LetterStream’s New Chatbot Help Box

Let’s face it, we all need a little help sometimes. Even the LetterStream team needs help getting fast and convenient answers to customers 24/7/365 to include all days of the year, including holidays where we’re closed. That’s where our new chatbot friend comes in. We’ve implemented a new online help chat tool designed to help us, help you, with finding the most up-to-date answers as well as tips and tricks to make your utilization of our website and mail-building tools even more powerful.

Ever-Present Chatbot Help Center

Floating in the lower right corner of every page of our website is a help icon. When clicked it summons a powerful chatbot tool, that through the use of AI, can quickly return answers to your most pressing questions. Make note that the floating button never goes away, however, it can be scrolled out of the way by using your side scroll button in the event that it covers something you are trying to read. To minimize the dialog window after getting your answer, simply hit the icon once more and all is hidden from view. Not to worry; your prior conversations are kept so you can refer back to them whenever you open the chat tool again.

Not Like Other Chatbots

Our chatbot is not like the others. No, other chats can get kind of annoying. You know what I mean? You ask a question and feel like you are waiting for a highly distracted person to get back to you. I often imagine one person with a circle of computers around them. Each one with a person in chat. The operator spins their rolling chair from one computer to the next answering 10 people at a time and never really understanding what anyone asks. Anyway, our chat tool isn’t like that. It is blazingly fast and provides extremely accurate information.

But, I Need a Human, Not a Chatbot

Not to worry. We have plenty of humans behind-the-scenes ready to give you even more personalized assistance. As some of you already know, our team of humans do super-human things and can answer any question you may have. They can even propose changes and fixes to our always-ready-to-help development staff. To reach a human, simply send an email to support@letterstream.com. But, while our humans don’t spin around in office chairs (well, sometimes they do for fun), keep in mind that they might be on break, in a meeting, on vacation or working on the next cool feature, so for the fastest answers, be sure to ask your questions in the chat tool first.

I Have an Urgent Need

Believe it or not, this is the main reason we introduced the chatbot in the first place. People sometimes run into snags and need a solution right now, not in 20 hours or after someone returns from a meeting. This makes our decision to employ a chatbot all the more relevant. It’s not just you that has an urgent need, many customers do, and we want to help them all.

Disaster Averted Thanks to Chatbot

Using the chatbot to find answers quickly takes the urgency and the drama out of your day. Another major thing that we do is provide you the tools, within your account portal, to stop, pause or cancel a job at any point up until it is time to mail. To take advantage of this process, simply log into your LetterStream account, find the job in question, and click the word EDIT appearing in the Options column. From here you can choose what you need to do, stop and shred, pause, delete, etc. Some options come and go as the job moves through our production process. For more information see our help article “Changing a Job.”

Help Pages Still Present

Which reminds me! We still have all our help pages, videos and content. Simply navigate to the bottom of any page and select HELP from the list of options in the footer. These resources are still very beneficial and is one more method you can use to get all the help you need.

What Does My Tracking Information Mean?

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What Do Certified Mail Tracking Numbers Mean?

Using your LetterStream account you are able to track the entire process of your created Certified Mail – from job creation to successful delivery, and all other statuses in between.

Although we want nothing but the best for our customers, LetterStream cannot guarantee the success of a delivery or timeliness to your intended recipients since this is dependent upon the United States Postal Service (USPS).  We do, however, offer real-time transit status and tracking information for each piece of Certified Mail, which provided directly from the USPS.

Here is a breakdown of the various status levels along the journey:

Mailed: Your Certified Mail piece has been printed, inserted into envelopes, and given to the USPS for processing and to attempt to be delivered. This begins the transit stage of your Certified Mail. Mailed pieces shouldn’t be confused with Delivered mail, as “mailed” simply means that your letter(s) are in the mail stream/system.

In Transit: Your Certified Mail is in the hands of the USPS. At this point, we are at the mercy of the USPS in regard to a successful delivery to the intended recipient.

