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Don't let undeliverable mail ruin your customer relationships

by Steve Cousins
 

Most of us will readily acknowledge the logic behind making customer retention a priority. Statistics drive the point home: according to Forrester Research, the cost to acquire a new customer is 5 times higher than the cost to retain an existing customer1. Furthermore, improving customer retention rates by a mere 5% boosts profits by anywhere from 25% to 95%2.

 

Unfortunately, no matter how hard you work to keep existing customers happy, there are always some aspects of doing business that have the potential to negatively impact your customer relationships. One of these negative impacts is undeliverable mail.


Consider that up to 18% of the U.S. population moves every year, but only 60% of those people register their forwarding address with the U.S. Postal Service3. In 2016 this helped contribute to 6.8 billion pieces of mail being returned to sender, almost 5% of the outbound mail volume4.

As much as we'd like to think otherwise, among that sea of lost documents and packages are probably some important communications: customer incentives, thank you notes, invoices, etc. — all of which cause a temporary (or permanent if a correct address for the recipient is never found) break in customer touchpoints. As a result, these missed connections can eventually lead to a dissatisfied or lost customer.

return to sender
 

Case in point: meet the millennial

Here's how quickly it could happen. Logan is a millennial, part of the generation born between 1981 and 19965. Whenever possible, he prefers the convenience of online transactions over the face-to-face options that some older generations favor. He banks online — and doesn't even have a local bank branch. Now in his late 20s, Logan buys his first house. He packs, moves, unpacks and stocks the fridge without ever stopping to think about updating his address with the bank or USPS. Besides, most of what his mailbox receives is junk mail.

By enlisting a third party to handle the undeliverable mail, you free yourself up to work on the business itself.

So when it's time for his credit card to renew, the card company sends the updated card to his former mailing address. Logan is too busy to notice that his credit card has expired, but when he starts getting the expiration notices from failed monthly transactions, that gets his attention. To avoid any further hassles, he moves all of his regular monthly transactions to another credit card and just like that the bank lost a customer.

Another situation that's fraught with possible errors involves income taxes. Some entities, such as insurance and financial organizations, are legally required to send to the last recorded address, even if evidence exists that it may not be the most recent address. For example, income tax communications are sent each year, so even if someone does their part by registering their forwarding address with the USPS, that period expires 12 months after the notice was filed. If over the course of that year that individual forgets to permanently change their address, the next tax notices will be mailed to the former property address until he or she remembers to file a permanent change of address with the sender of the tax document.
 

The solution? Add data

Fortunately, there are measures you can take to make sure this doesn't happen to you, such as outsourcing your mail center services. By enlisting a third party to handle mail that's undeliverable as addressed (UAA), you free yourself up to work on the business itself.

A reputable third-party mail service provider relies on more than the national change of address (NCOA) database to regularly update customer addresses, augmenting the NCOA review with other address updates, such as those made with area utility companies, magazine subscriptions, banks and more. Use of these supplemental data sources has a positive domino effect. More documents and packages reach their intended recipients, customers stay informed (and hopefully, happy) and bills are paid on time. But perhaps the biggest bonus, both in terms of effort and expense, is that you're not tasked with trying to chase down a new customer to replace one who just disappeared.

That's one small step toward customer retention and one profitable impact. Ready to help ensure more of your communications reach their destination? Contact Ricoh today to inquire about Return Mail Services.

Get communications to their destination

Learn more about Return Mail Services today.
 
Steve Cousins
Senior Advanced Services Strategy Manager for Ricoh USA, Inc., Steve Cousins has more than 25 years experience working in technology and production operations at some of the largest print service providers in the US and UK. Steve joined Ricoh in 2016 and is responsible for developing and launching advanced, repeatable service offerings within Customer Communications Management and Mail Services.
 
 
1"Rethinking Customer Loyalty." Forrester.com, March 16, 2017. https://go.forrester.com/what-it-means/ep04-rethinking-customer-loyalty/
2Amy Gallo. "The Value of Keeping the Right Customers." HBR.org, October 29, 2014. https://hbr.org/2014/10/the-value-of-keeping-the-right-customers
3Office of the Inspector General USPS. "Strategies for Reducing Undeliverable as Addressed Mail." May 1, 2015. https://www.uspsoig.gov/sites/default/files/document-library-files/2015/ms-ma-15-006.pdf
4Jeff Stangle. "Undeliverable Mail Today: The Cost is Up (Part One)." Mailing Systems Technology, July 6, 2017. https://mailingsystemstechnology.com/article-4191-Undeliverable-Mail-Today-The-Cost-Is-Up-(Part-One).html
5Michael Dimock. "Defining Generations: Where Millennials end and Post-Millennials Begin." Pewresearch.org, March 1, 2018. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/01/defining-generations-where-millennials-end-and-post-millennials-begin/