Universities build state-of-the-art research facilities and top-of-the-line athletic training complexes. Upgrading the mail center is rarely on their investment list though. Inter and intra-campus mail delivery does not attract highly recruited students or research grants, so understandably, mail services do not get the same budget allocations as plans for a new weight room. Nevertheless, educational institutions must take the importance of the mail into account. A campus mail center handles all the incoming and outbound communications between the college and its alums, donors, students, staff, and faculty. Along with email and telephone calls, the mail facility is a primary conduit to the outside world. The difference is that when an official, perhaps direction-changing document arrives, it often comes through the mail center. Without efficient and secure mail operations, an educational institution could miss opportunities to apply for grants or secure an endowment. Operating university mailrooms with equipment no longer suited for the job is a risk. It is also unnecessary. Affordable replacement technology is available. The College Campus Mail Center Model Has Changed Change is difficult in any organization, including within the university mail center. Barriers to change include employee resistance, ambiguity surrounding the benefits of change, and inadequate resources or equipment to implement the proposed improvements.Most campus mail center designs, policies, and processes are 50 years old. Mail workflows today are dramatically different and not supported by legacy methodology. Workflows have changed because of new technology, improving traditional methods, and accountability requirements. University mail centers must accommodate the transformation of the traditional mail stream. Transactional and social mail has declined rapidly while package volumes have grown exponentially. Higher education mail centers will reinvent themselves and embrace new technologies, including electronic mail delivery and management solutions. The “Mail Services” sign on the building will soon give way to the “Parcel, Printing, and Mail Service Center” or a similar description. The evolved mail room will distribute mail and packages to the campus community and offer outbound shipping and printing services. Campus Delivery is Now Campus Pickup Carriers, including the Postal Service, rarely deliver directly to campus locations. The possible exception is overnight and accountable items. The mail center is there to connect students and faculty with their items. Traditional campus mail systems collected mail and packages at a central site and distributed them campus-wide, including dorms, where mail may be sorted into personal mailboxes. A parcel shipment is kept behind the desk in a dormitory until the resident retrieves it. The chain of custody is lax at best. A different type of centralized approach is gaining traction nationwide. Today, carriers deliver to one building: the mail center. Students and staff receive an email or text to pick up their items. This workflow provides a tighter, more accountable chain of custody. The Mail Center Challenge The challenge for college mail centers is optimizing floor space while maintaining prompt notification of package or mail arrival. Like the USPS, a college mail center’s volume has shifted from letters to packages. Between 2009 and 2018, First Class Mail volume declined 31%, Marketing Mail volume declined 6%, while shipping and parcel volume increased 100%.1 That number is pre-COVID. Package volumes overwhelmed postal processing centers during the pandemic. Packages take up space and need manual handling. Knowing that mail is not going away anytime soon, how can colleges reduce mail's footprint to make room for boxes? The Mail Center Solution: The Tritek Oasis Inbound Mail Processing System Tritek’s Rule Editor software applies business rules to inbound mail. The editor determines which mail to open and scan. Some envelopes are only externally examined. The software directs envelopes and catalogs to bins for pickup. The mail processing hardware feeds the document, scans the front and back, opens the envelope, and gathers mail into collection bins. The Oasis Processing System helps campus mail centers overcome space and staffing constraints and provides notification in a safe and secure environment. For decades, Tritek has engineered patented, field-proven mailroom automation and document imaging solutions to improve productivity and mailroom efficiency for college campuses nationwide. The company understands the challenges faced by university mail center managers. Tritek’s expanding menu of mail services includes biohazard screening, digital email delivery, database management, returned mail processing, inbound mail, presorted mail, and parcel processing. Their clients include Fortune 500 companies, government, educational institutions, financial services, healthcare, insurance, and fulfillment. 1 https://www.cato.org/cato-journal/fall-2019/restructuring-us-postal-service#usps-s-predicament
