Mail Delivery Challenges – How to Plan for the Uncontrollable
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”– United States Postal Service motto
Well, actually they do. Routinely. And with postal reform and cutbacks in processing facilities, good weather can mean delays, and bad weather can mean delays that are even worse. While you can’t control the weather, there’s a lot you can do to become less vulnerable. Here’s six tips to making sure your mail hits when you need it to:
1. Check the weather first.
Our team uses the RIBBS resource on the USPS website on a regular basis. Reported in real time by the Postal Service, it’s a great, reliable tool for monitoring weather-related delays, natural disasters and other events that affect the deliver of mail. We monitor this site along with other weather reporting sites regularly during direct mail processing so we can make adjustments if needed.
If there is anything in the forecast that may cause a delay, we isolate the areas that may be impacted by the weather then make a decision on whether or not to hold the affected records and mail them a few days later when things have cleared. This ensures the best possible scenario for our client’s mail — allowing it to be delivered in good condition and ensuring that any returns from the mail will actually make its way back to them. At the same time, we’re safeguarding the production and postage money spent on those pieces.
2. Roll with it.
Being proactive and making plans to minimize the potential impact of bad weather is critical. We’ve created one solution that works well for larger mailings. During the winter months or in hurricane season — when the potential for postal delays are the highest — we split up our client’s mail into two to four rolling drops, depending on the size. With this strategy, one portion drops in Week 1, another portion in Week 2, and so on. By doing this, we’ve reduced the risk of a large mailing taking a substantial hit to results due to weather delays. If you’re going to use this strategy, however, it’s important to get organized well in advance so you can plan accordingly for the returns, as they’ll arrive over a longer period of time.
3. Plant your seeds.
All of our clients’ direct mail campaigns are seeded with records of associates at Nexus Direct, meaning that we get the mail at home in the same condition as everyone else. This technique allows us to compare the actual delivery date with that of our mail-tracking tool’s delivery reports and serves as a live reminder to when our clients can expect to begin seeing the returns of their mailings.
4. Keep on track.
Speaking of mail tracking: it’s smart, easy, and very cost-effective. We track 100% of our clients’ mail within the USPS system. Every time a piece of mail is scanned, it’s logged in a database that allows our Nexus Direct production team to download reports weekly — or even daily. We use these reports to predict when mail will hit homes and to isolate delivery anomalies in the country. We generally combine this information with delivery snapshots from the same time period over prior years, helping our team to plan future mailings and returns by analyzing seasonal trends and projecting accordingly.
Additionally, return-mail tracking is an easy and cost-effective technique to pinpoint where a client’s returns are in the mail stream. At Nexus Direct, our team monitors returned mail to gauge whether campaign goals will be achieved by showing how much returned mail is in the system for a given campaign. Generally speaking, this method of tracking provides us 2 or 3 days of advance notice on what our clients should expect to come back in, and is another way to identify hold-ups in the USPS system.
5. Pay the man (in advance!)
Don’t forget to “pay the man.” The easiest way to guarantee mail delivery complications is to let your mail permits and fees expire! We’ve seen instances of mail being delayed days or even a week from just one day of lapsed payment.
6. Make a friend.
Lastly, we have continually nurtured wonderful relationships for decades with postal representatives who process our mail at the USPS facilities — from people at the large Sectional Center Facilities (SCF) to the folks at each, individual post office. Over the years, these contacts have been excellent resources for providing information, problem solving, and researching and resolving the issues we encounter with mail delivery. Our team recognized early on that it was critical to invest the time to meet our USPS representatives to understand their areas of expertise and how they can help us. At the same time, Nexus Direct is a member of several Postal Customer Councils and regularly attends postal conferences and events in order to stay engaged and “in the know.” So, when situations do arise, we’re ready to act.