Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Six Keys to Improving International Mailings

Tags:  international mail, international addresses, Univeral Postal Union (UPU), regulations, postal service, mailing services, data hygiene

Summarized from Best Practices for International Mailings: A Business Mailer's Guide by Merry Law.

International mail differs from domestic mail in a number of ways, with each country having its own postal standards, regulations and requirements.  By understanding the basics of international mailings, business mailers can avoid problems and save money. 

1.     Know the regulations for international mail and for your items.

Avoid delays and other shipping problems in addition to possible costly fines and legal complications.  Some restrictions apply to all mail, such as radioactive, explosive, flammable or other dangerous goods.  Some apply to those countries who have signed a particular treaty, such as products from endangered species of wild fauna and flora protected by the Washington Convention.  Other restrictions apply to particular countries, such as obscene or immoral articles as defined by the country of origin or the country of destination.  Finally, some categories of items may require special treatment, such as a license, insurance, or registration.  The Universal Postal Union (UPU), the international body coordinating and managing the exchange of mail between countries, has more information on the specifics at http://www.upu.int/en/activities/customs/customs-list-of-prohibited-articles.html. 

2.     Get the address – and the address format for each country – correct.

If the address is not correct, the item cannot be delivered and undelivered mail is expensive.  There are more than 30 different basic address formats in the more than 230 countries and territories that send and accept mail.  Some countries deliver only to post office addresses, some require either or both a postal code and a state or province.  The various items in an address need to be present where they can be found and understood by the local postal employees.  WorldVu's Guide to WorldwidePostal-Code and Address Formats has information for each country and territory.  Some free online resources exist but the information may not be updated regularly. 

3.     Know the professional service available. 

There are many different ones for international mail.  Postal Operators, Postal Logistics Companies, Extraterritorial Offices of Exchange (ETOEs), Mail Consolidators, Remailers and Private Delivery Services are different types of companies involved in the physical transport of material.  Lettershops offer international mailers the same variety of printing, envelope inserting and addressing, labeling, fulfillment services, and sorting and mailing capabilities as they do for domestic mailers.  International Address Processors, Data Hygiene Companies, or Address Service Bureaus (or Bureaux) provide address standardization, address hygiene, merge/purge and sorting services.  Remember international experience is very important when choosing a service provider. 

4.     Be aware of the mailing options. 

Different options can improve delivery times and decrease costs.  Many postal operators in developed countries provide services to large mailers that can result in postage discounts.  The discount plus other advantages, such as speedier delivery, fewer undeliverable pieces, or special handling, may offset the cost of using the services needed to obtain it.  Remailers, mail consolidators and hybrid mail services also provide alternatives to mailing through the local Post or to "over-the-counter" mailing.

5.     Make sure the paperwork is correct. 

It's your mail and you are responsible that the paperwork is correct.  Incorrect or missing paperwork can lead to missing or returned items, as well as fines or other legal penalties.  This can include licenses, bills of lading, customs forms, and much more.  While there are plenty of services and experts to assist, check that the documents needed are there and are filled out properly. 

6.     Take advantage of experts throughout the process.

Most international mailers are willing to share information on recent experiences and providers of international mailing services have a wealth of information.  Their solutions, resources and ideas may provide you with a better way to handle your mail.