When companies consider customer experience (CX) initiatives, they rarely focus on postal mail. Websites, mobile apps, and chatbots get the most attention. But for most companies, communication through the mail is still a vital component of the overall customer relationship. Today we will consider how efficient outbound mail processing, inbound processing, and returned mail processing affect the total customer experience. Customer Engagement Customer engagement is how an organization communicates and interacts with its customers or constituents. Interactions occur through a variety of channels as a way to build that relationship. Robust customer engagement means: High rates of customer retention Increases in sales revenue Improved brand loyalty and trust Growth in brand awareness Memorable customer experiences Amplified customer feedback and insight Authentic customer engagement requires a strategy based on your customer’s wants, needs, and communication preferences. Direct Mail as Part of the Customer Experience Marketers are increasingly adding direct mail to their media mix, as mail is far more effective than electronic media for communicating with customers and prospects. A recent survey showed that 84 percent1 of marketing managers believe that direct mail improves advertising campaign performance. Like online marketing strategies, direct mail can also target customers at each stage of their buying journey, from brand discovery to retaining satisfied customers. With 56 percent of people believing that print advertising is trustworthy, businesses may consider it a better way to contact prospects.2 Much of that trust comes from direct mail’s tangibility. It can be touched, interacted with, and saved. Electronic messages are fleeting, while paper messages have permanence. The most significant appeal of direct mail is that it can be personalized in hundreds of ways. Customers are more likely to engage with your business if they know the content is created just for them. “Wow, my name is everywhere in this flyer, and these coupons are for stuff I buy!” That is a positive customer experience. Making Mail Work in Your Customer Experience Initiative Timely Outbound Mail One reason email and electronic media are attractive to marketers is the time from idea to “in-the-mail” is short compared to other channels. A marketer can react to market conditions with an email and send it to their customer base within minutes, if needed. It takes longer to develop and print a direct mail piece, but nothing compared to a few years ago. Companies can design and publish a mail piece in hours. Outbound mail processing technology can apply postage and presort the mail for postal discounts and accelerated delivery, allowing mail that was printed to enter the mailstream the same day. Outbound mail equipment is one arrow in the marketer's quiver to get communications in the mail stream rapidly. Companies can react to market conditions or share critical consumer information through a channel that gets their customer’s attention. One of the best customer experiences is receiving a relevant and timely offer or communication. With outbound mail processing technology as part of the communication workflow, an organization can provide a memorable experience consistent with interactions customers have with the company online, on the phone, or in-store. Inbound Mail Processing Customers today demand an immediate response to mail sent to an organization. This includes posted checks and payments. People trust the mail. They know a letter dropped at the Post Office will make it to the addressee on time. The USPS has published delivery standards that they meet 93 or 94 percent of the time. The onus of mail delivery is as much on the receiving organization as on the Postal Service. Processing payments and application forms the day they are received provides an excellent customer experience using the mail. Immediate processing of inbound mail is a snap with inbound mail processing equipment. A chain of custody begins when mail enters the receiving organization. When a customer calls wondering about the status of their mailed application, request, or payment, the inbound mail tracking data allows customer service representatives to provide updated information. Returned Mail Processing When people move, they have a million things on their minds. Changing their address with everyone they do business with is probably not one of them. When the USPS returns mail because of the move, it is essential to process the return quickly. Find the new address and get the mail out to the customer. Returned mail processing equipment makes this process automated, so the customer receives the mail without further delay. Tritek’s Contributions to Customer Experience Since 1988, Tritek has engineered patented, field-proven mailroom automation and document imaging solutions to improve productivity and mailroom efficiency. Tritek’s expanding menu of mail services includes biohazard screening, digital email delivery, returned mail processing, inbound mail, presorted mail, and parcel processing. Tritek’s clients include Fortune 500 companies, government, educational institutions, financial services, healthcare, insurance, and fulfillment. When considering customer experience improvement strategies, don’t forget about the mail. For many companies, documents customers send and receive through the mail ARE the experience, unless they have a special need or a problem. Every step in the mail handling process contributes to how customers perceive the organization. It pays to ensure those important customer interactions that occur through the mail flow smoothly through the organization. 1 https://martechseries.com/sales-marketing/marketing-automation/report-84-of-marketers-state-direct-mail-improves-multichannel-campaign-performance/ 2 https://theagencyltd.net/the-new-direct-mail/
