Manolo de la Fuente

Stop the return mail!

30 May 2013, by Manolo de la Fuente
My colleague’s face was red when he got off the telephone. He had just finished a difficult call with a disappointed customer. The customer had a huge amount of return mail because the items were undeliverable. And of course, this was PostNL’s fault. My colleague tried to explain why this annoying situation had occurred. What had happened? Many of the addresses used by the customer were incorrect or obsolete. These letters end up back in the mail deliverer’s mailbag. But no explanation would satisfy the customer - it was PostNL’s fault. ‘Stop the return mail, PostNL!’

Mail infarct

I can understand the customer's frustration, but I hope this was a wake-up call for him to do something about his address file. Because if the addresses are not up to date then return mail will be a recurring problem. Another customer recently sent out a large mailing and had no less than 80,000 undeliverable return mail items. They came back just like a boomerang. The mail room was overflowing with 80 mailbags full of mail and everything came to a standstill. It could only be described as a mail infarct. The customer was so shocked by what happened he is now updating his address file. Thank goodness.


Financial damage

Having obsolete addresses on file can do serious damage to your business. You have made a serious investment (preparations, printing, posting) for a mailing where you do not get a response because the intended recipient has moved to a new address. This can cost up to €4 for each mail item! A waste. Not least because for about 40 cents per mail item you can receive a file with the updated addresses of your customers.


A blow to your image

In addition to the financial damage, your company's image also suffers. Your logo is now perceived as spam. People receive mail in their mailbox that is not meant for them. And what do you do with spam? That's right: you put in the recycle bin. And in my opinion, that's not where you want your business to be.


New return mail solutions?

The arguments above still do not seem to make an impression on many customers. Maybe it is time to take more drastic measures? Because these millions of returned undeliverable mail items cost PostNL a great deal of money. Any ideas for return mail that would benefit everyone involved? I have a few:

  • From now on, why not return mail as a digital image? That cuts down on the number of trips and deliveries PostNL has to make and the sender is not left with mailbags full of return mail that just take up space.

  • Reward the sender who uses correct addresses or penalise the 'spammer' who keeps obsolete customer addresses on file. This will end the irritation that a new resident feels when mail arrives for the former residents.


I think we can all agree that something needs to be done! Keeping updated addresses on file cuts PostNL's carbon emissions significantly and helps our customers attain their environmental targets.

Do you also have a suggestion to deal with the return mail problem? Or are you still receiving mail for the former residents six years later? Share your ideas and experiences with us!


Manolo de la Fuente