QSL Management in the 21st Century
1st January 2021
The year 2020 was certainly a different time for DXing. With fewer DXpeditions you tuned the bands looking for the elusive ATNOs and band fills. FT8 continued to get traction and LoTW continues to garner new users.
Looking back, OQRS continues to be the tool of choice for DXpedition QSLing and automation now plays a big role in QSL card processing. As more of you become confident about the security of requesting your QSL cards using The Bespoke Online QSL Request System, our team have worked throughout the year to improve its functions to both DX’ers and DXpedition teams.
As ham radio continues its march into the 21st century, i.e., the integration of computers in and around the ham shack, electronic and cloud logging, LoTW, eQSL, Remote Ham Radio, remote personal stations, etc., so does technology enter the realm of QSL management and the postal system.
OQRS is a “service” and almost all DX-peditions have moved to OQRS, but even services have a cost. Automation drives productivity, by using an OQRS system that’s optimized for automation and cost reduction QSL managers become more efficient. QSL duties can easily be executed by just one person to do the work. Manual handling of incoming envelopes is labour intensive, wastes paper and is an environmentally bad idea. Thankfully very few people these days choose to request their QSL via post or bureau, instead they use the OQRS.
Donor Management: As the cost of DXpeditions rise, teams must find ways to cover their upfront costs. Many teams now recognize “early donors” with expedited QSLs, early LoTW, and other recognition methods. Our Bespoke Online QSL Request System is optimized to handle early recognition programs by accepting donor information from several different sources. This function is very important to most DXpeditions, as they often have a huge list of early donors seeking the automatic QSL card(s) and/or Express LoTW. By collating the donation data from PayPal or from direct user input, we can upload donor data directly into OQRS which populates the QSL direct, address and LoTW fields on OQRS for the QSOs for those donors. To do this manually for several thousand call signs would be a huge task, this way the OQRS and LoTW can be updated in seconds.
OQRS Configuration: DXpedition teams establish their own QSL policy, the QSL manager manages the process. Generally, each team will want something different, whether that be a varying cost of the QSL exchange or a variation of Direct, Bureau or LoTW combinations. This we do by providing configuration options for our OQRS system.
Express LoTW: Some DXpeditions often consider using the Express LoTW mode within our QSL request options. This does not replace other QSL methods, but does offer the DXer an early LoTW without receiving a QSL card. More and more DXers are asking for this option as the QSL card itself isn’t important to them. Our OQRS system processes Express LoTW requests daily and sends the Qs to LoTW. This option was added by request of the DX chasers not by the DXpeditions teams but both get something out of it.
Statistics: On hand for the QSL manager we also have an extensive Statistics page for each call sign. This can be provided upon request by the DXpedition for their analysis.
Batch Bureau ADIF Request: Many expeditions also ask us to provide early Buro QSLs to members of a Foundation or Radio Society in return for a large donation to the DXpedition. This is provided by a single “Standard ADIF” file from the Foundation which we can process as a “Batch Bureau ADIF Request” which adds the society to the “QSL Via” field and we can then print out the labels and send the final QSL cards direct to the Foundation HQ for distribution as a thank you for the donation.
SWL: Is still a very important part of Amateur Radio despite the migration of the broadcast stations on shortwave. A large number of SWL requests are received for every DXpedition and these are managed by email, once verified can be added to the OQRS using “Add New QSO” function on the ADMIN tools. The SWL QSL is then queued ready for the next label print run. I do now ask if you are a SWL please provide 3 consecutive QSO’s worked by the DX so that i can more easily verify your QSL. The integrity of the SWL program is important to me.
The advantages to the DXer to use OQRS should be obvious for all to see. You can be sure that all your QSO’s are safely in the log, accurately requested and processed by upstream systems.
Not in Log: Emails, emails and more emails are a huge challenge for QSL managers. It’s not unusual for a QSL manager to get tens of hundreds of e-mails about Not in Log or busted calls. Typically, the e-mails contain screenshots, log entries, or long explanations. It takes an incredible amount of time to sort through the e-mails and understand the issue.
Our Bespoke OQRS system provides you with the “Not in log” form. This form is sent to my work queue where I can investigate logging issues directly in OQRS. This saves me having to wade through endless lines of unwanted text, images and logs in the emails. I can fix the issue send a reply to the claimant and on to the next enquiry.
One request is allowed for the same station and for the same DXpedition log. The best practice is if not in log then work again or wait for the end of operation before completing and sending the log check request form.
Working with teams like the Perseverance DX Group (PDXG) has enabled me to guide my QSL management development to streamline the OQRS processes and make every process quicker, more accurate and secure.
Automation of the QSL process comes at a small cost of course so it is not free. Hiring professional programmers, hosting applications and server and software maintenance each come with a cost. I also invest in computer hardware, replace printers regularly, toner, card, envelopes, storage, and bureau expenses.
With automation of the QSL process and our seamless integration with the postal system we minimize expenses by using pre-sort, printed postage, and standard size envelopes.
As we’re seeing in our everyday life, electronic communications have greatly reduced the amount of paper we receive in the mail. Handling incoming QSL cards, non-standard envelopes, foreign currency and even IRCs actually adds cost and slows the process. I even receive “used” stamps (cancelled) which can never be reused. Our international mailing contract ensures that our teams get the very best postal rates.
When we receive a direct mailed request with insufficient return postage a decision will be made on the returned QSL. It might go direct at the DXpedition’s expense, or it might go back through the Buro. Each situation is reviewed and handled differently.
So, the march to seamless automation and the integration of disparate systems continues in your day-to-day life and in our world of QSL management.
Please contact me if you have any questions about our service or the Bespoke QSL Management System.