Campus mail center employees spend most of their time sorting incoming mail and attempting to deliver it to recipients scattered over a large geographical area. This is especially true now that many students and instructors are studying or teaching from home. Automated, rules-based sortation and electronic mail delivery can slash a university’s dependence on mail center staffers while simultaneously speeding up mail delivery. A student’s residence is often difficult to pin down, especially when they move to off-campus housing. That challenge increased dramatically with the remnants of COVID-19 still with us and at-home learning. Delivering to faculty, staff, and students is a guessing game, yet packages and mail continue to arrive. The key to keeping the campus mail center functioning is automation. Here are five factors motivating campus mail center administrators to seek automated mail delivery solutions for the educational institutions they serve. Space Challenges The dilemma for college mail centers is optimizing floor space while maintaining timely notification of package or mail arrival. Volume is shifting from letters to packages. Packages take up space and need manual handling. Knowing that mail is not going away anytime soon, how can colleges reduce mail’s footprint to make room for packages, yet still process correspondence? Automated inbound sortation technology is flexible enough to process mixed-weight mail, parcels, flats, and postcards. The equipment can enable more efficient package storage and retrieval while optimizing the space allocated to the facility. Digital Mail Replacing Hard Copy Digital delivery of hard copy postal mail is gaining wide acceptance in corporate mail centers. For businesses, digital mail delivery automates manual sorting and delivery. Corporate inbound mail is repetitive. It is usually a form or a standard response. Once opened, automated processes scan the envelope’s contents and send images electronically to the appropriate employee, even if the name on the envelope no longer matches the person holding the position. The automated system captures the recipient’s name and other information from the envelope and software looks up the employee’s email address. Cameras scan the front and back of the envelopes, date-stamp them, and send the images to the recipients.College mail differs from private business mail. However, much of the same technology now adopted by businesses can be effectively deployed to serve the students, professors, and staff at a college. University mail is personal. An envelope could contain a card from home with 20 dollars secretly folded inside. If it has a First-Class stamp, the mail center cannot open it.Rule editor software uses business rules created by university privacy administrators to control what mail the mail center can open and what stays sealed. The automated system scans the front and back of the envelopes and sends images to student phones. They can pick up their mail at any time. Staffing Challenges The Printing Industries of America reported that 30%-50% of skilled workers in the industry will retire in less than ten years. Replacing these workers is a challenge. Vocational schools are not producing graduates with traditional print and mail processing skills. Hiring employees in any capacity is a struggle. Finding workers with an understanding of mail processing is rare. College mail centers must adopt automated inbound mail and parcel sorting to make up for the lack of staff. Centralization At most colleges, mail and parcel management is moving toward centralization. The traditional model is delivery directly to a dorm or office where staffers sort the mail into personal mailboxes. Dormitories, keep packages behind the desk until residents retrieve them. The chain of custody is lax. Today, the common carriers deliver to one building: the mail center. Students and staff receive an email or text to pick up their items. The Face of Mail Has Changed Legacy campus mail center designs, policies, and processes are not equipped to accommodate the transformation of the traditional mail stream. The demand for transactional and social mail has declined rapidly, while package volumes have grown exponentially. Higher education mail centers will reinvent themselves and embrace new technologies, such as alternative delivery and management solutions. Eventually, the nomenclature will change. The “mail center” will be known as the “service center” or a similar description. The evolved mail room will provide distribution of mail and packages to the campus community and also offer outbound shipping and printing services. Tritek’s Inbound Mail Processing Systems for Universities Customers use the Tritek rule editor software to apply business rules to inbound mail. The rules determine which mail to open and scan. Some envelopes are only externally scanned. The software directs envelopes and catalogs to bins for pickup. Our solution also includes the hardware. The hardware feeds, scans front-and-back, opens the envelope, and gathers mail into collection bins. Tritek’s line of mail and parcel sorters helps campus mail centers overcome space and staffing constraints and provides notification in a safe and secure environment. Since 1988, Tritek has engineered patented, field-proven mailroom automation and document imaging solutions to improve productivity and mailroom efficiency. Tritek’s expanding menu of mail services includes biohazard screening, digital email delivery, database management, returned mail processing, inbound mail, presorted mail, and parcel processing. Tritek’s clients include Fortune 500 companies, government, educational institutions, financial services, healthcare, insurance, and fulfillment.
