Here’s a tip about complying with rules regarding customer documents: Read the regulations.

Below are real-life cases where companies were surprised to find they’d been wasting money for years on document production and distribution. Assumptions about compliance, sometimes handed down from one employee to another for years, turned out to be inaccurate – and costly.

Does it have to look like this?

I once worked with a client who had been creating documents for years in a certain format because they believed they were obliged to do so. As it turned out, the guidelines they had been following only applied to one document required by the state regulators, not all regulated documents. After researching the actual rules we made changes that cut their document production and distribution costs in half. Annual postage savings alone exceeded $100,000. They were happy we checked.

We don’t have to print those anymore?

At another company, the regulations changed but nobody noticed. The old rules required companies to print and mail an expensive booklet, but the regulating authority had updated the statutes, allowing an electronic version. Once they realized the new guidelines, the company only produced printed booklets on-demand for customers who requested them. They reduced their waste on this product to zero. Plus, converting to electronic distribution complemented the company’s objectives to migrate more customers to paperless billing. The booklet was available via the same online portal they would use to view and pay their bills.

But we’ve always done it this way…

State regulations required companies to provide current versions of certain documents to every customer at least once every twelve months. The company had always addressed this requirement by spending an entire month every summer mailing the documents to every customer on file. It was an expensive undertaking. They had to outsource much of the work because of the overwhelming volume.

Upon closer examination, we discovered the rules did not force companies to message all customers simultaneously, only that each customer be notified at least once a year. The company was already sending copies of the regulated documents to new customers when they signed up. They also sent them to any customer renewing their annual plan. By suppressing all the customers who had received the regulatory notices within the last twelve months, this company trimmed two-thirds of the volume from an expensive and disruptive annual project.

No one likes to wade through boring and confusing legislative language but it could be worth the pain. It certainly was for the companies mentioned here. Reviewing all the regulations pertaining to customer communications can reveal minor wording changes, such as removal of the word “printed”, which open the door to previously unexploited alternatives. This simple exercise can make a big difference in how companies comply with the law without spending more money than necessary.

Mike Porter is President of Print/Mail Consultants. He helps his clients get the most from their document print and mail centers and prepare strategies for the future. Visit and sign up for his free newsletters written especially for document industry professionals or follow on Twitter @PMCmike.