Although the mail center is the heart of most organizations, it often possesses the most antiquated equipment in the corporation. Most communication, with the exception of electronic mail, passes through the mail center, which must continue to meet deadlines regardless of staffing levels or technology.
It's the busiest time of the month; you are short-staffed, your mail center assistant calls in sick and you have to get a corporate press release and payroll checks distributed today not to mention sort the five tubs of daily incoming mail. Because no one else is familiar with mail center operations, it has always been difficult to use a temporary employee or a staff member from another department to help out in this situation but not any longer!
Now, there is new voice recognition sorting software technology making mail sorting as easy for a temporary employee or new staff member as it is for old pros at the company. It's simple to use and requires little or no training to be up and running or sorting mail in no time at all.
A Solution Was Needed
Many companies still use antiquated systems of binders with pages and pages of employee listings requiring constant flipping of pages to sort incoming mail. Others had developed their own computer databases to speed up searches, but still found the process too slow. Still others rely heavily upon the clerks to remember where everyone's mail slot is. The process of sorting incoming mail cried out for a better solution.
Voice recognition sorting systems are the answer. Speech recognition in computer software programs has become increasingly prevalent during the past few years. Speech recognition allows a user to dictate text directly to the computer, but it does not invoke a response on the computer's part. Voice recognition sorting software takes speech recognition one step further. The computer operator can now speak to the computer, and the computer responds back to the operator with the proper information.
Operator training is simple and set-up takes less than half an hour. The operator receives an overview of the system, then reads a few paragraphs of information into the microphone. The system stores pertinent voice information and speech patterns, including the rapidity of speech and accent. Once the operator completes these few recordings, the system is 98% to100% accurate in its responses.
A unit consists of one computer with a monitor and a cordless headset. An operator sorting mail simply speaks the name of the recipient into the mouthpiece on the headset, and the computer responds with the correct location for the item. No more cumbersome binders with endless pages of constantly changing employee listings or time consuming entries into a database to find the correct recipient for the mailpiece. An operator can also search for the correct mailstop/location by a person's title or department.
Not only do voice sort systems streamline operations, they also have a reporting option. The reporting mechanism provides reports for ongoing improvements in the mail center. Mail volume can be tracked to specific departments, busiest days of the week, month or year and even operator productivity rates.
The built-in functions can "tell" a user the correct pronunciation of a name typed into the computer. The operator types in a name, and the system uses phonetics to determine the most probable pronunciation.
Mystery Mail Solved
Mail arriving without a recipient's name on the envelope requires additional handling, including opening the item, writing the employee's name and information on the envelope and in some cases, noting why the mailpiece was opened. A voice recognition sorting system allows an operator to activate a mystery mail function for items received without a recipient's name or with incorrect information. When the operator speaks the employee's name (found on the enclosed correspondence) the system prints an alert label to be adhered to the item, which includes pertinent employee information, as well as an alert message: "This item was improperly addressed! Please notify sender for immediate delivery of future items!" This utility not only automates the handling of the mystery mail but also reduces the amount of future problem mail by alerting the recipient.
MCI Worldcom, one of the system's Beta test sites, felt so confident in the system, it continues to use the system for its mailing operations. "We implemented the system earlier this year and have seen a nearly 50% jump in our productivity!" says Alex Lopez, MCI mail center manager. Lopez's favorite components include the one-step process of updating the system database, especially compared to the former five-step method for updating five binders of continually changing employee listings. Additionally, the reporting and tracking options monitor the volume of mail sorting. "We can now hire temporary employees or pull staff members from other departments to assist during peak periods during the month keeping our productivity constant and our costs down," adds Lopez. Other companies utilizing the system include
The sorting of incoming mail has always been a unique challenge for mail centers. Voice recognition sort software offers a technological, state-of-the-art solution. It not only solves the mail slot location memory problem, but it offers solutions to peripheral problems.
Jim Spencer is vice president of Sales for SORT-IT. For more information on the product, company or the name of your local VAR, you can call 800-243-6275, fax 203-929-6084 or visit www.ascomhasler.com.