among a number of aging legacy systems. USPS asked for – and received – 42 volunteer companies for a pilot originally expected to last a few weeks. In the time since the commencement of the pilot, each of these companies has pulled daily data from the new IV platform, compared it to the current IMb tracing platform and provided detailed results on errors, issues and missing data (all of which would be expected in a pilot program), and met as a group with the Postal Service on a weekly basis. By May 2017 industry participants began to strongly urge the USPS to postpone the anticipated September 2017 IV Program release because the data produced by the pilot system was prone to errors and contained serious latency issues.

Despite lingering concerns among pilot users, on Friday 8/11 the USPS IV department announced to the industry:

“I am pleased to announce that the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) is making the Informed Visibility® (IV®) Mail Tracking & Reporting application available to everyone in the mailing industry. We have piloted the system in recent months and have determined that now is an opportune time to expand access to all Letter and Flat mailers.”

Unfortunately, the announcement came as a complete surprise to members of MTAC User Group 4, the IV Pilot participants, and the IV steering committee (established by USPS) who understood the IV platform to still be in a “pilot” phase and in need of significant improvements before final launch.

On Tuesday 8/15/17, users of the Postal Service’s IMb Tracing platform were informed of the launch of the Informed Visibility (IV) Mail Tracking & Reporting, an application that will provide near real-time, enhanced visibility of mailpieces (letters and flats), bundles, handling units (trays, tubs, and sacks), and containers. As recently as last week, customers were informed by USPS of upcoming enhancements without any indication that final launch was imminent, only to find out Tuesday morning that the pilot was over, and that any user data entered in legacy systems after August 5 would have to be reentered into the IV platform manually, until users completed the cutover. To add to the confusion, these also went out to those customers that had already been migrated to IV and to their customers.

To its credit, the Postal Service established the IV steering committee to get feedback in recognition of the need for users to provide input into creating a stable, useful platform for piece and container tracking before abandonment of the legacy systems on which so many users have come to rely. USPS also accepted user feedback throughout the pilot and as a result had acknowledged that the planned September 30 cutover to secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) was no longer realistic. This makes the sudden announcement all the more bewildering; the USPS’ established steering committee had been clear that outstanding data integrity, a lack of improved data latency and efficiency issues necessitated continuation – and possible expansion – of the ongoing pilot. There is no questioning that USPS has the authority to launch but the wisdom of doing so now can and should be questioned.

Joint USPS-industry forums like MTAC can be effective platforms for sharing information, collaborative problem solving and can even function as laboratories for innovation. But for any of these to happen there must be a shared belief that participants are acting in good faith. It’s not necessary for all participants to agree all the time. In fact, constructive dissent and open discussion will often produce superior outcomes, but there needs to be a commitment to agreed-upon processes that seems to have been violated in this case. Establishing workgroups and steering committees only to then disregard their recommendations is a sure way to undermine trust in an approach that the Postal Service and the mailing industry need now more than ever.

Fortunately, there is still time to remedy this situation. While acknowledging an error is never easy, the Postal Service should reconsider the timing of the IV launch and instead announce that the rollout will:Incorporate findings from the experience of pilot users.

  • Wait until the new platform has been stable – free of data anomalies and latency – for six weeks.
  • Allow a 90-day transition period for customers to migrate to the new platform.

A brief postponement would allow both the Postal Service and the mailing industry to transition to the new platform without the unnecessary costs, frustration, and loss of customer goodwill that would inevitably result from a rushed implementation. Without a delay, mailers and their clients will experience missing, inaccurate and/or delayed data. Pilot members do not believe the data has reach a level of quality and stability to be used for business processes. We are therefore advising against our members utilizing the IV platform for production purposes until data validation has been completed and the service reaches a satisfactory level of quality and stability.

Unfortunately, this is familiar territory. In 2014, at the advent of mailer scorecards and the attendant assessments that would result, Idealliance presented some principles (copy appended) that should guide implementation of new systems and requirements. Though the conversion to IV does not yet envision surcharges or assessments, PostCom and Idealliance strongly recommend that USPS adhere to the spirit of those recommendations and delay the implementation of IV until a more appropriate time.

Written by Lisa.Bowes

August 18th, 2017 at 10:48 am

Posted in USPS

Informed Visibility

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From an Industry Alert today.  (Note:  I didn’t post it when announced yesterday on the MTAC User Group on Informed Visibility call, had to wait for something in writing before sharing).

IMb Tracing Support for File Transfer Protocol (FTP) Extended

The Postal Service has extended the date for IMb Tracing and Informed Visibility (IV) for customers who utilize non-secure FTP from September 30, 2017 to November 30, 2017 to allow them more time to transition to secure options within Informed Visibility (IV).  On December 1, 2017 the Postal Service will no longer support FTP for mailers enrolled in IMb Tracing or Informed Visibility (IV) and all users must have converted to a secure option within IV. The IV application has functionality to assist the mailing industry to transition to SFTP.

Migration documentation for IV is available on both PostalPro under Informed Visibility (https://postalpro.usps.com/visibility-and-tracking/informed-visibility-iv) or RIBBs at https://ribbs.usps.gov/index.cfm?page=informed_visibility

The Informed Visibility Help Desk can be contacted at InformedVisibility@usps.gov  for additional information.

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To anyone tracking mail – my advice is, do not switch to Informed Visibility piece tracking until the data is stabilized, and when you do go in, go in eyes-wide-open that much of the system is untested, and you will be testing live in production for some time.  If you are working with a 3rd Party service provider, it is imperative that you coordinate carefully with them. 

USPS chose to end the pilot prematurely, knowing full well there are still serious, outstanding data issues including latency, and that the interface itself is untested.  This move was against industry advisement in several arenas.  The emails from USPS urging you to switch appear to be  disingenuous and are purposefully misleading.  The additional time granted in the Industry Alert is a direct result of industry pressure to keep the IMb Tracing data flowing so that industry can continue to work USPS data issues.  Without the IMb Tracing to validate the Informed Visibility data, users of the critical data have no way of knowing if they are getting at the very least the same data they were getting in IMb Tracing. 

Contact me directly at Lisa.Bowes@intelisent.com if you have questions, or need more information. Stay tuned for more to come on this…  

 

Written by Lisa.Bowes

August 17th, 2017 at 9:10 am

Posted in USPS

Video: Charlotte postal employees protest cutbacks – Postal Employee Network

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Written by Lisa.Bowes

July 28th, 2017 at 10:54 am

Posted in USPS

Happy birthday, United States Postal Service

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“On July 26, 1775, members of the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, agreed That a postmaster General be appointed for the United Colonies, who shall hold his office at Philada, and shall be allowed a salary of 1000 dollars per an: for himself, and 340 dollars per an: for a secretary and Comptroller, with power to appoint such, and so many deputies as to him may seem proper and necessary.

That a line of posts be appointed under the direction of the Postmaster general, from Falmouth in New England to Savannah in Georgia, with as many cross posts as he shall think fit.1

This simple statement signaled the birth of the Post Office Department, the predecessor of the United States Postal Service and the second oldest federal department or agency of the United States of America.”

Source: The history of the United States Postal Service

Written by Lisa.Bowes

July 26th, 2017 at 10:27 am

Posted in USPS

USPS Full-Service Assessment Fact Sheet

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Link to 2 page USPS info sheet on Full Service Assessments

Source: Full-ServiceAssessmentFactSheet.pdf

Note:  Search past blog posts for “penalties as a revenue stream”.

Written by Lisa.Bowes

July 25th, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Posted in USPS