Dec. 29 2006 11:18 AM

Scores of managers of internal customer messaging centers say they want to insource print/mail finishing work. Many use the prospect of insourcing work as a way to help justify needed investments in new technology or equipment. But very few ever attract work from outside the organization. A key reason is a lack of marketing. It's not enough to say that you want the extra work or that you have the capability or the capacity to handle it. You have to work to get the work.


One organization that is attracting new business, from both inside and outside the parent organization, is First Coast Service Options (FCSO) of Jacksonville, Florida. FCSO is a wholly-owned, for-profit subsidiary of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida (BCBSFL). It was created to handle claims and statement processing for government programs such as Medicare. It is also expected to solicit work from beyond the existing Medicare contract and the half dozen or so non-government customers it already services.


Higher Profits, Lower Costs

"More processing volume at our FCSO subsidiary means higher profits as well as a lower per-mailpiece cost," explains Dave McMullen, director of IT Operations for BCBSFL. "And that enables FCSO to charge BCBSFL less for any shared services we may use."


To help capture the extra volume from both internal and external sources, FCSO is implementing a four-part program that emphasizes the basics of marketing communications. Angelo Tauro, who serves as Manager of Outgoing Mail, is coordinating the marketing effort.


Creating Awareness

A key first step is to let your targets know who you are. FCSO does that via a number of low-cost, high-reach tools such as a Web page on the BCBSFL Intranet, a series of messages on the company's internal TV program and brief messages that scroll across employees' computer screens.


The unit also offers shop-floor tours for all new customers and has conducted an Open House for senior executives and potential customers when they moved into a new 73,600-square-foot automated document factory-style facility.


"We already process a wide array of applications including EOBs, summary statements, policy assembly and checks for beneficiaries and health care providers," explains Tauro. "But there are many other applications related to customer acquisition, retention and general messaging that are outsourced by BCBSFL to local mail shops. That's the business we wanted to go after and bring back in-house."


Delivering Focused Messages

The content of the Web page, TV announcements, scrolling messages and shop-floor tours is both simple and focused, and that's a key second step keep your message short and sweet. "You won't have the attention of your audience for very long," says Tauro, "so you'd better be concise in whatever you communicate." For Tauro, everything boils down to the key benefits of "Cheaper, better and faster."


For example, the Intranet Web page features photos of the print/mail finishing center, lists the range of services available and stresses the key benefits to customers: high-speed, low-cost and assured reliability.


"There's no point to emphasizing equipment or technical jargon to your internal customers," says Tauro. "Very few are interested in that level of detail. Most just want assurance that you can do their jobs quickly, cost-effectively and without errors."


Creating a Dialog to Illustrate Expertise

This brings us to the third key step be sure to find a way to demonstrate your expertise. Tauro and Gene Rauch, Tauro's counterpart who manages print operations for BCBSFL, do this by using a semi-automated process to capture data about an upcoming mailing. Potential customers simply enter key facts on the FCSO Web page such as the number of mailpieces, the number and size of pages and inserts and the anticipated deadline for postmark date.


Armed with this preliminary information, Tauro and Rauch can then probe for additional details about the job when they call to follow up. This enables them to begin making intelligent recommendations right away to lower costs, speed processing and improve integrity.


"Our goal is to guide the customer to the least expensive, most efficient mailing possible," Rauch says. "Many times our customers' ideas are based solely on their previous experiences, not on what is possible or most efficient. Our job is to guide them though the many alternatives that can influence a mailing, such as paper stock and dimensions, simplex versus duplex printing and envelope styles."


"We haven't been as involved in the upstream or creative aspect of the mailings as we would like," adds Rauch. "We focus more on accommodating rather than influencing design at this point," he continues. "But we hope to expand in that direction as we gain more credibility with our customers."


Showing Concrete Results

Demonstrating credibility or the results of your expertise is critical to attracting and retaining customers. For individuals, Tauro spells out in either memo or invoice form the precise cost savings or other improvements achieved on their behalf. For the organization, he regularly reports the total savings achieved.


But more to the point, the emphasis on marketing is paying off. Tauro and Rauch have already completed several new mailings two of which are the largest mailings ever handled by their facility and they are working on several more that may lead to additional recurring work.


These two large mailings show just how successful the marketing efforts have been.  One mailing, intended to update customers on recent legislative changes that affected health care insurance coverage, involved more than 1.2 million mailpieces and five million sheets of paper.


Previously, this mailing was handled by an outside vendor. But Rauch suggested improvements such as processing the mailing on high-speed laser printing and automated inserting systems instead of offset printing and hand-stuffing and saved the internal customer more than $200,000.


The second mailing focused on HIPAA requirements and involved more than 900,000 envelopes and 15 million sheets of paper. Rauch acknowledges that cost savings for this mailing are more difficult to pinpoint since there was no identical previous mailing for comparison.


They were able to introduce options including address cleansing, the use of Standard Class versus First Class postage and an innovative sorting and production schedule that enabled the mailing to be completed ahead of schedule and at a potential savings "in excess of $400,000."


More Work, More Leads

One of the internal sales successes involved a desktop mail/merge application. Previously, the application was handled by several individuals who manually processed the daily mailings by inserting pre-printed form letters into windowless envelopes. The envelopes were then addressed by hand. Now, those same letters are sent electronically via LAN to the laser printers for semi-automated processing.


The new arrangement gives FCSO a new stream of continuous work. And the employees, who are now relieved of a tedious, repetitive chore, are reassigned to higher-value duties, which benefits BCBSFL as well.


The potential of the sales leads from outside the organization may be even greater. Tauro and Rauch recently attended the National Postal Forum as attendees and exhibitors. Hundreds of advertising specialties, such as paper clip holders, refrigerator magnets and carry bags, were distributed, all emblazoned with the logo of their marketing effort.


There's no guarantee that any potentials will convert into an actual customer. But if they can convince just two or three percent to give them a try, they'll be well on their way to growing their business. In fact, they already sound a little like "salesmen" instead of managers of a print/mail finishing center.


"In the customer-messaging industry, downturns are actually good for service bureaus because many companies take a fresh look at their core competencies," says Tauro. "If they identify print/mail finishing as non-core to their business, they may look for a good outsourcing solution."


"The new HIPAA legislation has also helped us," adds McMullen. "We've already made the investment in new processing technology to assure 100% mailpiece integrity. And we already have a track record in achieving 100% integrity across multiple applications. Other firms that need to comply with the HIPAA requirements will either have to make a similar investment or find a resource that can provide the necessary mailpiece and processing integrity."


George Linkletter is a marketing consultant who specializes in customer messaging. You can reach him at For information on FCSO, you can contact Angelo via e-mail at or Gene at