Corporate and campus mail centers are continually challenged to deliver mail to the correct recipients even as they change jobs within the organization, move to a new building, relocate, or are replaced when they leave for other opportunities. The work-from-home workplace model and other changes brought about by the pandemic have made these tasks even more frequent and problematic. Traditionally, companies have informally tracked employee moves and changes using sticky notes, a 3-ring binder, or mail center employee memories. Temporary and permanent staff shortages and increased worker mobility now make manual methods of re-directing mail risky. Fortunately, user-friendly technology reduces errors and improves productivity by automatically creating new address labels and re-directing mail to a recipient’s current location according to pre-established business rules. The benefit is three-fold: Mail center employees spend less time processing inbound mail. The organization lessens its reliance on tribal knowledge. Remote employees receive their mail faster and with less chance of mis-delivery. The Mail Forwarding Dilemma Digital mail seemingly solves the problem of mail forwarding to remote or relocated employees. See this video about Tritek’s Oasis digital mail delivery solution. With digital delivery, mail center staff opens employee mail, scans it, and then forwards PDFs to the addressee’s email. Digital mail has its place and offers a certain level of convenience. It creates a digital archive of all incoming mail. However, many companies do not want mail center staff opening and scanning everyone’s mail. This practice could reveal confidential or protected information to unauthorized parties. Tritek’s 2-step digital mail delivery option lowers the risk of unintentional privacy breaches, but forwarding unopened mail is a better solution in some situations. Hardcopies with wet signatures are a part of doing business in many industries like legal, healthcare, and insurance. Forwarding these documents unopened to the intended recipient is a sound business practice that documents the chain of custody for critical communications. Rules governing the disposition of specific documents may make physically re-routing certain mailpieces the only choice open to some organizations. Fiduciary documents, for instance, may require delivery to a corporate address, not the home of an employee. Digital Mail Delivery Solutions Why This is Happening Now The remote employee phenomenon was well underway when the COVID pandemic occurred. Video conferencing was already in place by several vendors, territorial salespeople had worked from home for decades, and real-time workgroup software was common. COVID just made the inevitable shift in work processes happen faster and on a grander scale. Manual mail forwarding worked for many organizations for many years. Eventually though, they would have adopted a standardized mail forwarding technology to improve efficiency and reduce the chance of error. COVID made the technology adoption more urgent. Technology Finds Nomadic Employees The good news is that employees working at home or at another office will not miss out on their mail. A mail processing workstation and intuitive software make mail forwarding simple. You may never touch a keyboard or a mouse in the process. This is how it works: Incoming mail is separated into two bins: One for delivery to on-site employees and one for remote employees. Further sorting may take place after the initial “rough sort.” A mail piece for a remote employee is placed under a scanner. The name and address are scanned. Mail forwarding software determines the forwarding address by referencing an up-to-date database of corporate address changes. A mailing label is produced with the forwarding address and placed over the existing address. If an employee is receiving many pieces of mail in various formats, such as #10 envelopes, postcards, and folded self-mailers, accumulate them and mail everything in one envelope. This saves considerable postage over forwarding each piece separately. The mail forwarding software standardizes addresses to USPS specifications to speed delivery and reduce the chance of mishandling. Mail arriving at the recipient’s current address could be delayed by as little as one day, depending on internal processing and the final destination. Putting it into Practice Since 1988, Tritek has engineered patented, field-proven mailroom automation and document imaging solutions to improve productivity and mailroom efficiency. The Tritek Mobile ACE workstation and Mail Forwarding System assures an organization their employees will receive important documents, even if the employee has moved to a new location. See this short demonstration video of The ACE Mail Forwarding System, which joins Tritek’s growing family of mail center automation solutions. Our lineup includes inbound mail sorting, imaging and archiving of mailed documents, parcel sorting, and the industry-leading Correct Elect Vote-By-Mail technology. Tritek’s clients include Fortune 500 companies, government, educational institutions, financial services, healthcare, insurance, and fulfillment. Learn More About Digital Mail Delivery Start Giving Employees Mail How They Want It Why Your Business Benefits From Digital Mail Delivery Keep Up With Work from Home Employee Mail Delivery Digitally Deliver Incoming Mail