Delivery Attempted: Delivery to the intended recipient has been attempted. The Post Office likely left a notice of attempted delivery for the recipient with instructions on how and where the item can be received.

Unclaimed By Recipient: After attempts of delivery had been unsuccessful, and the recipient does not make an attempt to receive the item, the status is changed to “Unclaimed By Recipient.”

Refused By Recipient: If the intended recipient refuses to accept and/or sign for the mail piece, the status is changed to “Refused By Recipient” and is returned to the sender.

Returned To Sender: In the event the mail piece is undeliverable due to a bad address, the recipient is no longer at the address, etc., then the status is changed to “Returned To Sender.”

Delivered: Your Certified Mail was successfully delivered to the recipient, and a signature was acquired. Once this status is achieved and the USPS gives you access to the electronic signature file, you can view the signature by clicking the “View” link to the right of the status indicators for each recipient.

You will also see 3 status boxes next to each recipient within your LetterStream account.  These are color-coded by status.

Capture

See below for the color that represents the corresponding status: 

White – No action has occurred, or the Post Office has not updated the tracking information

Lime Green – Recent status updated successfully

Light Yellow – Unclaimed/Business Closed

Orange – Out for Delivery/Attempted

Violet – Forwarded

Pink – Returned to Sender

Dark Green – Returned (2nd box will be pink)

Red – Refused (2nd box will be pink)

These rules are applied to the tracking status bar at the top of the page as well.

Never be out of the loop along the journey.

PROPOSED 2018 USPS Rate Increases

USPS Price Increase2
On October 6th, 2017, the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced a price increase to take affect January 21st 2018.

The new price schedule increases the retail price of first class postage for letters and postcards by 1 cent each.  Certified Mail with Electronic Return Receipt will see a 15-cent increase.

Keep in mind, the USPS “proposes” their new pricing, but the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) must approve the pricing before it can become official.

Historically the PRC has denied or adjusted price increases if the USPS attempts to raise prices too high compared with the current consumer price index (CPI).  In this case the USPS is only raising rates by 1.9% which is believed to be accepted by the PRC.

Below is the primary list of rates that may impact LetterStream customers.  Also keep in mind that LetterStream historically does not raise prices on any item beyond the actual USPS price changes.  If you are working on a First-Class Mail project for the new year, we’d encourage you to schedule it before the new rates are implemented.

2018 UNOFFICIAL Postage Rates:
– First Class Stamps up from $.49 to $.50
– First Class Postcard Rate up from $.34 to $.35
– Extra Ounces staying at $.21
– International Rates staying at $1.15
– Certified Mail up from $3.35 to $3.45
– Return Receipt staying at $2.75
– Electronic Return Receipt up from $1.45 to $1.50
– Registered Mail up from $11.70 to $11.90
– Flats (.0001 – .999 oz) postage up from $.98 to $1.00
– Flats extra ounces staying at $.21

For more information review the USPS press release:

View the Press Release Here

For all the gory details, see the USPS NOTICE OF MARKET DOMINANT PRICE ADJUSTMENT that was filed by the USPS with the PRC

Must Be Postmarked Today! Warp The Space-Time Continuum.

LetterStream reverses time

Ever get into that position where you need to mail something by a certain date but you aren’t sure how you can make it to the post office in time?

Sometimes you need to get a cancellation letter or an acceptance letter or one of many other letters of a legal nature postmarked by a certain date. Or maybe it’s a bid for an upcoming project. Whatever the case for needing a postmark, and needing it today… there’s a chance we can help.

One of the many neat benefits of knowing a mailing company out west, in Scottsdale Arizona to be exact, is that we can drop your letter at our local post office which is typically still open even after your office closes, especially if you live or work on the East Coast.

This is where the speed of the internet can warp the speed of time. If you live in New York and it is 6 pm, the post offices are already closed, and your letter has no chance to be mailed today. However, if you take 2 minutes to load your letter into the LetterStream.com website, you’ve effectively turned back time by 3 hours (April – October)*, making it 3:10 pm with the post office still open (in Arizona).

