Housing Technology caught up with Joe Pettit, Optical Record Systems’ recently-promoted associate director of business development, to find out more about the company’s recently-launched HousingMail service, an electronic document management and workflow alternative to traditional post-room services.
What is HousingMail?
Over the last five to ten years, there has been a push within the housing sector to implement document management, CRM and workflow systems that are designed to automate key business processes. These systems have delivered savings by removing the need to manually move vital information through a complex process, while ensuring that tenants’ needs, compliance and business rules are achieved.
However, these systems have not delivered efficiencies to all parts of the process. With the business now hungry for accurate and timely data to start workflows, normal post-handling processes are not geared up to handle this requirement. HousingMail is the missing piece of the CRM and workflow jigsaw, giving housing providers access to real-time post and data that can drive through the efficiencies in these core systems.
Why doesn’t normal paper-based post work?
In traditional terms, paper post is fine; it is one of the main routes through which tenants and suppliers communicate, with many post items linked to a team and/or a process. However, in the world of workflow and automated processing, it doesn’t have the flexibility required by many housing providers.
The most important part of the post is the information contained within it, whether it’s a complaint or compliment, invoice, tenancy application, maintenance request or internal post. The problem is that getting at this data can be expensive and time-consuming as it requires staff throughout the organisation keying in large amounts of data to start workflows. We estimate that a housing provider with 10,000 tenants will lose 5-10 full-time staff to internal data-entry tasks throughout the year. In most cases, these staff have other jobs to do and the data entry prevents them from completing these, increasing the need for more staff and more expense.
If incorrectly managed, the cost of internal data-entry will easily wipe out any projected savings and efficiencies that document management, workflow and CRM can deliver.
So, how does HousingMail work?
HousingMail mimics the current tasks done by a housing provider’s post room. The mail is received, read, sorted and categorised before being processed to the relevant teams or individuals. The major improvement with HousingMail is that it removes the paper and replaces it with images and, more importantly, accurate data to drive day-to-day operations.
Is HousingMail tailored to the housing sector, and why is this necessary?
The housing sector has different requirements to many other sectors, driven by the need for a constant link to a property or tenant, coupled with high levels of internal and external compliance.
Standard post items can be linked to an invoice number, an employee or department; housing post differs in that it could also be linked to a tenant, applicant or property, adding an additional level of complexity. Most of the post received from tenants is time critical, with compliance dictating a response or acknowledgement within a defined period; acting fast in these instances makes all the difference.
HousingMail has been developed from ORS’s standard mail-handling systems to incorporate additional services – complex data capture, time-sensitive responses, links to tenant or properties, and the outsourcing of key business rules. By making these changes, we have developed an offering that delivers housing providers’ mail in a way that ensures instant compliance, reduces the need for internal data entry, and starts any workflow immediately.
Does this mean all post being diverted?
No, the goal is to focus on post volumes that are costly to manage internally – typically those that require large amounts of data entry or manual intervention. These items can then be outsourced as complete tasks, while non-critical post can continue to be received directly.
How does HousingMail integrate with current EDM, workflow & CRM systems?
HousingMail will seamlessly integrate with all core systems without the need for additional software. The service can deliver the data and images in any format, meaning that it can be implemented alongside any housing, EDM, workflow or CRM system at no cost.
What are the financial benefits of HousingMail, and how long do they take to accrue?
As HousingMail removes the need for internal post handling and data entry, the cost savings are immediate. All housing providers will see a guaranteed saving of 50 per cent in the first 12 months, and providers with higher post volumes or more complex requirements will see savings as high as 75 per cent.