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Computerized Certified Mailing System Latest Breakthrough by Little Rock Data Publisher

CERTIFIED MAIL. SOUNDS about as interesting as polyester and its place in history.

But to hear Glenn Petkovsek talk about it, there's a revolution going on in the world of certified mail, and his company, United Systems of Arkansas, is leading the charge.

Since it incorporated in 1989, United Systems of Arkansas, or USA, has grown to become the state's third-largest print brokerage. The Little Rock computer data publisher and distributor is on the verge of a major commercial explosion, thanks to an innovative approach to what is known generically as "accountable mail."

American companies transported 209 million pieces of certified mail last year at a cost of $362 million, according to the U.S. Postal Service.

Each piece of mail required typing or handwriting the address of the sender and the recipient at least twice, as well as the time-consuming chore of making sure the return receipt postcard is properly attached.

But just last month, USA introduced a product Petkovsek thinks is a viable alternative to the Postal Service's method.

The USA-Certified Mailer System combines a single-sheet perforated card with a modified letter envelope that eliminates the need to attach a return receipt postcard, often lost in the transport process.

The new envelope contains a pouch that allows for easy access to the receipt and protects the card from USPS automated equipment.

"It's going to set the standards," says Petkovsek, the inventor of the process.

He says the process is not only more reliable than the one used by thousands of banks, government agencies and law firms across the country, but far less costly.

The fact the new system does not have the bulky green return receipt exposed will assist the Postal Service in handling and guaranteeing a response, according to a Postal Service spokesman in Arkansas.

"It speeds up the automated processing," says Sam Bolin, allowing that any piece of mail weighing over one ounce must be hand processed, thus slowing down the transportation effort. "It will also reduce the likelihood of the piece coming off in the automated processing."

To send 25 pieces of certified mail through the U.S. Postal Service requires about two hours at a cost of $30.25, including materials and labor. The same 25 pieces of mail can be shipped via USA's system in 15 minutes at a cost of $9.75, Petkovsek says..

These facts have not gone unnoticed by some of the largest users of certified mail in the country.

For example, the Department of Justice had 100,000 pieces of certified mail it needed handled within 10 days' time. USA was able to complete the project within a week.

USA is currently in the process of sending out one million envelopes, each containing 12- to 15-page letters from the U.S. government -- more specifically, the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security and the Health Care Financing Administration.

The letters are going to employers across the country in an attempt by the three agencies to recoup some $850 million in misdirected Medicare payments.

The $1.5 million project was awarded to USA last year. It is expected to extend for four more years, over which time USA will track the certified mailings and send out follow-up pieces to companies not responding in a prescribed amount of time.

The documents will provide information to the agencies on employees' work histories as well as the insurance carriers used by them. They are being sent through certified mail to ensure that the employers, such as Ford Motor Co. and Coca-Cola USA, reply within 45 days.

Failure to respond could lead to fines of $1,000 per employee, as ordered by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989, although Petkovsek doubts that the federal agencies would need to levy the fines.

"They're really not interested in collecting the fines, they know it's a burden on these employers," Petkovsek says. "They just want the information."

Back to the Beginning

The history of USA can be traced back to a meager beginning, preceded by Petkovsek's experience as an independent sales contractor.

With the assistance of Tim Rooney, USA's data processing manager, Petkovsek and his small staff embarked on a trying journey into the field of computer data interfacing.

Some of USA's first clients, insurance giants such as Prudential Insurance Co. of America and Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, supplied the Little Rock firm with raw data on computer tapes. USA edited, corrected and collected the tapes for publication in directories.

The directories, which explained in detail the services offered by physicians in various parts of the country, were reduced to a size that could be mailed and then shipped to Medicare beneficiaries at substantial savings in postal fees.

"This got us on board, talking to people in the medical field nationwide," says Rooney, who estimates the medical directory market to be somewhere in the area of $2 million.

With four of the country's 47 Medicare carriers availing themselves of USA's product line, Petkovsek and Rooney began to expand their staff. There are now seven full-time staff members besides Petkovsek and Rooney.

The company also saw a need to expand its working quarters, eventually moving out of a 500-SF office in the Technology Center on South Main Street to a more spacious location on South Victory Street.

The USA certified mailing program was approved last month by the U.S. Postal Service and thus allows USA to advertise its potential to various clients nationwide.

It is just one of several projects Petkovsek and Rooney are undertaking. The team recently received a $250,000 contract to process and mail business tax information for the state and is handling license renewals for the state Game & Fish Commission.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:United Systems of Arkansas Inc.'s Certified Mailer System
Author:Taylor, Tim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Nov 16, 1992
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