Paper and mailed communications between insurers and their clients are a big part of the customer experience. Insurance companies have a fiduciary responsibility to their policyholders. It is a relationship built on trust. Customers place trust in the permanence and accountability of paper documents and using the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail to their insurer. They further trust that documents are processed quickly and directed to the right person or department. Inbound Mail Accounting By accounting for incoming mail as it arrives in the mail center, workers can route documents to the proper department. The complexities of compliance in the insurance industry present challenges. The complexity escalates as the industry adds new product and service offerings. Insurance companies must enhance and improve legacy methods with new automation tools. Accountability for when mail pieces arrive at the insurer’s mail center and when they are processed and delivered is necessary for customer service and compliance. Manual inbound sorting does not offer the required level of accountability. Routing When mail centers install full-featured inbound mail processing solutions, they may scan inbound documents and deliver them electronically to employees responsible for handling claims or policy renewals. With many employees working from home because of COVID-19 lockdowns, companies benefit by automatically scanning, sorting, and routing inbound envelopes and electronic images. Inbound Mail Efficiency in the Insurance Industry The insurance industry faces many of the same inbound mail processing challenges as every company. But the insurance business operates under additional controls and regulation. A well-managed inbound mail operation affects three areas: customer experience, compliance, and cost-cutting. Inbound Mail Processing Solutions Customer Experience USPS delivery has slowed because of the pandemic and internal changes at the Post Office. There is no one a customer can call at the Postal Service to inquire about the status of a document they mailed. They call the insurer. Even an answer that the document has not arrived gives the client some satisfaction. At least they know. If a document has arrived and is directed to the proper department, the policyholder sees progress. The faster this happens, the better for everyone. With automation, customer claims are paid faster, and insurers provide excellent customer service. Prompt service can reduce complaints and increase renewal rates. Inbound mail sorting automation is the foundation for providing this level of success. Customers who feel their claim or other transaction is processing and resolution is imminent are less likely to complain to customer service or the state insurance commissioner. Compliance As insurance companies enhance the customer experience using automation for faster claims processing, they must consider the regulatory implications as well. According to Wolters Kluwer 2018 Top 10 Market Conduct Actions for Property and Casualty Insurers, one of the top compliance concerns include “failure to acknowledge, pay, investigate or deny claims within specified timeframes.” Steven Meirink, Executive Vice President and General Manager for the Compliance Solutions for Wolters Kluwer said, “Our annual review results confirm the importance of implementing a sound compliance program management process.” As they say, time is of the essence. Once the mail arrives at the insurer’s loading dock, the accountability process starts immediately. Virtually every state has a law requiring insurance companies to pay claims in a “reasonable” length of time. Cost-cutting Manual inbound sorting for time-sensitive insurance claims is no longer a practical choice for insurers in competitive markets. If your mail center is labor-heavy and automation-light, it is time to reverse that trend. Not only will companies reduce hard labor costs by using automated inbound sorting technology, but they will also lower the frequency of errors and complaints. The insurance commissioner can penalize insurance companies, forcing them to pay claims and take other actions to resolve a policyholder’s complaint. Tying up loose ends and improving efficiencies in the mail center reduce the chances of a penalty. Mail, Paper, and Trust Why are insurance customers still using mail? An insurance document (a claim, for example) is a fiduciary instrument. First Class Mail comes with a set of security, safeguards, and federal protections. Most electronic communications have none of these. Certified Mail takes protection to another level. It has no counterpart in the electronic communication domain. This is especially true for a document that is sent with a physical return receipt. The customer knows the insurance company has received their claim. The insurer must sort and process the inbound mail quickly. Organizations generally establish business rules for Certified Mail, such as priority delivery to the employee or department. Certified Mail can be handled on the automated inbound sort as a separate entity. The automated solution can treat it as an exception and flag the piece for immediate delivery, increasing the speed and efficiency of inbound document processing. Related Quick Read: How Mortgage Processing is Changing
