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Printing and Mailing Services: 5 Questions to Ask Before You Outsource

Updated 10/23/2023

As institutions of all sizes take a critical look at their bottom line, outsourcing is getting more attention than ever before. The need to streamline services, optimize personnel costs, and refocus on fundamental competencies leads many institutions to contract out non-core functions like printing and mailing.

Beyond standard logistical concerns like transition planning, managing workflow, and messaging staff about new processes, outsourcing printing and mailing services takes broader preparation. If you’re considering outsourcing, here are five questions to ask that will help ensure you’re making the right move.

1. What problem am I trying to solve? The decision to outsource any service is typically driven by a need to overcome a challenge, improve efficiency, or save money. Before you begin to explore outsourcing printing and mailing services, clearly understand the status quo. Ask yourself, how does the current service structure fall short? How would outsourcing improve service or product quality? What specific expenses would it reduce? Is there a way to make improvements, reduce costs, and still keep services in-house? Having a realistic view of the issues will help make sure you find a solution that fits.

2. What are the costs? Outsourcing is often first driven by bottom-line considerations. But understanding the direct and indirect costs of outsourcing is vital to making the most informed decision. Sometimes, factors like onerous new contract terms, union and personnel issues, or sluggish customer service can turn what was intended to be a cost-saving measure into a spending black hole.

3. How will quality improve or what added services will I get? The logic behind most outsourcing decisions is this: When institutions focus on what their best at and outsource the rest, the quality of their core services improves. Additionally, the quality of the peripheral services also improves by being delegated to external “experts.”

Before you outsource, know the costs and what exactly you’ll be getting in return. How will print quality and project turnaround times improve? How will mail services expand, become more customized, or be automated? And ultimately, how will all these added capabilities improve your school’s ability to innovate, market itself, tailor its messaging, and reach the right students?

4. What are the tradeoffs and how will I measure success? Outsourcing seldom comes without some sort of compromise. Having a third party administer any service often means sharing control, adjusting customer service expectations, relinquishing processes, etc. But good partnerships mean these adjustments are far outweighed by economic advantages and concrete business benefits. A strategic outsourcing plan — for mailing and printing services or for any secondary service — should include metrics for success. Have a clear idea of how success will be defined and measured and know what ongoing review systems will be in place to assess it.

5. How will outsourcing better position my school for the future? The best outsourcing decisions are motivated not only by short-term cost-savings but by longer-term strategies. As you weigh the pros and cons of outsourcing your printing and mailing services, understand how it supports your institution’s business goals and strategic plan. How will outsourcing help your school focus on its core competencies? What innovations will you benefit from by partnering with an outside service? What internal resources and talent will you be able to redirect toward other initiatives once you outsource?

Deciding when and how to outsource printing and mailing services is no casual task. Printing and mailing services are the backend systems that support a school’s front-end efforts. We all know that the ability to effectively communicate with prospective students, current students, alumni, and donors is the key to a thriving organization. As you examine outsourcing solutions for your institution, consult with a trusted partner who can help inform your decisions with experience and industry knowledge.

Enrollment Builders consults on a host of operational and logistic issues for institutions of all sizes. If you’d like to explore the costs and benefits of outsourcing services, we can help. Our consultants are leaders in the higher education industry and we work with clients across the country to strategically plan and implement efficiencies that can lead to long-term savings. To learn more about what we do, call us at 513-518-7824, or request information here.