Of the more than 50 million pieces of First-Class Mail® each year, transactional communications ‒ bills, statements, and payments ‒ make up 49% of the volume. Managing those customer print mailings is more complex than ever. You’ve got security and compliance requirements, personalization options, changing postal rates, packaging limitations and that’s just for starters.
Here are best practice tips for efficient, cost-effective print mailings and better outbound mail service management:
Prepare for Serious Postage Rate Increases
Postage is the biggest cost in customer communications, and that isn’t changing. In late January, USPS raised First-Class Mail® rates by almost 2%. First-Class Mail includes standard-sized postcards, letters up to 3.5 oz. and large envelopes or flats up to 13 oz. that need to be delivered in 1 to 3 days.
But that might be just the beginning: The Postal Rate Commission’s once-in-decade review of postal operations recommends additional rate increases of 5.5% for First-Class and 7.5% for marketing flats. If approved, rate increases could take effect as soon as July 2021.
Tip: Partner with your print and mail services provider to plan proactively in advance of postal rate changes and be certain you’re making the best choices for your print mailings. There are options for managing costs that include:
- Postage discounts for presorting mailings of more than 500 pieces by zip code.
- Boosting those savings with commingled pre-sort service. Using digital indexing and sorting tools, print/mail providers can combine mailings from multiple companies to increase zip code densities which adds a volume discount for greater savings.
Streamline Certified Mail®
Vacation ownership companies, mortgage servicers, law firms and others use USPS Certified Mail for legal document delivery and other sensitive mailings when proof of the time and date of delivery is required. Certified Mail costs rose slightly in January to $3.60 per item. Add $2.85 for Certified Return Receipt green cards for hard-copy proof of receipt, plus staff time in filling out the Return Receipt cards and it’s a costly, though necessary undertaking. And senders also pay First-Class postage starting at $0.51 one-oz. metered rate.
Tip: Take advantage of automated Certified Mail, which simplifies delivery and tracking. The Certified Return Receipt Electronic Signature process is available, saving more than $1 per letter sent when compared to the standard Return Receipt green card, and enabling a digital audit trail and document archive. Approved print/mail providers offer Certified Mail options with and without recipient signatures.
Grab a Summer Color Discount
Beginning in July, USPS is offering a 2% discount to mailers that use dynamic/variable color printing in eligible First-Class Mail.
Tip: If you’ve considered adding color to your packages, now is the time. Full-color documents increase engagement and response rate of mail pieces. With high-speed color inkjet, the cost of dynamic color is nearly the same as black and white.
Use color to highlight loyalty programs, for renewal offers or calls to action. Combine with variable data printing to personalize how visual data is presented to each customer. The USPS Personalized Color Transpromo promotion runs July 1-December 31, 2021.
Pick Your Packages
It’s an industry standard to use the term “mailing package” to refer to a project even if the package consists of an individual postcard that’s mailed.
Tip: Regularly audit your packages to really consider what you’re mailing. Non-standard-sized packages and odd-shaped postcards may cost more in postage. Will single-sided pages work as two-sided documents? Can you print on lighter weight paper stock? Chuck the buck slip and replace with on-statement messaging. It all will cut down on weight when you’re paying by the ounce.
Think about your packages in large envelopes. Is a 9” x 12” envelope necessary for the mailing or has it just always been done that way? Moving from a large envelope to a #10 or 6” x 9” envelope up to 3.5 oz. can cut postage costs by almost 50% when leveraging commingled pre-sort rates.
Mind Your Hygiene
While USPS’ on-time delivery rates suffered last year, the quality of your address database is on you. Duplicate addresses, duplicate mailings sent to the same address and undeliverable mail due to bad addresses are examples of poor database hygiene and waste money and time.
Tip: Tap your print/mail partner to access the USPS National Change of Address database (NCOA), which allows your organization to reach customers even if they haven’t notified you of an address change. Delivery Point Validation (DPV) service confirms a ZIP + 4® is a USPS known address.
Make sure your print/mail provider is CASS™ certified. CASS stands for Coding Accuracy Support System, a process the USPS uses to evaluate the quality of software used to correct and standardize addresses.
Create a process to track returned mail and update mailing addresses. If a customer has opted in to receive communications electronically, omnichannel print/mail providers can deliver a digital replica of the mailing by email.
Be Diligent About Security
Regardless of your industry, your customer print mailings are subject to regulatory and security requirements.
Tip: Leverage all of your options. Security envelopes with patterned interiors are standard. Security inks for document and check printing protect against counterfeiting and forgery. Advanced print management systems include customer-specific business rules protecting personal information and options include barcoding patient statements trackable online for HIPAA compliance.
Print/mail providers are subject to strict data security standards. Ask to see audit results on compliance with HIPAA, PCI DSS, and SOC 2 Type 2 certification, which confirms a vendor can safely and securely handle your data and has the control systems to do so. Look for providers that encrypt data in motion and at rest. Secure APIs are optimal for preventing data loss.