Five Essential Strategies to Automate Business Mail

In the age of information, most tasks completed in the workplace are done with a click of a mouse. Recognizing this, the U.S. Postal Service has created a series of web-based postal solutions to streamline the mailing process by automating postal paperwork. In order for businesses to take advantage of this automation and make mailing operations quicker and more efficient, they should follow five essential strategies.

Keep a Database
It is essential that businesses keep a database of all postal statements, documentation, and mailing activity (USPS required minimum of 12 months). This database should be able to reproduce the mailing statements on demand (so you do not need to keep the paper copy), generate reports that that summarize all mailing activities, perform comprehensive and accurate postage accounting, and can match every postage statement to either the associated client and jobs or departments and divisions. The mailing database should act as a hub, one repository for all postal related data, regardless of how they were presorted or how the postage was paid. In addition, this database should interface with USPS postal programs like PostalOne!, FAST(Facility Access and Shipment Tracking), and Confirm; plus internal systems like business management and accounting software.

Use Mail When Available, but Don’t Require It
Mail.dat files are generated from presort programs or machines. The postal presort is the mailing plan, but as you know plans change. The best mailing systems allow for easy editing and updating of presort data (the mail.dat file) to account for changes on the production floor. This allows the mailer to build their postal documentation to what they actually mailed vs. building their mailing to the documentations. Document what is actually mailed. Do not pay postage on mail that wasn’t sent with that postage statement. Systems should generate postage statements from the edited Mail.dat files while maintaining the flexibility to accept and process jobs that don’t have Mail.dat. When deciding on a mailing system, it is important to keep in mind whether or not all mail is presorted in house, if Mail.dat is received from another source, and if you can easily associate clients and jobs to each mailing regardless of the source. This way, you can pick the system that best fits your mailing needs and allows for flexibility.

Build Your Documentation to What You Actually Mailed
Mailing software should give you the freedom to change piece weight, ad percentage, or piece count and to release partial mailings without having to rerun a postal presort. It’s important to use a system that allows you to remove from your statements the pieces that you don’t end up mailing and, thereby, to ensure no payment is rendered on such pieces. Lastly, your system should accept and update your data with any changes made during postal acceptance.

Connect Your Systems
Once mailing software, business management systems, and accounting programs are integrated, businesses will produce more efficient and accurate jobs, as well as reduce mailing costs. It’s crucial to connect your presort software to your mailing production database with Mail.dat files. This provides the ability to import files and the flexibility to edit while keeping all systems up-to-date. Additionally, connecting the statement database with postage accounting will ensure mailing costs remain accurate and affordable. Finally, by connecting the postal operations database with a business management system, businesses are set to connect to the USPS web-based postal services including PostalOne! and Confirm.

Integrate with PostalOne!
The PostalOne! System, designed exclusively for business mailers, offers a Web-based alternative to existing manual mailing processes with an electronic suite of services. By integrating systems with PostalOne!, businesses can simplify mail acceptance, improve tracking of mailing jobs and access to mailing information, enhance account management capability, and utilize drop-shipment scheduling via FAST. There are three ways to participate in PostalOne!: Mail.dat upload, Web Services, and USPS Wizard. Mid-sized to large mailers can use the Mail.dat upload to benefit from electronic verification. Using PostalOne! Web Services, businesses can communicate postage data via XML and a SOAP server, to utilize electronic postage payment. The USPS Wizard is designed for low-volume mailers and benefits small businesses.

Look for mailing software partners, who are constantly updating their postal programs to reflect changes within the USPS and preparing for future innovations in the mailing industry. They should have the ability to interface with PostalOne! – Mail.dat and Web Services – as well as FAST and e8125. It should feature security access level management, extensive business management integration, and real-time meter management integration. Ensure your software partners are representing your interests within the USPS Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC), IDEAlliance Mail.dat standards meetings, and other postal industry groups.