the 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012

The US Senate voted 62-37 yesterday to pass S. 1789 (as amended), the 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012, as amended. Sixty votes were needed to pass the bill.

About S. 1789
S. 1789, as amended, works to refund the USPS billions of dollars in overpayments to the Federal Employees Retirement System, streamline its structure and operations, adjust an onerous retiree pre-funding requirement, and seeks compromise solutions on controversial issues like facility closures and Saturday mail delivery. The bill does not include legislated rate increases on first class/standard mail above the current rate cap tied to the Consumer Price Index. While S. 1789 is not a perfect solution to the USPS crisis, Printing Industries of America supports this bipartisan bill as the legislation best suited to reform the USPS.

Action on postal reform now moves to the House The House version of postal reform (H.R. 2309), sponsored by Reps. Issa (R-CA) and Ross (R-AL), has been heard, amended and approved out of committee, but no floor vote has yet been scheduled. The House GOP leadership and bill sponsors said that the House had been waiting for the Senate product and will likely move postal reform legislation this spring/summer. There are a few procedural avenues this could take, but the current expectation is that the House bill will go to a full floor debate/vote. It would then need to be merged with the now-passed Senate bill in a conference committee in order to receive final approval and be sent to President Obama for his signature. Keep in mind that the House legislation takes a dramatically different approach to postal reform than does its Senate counterpart. Printing & Mailing Industries and its allies will continue our work in the House and put pressure in that chamber to achieve legislative success as soon as possible.

– Printing Industry of America

How to Get Your Direct Mail Opened

Direct-mail is one of the most powerful marketing tools a casino has!   Getting the highest direct mail response should be the goal but there is usually a lot of pressure to keep the costs down. These can be conflicting goals. If we don’t get our mailer opened and read we will get a poor response rate so let’s focus on getting customers to open our direct mail today.Get Direct Mail Opened

Here are a few tricks to get your mail opened.

  • Use a shocking or awe inspired headline

There is a reason why every band does their “last tour” every few years. It creates shock to their fans and creates deep interest in the event. Find something spectacular about your event worth creating some drama about like “biggest jackpot ever” or this is a very rare event or last of it’s kind.

  • Use mystery to make them curious about your mailer

Curiosity is a powerful tool.  If you use some lead-in text on the address side of your mailer (the primary side they see), you can tap into their curiosity and get your mailer opened.  Try a snipe like “You’ll never guess who is coming” but make them open the mailer to find out. Your mailer open rate will increase incredibly.  They could guess, but its more natural to open the mailer and see the answer.  It is a similar technique as a scratch-off for getting your piece opened.

  • Use a scratch-off on the outside to compare on the inside

If you design your scratch off with a compelling offer and easy to understand design they work very well.  You can create a nice scratch-off on the outside and have them check the inside of the piece to see what they have won.  You can create scratch-offs with variable numbers too so make a game of your mailer and it will have a much higher open and interaction rate than the rest of the mail that day.

  • A box-mailer always gets opened

Any box place inside your customers mailbox is the most important thing in the mailbox. If we are talking strictly open-rates than there is no higher interaction rate than a box mailing.  Higher open rates translate into higher response rates. You should definitely do some box mailings throughout the year and compare the post forma math to your other mailers.  You will be very pleasantly surprised by the increased response which can more than justify the additional expense.

  • Send relevant offers about things they like

The difference between direct marketing and junk mail is if you’re sending relevant offers to someone about what they like or want. If you send a country and western invitation to a rock ‘n roll person you are pushing that client away with things they don’t want (aka junk mail).

You want to be a property that has the things they like so you are their favorite place to go.  Code your database well so you can personalize relevant offers to the right person and you’ll always get your mailers opened and higher response rate too.

US Mail Tracking systems at CSG Direct Mail

Our proprietary US Mail Tracking systems have successfully tracked over 45 million pieces of direct mail advertising through the US mailstream online, in real time. That’s 45 million pieces followed across the country individually, like you do packages.

Using our new proprietary system, coupled with the USPS’s new Intelligent Mail Barcodes, a business can finally track the progress of its mail campaign using its own customer ID or account number.

Some of the system’s more popular features are the interactive reports as each piece crosses the country. Bulk mail can now be tracked just like more expensive alternatives such as UPS and FedEx.

