Digital Mailrooms and Hybrid Mail Benefits
Hybrid Mail and Digital Mailroom technology have never been more important, powerful – or easier to implement – than in 2021. With our three decades of experience, this article demystifies the array of software and service solutions and explains why they’re relevant to businesses of every size, and in every geography.
Digital Mailroom technology concentrates on the digital capture at the moment of receipt all inbound communications – whether paper, email, or fax – and then distributing to the appropriate users consistent with established business processes and workflows. This may be achieved through software and document scanners at your own facilities or outsourced to a dedicated service provider.
Throughout the evolution of Digital Mailroom technology, the term Hybrid Mail appeared in our lexicon, originally referring to the centralising of outbound printed communications. The premise is simple: a single system in which users create their outbound documents (in MS Word, for example) and then, rather than printing locally, the user submits for printing and posting by a remote service provider.
Today, both terms are used by many service providers interchangeably, and with the pandemic-induced disruption to business operations, and the sudden awakening of business leaders to the need for business continuity planning, never has the technology been more in demand.
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The Benefits of Hybrid Mail for Outbound Communications
As your operations increase in scale, the cost per transaction to create, print and despatch your outbound mail. It’s not just your investment in multifunctional devices, and their associated service costs, but the sheer number of devices required to support staff working on different floors, or at different physical addresses.
Since your corporate communications reflect the quality of your organisation’s brand, you’ve probably had to invest in additional hardware and software to ensure your printed colours are consistent, and that the paper stocks used convey the correct value. So, on the one hand, the days of pre-printed stationery are largely gone, on the other hand many of those costs have merely shifted to leasing overheads.
Using a real-world example, a Time and Motion study was completed at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, and it was established that to type, print, and despatch a single patient letter took an average of 10.48 minutes, but this was reduced to just five minutes via Hybrid Mail. Here we see that the physician can contrate on writing, and thus see more patients in any given shift.
A centralised Hybrid Mail fulfilment centre is able to take advantage of high-speed production printers, complete with creasers, folders, envelope stuffers, and more. With such systems, different paper stocks, sizes, and other attributes – such as colours – can be controlled for maximum efficiency. The extra benefit is that centralisation brings savings in terms of bulk mail discounts which are out of reach to small offices or practices.
From the user’s perspective, service solutions like this minimise IT support calls due to printer malfunctions, and valuable staff don’t have to interrupt their end of day work to frank mail and fill delivery sacks.
Hybrid Mail is a recipe for efficiency and savings, and the advantages extend beyond the obvious and include automatic post code checking to validate addresses, so reducing the cost of returned mail (and as any marketing professional will attest, that avoids considerable financial waste).
In many fields, including legal, medical, education, and financial, Hybrid Mail can resolve the time sensitive hurdles by automatic postal prioritisation: systems can measure the date of document creation vs. an actionable data (such as confirmation of an appointment), and switching to first class where required. The very best can even switch from physical post to email – where permitted – and thus saving the majority of the costs, and all without human intervention.
Finally, when outsourcing your document creation, consider the labour costs of including additional pre-printed inserts and reply envelopes, together with the option to combine multiple letters addressed to the same recipient into fewer envelopes for greater cost savings.
The Benefits of a Digital Mailroom for Inbound Communications
Given that 23% of UK businesses receive more than 5,000 pieces of mail per month, and 81% of businesses have not yet implemented a digital mailroom, it’s clear that business continuity planning and digital transformation escaped attention ahead of the pandemic.
Everyone has experienced the resultant chaos. Even amidst the most sever lockdowns, staff had to commute to their offices to receive the post, open and sort it, and often then attempt to distribute it to colleagues by scanning piece by piece at their photocopier. Much data was lost permanently, much was misrouted, and customers complained.
So what is all of this mail? Businesses must exchange physical, signed, documents with their accountants, solicitors must communicate many documents in physical form with their clients, and everyone wants their insurance documents in hard copy. While in our personal lives, we’re communicating via email and text, across commerce and industry, there are still swathes of essential printed communications.
The ability to process this information quickly, accurately, securely, and efficiently is a key to your organisation’s cash flow, client acquisition, retention and ultimately, its profitability. In most cases, processing the electronic correspondence is pretty straightforward, provided you have IT systems, policies and procedures in place to route it and protect it appropriately. On the other hand, processing the paper-based correspondence is a labour-intensive, manual screening procedure fraught with errors. Letters are sorted, routed, delivered, opened, and read to determine content, and then forwarded to the appropriate people/departments for the required action.
Your Digital Mailroom works by routing your post to a designated service provider, where it’s opened, scanned and routed in digital format to the appropriate recipients, whether they’re individual or groups.
You gain total flexibility for your staff, since access to their post isn’t dependent on their location (see our articles on Remote workers and Hybrid Workers). You also enhance your regulatory compliance, as business records and personal data is treated appropriately, and improved security may be demonstrated.
When adopting these technology services, almost every business is surprised at how seamless the transition proves in reality. Incredibly popular for single-site law firms, financial service providers, schools and colleges – and other sectors too – there’s no barrier to entry since there’s no infrastructure investment.
Especially for organisations sending large volumes of post, the savings through Hybrid Mail are dramatic. Rationalisation of print fleets, lowered contracted print volumes, combine with clear staff productivity gains to make compelling messaging to deliver to the Financial Director.
The other side of the coin, the Digital Mailroom, is equally compelling as business adapts to a workforce determined to work from home for two days per week, and a broad ethos which recognises that we’re unlikely to revert to the conventional 9 – 5 office-based routine.
Business continuity planning is now a top priority, and regardless of the key motivation for adopting a Digital Mailroom or Hybrid Mail solution, it’s a fact that cost reduction, business resiliency, enhanced customer service are all factors to be considered to create a stronger business.
With multiple options to suit the needs of both smaller businesses and major banks, our core Digital Mailroom solution is built around a document management application. The process begins with our sorting according to recipient groups, and then filtering out unsolicited (junk) mail.
The second stage involves scanning all documents and then either (i) uploading via FTP to the client’s own servers or document management application, or (ii) sorting and emailing each individual recipient who will then receive the day’s mail in electronic format.
While few documents are required to be retained in original hardcopy form, we archive the documents and maintain them under a document lifecycle management protocol. In this way, our clients can request the originals should they be required.
Benefits of Digital Mailroom Services:
- Outsourced mail room and staff;
- No need for onsite archival office space;
- Minimal archival vehicle services to collect and retrieve paper documentation (reducing carbon footprint);
- Minimal paper waste generated onsite;
- Pristine archive as all business documentation is archived at source;
- Generates an electronic record as well as the original paper-based record;
- More than one department can work on information at the same time;
- Cost saving on time, space and staff.
Humperdinck Jackman – Marketing Director
Humperdinck has a 30-year career spanning Document Management Systems (DMS), data protection, Artificial Intelligence, Data Protection and Robotic Process Automation. With many articles published in print internationally, he believes the advances in office technology are such that we’re entering the 4th Industrial Revolution. Now Director of Marketing and Consulting Services at Advanced UK, he’s as active with clients as he is in endeavouring to write original blog articles.