There’s a saying that goes: “Faster, better, cheaper – pick any two.” But today, shippers can gain all three: faster delivery, fewer returns and overall savings. Here are four helpful tips on how to ship to your advantage, adding significant efficiency to your operations.

Tip #1: Invest in address quality
How big is the issue of address quality? One shipper we know recounts receiving a data file from a customer for pick-and-pack. The file hadn’t been subjected to address-quality review, and a full 20% of the 30,000 parcels shipped were returned. Each of those returned packages had to be processed and reshipped. 

Customer satisfaction declined as deliveries were delayed. And, for packages with address errors that UPS or FedEx could and did resolve, the shipper incurred an address correction fee of as much as $10-15 per package.

Running data through CASS Certified software and NCOALink (the National Change of Address database) before turning over that pick-and-pack list could have given a dramatic boost to that list’s performance: CASS typically ensures accuracy in the 96-100% range — and the NCOA database contains address updates for 80% of movers. 

Tip #2: Ask for “the Last Mile”
Last-Mile Parcel Select is an excellent example of USPS innovation at work. Last-Mile Parcel Select Shipping represents collaboration between Fed Ex, UPS, DHL, other couriers, and the USPS. With it, shippers can use a courier service to get a parcel close to a remote destination, delivering to a nearby post office rather than the final address. Then USPS, with its exhaustive daily delivery routes, takes the parcel “the last mile.” 

Particularly in rural areas where distances are long and the numbers of parcels are few, Last-Mile Parcel Select is key to cost-efficiently expediting deliveries. This is an increasingly popular program — in 2011, it accounted for seven percent of shipments, and the USPS reports that it is growing at 20% per year. Shippers should be sure to check with their couriers to see if Last-Mile Parcel Select is available and whether it is used to help expedite their shipments.

Tip #3: “If It Fits, It Ships” New Regional Options
With this program, shippers gained a new way to save time and money. Using USPS-supplied boxes, shippers send packages at a flat rate without needing to invest the time to measure exact weight and affix required postage.

That program has expanded. The USPS recently completed a successful pilot of Priority Mail Regional Rate Boxes — and this program is now available nationwide. With Priority Mail Regional Rate Boxes, the closer the package destination, the bigger the savings. The difference in cost between the closest and farthest zones ranges from $4.48 to $30.58 per package, depending on the box size selected. The Priority Mail Regional Rate Boxes are available directly from the USPS at no charge — and the savings for short-range shipping are tremendous. 

Tip #4: Let the USPS Help with Your Return Mail
The First-Class Package Return Service expedites return mail and gives high-volume shippers an easy way to track status on return shipments. Pricing is scanned in based on a merchant average, reducing the time and labor required to weigh each package and affix exact weight-based postage.

As a part of this process, a USPS Merchant Returns label tool gives several ways to create shipping labels, each of which adds convenience for customers. These labels also help to ensure that the address, postage and tracking information is complete and accurate. Returns take just two to four days.
*For mailable items up to 70 lbs. Visit USPS for details.

Christine J. Erna MDP, AQS, is Enterprise Postal Consulting, Pitney Bowes. or call 888.245.PBMS for more information.