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What Does Return Mail Processing Mean?

Any organization that mails documents is bound to have return mail – mail that is undeliverable.

Whether the sender is a business, government entity, or third-party service provider, taking the steps necessary to get returned mail into the hands of the intended recipient can be a major headache.

This article details the returned mail process and shows how organizations can improve it.

What does return mail processing mean?

Return mail processing is the management and handling of mail that is returned to the sender due to an incorrect or incomplete address, the recipient having moved to a new address, the recipient being unknown or deceased, insufficient postage, or any other reason that prevents delivery.

Once mail is returned, it must be sorted, the reason the mail was returned must be identified, the address database must be updated with the correct address, and the mail must be attempted to be resent.  In cases where the mail is undeliverable or unclaimed, returned mail might also be disposed.

Utilities, insurers, financial services companies, and healthcare organizations are among those with returned mail.  Improving returned mail processing helps organizations get mail to the intended recipient, eliminates paper clutter, and helps keep an organization’s address database current.

What is the return mail processing center?

Processing returned mail can be a challenging task, as it often involves handling large volumes of mail and trying to uncover and resolve the reason that mail could not be delivered as intended.

In most organizations, this task falls on the shoulders of a return mail processing center.

Here are some of the common challenges that organizations face when processing return mail:

  • Volume of mail: Handling a large volume of return mail can overwhelm organizations that do not have the resources or infrastructure in place to manage it efficiently.
  • Accuracy: Ensuring the accuracy of the returned mail processing is critical, as mistakes can lead to incorrect updates to customer records or further delays in processing the mail.
  • Information security: Returned mail can contain sensitive customer information, and organizations must ensure that they handle this data appropriately to avoid data breaches.
  • Data management: An incorrect, incomplete, or outdated address is a big reason that mail is returned.  But updating the address database can be onerous and time-consuming.
  • Communication: Organizations must let customers know about returned mail, inform them of the issue, and provide them with instructions on how to update their mailing information.
  • Cost: Manually processing return mail can be costly and involve a lot of time and labor.
  • Deadlines: Depending on the nature of the returned mail, there may be time-sensitive deadlines that organizations must meet to ensure a timely resolution of the issue.

Processing return mail requires a lot of time, resources, and attention to detail.  Organizations must have a solid plan in place, and the right technology, to manage the process efficiently and effectively.

How to improve your returned mail processing

There are several steps that organizations can take to improve their return mail processing.

  • Database hygiene: Make sure that your address data is accurate and up to date.  Periodically remove invalid or outdated addresses and add new addresses.  Database management can be achieved by using reliable address verification software or service.
  • Envelopes and packaging: Mail may be returned because of damage.  Using high-quality envelopes and packaging helps ensure that mail withstands the rigors of the postal system.
  • Data standardization: Using software tools to verify and standardize the data in mailing lists will help ensure that the addresses are consistent and in the correct format.
  • Optimize Mailings: Targeting the right audience and using effective messaging can help reduce the amount of returned mail and improve response rates.
  • Automated Processing: Manually processing returned mail is a burden that only gets bigger as an organization’s mail volume grows.  High-speed document processing solutions with in-line data capture technology can automate the sorting and routing of returned mail to the correct department or person for resolution.  These solutions also can automatically capture the mailing address on returned mail and validate it against information in a database.

These steps help organizations reduce the cost and time associated with handling returned mail.

Why automate return mail processing

Organizations can achieve significant benefits by automating their return mail processing.

  • Time savings: Automating return mail processing can save a significant amount of time compared to manual processing.  Staff wastes less time keying data and shuffling paper.  This can be especially beneficial for companies that receive a large volume of return mail.
  • Cost savings: Automating return mail processing can reduce labor costs associated with manual processing.  High-speed document processing devices can automatically sort, and route return mail for handling.  Additionally, automated return mail processing can help reduce the costs associated with paper-based processes, such as printing and postage.
  • Improved accuracy: Automating return mail processing can reduce the risk of errors that can occur with manual processing.  Automated systems can quickly and accurately identify return mail, communicate with customers, and update customer information.
  • Enhanced customer experience: Automated return mail processing can help ensure that customer information is up-to-date and accurate.  Reducing the likelihood of incorrect or outdated information being used for communications delivers a better customer experience.
  • Better data management: Automating return mail processing can help improve data management by providing more accurate and complete address information.  This can help organizations make better decisions and improve overall business operations.

These are some of the reasons that organizations are automating their return mail processing.

Automate your returned mail processing center

Manually handling return mail is a burden for businesses, government entities, and third-party service providers.  Process improvements and automation help organizations streamline this process, to save time and money, deliver a better customer experience, and improve their data management.

Speak with one of our expert consultants to learn more.

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