As the USPS®, UPS® and other major carriers continue to fine-tune their services and requirements to remain profitable and competitive, the sending process has become more efficient. Although the act of sending is simpler today, the increasing number of options available to senders from the various carriers can be confusing.
So what are some of the things to look for?
01. Ensuring accurate addresses can reap significant cost savings.
Address validation is the primary accessorial (additional) fee carriers may charge. Even a seemingly simple mistaken in address entry (Market Avenue, for example, instead of the correct Market Street) can be costly. While the carriers often can eventually trace the correct address, the address validation service can cost $13.80 to $14 per correction, depending on the carrier. When you’re sending many items monthly, even a few incorrect addresses add up, and since you don’t see the carriers’ final invoices until the end of each cycle, the charges may comes as an unwelcome surprise. Plus, when the address is completely incorrect, the item you’ve sent may eventually be returned. (The USPS does not charge accessorial fees. What you pay at the time of sending is all you pay.)
02. Awareness of additional accessorial fees can help you make your sending choice.
Other accessorial fees can also add to your monthly carrier invoices. Did you know it costs more to deliver to a home than a business? That’s the residential surcharge. The delivery area surcharge covers approximately 50 percent of the United States that is not in a metropolitan area. And when you get further out in the rural world, you’ll see the extended delivery areas surcharge on top of that. Another accessorial fee is the fuel surcharge.
“An example of how these accessorial fees add up,” explains Tom Hazel, Pitney Bowes Channel Director for North American Shipping, “is perhaps you send a one-pound ground package within a local area and see upfront that the charge is $6. When you get the bill, however, with a 50-cent fuel surcharge, a residential delivery surcharge of $3.80, and perhaps another $2 because it’s a rural area, the $6 you thought you were paying has doubled.”
While these fees are unavoidable, what is avoidable is the surprise at the end of the month. And if you know the charges from each carrier, you can choose the carrier who best meets your needs. What makes it more challenging, however, is the accessorial fees are not accounted for in the carriers’ systems.
03. Leveraging the Intelligent Mail® package barcode (IMpb) service conforms to USPS requirements.
As part of the IMpb service, the USPS has introduced a second tier of pricing for its most common shipping services. The IMpb is a barcode format that includes information about your specific shipment, enabling the USPS to track packages from pick-up to delivery, including up to 11 interim scans. The USPS uses this data to expedite package delivery and reduce costs. It also greatly improves your ability to track a package or mail.
04. Using dimensional rating can address carrier requirements, cut costs – or increase them.
Dimensional rating simply means that sending charges are based on the size of the package, not the weight – how much space the package takes up in whatever transport it is being sent. The formula is complex, but it can lead to, for example, a one-pound box being assessed as a 7.19 pound box simply because of the dimensions. Too many of these can lead to significant cost surprises, but if you are aware of the requirements and conform to the carriers’ published specifications, you can rate shop properly and achieve savings. Again, conforming is the key.
05. Using the Electronic Return Receipt benefits your compliance requirements.
Although it’s been 14 years since the USPS initiated the Electronic Return Receipt (E-Return Receipt), many people still use the original green card option – taping it to the envelope and hoping it comes back signed. The E-Return Receipt option not only benefits the USPS by eliminating paper and form costs and providing a greener way of doing business, it vastly improves the sender’s processes. Instead of a green card being returned, you receive a digitized PDF document that you can easily file electronically. And since you usually only request return receipts on truly important issues – legal, health, government, financial, and so forth – proof of delivery is critical and electronic proof of delivery is extremely beneficial. Additionally, by moving to electronic return, you actually save $1.30 per piece over paper delivery.
06. Complying with internal sending processes helps the business run smoothly.
“All businesses essentially have a set of rules – some very firm, others more flexible – about cost control and processes,” observes Tom Ryan, Pitney Bowes Director for Product Marketing. “So observing these processes is another form of compliance. A good office manager will have guidelines as who can ship, what carriers you can use, how to control costs. These compliance rules are established so you don’t have to make these small decisions every day. You have guidelines that help give you the confidence in your decisions.”
Gaining confidence in your sending choices sometimes needs a little help
Solutions are available to ensure the company’s decision-makers are confident in the guidelines and processes they’re establishing. Based on advances in technology (enabling the three major carriers’ options to be available on one platform, or monitor screen, for example) and decades of expertise in the sending industry, Pitney Bowes has developed several solutions that address each of the previous points, taking the guesswork out of your sending decisions and giving you the confidence that you’ve made the right choice.
“We’ve innovated a platform that gives our clients more options for how they send things,” concludes Ryan. “They can have the solution on a single platform, validate addresses, ship efficiently, use barcode tracking. All with the confidence that they did everything right and with the least amount of exposure to cost.”