Whenever you take over managing a mail center, one of the first things you do is take stock of the people, processes, and equipment. It is important to review the roles people fulfill while taking care of your organization's mail and the equipment they use to do their jobs. You should ask yourself a series of questions about the processes in place, the employees job duties, and what type of equipment you have to see if changes are needed and when you need to make them. Do I need a new meter? Do I need a new inserter? What is the process for presorting my mail? All very important questions, but there is one more question you have to ask yourself, and it is one that touches everything you and your staff do: Are my customers well educated about mail?

Knowing the leadership structure can make it easier to reach your customers. Every organization's physical setting is different. Leadership may all be in one location, or they may be spread across many buildings. Either way, you should take the time to meet with departmental leadership. Email can be an efficient way to communicate, but meeting face-to-face is more effective. Understanding the leadership of your organization is important in order to make changes to a department's mail system and you have to know who to talk to accomplish those goals. Getting in front of one or two key people in the leadership group could result in sweeping changes for the entire organization.

Do you want that accounting report folded in half to save postage? Maybe instead you just want to put a rule in place that ALL flats for your organization should be folded in half? In that case you should probably skip the Accounting VP and head on over to the EVP - Executive Vice President of Finance.

Over the years despite the advances in communication, face- to-face meetings are still the preferred method of making change happen. When I entered into the world of higher education mail services armed with that knowledge, one thing became very clear, very quickly. The traditional route of making change happen by getting in front of a few key people all conveniently located in one space can be thrown out the window.

Each school or college at the university is their own kingdom and there are over 650 departments at the University of Texas at Austin. We travel to over 100 buildings to deliver mail and make trips to off-campus buildings as well. That's a lot of face to face meetings. On my first day of the job here, my boss pulled me into his office and said "You can't give enough presentations or get in front of too many campus groups." He warned me to never stop talking to the customers.
Since then I've given more presentations and had more face to face meetings here at the University of Texas at Austin than I have ever done in my career. My first foray was the Town Hall Meeting, which is taped and delivered so that all operations employees have access to what was presented. I also went on each Mail Services driver's route. I went to the HR Forum held for all HR representatives in each department. That was also taped and made available to others. I went before the Building Manager's meeting and the Security Meeting held at the university's Police Department. I've presented to Business Managers and Administrative Assistants. I sat in meetings with ITS folks and Executive Assistants. This year I came up with a plan I "borrowed" from FDR entitled fire side chats. Departments turn in a form that tells me when they would like to meet and what they would like to discuss. I put those in every mail slot on campus and to date have been to 10. My boss calls department heads and asks if they would be interested in having the Mail Service Manager come speak to their department. All things considered, I believe I have probably spoken to about 15% of a campus made up of 20,000 employees and 52,000 students.

There is no such thing as one or two meetings and then sweeping changes at a large university. And changes that are made and communicated to the campus are not done in one e-mail or one face to face meeting. Ironically educating the educators is a much taller task than educating the business world. Here at the Document Solutions Department we have a webpage, a Facebook page and a nice glossy "Helpful Mailing Tips" brochure. One of many brochures we hand out. We hand those out at our "Mail 101" classes we hold twice a year as well as the "Mail Center Security" classes as well. All of that is geared toward educating the campus on best mail practices.

There is a pay-off. The more educated your customers become the easier it is to process the US mail the way the USPS recommends and to receive discounts for doing that. Educating the customers at the university level is a bit more complex than in the corporate world. You may educate one college on best practices in mailing but that does not mean every college will follow suit. In addition there are faculty groups, athletic groups, alumni groups, and operational groups each with their own hierarchy. You may never control envelope purchasing like you can at the corporate office setting, but you can educate the designers to leave the barcode area clear when placing the Longhorn logo onto the envelope. You will just have to educate one designer at a time because there are multiple designers employed on campus. Educating your customers simply replaces other duties at the top of your to-do list when working at a university or college. For me it has become one of the most important things I do here. The more presentations I make and the more groups I speak to the more educated the university becomes in regards to mailing best practices. For us that has resulted in a busier Bulk Mail Unit and more postage savings for the departments, groups, and colleges at the University of Texas at Austin.

Jim Guza is Mail Services Manager at the University of Texas at Austin.