Outsourcing Document Management
As communications become evermore sophisticated, managing the related design, print and mail processes requires both expert knowledge and access to the latest technology.
Sally Hewitt, International Marketing Director, Pitney Bowes, looks at how outsourcing these functions can help businesses benefit from accuracy, cost-savings and transparency at a time when satisfying the customer is essential and every spend must be justified.
The Importance of Document Production and Delivery
A recent survey conducted by Pitney Bowes reveals that only 33% of organisations benchmark their print jobs to ensure they get the most competitive quote. Fully 67% of businesses admit to having little or no idea as to how competitive their current print and design processes are. In addition, approximately 5% of all letters shipped daily have hand written addresses. Many organisations will be unaware that by typing addresses they can be eligible for mail consolidation discounts.
And yet, what could be more important than customer communications? For large organisations the mailroom is an important business function – a central contact point for customers, shareholders, partners, suppliers and employees. It is therefore vital that such a valuable resource is run effectively to support core business processes. Similarly, the outgoing documents that the mailroom processes reflect the organisation which they represent. Badly designed, incorrectly addressed mail suggests a poorly functioning company, prone to mistakes.
Presenting your company as a trustworthy, efficient organisation is more important than ever. The marketing landscape has changed from a push to a pull model, with the buyer dictating the frequency of receiving information and how that information is delivered. Analysts estimate that every consumer is exposed to around 3,000 advertising messages each day. Consumers are time-pressured, increasingly bombarded with messaging and, crucially, more in control over what gets through and what ends up ignored, deleted, or in the bin. Blogging tools and social networking sites mean that we’re no longer simply media recipients, we’re media creators, too. If we can set our own agendas, why should we tolerate those companies that get their own messaging hopelessly wrong? And for those that do get it wrong, new alternatives are simply a mouse-click or a text message away. It’s never been so easy to defect – loyalty is hard-earned and hard-maintained.
Too often, time-pressured marketing managers turn to print and design suppliers with whom they have a historical relationship rather than investing the time and effort to seek better quality-for-cost alternatives. As a result, our own evidence shows that businesses are typically spending an average of 15% more than necessary on print and design.
Similarly, mail spend is often not accurately monitored with few organisations knowing exactly how many mail pieces they send and what their budget for this process is. And yet when the time and labour taken to print, fold, insert and post documents are combined, it becomes clear that the cost of the mailing function may have been significantly overlooked.
At a time when businesses are under immense pressure to prove return on investment against every activity, such imprecise practices have no place in the environment of the cost-efficient, time-pressured business world.
Outsourcing suppliers effectively operate as an expert document production and mailing department, exercising buying power and production expertise to deliver the necessary combination of quality and cost-efficiency.
By channeling these processes through a centrally managed resource, outsourcing can also safeguard the customers’ brand integrity. If materials are printed on an ad-hoc, departmental level there can be no control over the quality of the resulting output. Perhaps the wrong paper stock might be used or colours may be reproduced inaccurately because toner hasn’t been replaced. The presence of a specialist unit, whose sole purpose is to concentrate on the quality of design, print and distribution, can ensure that all documents are created according to a uniform standard.
Similarly, data quality and accurate processing can be ensured for sensitive documents such as statements and bills. There is nothing more irksome for a customer than to receive a document that is incorrectly addressed or misdirected. As an extra reassurance, outsourced services can include the tracking of important and sensitive documents, ensuring that they reach their intended recipient safely and on time.
As our opening statistics show, businesses are failing to effectively benchmark print and design jobs. It is not uncommon for larger organisations to have hundreds of print and design suppliers, often with no centralised process for controlling and measuring spend. This tangle of suppliers can lead to costs being apportioned to incorrect cost-centres or coded in such a way that makes identifying the purchase trail impossible.
The mailroom, in addition, is an area where many organisations can make cost savings through outsourcing. A company appointed specifically to be responsible for document management should employ the latest automation innovations to reduce time and expenditure. Regular monitoring of the mail process allows for better information management and the real cost of the mail centre to be closely audited and savings opportunities to be easily identified. Once identified, these opportunities can then be capitalised upon through the implementation of solutions made possible through specialist expertise and knowledge of the mail market options on offer. In this way, organisations are able to achieve exclusive mailing discounts on processes such as sortation, consolidation and postage metering.
As well as being able to reduce costs on these processes, further savings can be made by using those outsourced services which operate offsite. These services offer the added benefit of making valuable office space vacant, re-locating functions like print and mail to more suitable, purpose built environments.
Outsourcing specialists working to strict service level agreements will introduce comprehensive management reporting that reveals a precise and transparent view of total document production and distribution across an entire organisation. Only with this essential reporting in hand can businesses begin to identify areas of inefficiency and develop internal processes that drive down costs, generate best quality and give marketing budget holders a compelling return on investment.
Even as Europe emerges slowly from recession, there is no relaxation of the budgetary squeeze. Arguably, only access to the latest skills and technology through an outsourcing partnership will ensure that businesses stay ahead of the quality curve whilst keeping a cap on costs.
Through highly-skilled outsourced support businesses can firstly work to unravel current practices and identify areas of wastage and inefficiency. The best outsourcing partners will open the door to a broader range of proven suppliers and will introduce the latest technology – whether on-site, or remotely managed – without the need for businesses to make upfront technology investment.
The outsourcing model delivers both the expertise to maximise current processes and the flexibility to adapt quickly as business needs dictate. Businesses adopting this model are beginning to set the benchmark.