PRICE CHANGE PREPARATION AND IMPLEMENTATION
The 2007 Postal Service price and product changes were among the most complex ever. Implementation was complicated by late changes for reconsidered items and a second implementation for Periodicals prices. Service disruption was minimized through detailed contingency planning, consistent customer and employee communication, and teamwork with customers and mail service providers. All online services on usps.com and partner service such as eBay were successfully updated with new price functionality and enhancements. Dedicated areas within usps.com gave easy access to information on items expected to draw heavy customer traffic, including shape-based pricing, the Forever Stamp, and dimensional weight adjustments for packages. All postal retail software was updated with the new prices and ready for business in advance of the change. New streamlined packaging for both domestic and international shipping further reduced complexity.
Readiness of Applications, Systems, and Web Sites
More than 50 applications and systems, including Postal Explorer, PostalOne!, rate calculators, Click-N-Ship, the Automated Postal Center kiosk, and POS One retail terminals were updated to reflect new prices and related changes. The usps.com main Web page featured the new prices and provided quick and easy access to mailing and shipping guidelines. A number of new items were given special attention, including First-Class Mail shape-based pricing, the Forever Stamp, Priority Mail dimensional-weight pricing, and the redesign of international products. The usps.com/ratecase Web site provided a more comprehensive overview of the price and product changes. New price information, mailing standards, and frequently asked questions, as well as links to numerous Federal Register notices and PRC documents, were posted for customers to view.
Communications and Publications
To support the communications effort, the Postal Service produced a special Postal Bulletin, including a comprehensive field implementation kit with fact sheets, stand-up talks, talking points, and other information to prepare postal employees for the changes. Web casts were part of outreach activities for the software vendor community, and a Workshop-in-a-Box was posted on usps.com/pcc for Postal Customer Councils. The Domestic Mail Manual, International Mail Manual, and all related materials were each updated and posted on usps.com as well. Presentations on price and product changes were provided to the Technical Speakers’ Bureau, rate implementation coordinators, Business Service Network, and other groups.
In preparation for the busy holiday mailing season, the Postal Service also published a Price and Product Change Holiday Field Information Kit in the October 25, 2007 Postal Bulletin. For many retail customers, the holiday mailing season was the first time they were made aware of the changes to domestic and international mail. The kit reinforced the major changes to Priority Mail, First-Class Mail, Special Services, and International Mail to assist both postal employees and customers. Stand-up talks, fact sheets, FAQs, holiday mailing tips, and other reminders for employees were included.
Tools and Resources
In cooperation with Hasler and Neopost, the Postal Service produced the First-Class Mail Shape-Based Pricing Template, a tool to help postal employees and customers apply the shape-based pricing standards for First-Class Mail. Postal Explorer CD-ROM (v.21) was also distributed in September to Post Offices. It contains the Domestic Mail Manual, the International Mail Manual, and all related materials including rate calculators, quick service guides, and postage statements. This internal CD-ROM helps employees calculate Priority Mail dimensional-weight and balloon-rate pricing.
COMMERCIAL MAIL ACCEPTANCE
Commercial mail acceptance is becoming simpler and more efficient, thanks to improved information flow between customers and the Postal Service. The goal is to make business mail acceptance “seamless,” streamlining all aspects of acceptance, verification, payment, and induction into the postal system. Keys to achieving this goal are the expansion of electronic documentation and use of IM barcodes on mail and containers (trays, sacks, and pallets). Information obtained about mailings in process helps verify mail and address quality, validate that the correct postage has been paid, and track individual pieces as they move through the system. Mailers have greater visibility into the postal processing and transportation network. In turn, the Postal Service receives advance knowledge of mailings, which helps plan for the necessary resources.
Customers participated in a pilot of seamless acceptance this year, using new verification procedures to enter 350 mailings (18 million mailpieces) at more than 350 sites. Using mailer identification data contained in the IM barcode, seamless acceptance provides mailers with enhanced information on address and barcode quality, evaluates their mail preparation to standards, and tracks performance. Expansion of these mail acceptance procedures will continue with national implementation expected in late 2008.