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SWBC Eliminates Returned Mail

SWBC leverages SynTel's AutoMail PRO as an early adopter of the USPS' electronic address correction services, cutting costs and improving customer satisfaction.

Despite the surge in electronic document delivery, regulated postal mailings are still a drain on many insurers' revenues. To minimize these costs, San Antonio-based SWBC quickly adopts new mailing automation solutions, according to Cathy McCool, the P&C carrier's assistant VP for business application analysis. For example, "In early 2009 the U.S. Postal Service announced Intelligent Mail services and mandated a transition by mid-2011," she recalls. "But we wanted to start leveraging the savings right away."

One component of the USPS' Intelligent Mail is free electronic notification of returned mail, a service called OneCode ACS, for Address Correction Service. "This feature eliminates handling of returned mail pieces," McCool explains. "The postal service destroys the actual mail pieces and the mailer receives an electronic file instead. We immediately recognized the potential of this offering."

At the time, SWBC ($1 billion in annual written premiums) already had four years of experience in-house using SynTel's (Jonesboro, Ark.) AutoMail to design and deliver customer communications. And to further streamline the processing of some 25,000 different document formats, SWBC had added the vendor's Mailstream Manager in 2007. But benefiting from the USPS' Intelligent Mail required a migration to SynTel's AutoMail PRO, McCool reports.

While SWBC always is open to new vendors and solutions, moving to AutoMail PRO, according to McCool, was a no-brainer. "SynTel had always been way ahead of the curve, both in terms of its solutions and its ability to meet USPS deadlines," she relates. "Once, we failed to apply an update in the timeline defined by SynTel and the postal service rejected our next mailing. In short, it would take a catastrophic SynTel failure to consider another vendor."

After a seamless AutoMail PRO migration in April 2009, SWBC's development team spent a couple of weeks integrating it with other systems. This included engineering an in-house solution to gather returned mail data from the ACS files, match it with SynTel mailing records and feed the resulting information into internal mainframe applications, McCool relates.

When the USPS rolled out Intelligent Mail in May 2009, SWBC began using it immediately, as one of only 109 companies to adopt the system during the first six months of operation, according to the USPS. More important, the switch reduced SWBC's expenses and improved customer satisfaction, McCool says.

"Previously, most returned mail was delivered to our clients," she comments. "This generated a host of complaints because their staff had to process returns. Also, for our full-service accounts, our in-house departments manually processed returned mail. By the time addresses were updated, we'd already sent more mailings to the incorrect locations."

No Need to Return to Sender

Now SWBC downloads ACS data daily and incorrect addresses are automatically flagged. Simultaneously, address correction reports are generated for clients and internal departments, streamlining both external and internal correction processes. Consequently, SWBC's mailing costs have not accelerated as quickly as its mailing requirements, according to McCool. "And customer satisfaction has improved significantly," she says.

During 2011 another SynTel upgrade will permit the electronic submission of outgoing mailing reports to the USPS. "This enhancement is expected to save our support services department at least 30 minutes per day," reports McCool.

SWBC also plans to explore additional applications of the automation solution. "Currently about 75 percent of our mailings are processed using SynTel," McCool notes. "We're starting to review the remaining 25 percent, which aren't related to our mainframe applications, to see whether it makes sense to process them with SynTel as well."

Regardless, SynTel will remain a critical business partner. "The stability of the product is important," says McCool. "They've never faltered."

Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio

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