In most organizations, inbound mail presents two problems. (1) The huge variety of formats (letters, flats, periodicals, newspapers) makes evaluating and sorting inbound mail a slow manual process. (2) Routing the mail to the right people at their current internal mail stations is often accomplished by hand, using outdated lists, notes, employee knowledge, and trial-and-error. When we talk to companies about mailing costs, they almost always focus on outbound mail. They want to discuss obvious expenses like printing, inserting, and postage. Those are important areas to assess, but incoming mail also contributes to the business cost of communications. For large or geographically dispersed organizations the challenges of sorting, routing, and distributing inbound mail are significant, as are the costs. Tritek Technologies has studied this problem and made several observations that have influenced our industry-leading inbound mail processing solutions. See Tritek’s Multi-Level Inbound Mail Sorter in action. Watch the video HERE. Inbound Mail – Unique Challenges Typical corporate mail centers have invested in automation for their outbound mail production with folders, inserters, tabbers, inkjet addressing machines, and sorters for letters or flats. The inbound side of things, however, is labor intensive. Per piece labor dollars for incoming mail far exceeds the labor costs of producing outbound mail, but it doesn’t have to remain so. Advancements in text and handwriting capture systems combined with intelligent software can resolve addresses on incoming mail and route it to the correct recipients. Add innovative document feeding and transport systems and organizations can bring automation to incoming mail processing operations. Companies can lower labor costs while simultaneously increasing accuracy and speeding delivery. Unlike outbound mail, where the mail producer controls the format and placement of postal addresses on the mailpieces, inbound mail has no standardization. Senders don’t abide by a common set of addressing rules. Some senders may include corporate mail station codes, building identifiers, or department names. Other mail arrives bearing only an individual’s name and the corporate postal address. Even worse, employees named on the mailpiece may have changed jobs within the organization or left the company causing mailroom employees to make on-the-spot decisions about where to send the mail. Delivery to Recipients Automatically delivering inbound mail to correct individuals requires sophisticated software. Specialized routines can recognize variations in spelling, connect individuals or job titles with departments and mail stops, and access current information on employee hires, departures, and transfers. This software must recognize that Robert Smith, Rob Smith, Bob Smith, R. Smith, and Smith, Robert might be the same person. If the organization employs more than one Robert Smith, inbound software must use additional information and rules to determine which Mr. Smith should receive a mailpiece bearing his name. Before the inbound sorting software can make such decisions, the system must extract addressing information from the mailpieces. This is no small task as address labels are printed in various fonts, sizes, and print density. They may appear on the front or back of a mailpiece, and in any orientation. Address block capture systems like those built into Tritek’s equipment can pull data from address blocks regardless of print quality, format, or location without human intervention. Inbound Mail Solutions Material Handling Issues Inbound material presents transport issues. Organizations will receive pieces as thin as a postcard or as thick as catalogs coming into the mailroom for distribution. The material may be enclosed in envelopes, bound on a single side such as a magazine, slipped into interoffice envelopes with buttons and strings, or encased in poly bags. Mailpieces may be smooth or textured, flat or irregular. Mechanisms that feed, separate, and transport this exotic collection of items must be versatile and forgiving. The system handling incoming mail must locate and read address blocks on each mailpiece. The object is to match the extracted data with the corporate database of employees, and determine the internal courier route and mail stop. All these processes must occur in a fraction of a second as mailpieces move through the machine and exit into appropriate bins. Justification for investing in automated inbound mail sorting and distribution extends beyond labor savings. Manual sorting takes time. Important materials may be delayed as couriers must leave on their routes at designated times. The mailroom won’t deliver the leftovers until the next run, which could be the following day. Such delays can cause lost business opportunities, customer satisfaction issues, missed meetings, or other negative consequences. Mis-routed mailpieces cause even longer delays as the pieces are returned to the mailroom for re-distribution. Choosing the right automated inbound mail processing solution can decrease the adverse effects of mail distribution inefficiencies. Related Quick Read: Solving Corporate Inbound Mail Challenges Most mail center operations don’t account for inbound mail distribution and delivery costs separately. They may not know how much their inefficient operations are costing their companies. After careful analysis, many organizations realize a custom automated solution is a wise financial move. Download permanent and portable inbound mail processing equipment specifications HERE.