Manual ACS
April 24, 2023   Dave Lewis

On July 9, 2023, a new rule goes into effect having to do with the option to request PS Forms 3547, Notice to Mailer of Correction in Address, and PS Form 3579, Notice of Undeliverable Periodical, for Full-Service and Seamless Acceptance mailers. The change will take away the option for Full Service and Seamless Acceptance mailers and publishers to get manual address correction notices for undeliverable as addressed (UAA) mail.  Instead, they will be required to receive address correction notices electronically via ACS.

This is not really a bad thing – quite the contrary.  It is a great opportunity for mailers that may not otherwise have done so, to review and replace old and antiquated processes.  The results will include a better workflow, at little to no additional costs in comparison to the return on any investments made. 

Let’s look at what this all means, in layman’s terms, and how mailers can benefit.  The Postal Service has a mature and reliable electronic Address Change Service process.  The data can be handled electronically at a fraction of the cost of manual labor. ACS is fast and reliable, and automatable when electronic data is available.  The data source is the same, whether doing antiquated manual ACS, or one of the electronic ACS options.     

Many mailers also have a mature ACS process, but that process is so “mature” it might be considered ancient, and many of the reasons it was set up that way in the first place have changed – or – literally nobody remembers the “whys”.  The process wasn’t broken, nobody complained about it, so nobody realized that there were additional options implemented, that came up later.  The process was never reviewed.  Everything from the classic “that’s the way we’ve always done it!” to trays of UAA physical return mail stacked up in a customer service rep’s office that eventually gets tossed, are happening right now. 

Transitioning from Manual ACS to one of the electronic ACS options is not difficult, it just requires some planning and consideration.  It also provides an opportunity to take a look at offerings that probably were not in place when decisions were made to go with Manual ACS in the first place. Doing a review of what you are currently doing, why you are doing it, and what are the benefits of your process is the place to start.  With that in hand, you can explore all the additional opportunities, in both physical piece handling options, and ACS data options. 

The Service Type ID (STID) in your Intelligent Mail barcode is the key to both how a UAA mail piece is handled, and how the corrected address data is managed.  You may want to forward the piece, return the piece, or dispose of the piece – the STID lets the Postal Service know.  If you want the piece discarded, you can even choose to pair it with Green & Secure.  Green & Secure is a free add on to ACS and will give you two options for handling UAA mailpieces – so you don’t have to!  For both First Class and Marketing Mail UAA ACS pieces, you can direct the Postal Service to recycle, rather than waste those pieces.  Additionally, for First-Class mail only, USPS will securely destroy each piece, and send data detailing where and when the piece was securely disposed of.  This handling carries no additional charge. 

Since letter carriers can’t read your IMb as they are delivering your mail, you do need to print an endorsement on the mail piece in some cases – Marketing Mail requires the printed endorsement “Electronic Service Requested” on the mail piece in order to get ACS data.  First-Class Mail does not require an endorsement, as it is automatically sent on for processing when UAA.  Essentially, the endorsement is saying, “Hey carrier!  Send this undeliverable as addressed piece back to have the STID read.”  The STID drives the rest. 

Once a USPS ACS account is set up, it is easy to add your Mailer IDs and get data flowing, triggered by the Service Type ID/Mailer ID combination within the mail piece barcode. 

The mechanics of ACS are relatively easy, and mailers have been managing and applying Intelligent Mail barcodes for years now.  There are self-service options to plan your ACS strategy, by reviewing the ACS guides and materials available on PostalPro.  SnailWorks is a great resource for getting set up and started with ACS.  We offer options that make it ridiculously easy.

Free, sustainable options that streamline data processing, and make the data more accessible and actionable opens up so many possibilities.  If you are affected by this rule change, look at it as an opportunity rather than a regulatory exercise.  If you are a mailer, or a mail owner, who is not offering ACS as a service or utilizing the data – there is nothing to lose, but a lot of places to make gains.  It is time to review what you do, and grow.