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Unlocking the Value of Customer Communications

Many organizations in mature industries such as telecom, insurance, finance, banking and print-for-pay service bureaus often don’t recognize the value inherent in their communications with customers. Mature industries expand via mergers and acquisitions, resulting in bolted-on business applications that complicate the communication and marketing processes. These bolt-ons exist within business silos and have disparate communication infrastructure and approaches, none of which are harmonized to give customers a sense that their business is important to the organization. Now, organizations can use enterprise output management (EOM) solutions to unlock the once-hidden value in consistent, personalized communications to help retain customers and increase customer lifetime value.

For the past 20 years or so, organizations looked to enterprise asset management (EAM) tools, like SAP, to account for and manage physical assets. This approach centered on design, construction, commissioning, operations, maintenance and replacement of plant, equipment and facility assets. EAM solutions reduced labor, cost and time to market for global changes; decreased redundant processes; and brought visibility and agility to asset management.

Next, organizations looked to enterprise content management (ECM) tools to centrally organize and store data, documents and other content, which helped support customer communications and customer relationship management. ECM solutions unified access to content previously stored in disparate systems and reduced labor costs while allowing organizations to quickly implement global changes. They could then also access and leverage data formerly unavailable — providing visibility to their customers, and increased awareness of their needs and the services they receive.

Today, due to increasing competitive pressures, organizations must centrally manage customer communications to effectively deliver messages to multiple channels such as Web, email and mobile devices. The solution is to use enterprise output management tools to manage the creation and distribution of both physical and electronic communications. EOM solutions maximize the value and content of each communication, ensure delivery to the desired channel, and enable faster time to market. It also is the most cost-effective way to implement global communication changes across the organization. Done correctly, organizations gain a single view and control point for all outbound communications while significantly reducing labor, cost and time to market for marketing, personalization and migration to digital presentment alternatives. More importantly, organizations satisfy customers by engaging with them wherever and whenever they choose.

EOM tools, such as Bell and Howell’s software and workflow suites, use a centralized utility that allows multiple business lines, regardless of the legacy system they are created in, to apply channel-specific formatting parameters after the messages are created. This greatly reduces ongoing support and implementation costs, significantly reduces the time to transition business applications to modern distribution channels, and provides a platform to cross-sell and upsell to customers. Most importantly, EOM solutions provide a consolidated view of the end-to-end customer communication process — allowing transaction-level visibility within business lines and customer service organizations.

The primary components of EOM solutions — workflow automation and post-composition tools — enable just-in-time application of common formatting and distribution requirements, which help ensure compliance and consistency across applications and delivery channels. EOM solutions can enhance legacy application documents to insert color, electronic onserts, inserts and forms overlays, as well as marketing messages and personalized information to increase customer satisfaction and retention. Once assembled, the communication can be custom formatted, optimally packaged, and then guided to the appropriate distribution channel. Centralizing the communication distribution process gives organizations an enterprise dashboard, enabling real-time visibility and reporting on all aspects of the physical and electronic distribution processes.

In addition, EOM solutions can catapult mature organizations’ disorganized communication silos into nimble, customer-focused operations that attract new customers, retain customers, and increase their lifetime value. Presenting the right content over the right channel consistently across all business lines will positively impact customers’ overall impression of your organization. As technology continues to evolve and channels of communications expand, EOM tools will position your organization to continue to quickly adapt to these changes.

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Six Points to Consider When Maintaining Your Own Print and Mailing Equipment

It’s bound to happen. In the middle of your print run or mailing, some technical malfunction – whether large or small – interrupts the workflow. Even the highest-quality equipment can experience interruptions in throughput due to operator error or the usual wear and tear of electro-mechanical operation.

In this instance, foresight and preparation can help lessen the downtime and get your equipment back up and running soon. If you monitor and maintain your own equipment, here are six points to consider:

1. Keep standard spare parts on hand for “do-it-yourself” kits. – Under normal use, most systems can run at 24/7 capacity. While many are designed to handle this load, often environmental factors can increase the normal wear and tear on heavily used parts. Keeping a standard set of manufacturer-recommended parts increases your ability to schedule regular maintenance so that your system’s uptime remains high.

2. Know how to quickly access high-quality parts. – Buying and stocking parts is an essential component of any self-maintenance effort, but you don’t want to tie up your cash in parts that just sit on a shelf for a year. That’s when it’s essential to engage a service partner that can deliver consistent quality, availability and accessibility of parts so that you can have the right parts at your fingertips in the fastest time possible.

3. Know your documentation. – Every system comes with manufacturer-recommended maintenance guidelines. Be sure to keep yours on file and make time to log what’s been upgraded, replaced or changed out. Self-maintainers should also know how to reach the manufacturer’s technical assistance center via phone, Skype or other communications channel so they can walk you through most maintenance procedures.

