Archive for January 11th, 2011

Issues with Transitioning to IMb for Business Reply Mail and Customer Reply Mail

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All Reply mail must be transitioned from using POSTNET to using the Intelligent Mail barcode by May of 2011 in order to qualify for automation discounts. The USPS is offering little to help mailers transition to the IMb for Reply Mail. There is an on-line tool for BRM – however, it only works for the owner of the Mailer ID. It cannot be used by Mail Service Providers on behalf of their mailing customers. I solicited input from several sources in the industry, both mail owners and mail service providers, to see how they are faring.  The feedback I received, and have been seeing on message boards and in the mailing community is universally negative.

The transition to IMb for Reply Mail has been mandated for a long time, and discussed for an even longer time. Transition aids should have been available even before May, 2009! I personally began asking at the August MTAC (and then the November MTAC,) where the customer aids were to help mailers transition to the new barcode. I was dismayed when the website finally went up, as it is unusable by a mail service provider. I have customers asking me to take care of this for them, and I am unable to do so – as the USPS has cut me out of the equation. My customer is supposed to work with their Mailpiece Design Analyst, who happens to be backlogged by 2-4 weeks. I could do this work now, relieve some of the pressure on the MDA, and help the USPS transition another mailer to IMb without a hitch. Instead of making things easier for me, the USPS has made it impossible for me to assist both the Postal Service – and their rate-paying customers. Everybody loses.

Feedback on the BRM and CRM online tools
>The biggest issue – the tool only works for the OWNER of the Mailer ID. It cannot be used by a Mail Service Provider on behalf of their mailing client.
>You can’t choose the Service Type ID option that you want to use.
> The tool always places the barcode in the barcode clear zone; even though there is an option of putting the barcode in the address block
(this is the placement where most mailers prefer the barcode to appear. Placing the barcode within the address block improves scan rates).
>There are no provisions made to allow for Serial Numbers. Mailers need to be able to assign specific serial numbers.
>There are no provisions made to allow for the option to choose Confirm Services. The STID always comes out set to “700”.

Feedback on Sample requirements
It is January – and the USPS has not finalized any guidelines or requirements for QBRM sample testing. The sample testing procedures that have been proposed are both onerous and cumbersome for mailers, especially service providers or mailers with multiple addresses for QBRM. In the meantime, mailers that have or are doing the transition to the IMb without the required sample testing are continuing to do so without problems. The testing guidelines and requirements should have been established long ago.

Work Arounds
One of my contacts sent this saga:
“My story is probably the same that you’ll hear from other Mail Service Providers. Our customers are not involved – nor do they want to be involved — in mailing issues. To get their MID without having to confuse and frustrate our customers (just so we can print their business reply mail and keep additional mailings moving) we play a little game called “My Business Services Network Rep is the best!” Although it can take 2 – 4 days, we give the permit information to our BSN and he works with the local Mailpiece Design Analyst to track down the correct permit holder and then, after more tracking and time, a Mailer ID. Whether it’s the right one or not, I have no idea. I just know that if they are giving it to me, I am going to take it, say thank you, and use it.

It’s not a good system, it increases the length of time we need to process and print BRM, and it certainly isn’t a great way for our BSN and MDA to be spending their time, but… it works for me! Frankly, I’m just grateful to my BSN rep hat I have some way to move forward (even if it is convoluted).”

Another roadblock that contributes to the issues, and comes up elsewhere when dealing with Intelligent Mail, is that Mail Service Providers have no way of looking up and/or confirming a Mailer ID. The Mailer ID must be obtained by the mail owner, and there is no mechanism for a third party to verify if the Mailer ID submitted by the mailer even belongs to them or not. Even the BSNs end up having to work around the system in order to service their customers.

Bottom Line
Many, many mail owners do NOT want to get a Mailer ID. Not now, not ever. They do NOT want to deal directly with the Postal Service; they want their Mail Service Provider to handle everything on their behalf. This has come up repeatedly, over and over again, during all phases of Intelligent Mail implementation, and it has fallen on deaf ears. USPS, if you don’t want to drive business away, empower your front line Mail Service Provider partners so we can assist on your behalf! If you want all the mail owners to have a Mailer ID, make it easier for Mail Service Providers to do so on their behalf! The USPS has a huge, FREE sales force out there – they are the Mail Service Providers. Why not make things as easy as possible for them to assist? Everybody wins – the mail owner, the Mail Service Provider, and the United States Postal Service.

What has your experience been?  Good, bad?  Comment this post, or forward comments directly to me and I will post for you. Any suggestions to improve the process and the customer experience?

By request, here is the link to the online tool:
http://www.usps.com/replymail/business.htm

Written by Lisa.Bowes

January 11th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Posted in USPS