Additional tools and applications are being built around this new system to make this new innovation accessible for every direct mail customer in America. Track Direct Mail’s uses seem endless. The technology allows database-marketing companies another level of strategy to reduce postage, find lost mail and help customers that may experience problems with the nation’s mail stream.

With all of these innovations it was only a matter of time until we put all of our CSG Direct Mail Tracking tools on the iPhone and iPad. CSG Direct Mail for iPhone was released into the iTunes App Store May 7th 2010. Track every aspect of your direct mail projects with Live Project Tracking from the CSG DIRECT MAIL Processing plant and Live US Mail Tracking as your pieces travel through the US Postal Service.

This has been THE DREAM in direct mail for decades and we made it a reality! These newest innovations are built on our proprietary Direct Mail Tracking Systems. We continue to redefine the Direct Mailing industry! CSG Direct Mail brings you Better Results Fast!

New iPads coming with USPS Confirm

Direct Mail iPad AppWell the new iPads are coming.  We’re still not sure if they are the iPad3 or iPad HD but the biggest bragging points are the Retina Display, faster processor and 4G connection speeds with Verizon and AT&T.

One of our favorite out-of-the-box applications on the iPad that we enjoy most at CSG Direct Mail is called Facetime.

Facetime allows us to video conference our offices when we’re on the road. It also allows us to be at company meetings remotely using the 2 built-in iPad cameras. This application alone made the iPad2 worth getting.  It will be even better in the iPad3/HD.

us mail trackingNo mention about the iPad would be complete if we didn’t mention our own iPad app called CSG Direct Mail in the iTunes app Store.

Our US Mail Tracking CSG Direct Mail app includes some very powerful USPS Confirm services built to make single piece lookup easy using your normal customer account ID’s to see how every single piece travels across the US through the mail stream.

Nobody else offers this kind of service!  The app is free in the iTunes store. Every mailing you send with us are tracked live.

CSG DIRECT MAIL includes Live Project Tracking from the CSG DIRECT MAIL Processing plant and Live US Mail Tracking as your pieces travel through the US Postal Service.

You can also track all the direct mail production steps through our multi-plant project tracking features.  Know exactly when your mailings are going out and track every penny you spend.

This app helps your planning, budgets, timing and delivery tracking.

This has been THE DREAM in direct mail for decades and we made it a reality! These newest innovations are built on our proprietary Direct Mail Tracking Systems.

USPS Confirm are registered trademarks of the US Postal Service

The CSG Direct Mail Story Continues

Michael and Lorrie Hemphill

Michael and Lorrie Hemphill

I have been asked by my team to rewrite our direct mail story for a new brochure where we don’t have as much room and still need to cover “the good stuff”, so to speak. I like to take this opportunity to add current details to get everyone up to speed on the future of direct mail as well.

After working in a variable statement mailroom at TRW, Michael Hemphill was hired to be an equipment installer and trainer.  This was the same time the US Postal Service introduced the postnet barcode and Michael was one of the leaders on the west coast in training his technicians and 3000 new customers on using postnet barcodes to receive postage discounts.

Michael helped companies like Sprint, MCI, Pac Bell, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the California and Nevada State Mailrooms get into automation.  “I have worked in over a thousand mailrooms installing equipment and training employees,” Michael recalls.

Michael then moved to Nevada to help casinos take advantage of some of the leading edge database management software available for direct mail. Some casinos reported increased response up to 30% over traditional responses rates after implementing Michael’s advice.

Since then CSG Direct Mail has expanded 10 times to our current 50,000 square foot Reno-Tahoe facility and has added our newest Las Vegas office.  We have helped many great companies like:

  • Raley’s
  • Scolari’s
  • Silver Legacy
  • MGM
  • Facebook
  • Wells Fargo
  • Harrah’s Entertainment
  • Tropicana Entertainment
  • Atlantis Hotel Casino
  • Peppermill Resort Casino
  • Eldorado Hotel Casino
  • Terrible’s Casinos
  • Stations Casinos
    …and many others

CSG Direct Mail has created many of the industry’s newest services:

  • LIVE direct mail job tracking portal – 1999
  • gonnahappen.com – an event marketing site – 2003
  • Bonus Bucks direct mail rewards program – 2006
  • LIVE mail piece tracking systems – 2008
  • iTunes Direct Mail tracking app – 2010
  • Variable maps for direct mail – 2011

With three decades in variable database marketing and the largest digital print plant in the West,
CSG Direct Mail continues to provide the greatest value and better results fast to our clients.

