It’s not you. It’s the USPS.

by Carolyn Angelini, Director of Resource and Supplier Relations, Production Solutions

Have you noticed a longer tail on the time it takes for mail to deliver?  Are there some areas of the country where your results have slowed and you’re wondering if the mail is arriving in home as it typically would? 

You aren’t alone.  Thankfully, overall mail revenues and results as tracked by our sister company Aegis Processing Solutions are slightly up.  And while the U.S. Postal Service has gone above and beyond as an essential service in this time, they’ve been impacted by the pandemic as many companies have. We’re seeing what is likely a temporary decrease in our Mail Tracking “scan” percentages and a longer lag in getting to the higher percentages we typically realize. Mail is definitely taking longer to deliver in a few areas of the country and mailers that are targeting specific in-home ranges will struggle as they can’t count on all of the Postal facilities processing their mail on their typical service standard metrics.

Part of this is staffing as USPS is struggling with a high rate of absenteeism.  We’re hearing that they are forced to operate with 50% of staff at some facilities.  While many of us work from home and shelter in place, many postal employees are interacting with the public all the time by necessity.  

Another part is the swift changes the Postal Service is experiencing in mail volume across categories.  Yes, a lot of volume is down.  Last week, year-over-year:

– Letter mail is down 12%
– Marketing mail is down 45%
– Flat mail is down 37%
– Periodicals are down 45%

But packages are up 53%.  To give perspective, packages at the December holidays are usually up about 20-25%.  To handle that volume, the USPS usually prepares months in advance and staffs up to handle those packages.

So they are facing an inordinately large influx of packages at the same time as staffing is challenged. 

As a result, the USPS has added a day to its guarantees for priority mail and first-class packages.  They’re struggling to meet their service standards.   

This has a ripple effect on nonprofit mail as well, which we notice when viewing our Mail Tracking Data.  Usually, Marketing Mail letters see about a 97% scan percentage which gives a quick sense of whether our mail is being processed and in the hands of the Postal Service.  And this same mail sees 95% delivery scans, which we use as a guide to know these mail pieces made it in home.  (100% isn’t achievable because not all mail and processing facilities scan mail.)

This 97%/95% standard lagged the last week of March through mid-April.  This doesn’t mean the mail pieces weren’t delivered; it just means it took longer for some of the mail to arrive in home during this time.  Delivery was especially challenged in New York City/Westchester, Northern New Jersey, the Detroit area, the Virginia/DC/Maryland area, and Illinois. 

These have since picked back up and we’re pleased to see delivery and scan rates improve in these areas.  The USPS is hiring folks and getting staff in to fill these gaps so, hopefully, these blips are just that.

So if your results aren’t down, but just less predictable, coming in later than usual, or down in these affected areas, fear not (too much).  The hope is that delivery standards are better now as we enter May. And you can count on us to continue to monitor this closely and let you know otherwise.

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