Choosing a Print and Mail Outsourcing Partner: 9 Key Considerations

print and mail outsourcing partnership

Moving from an in-plant operation to print and mail outsourcing or choosing a new print partner can deliver many compelling advantages, from saving money to accessing the latest technology. But those benefits are not guaranteed.

The ability to achieve outsourcing and print partnership goals depends in large part on picking the right outsourcing partner.

Drive CX with transactional print and mail outsourcing

The strategic choice of outsourcing partner is particularly important when it comes to transactional and compliance communications with sensitive personal information, from billing statements to servicing and compliance letters. Top print and mail outsourcing companies bring best practices and new capabilities for engaging customers and prompting them to take the desired action, including pay a bill or pursue a special offer, such as refinancing a mortgage.

These abilities are a direct line to improving customer experience, which is a major enterprise priority for 75% of global business and technology professionals, according to 2023 Forrester research.

Billing and other transactional customer communications play a central role in increasing—or damaging—customer satisfaction and loyalty. A full 81% of U.S. consumers believe they should have the right to choose paper or digital communications from their service providers, according to a 2023 survey by Two Sides North America. And 46% of consumers would consider switching to an alternate provider if their current one forced them to go paperless, up from 41% in 2021, according to the survey.

Where to start in evaluating outsourcing partners

Evaluating print and mail outsourcers should start with a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. It will provide clarity on how to move forward and therefore what to look for in print and mail outsourcing partners. What skills and assets does the company want to replicate, what gaps need filling and what capabilities or services will open up new opportunities and mitigate risks? (For insights into setting strategic outsourcing priorities, read 6 Benefits of Print and Mail Outsourcing.)

Companies will differ in their needs and wants. For some, freeing up capital for other business needs could be paramount. Others may prioritize access to cloud-based data center solutions with state-of-the-art technology, from high-speed dynamic variable color inkjet printers and inserters to cloud-based customer communications management (CCM) systems for both print and digital production and distribution.

One common gap that organizations with a single insource print and mail operation or printer with a single location will want to close as soon as possible: Locking in redundant production and mail services to improve business continuity.

Key print and mail outsourcing criteria

Regardless of how companies weigh their priorities now, they should evaluate outsourcers against a core set of technologies and services. These building blocks will set the companies up for ongoing success. That’s because they are key to achieving the operational and CX improvements that are driving the decision to outsource print and mail or switch print/mail companies in the first place.

There are 9 important areas to investigate:

(1) Print production technologies
Most commercial printing companies are transitioning to high-speed inkjet printers and intelligent inserters. But leading print and mail providers already have upgraded to color inkjet equipment that prints up to 1,200 pages per minute, with in-line finishing, variable data and real-time personalization for transactional communications.

Because of their speed and productivity, roll-fed (also known as continuous-feed) inkjet printers outperform sheet-fed inkjet printers for handling high volumes. They also can accommodate volume growth when clients add new types of documents or more of the same documents, due to organic growth or mergers and acquisitions.

(2) Mailing Services
High-volume print and mail providers leverage bulk discounts to deliver lower postage rates for their clients. While a valuable benefit, it’s the lowest bar.

Look for print and mail outsourcing leaders that provide outbound services such as:

  • Automated commingle and pre-sorting postal optimization and drop shipment logistics
  • Live stamping, tabbing and metering and in-plant load verification
  • Fulfillment and assembly
  • Automated match mailings and flats inserting

Some companies also strive to maximize delivery with mail processing services that include running data files through USPS databases such as National Change of Address (NCOA), CASS™ Certification and Delivery Point Validation (DPV) to identify and fix address problems before putting the communications in the mail stream. There’s also ACS™, a premium USPS service for in-route mail that catches outdated addresses that have not yet been updated in the NCOA database and adds the current delivery address.

For billing and compliance communications, some print service providers also offer skip tracing, return mail processing, and automated Certified Mail options.

(3) CCM Technology

Many print and mail companies have branched into software for the upstream work of creating, updating and managing omnichannel customer communications. But features and capabilities vary widely.

