How can the USPS better serve mailers?

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The gloves are off
The gloves are off

CONTENDER
John Ward

President of Mail Services, Pitney Bowes Inc.
With Pitney Bowes since 2002

We worked for 12 years to see the Postal Accountability and Enhan-cement Act passed and are very excited about the opportunities that the legisla­tion is going to afford the US Postal Service, the Postal Regulatory Commis­sion and mailers. Pricing flexibility has been a huge issue in the past, and by granting the USPS greater latitude in terms of customizing pricing, the new law should enable the postal service to give mailers more discounts based on their usage and compliance with standards.

Inability to offer pricing flexibility has been a significant barrier from a com­petitive standpoint. The USPS may be able to give breaks to smaller mailers who are taking part in work sharing.

Dynamic pricing is a fairly com­mon practice across industries. Just as retailers can offer summer sales due to increased inventory, the USPS could offer lower rates based on time of day or extra capacity. The Intelligent Mail Barcode requirement is a step towards tracking this sort of information and becoming more accountable.

The new postal law will soon become the backbone for the postal service and a pathway to improvements for mailers. All of the changes encourage a higher service standard and better transparen­cy requirement. I think that one small step for the USPS is becoming more visible and accessible to every one of its clients. Some of the USPS' services are a best-kept secret. More self-serve kiosks and remote online purchasing of products as well as digital mailing machines would allow more mailers to use the USPS with increased ease in a way that best suited their bottom lines.

CONTENDER
Michael Gauthier
President and CEO of MarketShare Inc.
More than 20 years of experience in the mailing community.

The biggest challenge that mail­ers face when working with the US Postal Service is that it's not a business; rather it is a government monopoly. Mailers have no immediate recourse if something is not delivered on time for a specific offer. Of course, the status of the postal service is not something that will change.

On the whole, I've seen tremendous change — the USPS is light years from where it used to be in terms of responsiveness and service to its mail­ing clients. However, there is more that can be done.

One of the major changes that I think the postal service could implement is reporting who does and doesn't want to receive our product. I know that 78% of households use coupons they receive by mail, which means that 22% of people do not want out product. By not mailing to them I could save on postage and paper, and pass those sav­ings on to my clients.

The postal service should be more proactive in terms of taking responsibil­ity for pre-empting do-not-mail legisla­tion, as it will help the entire industry.

When the USPS makes a change that affects mailing rates, it doesn't do enough talking to the mailers. Often times these changes are rescinded or modified later based on feedback and this makes it difficult for mailers that are making decisions about what to do. A fraction of a cent affects the bottom line and therefore reducing rates and postal costs are the best way to make an impact for the mailer. A way to start is to help mailers better determine, which households want our mail and which don't.

THE DECISION
Knockout

Ward's praise of the PAEA and its expected efficiency comes optimistically early. Gauthier points out the USPS reacts as a government agency and not with the speed of an accountable business. His argument that the agency should be working with and listening to mailers as strategic business partners and not constituents, sounds like sage advice to any organization which relies on its customers.

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