The Post Office Ruined a Mailing

Some of our customers direct mail pieces were crushed in the belted mail transport equipment so badly that the foiling inside the folded mailers was shredded off and stuck to the other side of the mailer. Normally this can’t happen unless it’s 260 degrees.  We’re in just as much awe and disbelief as you are.

We believe it is the OCR equipment sorting and re-sorting the pieces down to carrier route level.  We noticed all kinds of  scuffs, wheel skid marks and damage across the pieces. All of this is probably from over-sorting or at least over-abuse of the pieces.

I get it, they have lots of mail to process quickly. On the other hand, they are being paid big dollars to deliver a marketing message to our customers.  They should do what they can to protect those pieces if they want customers to pay for this service.

I have been working with the US Postal Service for 24 years and I have a lot of friends employed there. I just wish they were held accountable to quality as much as we are.

Our customer is extremely upset! Their promotion is ruined and the profits that were to be generated from this promotion to pay wages and create jobs is lost for February. Do you think there is anyone at the postal service that can help them out?  On some occasions it can be like working with the Government and all its levels of bureaucracy. That’s why I am venting.  The USPS hurt one of our clients (inadvertently, I assume) and the client wants me to “fix it” somehow.

In a true capitalist society I would threaten to take our mail to another postal service unless they step up their quality but that’s just not an option with the USPS, is it? When you mail as much as we do you have greater odds of being involved when the USPS does something wrong.  That doesn’t make it hurt any less.

We are working through several options to help our customer turn this around and save the month. The plan we’ve put together should accomplish that.

At the end of the day when something like this happens it just creates a huge loss of confidence in the process for good direct mail clients.

Direct Mail App USPS Confirm Report

113 million Confirm scans in our Direct Mail Smartphone apps

The US Postal Service reports that CSG Direct Mail has mailed 29 million pieces of mail since March 20, 2011 resulting in 113 million scans from USPS Confirm. This has created one of the largest US Postal Service oriented data collections by a private party in US History completed by CSG Direct Mail.

This data is available live in our CSG Direct Mail app and segregated down to individual mailings by individual customers and you can look up each piece by customer account (or player id)#.

A great free service from CSG Direct Mail for our direct mail marketing customers.

Find the CSG Direct Mail app in the iTunes Store.
Also available as a mobile site for Android and other smartphones.

USPS Confirm is a trademark of the US Postal Service.

Casino Direct Mail Client Testimonial

We love our clients and we are blessed that they love us too.
Here is a note from one of our clients.

I’ve worked with CSG Direct for many years, and they are absolutely the best mail partner a casino could hope for. They are innovative Leaders at what they do and a friendly hard working company as well. Not just a vendor but a true Casino Partner. They know a good part of the casino marketing side so it helps to have this company on your side when it comes to making decisions about what types of mailings will work best.

Randy Tidwell
Database Marketing Manager
Silver Legacy Resort Casino

New Postage Rates January 2012

New Postage Rates effective January 22, 2012

We updated our systems for the new postage rates effective January 22, 2012.

New Postage Rates 2012
New Postage Rates 2012

We noticed that most of the non-profit rates went down in this cycle and the common rates like Standard Rate (old 3rd-class) 5-digit automation rates went up only .005 from .237 to .242 each.  That is an increase of only 2.1%, not bad considering the average increases over the years ranged from 7-12% in the 20 years I have been doing this.

Here is the Full Postage Rate Spreadsheet from the US Postal Service.
You’ll want to look at each of the many tabs inside the spreadsheet.

Here are some recent past years postage charts for reference:

New Postage Rates 2011

New Postage Rates 2009

New Postage Rates 2008

New Postage Rates 2007

When you see the hundreds of rates available to you through the US Postal Service you realize that people that understand postage best are most capable of helping you reduce your postage expenses. We can help you design a postage strategy that considers the postage rates as well as the expenses required to help you achieve those postage rates. Sometimes it can cost you a dime to save a nickel so you cannot just look at postage.  We consider everything!

Direct Mail people are “details people” because every detail matters. Postage and service maximizing is another great reason not to do your direct mail with a printing company.

