How do your mail handling processes measure up?
Many business communications are two way. Very simply if you send something out you often receive something back. Businesses often focus on processes for sending mail, but overlook how they handle responses and incoming mail in general. The average mail item is subject to many trials and tribulations during its journey through a business on the way to its recipient. Things can go wrong along the way, particularly if largely manual processes are used.
Inefficiencies and higher rates of human error lead to items being lost, damaged, delayed and misfiled, meaning opportunities for improved productivity are missed. Consequently businesses suffer from higher costs, slower response times, dissatisfied internal and external customers and possibly failure to comply with regulatory requirements.
That’s why it is important to improve every stage of the documents journey or lifecycle.
What does the ideal lifecycle for a piece of mail look like?
Achieving the ideal process for handling a piece of incoming mail is not overly complicated (despite how difficult it can be to achieve manually) and consists of five main steps:
- Automate envelopes opening and extract contents without fail and with no damage
- The document is then seamlessly scanned to create a digital version, and key data is read and extracted for processing. Returned mail, such as advertising responses or undeliverable mail should also be scanned and recorded into a consolidated file for easy updating of customer databases.)
- The document is then distributed automatically to the correct person in a predefined workflow specific to the document type e.g. invoices, sales orders. Digitised documents can easily be accessed via remote terminals so there is no need to move documents around a building
- It is then processed and approved online, before being sent onto the next stage as per the workflow
- Automatic archiving makes it easy for the documents to be retrieved and comply with document storage regulations.
Of course, the ideal lifecycle varies depending on the mail item in question, as not all mail items need to follow the same process. For example, an important document or package should be scanned on its arrival, confirming that it has been received. It should then be tracked through the business via automated alerts that give the recipient an up to date view of where their package is. Such a system takes away the need for manual logging and enables mailrooms to report on key metrics across the mail delivery process, helping to find improvements where necessary.
Such processes don’t purely apply to physical mail items, in a world where email is increasingly hard to manage at an enterprise level, email handling processes should also be considered. Ideally, for email to be managed successfully, data should be extracted/identified from the email on receipt, without manual intervention so it can follow the required workflows as physical mail items.
How is it possible to achieve these ideal lifecycles?
It is clear that achieving these processes is largely based on automating much of the manually intensive areas of the mail item lifecycle. Unsurprisingly technology can be used to move the process towards the ideal lifecycle. Automatic letter openers can open at least 300 letters per minute with no damage to contents, and some models also extract contents. Electronic Document Management (EDM) solutions facilitate distribution, processing, archiving and reporting on electronic documents. These range from affordable yet sophisticated solutions for small businesses up to enterprise business process automation systems.
By embracing technology, or driving to improve your incoming mail processes even on a smaller scale with pockets of automation it is possible to improve the way you handle mail considerably. Perhaps not wholesale at first, but with the goals of improving staff productivity, reducing storage costs and minimising risk, such changes should be deemed a priority.
Interested in improving your incoming mail processes? Worried about how you are handling mail, why not take a look at our latest guide on Incoming mail, packed full of useful advice and guidance on how you can change the way your business handles its incoming mail.