We’ll print your letter and get it in the mail before the day is out.

There is some fine print here… if you want to make sure your letter gets mailed the same day, you will need to choose “Rush” on your order, which will increase the price slightly, but we do guarantee same day processing or your money back if you choose that option. Also keep in mind that Arizona doesn’t participate in Daylight Saving Time (DST), so some months there is only a 2 hour difference.

When that letter really really needs to be mailed today, warp the space-time continuum by using LetterStream Rush Services.

Innovations In Printing And Mailing

popular_science_cover

I was flying out of town the other day and picked up a Popular Science magazine to read on the flight. I was happy to see the title was “100 Best Innovations of the Year” and wondered if any of our mailing innovations had made the list. There are a few different mailing innovations that we rolled out this year and I thought I might find one or two discussed in the magazine.

For instance, we have our innovative Return Mail Processing service where we can process our clients’ return mail. This is a good way to keep undeliverable mail from being returned to our customers. Instead, we get it. Then we flag all the addresses in our customer’s account that have been returned, showing the return date and the return reason from the USPS yellow sticker. In addition, reports can be run by user, date range, mail type and many other filters for the letters that were returned.

Another innovation is our USPS Registered Mail solution, which allows users to create and send Registered Mail on our website. If you send Registered Mail, you know that it is one of the most time-consuming and confusing types of mail that you could possibly send. True to LetterStream’s form, we make the process so easy you can create the registered letter–or hundreds of them–in around 2 minutes on our website. We keep track of the USPS tracking information and the signature cards in an orderly fashion on our website.

Some may say that our online Certified Mail process is the most innovative Certified Mail solution they’ve ever seen. We’d like to agree… but we’ve been processing Certified Mail this way for nearly 10 years, so it might not be an innovation of this year.

We’ll, I’ve skimmed the 100 Best Innovations article, and unfortunately I could not find the name LetterStream. But that’s ok, our customers repeatedly give us the honor of being great innovators in the mailing business, and they are the ones we want to please.

If you want to learn more about our mail innovations, check out our website, explore our blog or pick up the phone and call us.

What Is Needed To Send USPS Certified Mail Online?

Certified Mail Letters and Envelopes

Well, it’s pretty simple actually. You need an address and a document, oh, and a company that offers the ability to create certified mail on their website.

If you want to use LetterStream.com or our sister site OnlineCertifiedMail.com to send your certified letter, you simply need the address you want to send the letter to and your document saved as a PDF file. Yes, it seems like it should be more complicated than that, but most of our clients can create and send their Certified Mail in two minutes or less.

There’s nothing more you need to do. However, if you want to track your letter through the USPS process or retrieve the signature of the person who signed for your certified letter, the process is as simple as logging into the website and clicking on the mailing to see all the details.

Or, consider the alternative: You could write your letter, print it from your laser printer, hunt for an envelope, fold the document (maybe twice to get it to fit in the envelope), hand address the envelope, seal it, drive to the post office, wait in line, fill out the green card while waiting in line, try to figure out how the certified mail barcode wraps over the top of the envelope, pay for the piece, get a receipt with a 20-digit tracking number that you will need to enter any time you want to track the status of the piece, and get the green card back. Then, not knowing where you should keep the green card, you shove it in a desk drawer and ultimately lose it, and just when you want to find out what happened to the letter… the post office tells you they have removed the information from their online system and you’ll have to request that it be emailed to you.

Hmmm… I feel an AT&T commercial coming on. “It’s not complicated. Simple is better.

Firing Patients With Certified Mail

Doctor using computer

Here’s an interesting topic. We talked to a medical professional the other day who needed to fire a patient and contacted us about using USPS Certified Mail to do it.

Firing a patient? What an interesting concept.

After some googling, we found that it is more common than you might think, and is even a necessary practice.

