Businessman hiding eyes from returned mail

Why Mail Centers Avoid Dealing With Returned Mail

Dodging undelivered returned mail is pretty common in mail centers across the country.  But failing to take action on undelivered mail can have wide-ranging effects. Companies waste money by sending multiple mailpieces to undeliverable addresses, they lose touch with customers, delay incoming payments, and can even risk privacy breaches.

With all the impacts of returned mail, one might think that mail centers would focus on processing undelivered envelopes, self-mailers, and flats that come back to them, but that’s not usually the case. Many mail operations consider returned mail a “when we get more time” sort of task. On the priority list, it’s way below duties such as processing the day’s outbound mail, sorting and distributing daily inbound mail, parcel handling, periodic equipment maintenance, and just about everything else that comes up during an average day. Realistically, that extra time never occurs, and the returned mail just stacks up in a forgotten corner of the mail center.

Contents In This Post:

Why Mail Centers Procrastinate
Mail Processing Hardware
Smart Software Required
Finally Get Control Of Returned Mail

Why Mail Centers Procrastinate

Mail centers avoid processing returned mail because it takes lots of time and resources that a typical mail processing facility just doesn’t have. Returned mail is mostly unstructured, which makes it necessary to perform detailed inspections and make several decisions about how the mail center should handle each mailpiece.  Here are a few of the questions operations must answer as they process returned mail:

  1. What came back?—Is it an invoice, statement, important notice, contract, policy, or correspondence, or does it seem to be marketing material?
  2. Why did it get returned?—Was there an error in the address? Did the recipient move? Was the address vacant? Or did the USPS make a mistake?
  3. Can you find the correct the address yourself?—Address errors or move updates may be something mail center employees can help resolve. Then they can advise the responsible department to update their information. In other cases, company business units must handle the research, which may involve reaching them via some other communication channel before they can update the mailing address on file.
  4. Who should be notified?—Deciding which departments or individuals should be contacted concerning returned mailpieces can be tricky. It may be necessary to open the envelopes to determine the sender. Until the responsible departments correct the source data, future mailings will generate more returned mail, so it’s important to let the senders know which addresses are undeliverable.
  5. How many times has the mail been returned?—Repeatedly mailing to the same addresses and having the mail returned means the costs of that outbound mail continues to rise. The impact of non-delivery also increases.
  6. Does the mail need to be secured?—Returned checks or credit cards shouldn’t be sitting in mail trays on the production floor. Neither should documents containing sensitive personal information like social security numbers, account numbers, or personal health or financial information.

Like so many problems facing businesses today, the solution to dealing with returned mail is automation. Mail centers aren’t likely to increase staffing levels or reorganize their priorities, so making it easier to tackle that pile of returned mail is the only answer. An automated returned mail processing solution requires two components; hardware and software.


Browse Mailroom Automated Solutions


Mail Processing Hardware

Equipment that companies use to process an eclectic mix of mail must be able to feed and transport material of various dimensions, orientations, weights, and thickness without jamming. Cameras mounted on the machines must capture all the data from anywhere on the mailpiece – from the address block to yellow USPS stickers, to return addresses and other locations. Once pieces are identified, the machine must deposit them in the proper bins for delivery to user departments, destruction, or manual inspection.

Unlike outbound mail, where machines process large batches of identically configured mailpieces, returned mail is a mixture of items the organization sent out at different times. The collection of returned mail may include business size envelopes, large flats, self-mailers, postcards, or other document formats.

Addresses may be printed at diverse locations on the pieces using a variety of fonts. The contrast between printed information and the background will vary. The mailing addresses could be shown through glassine windows, on labels, or printed directly on the envelopes.

Information critical to identifying the contents or the department responsible for the mailpieces may be included in keylines, the return address, permit number, or other text and graphics printed on the front or back of the envelope.

Cameras scanning the mailpieces must capture information accurately under challenging conditions.


Smart Software Required

Since the returned mail requirements differ for every organization, the software used to interpret camera-captured data must be flexible and easily configured by the mailing operations team. The variety of returned mail is constantly shifting.

Though some mail pieces will still require manual inspection, the goal is to automate as much of the process as possible. Rules-based software must be able to handle a wide variety of situations, using data captured from the mailpieces to separate them based on many criteria. Some mail, returned because of insufficient address, may be run through CASS software to determine exactly what address elements are deficient. Other mailpieces may have to be opened to decide what department should correct the address.

Rules for determining the disposition of returned mail could be based on a combination of data acquired from the return address, logos, tag lines, addressing format, permit numbers, or a wide variety of other elements.

Software and processing speed must keep up with the transport mechanism and determine the output bin selection in fractions of seconds.


Finally Get Control of Returned Mail

Without automation, the returned mail dilemma will not get better. The costs of ignoring the problem will continue to grow and the effort required to get caught up will eventually be insurmountable. If your company is hoarding returned mail, you can’t discount the consequences of doing nothing. It’s time to consider the benefits of tackling the issue and shine a light on the stack of mail in that dark corner of the mail center.

Tritek Technologies is known for our superior mail processing equipment that handles the variability of returned mail with ease. The rules engine built into our software allows mail centers to identify and route returned mail to appropriate departments regardless of the criteria necessary to make those decisions in real time. Contact us to find out how our solutions can help your organization deal with your returned mail situation.


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