Companies should assess the amount of control and agility each system would give them to run day-to-day operations, such as modifying documents and onboarding new communication programs, and to advance strategic objectives, including adding new digital delivery channels such as email and text messaging.

Cloud customer communications management platforms are the most advanced option, removing the need for the tech team to install and manage software on company systems. As a cornerstone of digital transformation, cloud CCM solutions easily support remote and in-office work. How they connect and integrate with CRM and other company systems, such as using APIs, also is a critical consideration.

For even greater productivity, efficiency and ease of use, a few print and mail outsourcing companies offer an integrated CCM solution that combines document development with production and delivery of both digital and print communications. An integrated platform simplifies managing any combination of customer preferences and composing and distributing communications for different delivery channels, including print/mail, email and text messages.

_________________________________________________________________________

For more information, read the white paper:
CCM + Print: New Technologies Are Reinventing Paper Customer Communications
_________________________________________________________________________

(4) Customer Support
Companies may think that outsourcing print and mail means losing control over the process, that they are at the mercy of the print vendor’s schedule and pace. That scenario is certainly not true for all print and mail outsourcers. It’s important to delve into the levels and types of support at every stage, from the onboarding process to daily use to technology upgrades and program expansions.

Some companies are looking for self-service capabilities to give them more power and freedom to make changes to their own communications programs. Others prefer that their outsourcing partner handle most, if not all, communications and program changes. Rather than lock in to one or the other approach, companies can target outsourcers that customize service based on each client’s needs at any given time and that prioritize customer support and responsiveness.

(5) Security
Highly regulated industries, including insurance, financial services and healthcare, need to partner with an outsourcer that meets the strictest data security, regulatory and compliance standards, such as HIPAA and SOC 2 Type II certification.

(6) Business Continuity
Companies cannot afford delays in distributing their monthly statements, compliance documents including adverse action letters, and other communications. A print and mail outsourcing partner with multiple, redundant locations and comparable equipment at each facility can deliver a new level of reliability and peace of mind.

(7) Experience and growth
A print and mail outsourcing company’s longevity, client roster, and historical growth offer a window into its ongoing ability to innovate and expand, taking its clients with them. Companies in regulated industries also may want to seek out outsourcing firms with the knowhow as well as the credentials and processes for security and privacy to responsibly handle those communications.

(8) Cost Effectiveness
Companies can run into trouble if they look at pricing vs. total costs. If Company A charges x per piece versus Company B, which charges x – 5%, then Company B is clearly the better choice, right?

Not necessarily. What a company gets for the price matters more than pure price alone, especially if it means sacrificing excellent service, speed and cutting-edge technologies that streamline communications management, improve productivity and customer engagement and deliver other strategic benefits.

(9) Business Fit
In the end, a company needs to feel comfortable doing business with an outsourcing partner. A foundation of similar enterprise values will enable better collaboration, communication and trust.

Intent also must align. Is the print and mail outsourcing client looking for a partnership or a more transactional vendor relationship? The answer is likely to take some outsourcing companies out of the running. For example, if transitioning to a greater proportion of digital communications is a goal, the outsourcing agreement should facilitate that process rather than penalize a reduction in print and mail volumes relative to those of email and text messaging.

Choosing an outsourcing partner

For all but the largest in-plant operations, companies will have a hard time keeping up with the powerful technologies and services available from top print and mail outsourcers. Smaller print companies and their clients also may find themselves falling behind. In fact, tapping that expertise of the top outsourcers could serve as a springboard for reimagining and enriching a company’s communications programs.

That’s especially true for billing and other transactional and compliance communications. Doing things the way they’ve always been done puts companies increasingly out of step with changing customer expectations, regulations and technology.

Focusing on the 9 key attributes can help narrow the pool of possible partners. Then, matching strategic goals to the capabilities needed to achieve them can steer companies toward the right outsourcing partner.

Ready to learn more about print and mail outsourcing? Contact us to discuss Nordis Technologies’ best-in-class capabilities and services

Topics