Monday, May 2, 2011

To Grow Mail Volume: Create Delivery Day Specific Standard Mail

A recent story in the Asbury Park Press illustrates how Standard Mail service standards may discourage advertisers from using the mail.   Monmouth County had a school election on Wednesday April 27.   As is the practice, the county mails out sample ballots prior to voters prior to the election.  The ballots were tendered to the Postal Service late on Tuesday April 19th and the clock formally started on April 20th. 

As of the day before election day,  "trays of ballots were still sitting at the Eatontown processing center for most voters in Freehold Township and Manalapan and pockets of voters in Eatontown, Middletown, Tinton Falls and Spring Lake."

The problem that Monmouth County had is the same problem that small and occasional advertising mailers have.  They assume that the service commitment is better than it really is because mail sent in the past meets commitments at the quickest end of the service window. They generally have no clue that Standard mail has a broad service commitment window.

In the case of the election mailing, prior mailings were dropped on "Wednesday prior to the Tuesday election; the ballots are stuffed in mailboxes by Friday or Saturday."  So it looked like the "real" service commitment was two to three days.   Unfortunately for Monmouth County the service commitment was two to nine days and mail was still being delivered six delivery days later, which was election day.  Th

The actual service commitment for standard mail is so broad that it has little meaning for mailers that require a tighter window and most likely hinders its use by many mailers that want to advertise a date specific event or sale.   While the Postal Service may think that First Class mail is the alternative that advertisers should use if they have a need for a tighter window, most advertising mail and in particular mail like the election mail that comes from a sender with a very limited mail budget is likely to find that First Class mail to be too expensive.

The Postal Service should use the experience of  Monmouth County to expedite the development of a new product Standard Mail Product, scheduled delivery day mailings.   This product would have a delivery commitment on one or two specific delivery days.  In the case of Monmouth County, the commitment would be on the Saturday after it was officially tendered on Wednesday, a delivery day that has relatively low mail volume. This is one day slower than the service commitment  of First Class mail  More importantly it represents a commitment to delivery on a s specific day and not an as-soon-as-promised rolling commitment that First Class day offers.   It is also different from regular Standard mail which has a broad service commiment.

While it would seem that specific commiments would be more expensive to provide, they actually could reduce the Postal Service's costs. Using the Monmonth County mailing as an example, the date the mail is to be tendered as is the general size of the list of addresses or carrier routes that will receive the mail is known far enough in advance for the Postal Service to both work with Monmonth County to pick the most cost effective delivery date and plan its own resources to handle the mailing.  The more information that the Postal Service has on mail that is to be delivered in advance, and in particular a week or more in advance, the easier it is to scheudle employees to sort transport, and deliver the mail.   Scheduled mail becomes the base load for the both plant operations and delivery. 
Mailers that are concered about costs and Postal Service managers looking for new profitable revenue need to look seriously at scheduled Standard Mail.   Experimenting with this product around elections held next fall in many states and municipalities create a perfect market test to see how the product could work in practice and improve the attractiveness and profitability of Standard mail. 


Anonymous said...

Although "Standard Mail's" far cheaper cost DOES allow for an expanded "window of delivery time," we, in our postal office, have ALWAYS tried to deliver political mailings ASAP, hopefully prior-to the election. Some balk at giving politics a priority, but elections DO require preferential treatment..Unless, of course, they wish to pay (like everyone else) for first-class service.

Anonymous said...

Poor Management, plain and Simple,I'm sure the only reason this mail wasnt delivered is management didnt want to take the time to deliver it !!

David M Wysong said...

I have offered this opinionthat this is indeed valuable to marketing mailers for the last two year. Date Certain delivery allow mailers and the USPS to plan.

My clients constantly are "timing" the drops to meet certain "in home dates" only to be early or late both having major repercussions.

This is a major issue for my largest client who in 18 months had 3 B2C mailings delayed up to 3 weeks after acceptance. His discussions with the USPS for an answer on how to get it fixed went no where until he said they would no longer spend the almost $200,000 per year in postage since it seemed like a waste of their marketing resources.

The USPS is now notified of the drop date, a USPS service rep applies seed codes and hand walks the mailing through the plant to insure timely processing. We have not had a problem since this process started, but it is a process the can not be duplicated for every mailing.

David Hedges said...

The often quoted range of 2-10 days for standard service is fine when your making a general statement about a nationwide mailing. Not so when you know the entry zip and the destinating zip. What was the origin zip? Where was it entered? Then can you determine the true service standard.

There is a specific standard, a single number, not a range, that applies. Search for and download the Modern Service Standards at It will provide the standard for all classes of mail.

Anonymous said...

What a crock. Make another layer of pricing..that makes it SOOO much easier and user friendly.

Anonymous said...

Delivery Day Specific Mail will work IF and only IF the mailer chooses to to use a truly machinable mailpiece. Use a sealed envelope or 5" x 6" card - not too slick - not too thin - don't use super dark colors - and no flappy mailpieces - pretabbed is still not good enough. Mailer would learn alot by visiting a Mail Processing Facility at night to watch what mail cruises through the machine without incident and what mailpieces of a different consistency end up getting torn up, causing the whole rest of the mailing to be set aside and worked the next day on some other machine type, like a flat sorter or tabber. Don't even ask for a Monday delivery cause there is too much 1st class mail that must go out. During national election time you would be better off paying the 1st class rate cause political mail is almost more important that 1st class mail. Now I'll tell you a little secret. Take your mail to JC Penney and ask them to mail your stuff with JC Penney standard mail and you will be treated better than 1st class at the USPS. JC Penney might want you to afix a JC Penney logo on the outside of your mailpiece for free advertising. As soon as the USPS sees your standard mail marked "JC Penney" everyone is trained to go into hyper drive and are terrified of not making an IMMEDIATE DELIVERY TODAY.