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Dear Postmaster General

Jan 1, 2011 12:00 AM


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December 2, 2010, marked Jack Potter's last day as Postmaster General. We would like to thank Jack for his 32 years of service with the USPS, particularly the past nine as PMG. During the longest tenure as PMG since the early 1800s, Potter dealt with many tough circumstances, including 9/11, the anthrax scare and declining mail volumes. He was an ally to the mailing community and his leadership has been deeply appreciated.

His successor, Patrick Donahoe, is a seasoned postal service veteran with the knowledge and experience to tackle the continuing tough challenges facing the Postal Service. As he starts his term as the 73rd PMG, we would like to offer our recommendations for what it will take to keep the USPS viable well into the future:

  • Engage Congress to address the issue of Postal Service overpayments into retiree healthcare benefit and pension programs. Relieving the Postal Service of its prepayment obligations into these overfunded accounts, and moving the surpluses to cover other USPS obligations, would go a long way toward keeping the Postal Service in the black for the next decade.
  • Provide consistent and predictable service performance and prices. For direct mail to be an effective part of a multichannel marketing campaign, mailers must be able to accurately predict when mail will be in-home. For accurate planning and budgeting, mailers need the stability of price changes indexed to inflation (not an ongoing string of exigent increases).
  • Continue to make needed adjustments to USPS operations. The postal processing and distribution network, and the labor force supporting it, are too large for the current volume of mail.
  • Determine customer value by looking at each customer's total use of the postal system, not using an incremental product-by-product approach (e.g. the Postal Service should look at the profitability of a customer across all classes of mail and all postal products used, not viewing each class or product's profitability in isolation).
  • Develop a better understanding of USPS customers and their needs, then adjust the USPS product mix to meet those needs. Examples include revising outdated regulations, understanding the Postal Service's role in the end-to-end supply chain that creates and delivers marketing mail, and focusing on how to create value in the supply chain as a whole.
  • Build stronger internal teams focused on product development so mailers have a partner within the Postal Service who will ask, “How can we make this work together?” instead of focusing on why something won't work.
  • Empower customers to drive product development. For example, allow mailers to develop “apps” using data in the Intelligent Mail barcode based on an “IMb app developer's toolkit” rather than requiring all development be in-house.

These are significant challenges facing Donahoe and the USPS. But with the support of the mailing community, we believe that, together, we can build a stronger USPS in the years to come.

Kurt Ruppel is marketing services manager for IWCO Direct. These suggestions first appeared in IWCO's “Speaking Direct,” a blog about building customer acquisition, loyalty and engagement using direct mail and digital marketing programs. See www.iwco.com/blog.

P.S. Move over, Neil Armstrong

1969 marked the first moon walk as well as the start of IWCO. The company was founded as Instant Services and became Instant Web after installing its first web press in 1976. The “Instant Web Companies” name reflects its acquistion of United Mailing in 1977 and Victory Envelope in 1981.

Do you have a suggestion for the new PMG? Send it to KOB@americanprinter.com