20 Questions When Selecting a Print/Mail Service Provider
Choosing a vendor for print services, mail services, or both, can be similar to buying a new car. The first step is doing a lot of research online: checking out vendor websites, searching for news stories, and reading online reviews. Next, you reach out to people you know and ask for their recommendations and experiences. Then, you start contacting vendors.
After you’ve narrowed your selection, it’s time to start narrowing down more finalists. If your company is looking to find a long-term partner, your best tool would be the Request for Proposals (RFP) process. For a “one-off” project, you may request bids from the vendors. In either case, you still need to learn more about the vendor than just their pricing.
When we help companies draft RFPs for outsourcing, there may be dozens of questions. Usually, there are standard questions from the purchasing, procurement, or legal departments. There are application-specific questions – file formats, service-level requirements, postage costs, presort availability, materials, etc. Then, there are questions that appear in almost every RFP.
In addition to pricing, here are 20 questions you should ask when selecting a print/mail service provider:
- What electronic file formats can you accept for print and mail processing?
- What are the makes, models, and ages of all equipment used in providing print and mail services?
- What is the utilization-to-capacity ratio of each machine? How much additional capacity do you have available?
- Does your equipment vendor provide you with on-site service, or do you employ dedicated certified service maintenance engineers for your equipment? If yes, what are their certifications?
- How much have you invested in new equipment over the past three years, and what is your business strategy with regard to continuous evaluation and implementation of innovative technologies?
- Will you use a third party for any work, or partner with other service providers (e.g., print, fulfillment, presort)?
- Will you dedicate a service representative to this account?
- How will our company be kept informed of the progress of our work? Do you provide this information online? If so, please describe whether the information is real time,or if it is updated in a batch method?
- How does your customer service structure support notifications of delayed jobs, resolving issues, etc.?
- What processes or process improvement initiatives do you have in place to continuously improve and increase quality, improve timeliness, and reduce cost?
- What are your capabilities of providing electronic versions of documents (e.g., email, online viewing, etc.)?
- How do you capture your tracking information (e.g., number of files transmitted, number of files processed, what was printed, what inserted, total number of packages mailed/shipped, and postage applied)? In what format is the information?
- Describe the quality control procedures that you have in place for ensuring consistent output quality. Include your process performance standards, quality control reports, internal tracking devices, and types and frequency of manual or machine checks. How will you provide this data back to our company?
- Describe your tracking system used to identify damaged documents and ensure that the correct number of documents are reprinted.
- Describe the security measures that you have in place regarding the handling of confidential document data (e.g., HIPAA, PHI, SSNs, and other personal information). Describe your policy on the destruction of documents containing such confidential information.
- Describe your disaster recovery procedures that are in place in the event of a shutdown or a lapse in service for any reason. Include descriptions of your onsite problem prevention and maintenance programs, location and capacity of back-up facilities, equipment, and capabilities used in backup facilities, and logistics of the disaster recovery.
- What is the average level of experience for your staff? What is the industry experience of your production managers? What certifications do they hold?
- What is your company’s involvement with print/mail industry professional associations?
- What are the monthly volumes for your largest and average customers?
- List at least three references of the same size and in the same industry, who are currently receiving your services.
Input for this piece was provided by Lois Ritarossi, president of High Rock Strategies:
Lois Ritarossi is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark M. Fallon is president and CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. The company develops customized solutions integrating proven management concepts with emerging technologies to achieve total process management. He offers a vision of the document that integrates technology, data quality, process integrity, and electronic delivery. His successes are based upon using leadership to implement innovative solutions in the document process. You can contact Mark at email@example.com.