As I am writing this article, we are at the peak of the Covid-19 epidemic and most people have been working remotely for at least a month, without a current end in sight. My days are filled with meetings in the same ways that they were prior to the crisis and our clients are just as engaged, only from a remote setting. I think we all intuitively know that life will never go back to the same that it was for the following two reasons:
1. Even when this is under control, people will rethink the way they interact in public.
2. People can be effective working from home, and many will really like it!
Companies will see the benefits of remote workers including lower real estate costs, reduced commuting times, and improved morale. With this change, organizations will need improved mailing and shipping tools to support this new increasingly remote dynamic.
In this article, we will look at the most current mailing and shipping solutions that support remote workers. All of them have these core benefits:
· The ability to access information electronically through the cloud.
· The ability to send mail and packages from any computer.
· Control over where items print and or what way the recipient receives the information (print, email, fax, text).
· Control incoming mail, including how to electronically route to the right department and recipient.
· Simple to implement and maintain with limited to no IT resources required.
The best part of all these solutions is they save money, whether this is from postage, equipment, labor or general efficiency.
PC postage systems allow you to print postage and stamps from any computer with an internet connection and a local (or network) printer. They will print 4x6 shipping labels onto either regular paper (to be taped to the item or put into a labelope) or on labels that can be purchased through any office supply store. When printing postage stamps, you can either print directly onto your envelope, or purchase blank sheets of stamps from the PC postage providers, which can be loaded into your printer (this is the most common). There are custom label printers that can be ordered, but they are not required.
This is the fastest growth segment of the mailing industry because of the following:
· Inexpensive compared to postage meters, and typical costs range from $10-30 per month.
· Cloud-based and can be accessed from any device. This means it will work from home, while travelling, and in locations without other metering technology.
· Easy to deploy and use; within a week you can receive your login credentials, a scale, and starter labels. There are simple online tutorials to get you started quickly.
· Visibility of all history and package tracking statuses.
· Significant postage savings. As you can see from the chart below, the USPS provides extra discounts because the package level detail is being submitted electronically. It is worth noting that some newer postage meters may come with a PC postage subscription to get these rates.
· Some systems have multiple carrier options to process UPS/FedEx
Enterprise PC Postage
Enterprise PC postage is the same as standard PC postage with the main difference being that multiple locations can be controlled under a central administration license. This offers the following benefits:
· Simplicity of onboarding new users
· Reporting on all location and user activities from a central dashboard
· Managing billing for subscriptions, supplies, and postage
· Controlling user access (this includes removing users who are no longer active)
· Single sign-on; some systems have this option to link to an active directory to eliminate password management.
If you have more than 10 locations using PC postage, we recommend having them controlled through an enterprise license.
Multi-Carrier Enterprise Mail and Shipping
The main difference here versus Enterprise PC postage is these systems offer more robust rate shopping tools to optimize your carrier spends (UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL etc.) across the enterprise. They will let you see the different cost choices by time of expected delivery, allowing your users to make the best choices for every item. They also allow customized rules to be built to control what users see, how you want them to send, and to be able to report on what happened.
Most organizations rely on free carrier tools like UPS CampusShip or FedEx.com, but the issue is that the end user only sees the options from that carrier. It will also not easily show the least expensive options like Ground Services in the same screens as the more expensive overnight choices. These multi-carrier enterprise systems can put all carriers and service levels in one place to select the most economical options. Some platforms give the options to print USPS stamps that can further reduce costs. The question that needs to be asked is, does every item have to go at $5-10 overnight service when a $.50 stamp might be sufficient? The issue for most home office users is that they do not have the ability to print a USPS stamp, so they use the free, carrier-provided tools that default to these more expensive options.
It is not efficient for home office users to print larger mail jobs because they will not have the proper equipment, supplies, and staffing to get them out the door effectively. Organizations will need to be able to send documents to areas with the proper infrastructure. There have been tremendous developments in the technology to do this efficiently and at lower costs. There are two main ways this can be done:
Onsite Production Facilities – There is software in place that can create a virtual print driver on the desktop where the job can be created. It can then be sent to a location inside your organization that has the staff, equipment, and support to get the pieces out in a more efficient and lower cost method. This eliminates the need to have mailing equipment scattered throughout your locations when there can be trained staff and higher-level automated solutions in a central location more suited to process this mail.
Sent to a Professional Mail Service Provider – Using a similar virtual print driver, the same job could be sent to a third-party company that specializes in this type of work. They will have the infrastructure in place to process your mailings quickly and at the lowest postage costs.
Regardless of which model is chosen, there are significant benefits in having mail produced in a central environment.
· Postage discounts – As you can see in the chart below, moving mail from single piece rates to automation with barcodes provides huge savings.
· Flexibility with output – Through the newest tools, they give the flexibility on how the item is sent. This can include paper, or electronic client delivery as an email, fax, or text.
· Mail moves faster from central automated processes.
· Mail tracking capabilities.
· Documents are archived for retrieval in a central repository.
Incoming Digital Mail
If people are working remotely, how are they going to receive incoming mail that could be crucial for them doing their job? There are new tools around digital mail that can make this easy and more efficient even when not in quarantine.
The basic premise on how this works is that as mail comes in, it is scanned into a software package that can electronically route the documents to where they need to go. It does this by OCR technology that can transpose the printed document to text that can now be processed in a more efficient manner.
In most organizations, 80% of the mail is made up of consistent items going to specific departments. Examples could be payments, invoices, or responses to marketing offers. In a paper-based method, someone manually sorts these pieces to the departments, they are transported on a cart to that area, and then the information is key-entered into a system to document their receipt. How does this work when a percentage of your staff is working remotely?
A digital mail system will scan these items in at the time they are received. Because the document has been converted from paper to text, keywords are searched that automatically route the electronic document to the right department. Interfaces can be developed to get this information into the system or remote workers can access the electronic files to perform their workflows.
For the other 20% of miscellaneous content, the end user can get an email showing them an image of the document with a way to let the system know what needs to happen to the printed item. This allows faster responses and a way for remote workers to access the information. Also, advertising mail can be automatically disposed.
Digital Mail Creates Savings from the Following:
· Reduces the delivery costs of the physical pieces of mail.
· Faster response to incoming items, such as customer requests for information.
· Visibility to data and analytics on what is being received for improved tracking.
· Elimination of data entry of information because the data can be received electronically. Returned mail would be an example. Instead of needing to key in all of the items that the USPS sends back as “Undeliverable as Addressed,” the system can convert these addresses into an electronic file that can be sent to a specific area where addresses can be checked and updated.
There are two core models for implementing this solution.
· Buy the scanners and software and run with existing staff.
· Hire professional firms who specialize in this to manage the daily incoming mail operations either from a central facility or onsite at your offices.
The key to all these tools is they support your staff that is working remotely. They provide better access to information, faster ways to send, at lower costs and with enterprise level visibility. They can all be implemented quickly and with limited IT involvement. The good news is that this new virtual reality of home office workers can now have better tools to run your mailing and shipping functions more efficiently.
Adam Lewenberg, CMDSS, MDC, President of Postal Advocate Inc., runs the largest Mail Audit and Recovery firm in the United States and Canada. They manage the biggest mail equipment fleet in the world and their mission is to help organizations with multi-locations reduce mail and parcel related expenses, recover lost postage funds, and simplify visibility and oversight. Since 2013, they have helped their clients save an average of 58% and over $61 million on equipment, presort, avoidable fees, and lost postage. He can be reached at 617.372.6853 or firstname.lastname@example.org