4. Widen your system knowledge base. – It seems each job site has that one person who “knows the equipment like the back of their hand.” As valuable as these people are, they are no substitute for clearly documented work instructions and system notes when it comes to uninterrupted uptime. A single point of failure can wreak havoc on your operations. Be sure that your service managers or technicians are sharing information about how they keep the equipment in top shape. A service log is ideal. Some companies are even making easy-to-follow videos on routine maintenance procedures and filing them to a central, easy-to-access area for reference.

5. Know when and how to access help. – A popular option for many organizations is a hybrid of self-maintenance and periodically scheduled equipment inspections. This lets you maintain equipment based on your day-to-day needs, but also gives you quarterly or biannual full-inspection check-ups that can uncover any larger issues that may affect performance. Get to know your trained local service technicians.

6. Look for a partner that can get the job done when you can’t. – You won’t always be able to dedicate a resource to keeping your equipment in the best shape possible. Get to know your service options when you need to allocated ad-hoc maintenance to an outside resource.

Maintaining your own equipment can definitely save time and money, but you should also explore flexible service arrangements that let you call in expert technicians as needed. You don’t need to lock into large, expensive contracts or tolerate questionable service from local equipment repair shops. Do the research to find the right service partner, and you will be rewarded with confidence and peace of mind.

For more information on Bell and Howell Services, visit

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Technology Will Transform the Future of Mail

I recently had the privilege of participating in a roundtable panel discussion at the PostalVision 2020/5.0 Conference in Pentagon City, Virginia. This conference drew high-level leaders from both public and private posts from around the globe, as well as regulators and congressional staffers.

The topic of our session was “E-Commerce Delivery Innovation” and I was able to share my thoughts via a brief presentation before participating in the discussion with executives from Keba, Swapbox and DHL Germany.

My message to the assembled guests is that despite the decline in mail volume, postal operations can leverage new technology to jump on the proverbial e-commerce bandwagon and pick up more business in parcel handling and sorting.

First of all, I reassured the participants that paper mail is not going away. Due to email and other communications channels, mail volume continues to decrease worldwide, but at a slower rate than previously. Current estimates are that we will see an average annual decline between 3% and 4% over the next few years.

However, many consumers still wish to receive their bills, statements, catalogs, etc., by mail. The U.S. Postal Service continues to process between 45 and 50 billion pieces of First Class mail every year. In fact, direct mail is rising between 1% and 2% every year, and we are seeing the emergence of multichannel (paper and digital) marketing.

Technology will be at the center of the movement to increase the value of paper mail by making it more interactive and digital-friendly. Think of QR codes on direct mailpieces that, when scanned with a mobile device, can lead the consumer to online content. Think of advances in geofencing that can add coupons to an envelope based on a business address and radius, or alert route drivers of pickups/deliveries in an area by having packages glow or labels chirp. The global economy will drive geocoding for greater delivery efficiency and perhaps a global addressing system based on longitude and latitude. Near-field and GPS technology can lead to augmented reality, where scanning an address or map could guide you to your destination via an onscreen display.

Other innovations include video postcards that use organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) and polymers than allow for flexible screens. Reverse envelopes – with a reverse, inverted or bottom flap – allow for additional marketing space and digital color printing.

Regarding other trends that will affect the future of mail, I relayed my predictions that privatization of posts will continue to occur, that home delivery will change due to days of service and more cluster mailboxes, and that more homes and businesses will rent or purchase parcel lockers.

I am proud to say that Bell and Howell is leading the charge of adapting technologies and processes developed for paper mail to the expanding field of e-commerce fulfilment. We strongly advocate for increasing the value of paper mail by making it more interactive and digital-friendly. We have always been involved in customer transactions, pioneered wrapping technology, and have been at the forefront of automated document factories (ADFs).

As the global mail industry continues to evolve, we are using technology to help many of our customers migrate from paper mail to e-commerce. Our products like CartonWrap, ParcelMgr and high-throughput print-and-apply labelers are already helping clients improve efficiency, save money, and reduce waste.

The proliferation of the Internet has spurred a surge in online purchases, but at the end of the day products still need to be processed and shipped. There is room for all global posts to thrive in this new reality if they make the necessary technological adaptations to accommodate e-commerce.

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Ballot sorter aims for better and faster efficiency.

KTVL CBS Channel 10 :: Medford – News – Top Stories – Ballot sorter aims for better and faster efficiency.

By Ashley Carrasco / KTVL.COM MEFORD – Election day is just around the corner and a machine given to Jackson County is expected to speed up the way your ballot is handled. The Bell and Howell, LLC, Apex Elevate Sorter, separates each ballot into a heavy precinct order.Jackson County Clerk, Chris Walker says, the machine is crucial for Jackson County because it is one of the larger counties in the U.S. with very little employees. “It helps the counties to be able to produce in a faster manner, in a more accurate manner, less handling of people of the ballots themselves.” Jackson County is responsible to pay for annual maintenance costs.Walker explains, this goes for any software or equipment. Wednesday, May 14, 2014, Jackson County Board of Commissioners are expected to approve the budgeted amount for equipment service costs.