Issue Date: August 2012 e-news, Posted On: 8/3/2012
Hidden Opportunities – Correspondence Mail By Mike Porter, President, Print/Mail Consultants
In-house mail center managers spend most of their time handling the big jobs. It might be bills, statements, direct mail marketing, notices, etc. They've established schedules, procedures, and quality controls for these jobs. Excess cost has been driven from this efficiently-running work and the mail generally qualifies for the best possible postage rates.
And then there is correspondence. These are letters or other documents that are typically generated by administrative assistants or staff members over a wide range of internal departments. In a lot of companies, there are no standardized automated correspondence systems. Microsoft Word or some other general-purpose program is commonly used in different ways by different departments. And they produce mail that needlessly increases the cost to communicate with customers.
In house mail centers will receive batches of envelopes dropped off by the admins or picked up by interoffice couriers. The work isn't really scheduled, the volume varies greatly, and there is no consistency in format. Processing this type of mail can eat up a lot of time at the end of the work day when the mail center is scrambling to get all the high volume production mail done before the cutoff times for the presort bureau or delivery to the Post Office.
With a little more attention from in-house document professionals, correspondence mail can represent an opportunity to lower costs and improve quality. There are definite benefits to be achieved. But it takes some action on the part of the mail center to learn more about how this mail is created and to educate individual departments about alternative approaches.
Listed below are just some of the conditions we've seen at client sites we've visited. It is not uncommon for us to uncover some de-centralized mail generation processes that were implemented by departments seeking to solve their own customer communication solutions - without the help of mail professionals. Investigating this mail can lead to some astonishing discoveries.
Some common departmental correspondence examples: Closed-face envelopes and labels – Instead of using a window envelope that is purchased by the pallet full at volume discount prices, departments sometimes use low-volume closed-face envelopes and purchase mailing labels via office supply purchase orders. In addition to higher material costs, there are extra manual steps required to print the labels, match to the letters, fold, and insert.
Manual copy and paste – All the staff members know how to use an existing letter that is similar to the one they want to create as the basis for a new letter. The trouble with this method is that sometimes customer-specific information does not get replaced. Or grammatical errors occur as a result of combining paragraphs from different sources. Letters such as these may not follow corporate communication guidelines. Mailing out correspondence with errors can generate customer service calls for clarification, making these very expensive documents.
Low volume business reply/permits – Unless they are centrally controlled, business reply permits can multiply like rabbits. Departments will set up their own permits and order their own envelopes, resulting in a confusing set of incoming mail, low-volume envelope orders, and excess annual permit fees. Rogue mailing permits for outbound mail also have a tendency to pop up if departments are allowed to create their own solutions.
High printing costs – The default mode on most desktop or departmental printers is simplex. Many of the devices don't even have a duplex printing capability. As a result, most multi-page correspondence uses more paper than necessary. Consumables and maintenance on these low-volume printers is much higher than the high-volume devices that may be sitting idle in the centralized print center. So the cost-per letter to print the correspondence is much higher than documents created in a centralized environment.
Postage and deliverability – Addresses that appear on correspondence that is generated by individual departments may not have originated from a corporate database that is periodically processed through NCOA, updated via ACS, or features standardized addresses. Deliverability problems are particularly prevalent among documents related to inactive accounts or customer win-back campaigns where there has been no recent contact with the customer. Many mail centers don't even bother trying to pre-sort correspondence mail, so they pay single-piece rates instead of qualifying for discounted postage. By the way, correspondence mail comes to the mail center in random sequence, so mail center employees frequently place each piece on a scale individually to determine the weight and postage. Handling costs are high on this type of mail.
There are dozens of other circumstances where department-created mail might be improved. By learning more about correspondence mail, in-house mail center managers may find ways to reduce costs, improve quality, and add volume to printing and inserting assets that may have excess capacity. It is worth a look!
Mike Porter is President of Print/Mail Consultants, an independent consulting firm that helps companies nationwide be more productive, adapt to changing requirements, and lower costs in their document operations. For more ideas about how to drive costs from your document operations, connect with Mike directly at email@example.com. Or visit www.printmailconsultants.com and sign up for Practical Stuff – the free newsletter dedicated to document operations.
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