Editor's Note: This piece originally appeared in our sister publication, DOCUMENT Strategy Media. We thought our Mailing Systems Technology readers would find it useful, as well.
What is the value of a piece of mail? A large insurance company or healthcare provider that depends on mail campaigns for customer transactions and marketing initiatives might estimate the cost of a simple direct mail piece at less than 50 cents. Even counting the cost of paper, printing, postage, machine maintenance, and related facility expenses, it’s not a bank-breaker. However, when an enterprise sends out a large mailing — whether from marketing, billing, or claims — and it receives a portion of it back as returned mail, the cost of non-delivery can be substantial.
Not only does each piece of returned mail represent a loss of the original 50 cents, but it also immediately requires an additional $1.25 to $1.50 to scan the address, fix the associated databases, and remail it. For a large enterprise that receives an average of 1,000 pieces of returned mail a day, this expense can easily add up to more than $250,000 a year.
If this isn’t enough, a piece of returned mail also represents a missed opportunity to attract a potential new customer or communicate important information to an existing one. Returned transactional mail —including contracts, bills, or payment reminders—can result in a loss of revenue, increased administrative costs, and a poor customer experience.
For many large enterprises, the job of processing returned mail and correcting addresses in source databases is not insignificant. In fact, business operations leaders have long sought the benefits of outsourcing and shared services centers to eliminate the duplication of effort, reduce costs, and enhance speed, accuracy, and auditability of these important back-office processes.
Looking at Robotic Process Automation
In the shared services center of a large insurance company, for example, RPA is being used to filter returned mail and designate it as either a duplicate, addressed to a deceased person, or in need of an address change. It then automatically updates the information in the dozen or so related administrative systems and processes a piece of mail to the correct address. Filtering these items allows employees to focus on the work items that truly require address verification, and cleansing the data means that the company can get mail to its customers in two days instead of 30. Like so many improvements to back-office processes, streamlining those around returned mail has a multiplier effect: The more quickly the company can update correct information across its related systems, the less risk it faces for additional rounds of returned mail.
While RPA bots can run these processes 24 hours a day and do the job of full-time human equivalents at a reduced cost (for an average of $5,000 per robot), business operations leaders are finding other upsides equally—or even more—compelling. When employees, who understand the intricacies of back-office processes, work alongside RPA bots, they are freed from the repetitive and mundane work of sorting address changes and cutting and pasting data from one system to another, turning instead to the strategic work that contributes to continuous improvement and operational gains down the road.
4 Tips to Leverage RPADespite these compelling benefits for document management, RPA is not a plug-and-play deployment. To realize the full potential of this new technology, business operations leaders should keep in mind these important points:
1. Engage early with information technology (IT).
2. Design an RPA operating and technology model that fits the company.
3. Focus on core end-to-end business processes.
4. Identify and evaluate technical integration challenges before deployment.
Of course, Rome was not built in a day, and automating returned mail and other business processes in the shared services center of a large enterprise will not be either. By carefully designing an RPA operating and technology model before deployment, business operations leaders will avoid the pitfalls common with the adoption of emerging technologies and get the most out of their investment.