Outsourcing outbound mail operations has been a topic of discussion for decades at companies that produce their own mail. The popularity of outsourcing swings one way or the other, but never in recent times have there been more reasons for companies to consider shuttering their in-plant mail operations than right now.

1. Pandemic-influenced de-centralization of office employees — work-from-home or hybrid work models.

2. "Great Resignation" staffing issues — People leaving unsatisfying jobs in large numbers.

3. Aging of workforce — Many experienced mail professionals are nearing retirement.

4. Higher postage costs plus lower postal delivery standards.

5. Likelihood of more frequent and steeper postage rate increases over the next several years.

6. Continued migration towards paperless communications.

If your company is a mail service provider, this confluence of conditions might be good news. Companies that have resisted your efforts to hand their mailing operations over to outside vendors could be ready to make the change. If you work in the internal mailing operation department of one of those companies, though, things may not seem so rosy.

Current trends and events may accelerate the outsource/insource decision, but the reasons a company may want to get themselves out of the mailing business haven't really changed. Let’s look at some areas a company should evaluate as they consider such an adjustment.

Understand the Process

Before anyone makes a list of pros and cons about outsourcing mail, one must be familiar with how the company produces mail. Start with the workflows that generate the documents entering the mail center to be folded, inserted, and mailed and be sure to understand the complete journey for customer messaging. Documentation may not always be current, so it is best to observe the processes as they happen.

Where and when are the documents printed? How are the pages composed? What regulations govern the content, format, or timing of the mailed communications? How does the mail center coordinate with other internal departments? What about data security and privacy concerns?

If your mailing operation is producing unsatisfactory results or seems too costly, the actual causes may exist outside the mail center. In this case, outsourcing the mailing operation won’t necessarily fix the problems. It could even make them worse. A thorough analysis of the document workflow is essential.

Identify the Pain Points

What is wrong with the corporate mail operation? Is mail going out late? Is mail piece quality a problem? Mail deliverability? Wasted time or money? High employee turnover?

Clarity about the problems with the mail operation is essential when evaluating alternate solutions. Then you can ask specific questions of mail outsource service vendors and design a plan to address the current shortcomings.

Volumes and Schedules

Businesses that established their inhouse mail operations years ago probably sized them to handle the highest mail volumes that occurred at peak times throughout the year. As customer communication preferences changed, they may be left with equipment that far exceeds present demand.

If your mailing operation’s capacity consistently exceeds your demands, you may be paying for processing power you no longer need. Sending the mail outside the organization may be preferable to paying for equipment leases and service contracts for under-used equipment.

Need Upgrades

If the hardware and software used to process your mail is nearing end-of-life or provides insufficient features relevant to today’s requirements, it may be a good time to consider outsourcing your mail processing operation.

Mail service providers are experts in the field and invest in the latest resources to meet the demands of their clients and to compete in the marketplace. Outsourcing to gain access to new functionality is an attractive motivation for turning an internal operation over to mail professionals.

Business Continuity

As we learned in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions in business operations are not limited to natural disasters like fires, floods, and wind damage. How would your business be affected if your mail center was unable to process the mail for an extended period?

Mail service providers maintain disaster recovery plans that often feature geographically dispersed sites that can continue to process their customers’ mail in the case of unusually disruptive circumstances.

Benefits of Disbanding the Mail Operation

If your organization did not support inhouse mail production, would you reclaim valuable space needed for some other purpose? Could you terminate a lease on a building or free up warehouse space?

Depending on the situation, such benefits can outweigh the primary objective for most outsourcing projects — saving money. Even if outsourcing mail costs about the same as in-house production, the ability to re-purpose mail center employees or use space more efficiently can be a factor in favor of an outsourcing decision.

Attitudes toward work, customer expectations, and rapidly evolving technologies are changing the way companies do business. All these trends have accelerated because of COVID-19. I am unsurprised that companies in many industries are renewing their interest in assessing how they handle customer communications through the mail. This is a good time for mail service providers and in-plant mail operations to re-evaluate their current operations and make the adjustments necessary to meet today’s business needs.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps his clients meet the challenges they encounter in document operations and creates informational content for vendors and service providers in the document industry. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, send a connection request on LinkedIn, or contact Mike directly at mporter@printmailconsultants.com.

This article originally appeared in the January/February, 2022 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.