State of the Postal Service Part 2

Continued from Part 1

As we continue to review our volume, revenue and financial projections for fiscal years 2012 through 2015, it has become apparent that our financial situation is becoming even more precarious. First-Class Mail volume is declining even more rapidly than we had previously predicted. Standard Mail volume is flat, and in any event cannot adequately compensate for the declines in the much more profitable First-Class Mail that we are experiencing. Therefore, it is clear that we must reduce costs at an accelerated pace.

Our most significant area of cost is in compensation and benefits, and one key driver of those costs is simply the sheer size of our workforce. Therefore, the Postal Service has to be able to reduce the size of our workforce if we are to have any hope of insuring that our costs are less than our revenue. Based on current revenue and cost trends, and assuming a move to 5-day delivery, the Postal Service can only afford a total workforce by 2015 of 425,000, which includes approximately 30% lower cost, more flexible, non- career employees.

Attrition and certain other measures will allow us to achieve a portion of the savings needed to match expenses with revenue by 2015. We estimate that attrition will only result in a staff reduction of approximately 100,000. However, in order for the Postal Service to reduce complement to meet projected volume degradation, we must eliminate roughly 220,000 career positions between now and 2015.

In order to eliminate the remaining 120,000 career positions by 2015, to restore the Postal Service to financial viability, it is imperative that we have the ability to reduce our workforce rapidly. Unfortunately, the collective bargaining agreements between the Postal Service and our unionized employees contain layoff restrictions that make it impossible to reduce the size of our workforce by the amount required by 2015. As explained below, it is not likely that the Postal Service will be able to eliminate these layoff protections through collective bargaining, given the nature of collective bargaining and interest arbitration. Therefore, a legislative change is needed to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements.

As a Solution we recommend that reductions in bargaining unit postal employees should be governed by the RIF provisions applicable to federal competitive service employees. These provisions must supersede existing contract provisions and should not be subject to modification or supplementation through collective bargaining to avoid conflicts of law and to maintain necessary continuity among bargaining units.

Applying the federal statutory and regulatory competitive service process to the postal bargaining unit workforce could be done in a manner that would produce the following positive results:

The Postal Service could quickly reorganize and right size its bargaining unit workforce utilizing one set of established rules.
Postal bargaining unit employees would have the substantive and procedural protections provided by RIF rules, but collective bargaining agreements would be prohibited from having no lay-off clauses. Issues related to lay-off and reassignment to lower levels would be removed as subjects for collective bargaining.
Postal bargaining unit employees would challenge their lay-offs or involuntary reassignments to lower levels to the MSPB rather than through the grievance procedure.
Veterans’ preference is preserved.
The Postal Service would have a significant tool to return to financial solvency, thus protecting businesses and the majority of jobs for the hundreds of thousands of postal and other employees in the postal industry.

The recommended statutory change would be to modify Title 39, United States Code, to apply the RIF provisions of Title 5 and implementing regulations governing the competitive service to the Postal Service’s bargaining unit employees and to make clear that collective bargaining cannot modify or add to such rights, nor limit the rights of management that are part of the current federal competitive service RIF process.

In Conclusion We recognize that asking Congress to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements is an extraordinary request by the Postal Service, and we do not make this request lightly. Indeed, the Postal Service generally believes that it and its unions should be free from Congressional mandates as to the provisions of its collective bargaining agreements and that the Postal Service is best served when the bargaining parties can resolve their differences through collective bargaining. However, exceptional circumstances require exceptional remedies.

The Postal Service is facing dire economic challenges that threaten its very existence and, therefore, threaten the livelihoods of our employees and the businesses and employees in the broader postal industry and overall economy, of which the Postal Service continues to play a large part. If the Postal Service was a private sector business, it would have filed for bankruptcy and utilized the reorganization process to restructure its labor agreements to reflect the new financial reality. Because this option is not available to the Postal Service, we believe that this extraordinary request is a key to securing our future and our continuing ability to provide universal service to our nation.

We are urgently engaged with Congress and the Administration to achieve a legislative resolution that will allow us to best serve our customers. Whatever the outcome, not only will it affect the Postal Service – it will shape the future of the entire mailing industry. Meanwhile, our commitment to providing excellent delivery service and connecting senders and receivers across the nation remains unchanged. We will continue to focus on our customers, and to partner with the mailing industry to ensure that together we are positioned to fulfill the changing needs of American customers.