After reviewing several options, a client decided to outsource the production and mailing of certain documents. We helped them identify vendors who had experience with their industry, and with their purchasing department, published a Request for Proposals (RFP). Using the weighted scoring approach, the team further narrowed the list of vendors to 3 finalists. References were called, site visits were completed, and the vendors made their final presentations.
Selecting the winning vendor involved reviewing the information received during the previous two months. Certain areas – financial stability and information security requirements – required the input from experts in those areas. The other topics that were reviewed included:
- Customer Service & Satisfaction
- Disaster Recovery
- Onboarding & Implementation
- Print and Inserting Process & Equipment
- Mail and Postage
While RFP responses are important, the reference calls reveal a lot about how customer service is practiced. It’s important to understand the vendor’s consistency in meeting service level agreements. Likewise, when there’s a problem – and there will be – you need to know how the vendor will manage the situation.
Strong disaster recovery plans aren’t an option – but a requirement. The vendor needs to explain how their information technology and production systems are backed up, and how often the plans are tested. The vendor should describe whether they use “hot sites” or “cold sites”, the capacity of the backup site and how many hours it will take to bring production back online.
The transition to a new vendor – whether from an in-plant operation or a different partner – must be carefully managed. In addition to the plan provided during the RFP process, this topic should be brought up on reference calls. Learn what went right, and what could have been done better.
The integrity of the mail is dictated by the processes and technology used to print and process the documents. There must be tracking and accountability of every piece within every job. With the rapid changes in the industry, the vendor’s investments in equipment and software demonstrates their commitment to the business.
Postage will continue to be the most expensive part of printed customer communications. Additionally, the US Postal Service’s compliance standards are being updated and enforced. Operations should be able to demonstrate how they are staying up to date and what they will do to ensure the lowest possible postage costs for their customers.
Companies need to have access to reliable information on the status and costs of their mailings. Through online portals and detailed billing, a customer should be able to quickly determine when a piece was printed, processed, entered into the US Postal Service – and how much that piece cost.
Which leads to the final area to review – pricing. As we explained in an earlier post, an RFP may not lead to the lowest price. The correct result is selecting a vendor that will provide the best service at the best price. Vendors and customers should sharpen their pencils, and agree to a pricing schedule that will help both parties be profitable.
When outsourcing print and mail communications, companies should seek out a partner that will collaborate for mutual success. Following the RFP process, and reviewing key areas – customer service, disaster recovery, onboarding, processing, postage, reporting, and pricing – will help in selecting the best vendor for your organization.