Efficient Mail Center Workflows: 8 Overlooked Things that Could Be…

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Efficient Mail Center Workflows: 8 Overlooked Things that Could Be…

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by Peter Bohjalian

While sometimes an operational afterthought, mail centers are actually a crucial component of any enterprise. Across industries, they serve as a way to communicate with customers, patients, members, or even your own employees. When running smoothly, they are a huge organizational boon – in addition to processing incoming office mail, they distribute monthly client account statements and send transactional notices which all aid with revenue cycle collections, while also contributing in areas of direct marketing, compliance and more.


If the mail center is not run in an optimized, best-practice fashion that aligns with the overall corporate strategy, it can quickly become a huge drain on process efficiency as well as budgetary allocations and collections.


Depending on company size and correspondence volume, at least 2 to 2.5% of all mail is either misplaced or subjected to an in-house delivery delay, and can reach as high as 3% for any company that has more than one site. These percentages may sound low, however, in terms of lost potential business, they highlight a serious problem. For a company receiving only 100 pieces of mail per day, about 600 are either delayed or misplaced annually. If just 10% of these mail pieces are customer- or revenue-cycle-related, the enterprise will miss 60 opportunities for potential revenue, contracts, payments, customer inquiries, and will see a decrease in overall satisfaction with the customer experience. 

When the above example is scaled to be in-line with the in- and outbound-mail volumes typically seen at a national transactional mailer like a large insurance company, credit card company, or bank; the delayed or lost revenue can be damaging. And that is just one operational pain point overlooked mailroom inefficiencies can create. Read on for seven areas to re-focus or alter operations in accordance with best-practices to help make sure that your mail center is running in an optimized manner.


1. Not Pre-Sorting: Pre-sorting mail is the process of handing off mail to the postal service in a fashion that makes their jobs easier, as it is already sorted by zip code, and earns the mailer a discount. Many operations pair with a postal outsourcer who can use automated, high-speed sorting machinery to sort mail according to its final destination zip code. Once these pieces are presented to the USPS, the mailer earns a substantial discount, as they have taken an amount of work off of the USPS’s hands, and completed it themselves. While a mailer must have at least 150 pieces of outbound mail per day to qualify for such discounts, earning these savings is an essential for high volume mailers. 


2. Not Utilizing Barcoding: Today, there is high-volume mailing equipment that can sort, fold, and insert tens of thousands of mail pieces per day. How is this possible? With sophisticated barcoding technologies integrated within the workflows and equipment themselves. Barcoding makes automatic inserters accurate and error-free, helping ensure document security and accuracy. This type of barcoding also helps with pre-sorting processes, which can make earning the aforementioned postal discounts easier. 


3. Not Utilizing Automation: While many of the costs associated with mailing occur on the outbound side, automation can help control all of the costs of mail on the inbound side. There are software solutions available today that automate the tracking of each inbound mail piece; from receipt, all the way to delivery confirmation, providing an end-to-end systematic approach to mail delivery that simply isn’t possible when doing everything manually, and eliminating the 2.5% of inbound mail that can be mishandled in a non-optimized mail center. 


4. Not Taking Advantage of Mail Discounts Presorting for postal discounts is a relatively new concept, made possible by advancement in mail automation technology. As optical recognition technologies grow more accurate, and mail processing equipment grows even faster – even more substantial discounts are made possible. Traditionally, flat mail pieces like annual reports, benefits notices, marketing materials, and ANOCs required longer processing times, and thus, higher mailing costs. But through advanced automation and other mailing best-practices like combining Standard and Priority mail batches, discounts as much as 25% can be earned. 


5. No Insights or Reporting Capabilities: To improve a mail center operation, you must know where that operation stands in terms of efficiency in its current state. Without any type of analytical application to gather and analyze that type of data with, you won’t be armed with the right information to make those changes. There are a number of proprietary apps that along with the help of a managed service provider, can help you set benchmarks, and drill down deeply into the patterns of your mail center, helping unlock the highest possible operational efficiencies. 


6. Not Maintaining Accurate Mailing Databases: Your mail center can be humming along in a best-practice fashion, but if your address database is out of sorts, all of those efforts will be for naught. Nearly 13 million Americans move every year without filing a Change of Address form, marking return mail as the single most costly error a mail center can make. Money is lost on postage and materials; but also on man hours spent, lost or delayed revenue, or in regulated industries – large fines for not sending mail pieces within mandated time-frames. 


7. No Usage of Centralized Delivery Hubs: Mail volumes aren’t only on the rise on the outbound side – inbound operations are ballooning as well. To more efficiently and accurately process this influx of incoming mail, many business enterprises are implementing innovative, centralized mail delivery systems, like intelligent lockers, that open with a one-time-use code whenever someone has a package. This allows employees to retrieve packages themselves, as opposed to mailroom personnel making each and every delivery themselves. This aides not only with efficiency, but with chain of custody security, as well. 


8. Not Utilizing the Cloud: When the word ‘cloud’ is mentioned – people are intimidated. As applied in this context, there’s no need to over complicate things. By putting in place a straightforward, cloud-based data management system you’ll reduce your need for on-site servers. That creates increased workspace for the mail center, and also provides a built in disaster recovery plan as well; as storage of your operational data will be in a non-physical location.


Technology has integrated with and transformed essentially every aspect of our lives. But even then, traditional mail is more prominent than ever. By integrating innovative new technologies, and workflow best-practices into your mail center operations, you can transform that area of your enterprise as well. Making it into a true operational strength, as opposed to simply a cost-of-business expense.

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