The snow and cold moving across the northern U.S. this week reminded those of us in Minnesota that we’re approaching the holiday season and the end of the year. Before we focus on turkey and egg nog, let’s take a look at some of the key postal issues impacting the mailing community.
USPS Announces New Postmaster General
Big news about changes to USPS leadership were announced this morning during the open session of the USPS Board of Governors meeting:
- Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe is set to retire Feb 15 after a 39-year career with the USPS.
- Current COO Megan Brennan will become the first woman PMG beginning February 1.
We’d like to congratulate Megan on her historic new role and look forward to working with her.
Understanding Your Mailer Scorecard
The current hot topic among postal nerds is “Mailer Scorecards” and invoicing. The Mailer Scorecard is an online dashboard developed by the Postal Service to allow mailers to monitor the quality of the mail they are producing. It is a new way of looking at mail quality based on census vs. sampling. Scan data is collected as mailpieces travel through various types of Mail Processing Equipment (MPE) and are compared to the documentation (eDoc) submitted with postage payment. This approach is focused on meeting data quality thresholds over time rather than a mailing-by-mailing assessment. The Postal Service is moving toward a monthly invoicing system for mailing errors that exceed established thresholds.
This past Tuesday my colleague, Bob Rosser, led a webinar sponsored by the Association for Postal Commerce (PostCom) on how to navigate these USPS Scorecards and how to interpret what the USPS data is saying about mailing quality. Bob is an expert on understanding and managing postal data, and he shared some great insights into how to work with this new tool. Webinar slides or a full recording of the webinar are available through the PostCom website. Be sure to check it out.
The Postal Service became the latest organization to announce a “cyber intrusion” earlier this week. The USPS became aware of the incident in September and has been cooperating with the FBI and other agencies to investigate. The event potentially compromised personally identifiable information of USPS employees, and the agency is offering employees a year of credit monitoring services at no charge. The intrusion also compromised less sensitive data of customers who contacted the Postal Service Customer Care Center earlier this year. The investigation has resulted in no evidence of additional customer data being compromised.
Postal unions have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the delay in notifying employees of the breach. The Postal Service says communicating the breach immediately would have put remediation activities in jeopardy and that acting too quickly could have caused more data to have been compromised.
The incident caused the Postal Service to take some systems offline and to indefinitely delay a planned PostalOne! Software update this past weekend.
Postal Reform Update
After months of campaign commercials, it’s hard to believe that this year’s elections are now behind us. We agree with the Washington Post that “of all the tasks confronting the newly elected Congress, none is more basic, in terms of plain old democratic governance, than reforming the U.S. Postal Service.” We are a little more optimistic than the Post. There is still an opportunity for the current Congress to do the right thing. Our representatives are back in Washington for a lame duck session to wrap up several pending issues that need resolution before the end of the year, and there is no reason putting the Postal Service on the path to financial stability can’t be addressed right now. There are a number of issues on which most postal stakeholders agree, and Congress should include at least those elements of postal reform as part of their year-end clean-up effort.
We are still waiting for a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that will determine the future of the exigent postage rates that were imposed in January. The court has scheduled additional oral arguments for next Thursday, November 20, which may be an indication that it is getting close to a decision, which is expected before the end of the year. That decision is expected to drive the timing of any postage adjustments in 2015. As we noted in an earlier post, the Postal Service has said there won’t be a rate increase until late March or early April at the earliest.
USPS FY2014 Financials
Later today, the Postal Service will announce its financial performance for the full 2014 fiscal year, which ended September 30. We expect a generally positive report similar to what we have been seeing throughout the year, showing operational income of about $1.2 billion, but an overall (paper) loss of about $4 billion due to accruals for retiree healthcare prepayments. The good news will be that the decline in First-Class Mail volume appears to be flattening, while Standard Mail is increasing slightly. We’ll provide an update if there are any surprises in the official report.
Bob Rosser and I are off to the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) meetings at USPS headquarters next week to discuss postal operational issues with postal managers and our industry peers. Stay tuned and/or subscribe to SpeakingDIRECT for all the latest news affecting your direct mail programs.
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