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USPS OIG – Business Reply Mail Operations

October 12, 2023 ,

READ FULL ARTICLE AT » Office of Inspector General OIG

Background

Mailers recently expressed concerns with the timeliness and consistency of the Postal Service’s Business Reply Mail (BRM) service, a service which enables qualified mailers to provide a recipient with a convenient, prepaid method for replying to a mailing. The Postal Service processed over 310 million BRM pieces generating $177 million in revenue in fiscal year 2022. Operationally, BRM is accepted through normal channels (e.g., carrier pick up) then eventually is sent to a local facility, where counting, verifying, billing, delivery (or pick up), and other close-out procedures occur. Effective operations are crucial to ensuring BRM value for the Postal Service, mailers, and customers.

What We Did

Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of the Postal Service’s BRM operations. We reviewed BRM policies and procedures, analyzed data, observed operations at 11 judgmentally selected sites, and met with Postal Service staff and BRM mailers.

What We Found

Postal Service mailers and their customers value BRM service, but processing delays, insufficient data, and incomplete close-out procedures hinder operational effectiveness and customer satisfaction. We observed BRM delays for nearly 180,000 pieces with some delayed over 13 days at eight of 11 facilities. BRM data was also unreliable as delays were not reported prior to our observations (except at one facility), related workhours were not recorded at 598 sites nationwide, and daily processed and unprocessed volumes were not captured in any system. Finally, required close-out procedures were not consistently completed at nine facilities, resulting in verification and data risks.

Postal Service officials acknowledged these issues and attributed them to staffing and service prioritization challenges, and system limitations. While we recognize those issues, we believe the broader operational effectiveness problems resulted from insufficient management and oversight. The Postal Service began corrective actions and initiated a working group to automate processes and enhance training. Ensuring sufficient management and oversight and enhancing systems will help strengthen BRM value for the Postal Service, mailers, and customers, particularly as untimely processing could delay election mail, nonprofit donations, or other recipient replies.

Recommendations

We recommended management develop strategies to ensure sufficient management and oversight of BRM operations, particularly related to timely processing, recording accurate BRM data (e.g., delays, volumes, and workhours), and completing close-out procedures and complete system enhancements to more effectively track BRM operational data and establish processes for assessing related performance.

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