• November 5, 2008
  • By Mike Cooper, VP and GM, Communications Intelligence, Pitney Bowes Software

Intelligent Mail Delivers True Customer Satisfaction

By now, I'm sure you are well versed on, and maybe even a little tired of hearing about, the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB). But, have you given any thought as to how this fast approaching mandate can not only help your bottom line, but improve your overall customer service efficiency? Before we talk about the impact that Intelligent Mail will have on your customer service, let me give you a quick refresher course on the heralded IMB.

The concept of Intelligent Mail, and the advent of the IMB, has been around for a while. Also known as OneCode and the four-state barcode, the IMB initiative was first announced by the United States Postal Service (USPS) way back in 2003. It then became available in 2006, was enhanced in 2007, and will be a requirement in 2009. The IMB is referred to as a four-state barcode simply because it consists of four different kinds of bars, instead of the two bars in the current POSTNET barcode. Once you understand the different components of the IMB, it's really pretty simple, yet remarkable.

The IMB is height modulated and consists of four different vertical bars. The entire barcode is made up of 65 of these powerful little bars, representing up to 31 digits of data. The 65-character barcode number is affectionately known as the TADF. Not unlike the mnemonics we use to remember the Great Lakes and the colors of a prism, TADF stands for-Tracker, Ascender, Descender, and Full-bar. In the barcode, each one of these bars has its own place and specific job. The Tracker is a short, vertically centered bar; the ascender bar fills the upper two-thirds; the descender bar fills the lower two-thirds; and the full-bar, as you may have guessed, is a full height bar. Take a look at the following IMB example, and you will see what I mean.

Intelligent Mail Barcode

The benefits of implementing the IMB are fourfold. The first, and by far the most important, is maintaining the maximum postal discount. In fact, the pricing difference between automation and non-automation pricing is astounding-from an additional two-plus cents for standard mail, up to a whopping 15-plus cents for a three-ounce First Class letter. Next is the visibility you gain into the mailstream through track and trace, then increased customer knowledge through advanced address correction, and finally, efficient print and mail operations through effective document management.

But enough about the inner workings of the IMB, let's talk about the real reason you are reading this article. The question of how you can increase customer satisfaction through Intelligent Mail. As Sir Colin Marshall, former chairman of British Airways, most aptly stated, "The customer doesn't expect everything will go right all the time; the big test is what you do when things go wrong." This sentiment rings especially true in every customer contact center around the globe. Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) must be armed with the critical time-sensitive customer information that is the foundation of their jobs. If your CSRs lack this vital information, performance and efficiency will certainly falter, resulting in longer client calls, failing customer relationships, and soaring business costs. But, by combining the IMB's ability to provide precise mail delivery status with your internal customer service processes, you've got yourself a winner that is sure to benefit your bottom line.

The IMB is capable of providing that valuable delivery status on a variety of customer documents, including statements, offers, and responses. This information enables your CSRs to instantly and intelligently answer customer questions and resolve customer problems with far greater efficiency and accuracy. With the IMB's integrated track and trace capability, CSR call times are slashed and customer service is vastly improved.

The IMB provides yet another way to boost your budget savings by reducing the customer-to-CSR call volume. How can this be? Well, in keeping with the times and the consumer's need for lightning fast response and resolution, the IMB makes mailpiece delivery status available via both phone and Web applications. This, in turn, provides customers with enhanced self-service capabilities. Not only are your CSRs freed up to help with more involved issues, your customers are self-sufficient and much more satisfied.

The bottom line is this, both your company and your customers will benefit greatly by implementing and using the IMB to its fullest capacity. Not only will you satisfy the compliance mandate, but the IMB will enable you to realize budget friendly USPS discount rates. Intelligent Mail, through the immediate implementation and use of the IMB, is the key to absolute contact center efficiency, and is your ticket to increased revenue and strengthened customer relationships.

About the author
Mike Cooper is vice president and general manager of Communications Intelligence at Pitney Bowes Software, where he drives innovation and execution of the company's enterprise mailing efficiency solutions.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

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