Is Returned Mail a Record?

UAA; Unknown address, return to sender, no forwarding address.  What is your company doing with your returned mail?  Is it stacking up behind reception?  Stuck in an unused office?  Thrown out?  Do you keep paying postage for correspondence that you know is going to bounce back, month after month after month?  What do you do? 

If you are in the financial or healthcare industries, your returned mail is regulatory evidence of your attempt to reach a customer or member, which is a business record, just like the green receipt from certified mail is a record.  The piece of mail becomes critically important in contentious situations, such as when a policy lapses.  Returned mail is also an opportunity to improve your CRM database.  In this case CRM is Critical Records Management as well as Customer Relations Management!   

If you don’t manage your returned mail, it will continue to be returned, wasting money on paper, postage and return postage.  And, as with any document that isn’t actively managed, it will either be stored “just in case” or thrown away but chances are, it’s not done consistently across the business.  When you are audited on your client outreach, you will need to provide this evidence to the auditor, or, the proof of destruction based on a records retention schedule.  If you can’t show a consistent, standard business practice, you could be in trouble. 

Technologies exist that can capture the information that is on the returned envelope with minimal labor.  The data that is extracted can be used to update your customer databases, which will reduce the returned mail in the next batch.  Updates could be editing of the information, such as fixing a mis-spelling or adding a zip code, or archiving it or deleting it.  A large healthcare insurance company reduced its returned mail from 86,000 pieces per month down to just a few thousand by extracting the data and updating their database.  The few thousand seems to be a constant number due to changes by individuals during a month; it’s not the same customer mail being returned each month. 

For those businesses that aren’t regulated on customer outreach, managing returned mail is cost-effective in the reduction of mail costs, especially of large documents with high postage costs.   The median cost to scan and extract the address and postal information from an envelope is $0.46 so with a ROI, of 12 to 14 months, it’s worth investigating the process with Western Integrated Systems.