Business Articles

What If There Was No Mail?

On Monday this week (in the United States) we had no mail delivery because of Veterans’ Day.

To miss mail for one day is not a problem, but what if this occurred on a regular basis? What if Saturday delivery was omitted or we only received mail three days a week? (These ideas are considerations to help the USPS — United States Postal Service — save money.)

I could deal with that, too.

But what if all deliveries stopped? Looking at what I receive via US mail, what would be the contingency plan?

  • Magazines: I like my magazines but would not start reading them online (at least not how it works today). I guess I’d go without — and that would give me more time for other activities. (Of course this would be a problem for those in the magazine business.)
  • Bills: More and more companies send invoices and statements via email. This allows me to move one step closer to paperless bill paying.
  • Checks: My business receives some checks via mail. But payment could be made by credit card or electronic funds transfer instead.
  • Formal communication: Invitations and thank you notes, as well as cards are typically mailed. If need be, they could go online as well.
  • Shipments: Although the USPS is sometimes the least expensive option, it’s far from the only one.
  • Ads and junk mail: I could do without this category of mail, but I supposed they’d go online too and start spamming me.

The USPS isn’t likely to stop all mail delivery anytime soon, but if they did, we could get by.

Call Center Articles

Being a Substitute is No Excuse

We had some frustration taking delivery of a package today.  It’s not the first time and, I’m quite sure, it won’t be the last.  Sometimes our packages are delivered to the wrong address; other times — like today — the drivers don’t really attempt to make the delivery, they just leave a notice.  Twice, they’ve skipped the first delivery attempt and moved right to the final notice.  The same type of thing has happened with our mail, although not nearly so frequently.  Our mail carriers, do however, seem to have a predilection for bending photos in packages marked “do not bend.”

From time to time, when frustration levels are high, we go to the trouble to complain.  Invariably, the response is the same: “Oh, there was a sub on your route that day” as if that is an acceptable reason for delivery errors, mistakes, and general incompetence.  A parallel explanation that I hear too often in customer service roles and among call center reps is the apologetic explanation “Oh, but they’re new.”

Sorry, those excuses don’t cut it.

Being a sub is not a justification for delivery errors and missed commitments (though it can explain being late).  Similarly, I expect customer service reps to know how to do their job.  They should be fully trained before they attempt to help me and not use my time as a training opportunity.  True, there are unique situations that can’t be anticipated and there are rare procedures that happen so infrequently that training is forgotten by the time the situation occurs, but for the most part, I expect them to do their jobs correctly.

Why to people offer inane excuses?  Why not just say, “I’m sorry and will make it right?”

We shouldn’t need to complain just to get good service, should we?

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry.


My New Mailbox

My new mailbox
     My new mailbox (Read Part One: My Mailbox Dilemma):
     Deluxe Plastic Mailbox:  $58.79
     Treated Mailbox Post:  $6.44
     Reflective, Self-adhesive Numbers:  $2.20
     Packing Tape (to secure the self-adhesive numbers): $0.10
     The implicit promise of mail delivery everyday: not necessarily
     priceless, but pretty darn good.
Writing and Publishing

Internet Sales Rise and Fall With Catalog Mailings

The DMA (Direct marketing Association) recently released their annual report on the catalog industry.

The report indicated that in 2007, 36% of sales [for the catalog industry] were conducted online. What is shocking is that this statistic is a decrease from 2006, when it stood at 40%. In fact 2007’s percentage was lower than both 2005 and 2004. To find a lower number, we need to go back to 2003, when it was a mere 29%.

What’s the deal? Is there a backlash against online buying?

No, seemingly it was a postage increase! This convincing theory blames the huge postage increase in May of 2007 as the culprit. Many catalogers drastically scaled back their mailings when their postage costs jumped 40%. Although some Internet buyers function strictly online, others are driven online when they receive a catalog or other direct mail piece. Ergo, less mailings equal less orders, and a decrease in sales.

I, too, feel the pain of the catalogers, as I experienced similar increases in postage for my magazines: Connections Magazine‘s postage increased 39% and AnswerStat, 41%. As a result, I began scrutinizing my subscriber list much more closely. Some magazines were pushed to e-publishing, dropping their print versions altogether.

So it should not be at all surprising that the USPS is seeing a drop in mail volume, which caused them to suffer a $1.1 billion loss for the third quarter. As a result, next year’s postage increase is expected to be the maximum legal amount. Experts predict that could mean magazines and catalogs will face a 5 to 6% bump.

Of course that means the affected mailers will scale back more, further lowering mail volume, and necessitating another maximum increase in 2010 — as mailing costs and post office efficacy spiral further out of control.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Writing and Publishing

Upside Down Addressing

Although the new postal rates are now in effect, I have yet to learn how much more it will cost to mail my magazines.

Now there is another new postage rule for me to figure out.  It’s called “upside down addressing.”  Essentially, the USPS wants the mailing addresses on magazines to be printed upside down.  That is, if the magazine is turned upside down, the address should read correctly in the upper right corner.  I suppose that is to improve automation speed and aid in accuracy.  It will also look funny.

On my magazines (Connections Magazine and AnswerStat) I put the address on the back cover.  This is in part to keep the front cover unadulterated but also because that is how Connections Magazine was when I bought it.  The last thing I want to do is mess around with the addressing.  If the USPS can’t read the addresses, I fear having thousands of them returned to me “undeliverable as addressed.”  Even worse would be for an entire printing to be rejected at the post office.

Although “upside down addressing” can be done on the back cover as well, I’ve yet to see an example.  It’s safe to say that, be it on the front or on the back, a cover redesign of my magazines will be required.  The good thing is that I have a year before it has to be implemented.

Until then, join me in checking out addresses on mailed magazines and watch everyone switch over to “upside down addressing.”

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.