The American Medical Association website (www.ama-assn.org) states it very clearly in this article:

(Here is a PDF version of the article as well, as contents on the ama-assn.org website sometimes move around.)

Physicians need to fire patients for lack of payment, non-compliance and a host of other reasons.

We found a number of other websites that discuss the reason for using Certified Mail with Return Receipt for this delicate matter. A couple are shown below, however be sure to check your state’s laws before terminating the patient-physician relationship.

On a related front, it is also important to notify patients via Certifed Mail when your medical practice is closing or relocating. Since LetterStream is HIPAA compliant, we can help you with that or any other Protected Health Information (PHI) mailing.

Whatever the reason to communicate patient-physician matters, many articles point to the need to send the letter via USPS Certified Mail with Return Receipt. Both the LetterStream website and our sister site, OnlineCertifiedMail.com allow users to easily create, send and track Certified Mail.

Both sites maintain tracking information and signature receipts for immediate access longer than the US Postal Service.

Sending Notices to Local Residents via Certified Mail

USPS Certified Mail

We are always fascinated to learn more about how our customers are using certified mail. Most of our large volume certified mail users are sending mail for legal reasons, but the spectrum of legal mailings is quite broad (lien letters, collection letters, class action lawsuits, medical device recalls, parking tickets, gym membership cancellations, etc.).

The other day we even created a certified letter mailing for a new bar in Chicago.

Did you know that (according to Chapter 4-60-130 of the Chicago Municipal Code): “If 50 or more legal voters reside within a distance of 500 feet from the licensed premises, the applicant is required to send written notice to all legal registered voters within 500 feet of the licensed premises. The applicant must send notices via certified mail with a return receipt requested.”

This is found in the Chicago Late Hour Liquor License Application Process.

So if by chance a similar city ordinance applies to you, keep LetterStream in mind. We mailed 100% of the letters the same day the bar owner gave us the go-ahead!

Send Mail Magically With The LetterStream API

LetterStream API Solution

Ever wish for an even faster way to send out USPS First-Class and Certified Mail?

Our website already saves countless hours of tedious work involved with sending mail, but you might be sending so much mail that you need an even faster way.

If so, the LetterStream API might be the solution you need. It allows you to automatically send thousands of pieces of mail instantly through a behind-the-scenes connection to LetterStream computer systems. Most APIs require programmers to implement them, and ours is no different in that regard, but some of our clients have implemented it in just a few days.

Our API is being used by many different types of companies, including software companies, collection agencies, billing companies, etc. and even individuals who need to send a lot of mail quickly. It has access to many of the mailing products available on our website including postcards, first-class letters, invoices, statements, newsletters, checks and certified mail.

You can advertise your partnership with LetterStream or keep it quiet and price the mailings to your customer however you see fit; because with the API your users and customers can send real mail without even knowing about LetterStream.

To learn more, click here to get detailed information about our API, or simply contact us to get started.

Now where did I put that green card?

If you send Certified Mail, you know what sort of pain it is when the attorney asks for the green card (PS Form 3811) and it can’t be found.

green card - certified mail receipt

I know, I know….we all like to put our highest paid employees on the task of filing the green cards so they are always where they need to be. Well, ok…..that’s not exactly true. In reality, they stack up on the receptionist’s desk, then they get moved to the mail room, then they may make it back to the collections department, with each department attempting to file a few whenever they get an idle moment.

Sound familiar?

Wish there was a better way? 

Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t need to worry about hanging on to those pesky green cards? Instead, what if the green cards were electronically delivered to us with the name and address of the recipient and the signature of the person who received the certified letter. Then, what if the signature was instantly and accurately filed, just the way we like.

While we are dreaming, let’s make it one better. What if, when the green card is needed — even if it’s years down the road —  all we need to do is type in the name or the address of the person who was sent the letter and we’d immediately see the certified letter, the tracking information and the signature, all available to be printed and handed over to the person who needs it. Now that would be ideal!

And it would also be an explanation of how our Certified Mail process works.

Don’t file green cards, use LetterStream.