From family-owned print and mail shops, to large service bureaus, to publicly traded companies with in-house mail operations - everyone in our industry is adapting to a changing environment. Increasing cost pressures, privacy issues, regulation, emerging technologies and evolving customer preferences create daily challenges for mail operations.

To succeed in today's market, leading print and mail service providers are differentiating themselves by perfecting their strengths and adding new capabilities to diversify and grow revenue streams. They are harnessing technology and innovation and embracing the convergence of physical and digital communications to stay ahead of market changes, unlock new value for their customers, and develop new competitive advantages. They are becoming "world class."

When we talk about what it takes to be a world-class mail operation, our conversations focus on execution and improving business strategies to deliver better services, with greater accuracy and precision, faster, and more efficiently. Subsequently, we have identified a number of industry best practices. I've organized some of these best practices into four capability groupings that can provide the foundation for a world-class mail operation:


  • Operational Excellence;

  • Industry-Leading Compliance;

  • Higher-Value Communications; and

  • Omni-Channel Customer Engagement.


As you read on, please consider which groupings represent your "base capabilities," or core competencies. Think about what you can do to strengthen your business in these areas and then consider which of the remaining groupings you may be able to develop into a new competitive advantage. 


Let's take them one at a time.



Operational Excellence 

Optimizing productivity and operational excellence


To achieve operational excellence you must have an intense focus on productivity- speed, accuracy and precision; decreasing operational expenses while increasing quality and value for your customers. On top of that, you must meet or exceed your commitments to your customers every time. 


Establishing an automated workflow and using real-time data to measure productivity are the first steps. Leveraging the insights from that data to reduce or eliminate non-productive downtime and deliver cost savings to your customers is where it pays off.


Postal optimization is also vital, as postage remains the single biggest cost associated with physical communications. Streamline your print/insert/sort process to uncover postal savings.


To achieve Operational Excellence, consider these world-class best practices

  • Aligned, end-to-end process that delivers customer value, empowers and engages your employees, eliminates waste, and manages postage to create a world-class cost structure

  • Seamless, efficient onboarding of customers and projects and a common workflow that optimizes job setup time

  • Variable data print, enabling the elimination of preprinted envelopes and forms and allowing for the consolidation of smaller jobs

  • Hardware, software and advanced presort services leveraged to reduce postal costs

  • Advanced factory management capabilities with multi-site operational transparency

  • Superior quote accuracy, enabling competitive bidding

  • Formalized business disaster and recovery planning

  • Productivity improved with an assessment from an outside consultant


Industry-Leading Compliance

Appropriate risk management and industry-leading compliance


Here is an area where the world has changed. Privacy and security issues paired with financial accounting reforms have led to increased regulations and compliance requirements. Mail operations that support regulated industries have an important role to play in helping clients stay compliant. In-house mail operations have no choice but to execute this function flawlessly. But while compliance is often viewed as a challenge to productivity and revenue, some mail service providers are beginning to see it as an opportunity. By learning to manage this challenge accurately and efficiently, they can create a significant competitive advantage and new business opportunities.


Physical and digital technologies must be aligned to protect consumers and their personally identifiable information. Integrated solutions that streamline regulatory compliance can help. For example, clients benefit from the ability to track a mail piece from when the data record was created through printing, inserting and sorting and on into the postal system. This allows you to meet customer expectations and provides an audit trail.


To achieve Industry-leading Compliance, consider these world-class best practices

  • Print stream and Mail Run Data File access protection; file-based processing

  • Advanced output tracking and data integrity, including  piece-level tracking, duplex integrity, and elimination of double-stuffs and errors

  • Print verification ensuring barcode quality; final mail piece thickness verification

  • Proper handling of outsorts, mutilations and rejects-automatic shred and reprint, "touch and toss" processing

  • Mail piece chain of custody-traceability from creation through production and presort to postal service

  • Data quality and enrichment, including address cleansing and matching to "do not send" databases


Higher-Value Communications 

Expansion of offers and value propositions for higher-value communications


Making mail more personalized, colorful, interactive and engaging can drive higher response rates and deliver greater R.O.I. Colorful print mail can produce open rates that are significantly higher than email and new solutions are making the path to high-quality color printing more cost effective than ever before.


Monthly bills and statements can be a valuable marketing resource. Service providers and in-house shops that add relevant, revenue-generating cross-sell offers to statements often double response rates. And adding colorful, relevant information to the outside of the envelope can double open rates.


These innovations give transactional communications the potential to move from a cost-driver to a revenue-producer. By employing high-quality, dynamic color printing, you can add value to every mail piece that helps accelerate payments and improve cash flow. By working with your clients' data centers, you can also add targeted cross-sell opportunities and messaging that increases customer engagement and helps reduce expensive call center volumes.


To deliver Higher-Value Communications, consider these world-class best practices

  • Dynamic personalized messaging for email, video and standard mail communications

  • Real-time document creation with input from multiple stakeholders

  • Flexible production to assemble information personalized by recipient

  • Advanced inkjet color with variable data printing for impactful communications that extend marketing reach

  • Analytics to make communications more relevant

  • Creative content and marketing capabilities

  • Automated parcel sorting solutions, a logical extension of fulfillment capabilities




Thoughtful omni-channel customer engagement

The pervasive use of mobile and social technology has created a new breed of extraordinarily empowered consumers. With the explosion of channels and devices, consumer expectations for a seamless, engaging and relevant user experience across all channels has also grown.


Focusing on customers and how they are engaged throughout the customer journey is a strategic imperative. Customers today have more power to choose how they interact with you. They may want their statements delivered through the mail, so they have a record of it. They may also want to pay bills via electronic funds transfer, to shop or search for information online, and to talk to a live customer service representative when they have a problem. And their preferences change on a regular basis.


To meet these expectations, successful enterprises are deploying integrated customer engagement, information management and location intelligence solutions that bridge the gap between digital and physical channels. Effective omni-channel interaction relies on the ability to create consistent customer engagement across all channels and at every touch point from the store front, to the mailbox, to the mobile phone.


This is where seamless physical and digital integration really matters. Anchoring mobile, web and video-based communications with an effective mail piece creates ever greater opportunities for customer engagement. Add a QR code that customers can swipe with a smartphone to download a coupon, for example. Or link to a personalized interactive video that uses real-time data to highlight an upsell opportunity.


To deliver Omni-channel Customer Engagement, consider these world-class best practices

  • An incremental strategy that includes physical, digital, inbound and outbound

  • Digital enrichment and engagement, including personal interactive video, e-presentment and payment

  • Mobile integration, including QR codes and near field communications

  • Advanced data services integrated into client systems: analytics, archive and retrieval


    These four capability groups and their associated best practices give you a sense of the tools and processes world-class mail operations are implementing to respond to changing consumer preferences and new market trends. The best of these companies are harnessing technology and innovation and embracing the convergence of physical and digital communications to create new competitive advantages for themselves and their customers.


    Jason Dies is president, Pitney Bowes Document Messaging Technologies. For more information visit