USPS Cuts Ribbon on Pricing and Classification Center

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NEW YORK -- What's old is new again at the U.S. Postal Service, which showed off its Pricing and Classification Service Center during an open house this week.


The center is in Manhattan's Church Street post office, which opened in 1937 and is on the National Historic Landmark registry. It now houses the postal service's National Customer Rulings program. Since the program was formulated last spring, more than 150 rulings for 25 major customers have been issued, said NCR manager Greg Hall, who spoke at Tuesday evening's open house.


The PCSC, which formally opened Aug. 1, offers the voluntary NCR program. The program provides guidance on mail preparation, mail piece design and rate eligibility, and it issues classification decisions on mailings before they are submitted to the Business Mail Entry units.


These decisions give mailers more confidence in planning and budgeting future mailings and certainty at acceptance points, the USPS said. Customers include ADVO, American Express Publishing, America Online, Capital One, Forbes magazine, Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., Harte-Hanks, McGraw-Hill, Reader's Digest, Reiman Publications, Scholastic Inc. and Time Inc.


Plans for the PCSC were announced when the postal service clarified the circumstances in which mail containing personal information may be eligible for Standard rather than First-Class rates. The rule was part of a strategy by the USPS to deal with the consistency issues and mailing standards. This is how the process works for National Customer Rulings:


· A customer submits a proposed mail piece design and requested rate to the PCSC in electronic or hard-copy format along with information concerning volumes, locations and dates of mailing.


· The PCSC reviews the piece against USPS mailing standards and requests more information if needed, then issues its decision.


· If the design is approved for the rate requested, the PCSC issues a preapproved national decision that may be presented at any USPS acceptance unit where the mailer is authorized to enter that mail. The center e-mails its decisions to the customer and its mailing locations, with hard-copy follow-up.


· If the piece is denied for the rate requested, the PCSC gives the reason. The mailer can modify the mail piece and resubmit it.


· Once the mail pieces are produced, the customer supplies one sample to the PCSC at least one week before mailing.


Hall said the postal service typically returns a written classification ruling on submitted mail pieces in 72 hours.


"We also provide verbal rulings, when requested by customers, even quicker, sometimes that same day," he said.


The USPS said the new facility is part of an improvement in serving customers regarding mailing standards and pricing options. The agency has transformed from a system of four regional centers to one national center to allow more consistent application of standards, improve customer relations and streamline operations.


Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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