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Mailroom outsourcing, an often untapped opportunity to optimize

by Steve Cousins
 
Years ago, the mailroom was primarily regarded as a “cost of doing business." But times change, and that mindset now has the potential to put your company at a significant disadvantage. Today's leading enterprises understand that optimizing communications handling processes can help enable digital transformation, boost employee productivity and improve customer experiences.

If that task sounds daunting, the good news is that you don't have to go at it alone. Like a number of business processes and workflows, enterprise communications can be outsourced via onsite or offsite managed services offerings (within the business process outsourcing or "BPO" category). And when you entrust a partner who's able to focus on best practices for correspondence and package handling and who can responsively scale resources as needed, you will often get better results than you might see from an in-house solution. 

When you entrust a partner who's able to focus on best practices for correspondence and package handling — and one that can can responsively scale resources as needed — you will often get better results than you might see from an in-house solution.

The business benefits of mailroom outsourcing

Companies tend to look into outsourcing as a way to optimize processes and improve quality, efficiency and speed of service. But there are other less obvious benefits as well, such as profiting from the investments the BPO provider makes in innovative technology, ongoing staff training and process improvements.

Within the world of digitized mailrooms, some of the more apparent pluses of outsourcing those tasks include the following:

Over the shoulder view of a woman holding her glasses, looking at her computer screen.
  • Process optimization enables faster, more accurate deliveries and greater efficiency by simultaneously processing both paper and electronic mail.
  • Compliance can be more easily documented thanks to audit trails.
  • Operating costs can be reduced (fewer staff members needed to open, sort and process communications, lower costs associated with the distribution of correspondence, smaller “real estate" requirements without the need to store documents on the company network or in cabinet storage/office space).
  • Improved communications due to the ability to track items within other systems (this aspect is mission-critical in e-commerce to ensure customers are kept informed of where their item is throughout the fulfillment process).
  • More reliable delivery made possible by the timely and accurate automated scanning of documents and packages (fewer packages are inadvertently misplaced by being left on the desk of an employee who may not be back in the office for weeks).
  • Better-informed decision making enabled by the expedited notification of package and document arrival and delivery regardless of where the recipient is on any given day/time.

Possibly the biggest benefit though, is that when you entrust communications to a third party, that arrangement lets your partner work in the business, freeing up your key employees so they can work on the business.

 

Don't send an analog mail center to do a digital job

One of the bigger challenges of relying on outdated mailroom setups and processes is that they offer analog services in a digital world, one that almost mandates the competitive advantages provided by analytics and efficient data management. Legacy mail centers that still rely on staff to process communications run the risks typically associated with human error. And while it may seem cost-prohibitive to modernize an entire communications system at once, outsourcing puts those benefits within reach — without having to incur the cost of substantial hardware and software upgrades.

Digital mail centers have been designed to accommodate the evolving nature of work: whether that means using personal devices while waiting at the airport, logging in from the dining room table, or occupying a flexible space used by workers who only need an office on special occasions. Wherever the day takes your employees, your mail and business communications should follow. Ideally, digital communications such as emails and more tangible correspondence such as packages all need to be viewable from one single source.

Sounds perfect, right? Here's what that modern mail center might look like:

Automated inbound mail and delivery allows you to receive mail and act on it regardless of physical location. Employees can access secured digital mailboxes from their mobile devices and take immediate action on each item. In addition, that automated system is capable of maintaining a digital record for each incoming mail piece (thereby supporting accountability and compliance). And mail analytics made possible by the automated communications processing help you improve mail management and information flow by providing insights into the types of mail your organization receives and how each type is handled. This digitization of correspondence is a vital step in helping your organization build a solid foundation that will be capable of supporting digital transformation efforts over the years to come.

If your company elects to have communications handled in an offsite location, a communications outsourcing partner can establish a PO box where paper documents can be redirected; traveling employees who might receive notification of an incoming package could then ask the offsite location to hold the package until they were able to retrieve it.
 
Regardless of whether each communication originated as a hard copy or digital version, files may be ingested and then automatically sorted by document type, permitting valuable information to be extracted and saved with little human interaction. The automated route helps ensure greater accuracy, saves processing time and automatically images, codes and indexes useful information, eventually making it more searchable by employees who may later need to retrieve and reference it.

By outsourcing your digital mailroom, you also have the opportunity to help mitigate the compliance and security risks sometimes associated with paper documents and manual workflows. In this day and age, your digital data should be accessible to those who need it, but that doesn't mean it has to be more vulnerable. Look for security features like password-protected access, version tracking, backup and recovery, antivirus and 24/7 protection. In addition – especially if you are in financial technology, healthcare or other industries with heightened data security needs – you'll want to ensure the BPO vendor under consideration has in-depth knowledge of compliance requirements for your business and industry so they can help you develop and implement a comprehensive compliance plan.

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Ultimately, an increasingly mobile world of work is here to stay, and making sure your digital mail center can get communications to your employees — when and where they need them — isn't a luxury, it's a requirement to survive in today's hyper-competitive market. It's time to explore a digital solution with the power to convert a cost center into a value-added service.

By outsourcing the digital mailroom, you create opportunities to realize a number of far-reaching benefits: greater security and documented compliance, actionable analytics, improved productivity and a more consistent, seamless customer experience. And that's a step in the right direction toward helping to future-proof your company for whatever comes next.
 
 

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Steve Cousins
Senior Advanced Services Strategy Manager for Ricoh USA, Inc., Steve Cousins has more than 25 years experience working in technology and production operations at some of the largest print service providers in the US and UK. Steve joined Ricoh in 2016 and is responsible for developing and launching advanced, repeatable service offerings within Customer Communications Management and Mail Services.
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