Four expert compliance best practices for midsize providers

Many midsize print and mail providers have not had to be overly concerned with issues related to compliance. But that is changing. In this age of strict security mandates and stringent privacy regulations, customers are making compliance a requirement, particularly in regard to ensuring protection of the confidential data in almost any print stream. “Today, you must be able to track, monitor and control that data through the print and mail process to ensure that nothing is being compromised,” said John Kline, vice president of Solutions Engineering and Professional Services at Pitney Bowes.

Consider the four points that follow as you approach the important issue of compliance as it relates to your business. 

1. Compliance is no longer a “nice to have”

Your customers drive compliance, and when regulations increase, customer-driven audits and assessments increase too. Today, compliance isn’t just a concern for big companies. “All work today has a compliance component,” said Kline.

“It’s no longer a ‘nice to have.’ To bring in new customers, it’s a requirement,” Kline continued. “You’re going to have to demonstrate what your current compliance processes are for the customers you serve now.” 

What does that entail? “At a basic level, you must be able to articulate your process, your discipline, the ability to be audited, the ability to deal with exceptions, and the ability to update your processes based on changes to compliance mandates,” said Kline.

2. Be prepared: An audit can happen to you

When it comes to compliance, you may be doing the bare minimum, perhaps to save on costs. You may hope that you’ll never be audited, and take the approach that you’ll deal with it if it happens. But imagine this scenario when it does: Everything comes to a halt because you’re trying to document things you don’t typically have to document. You have to provide evidence of security that you may actually have to create. And every time an issue is found, it must be remedied within a specific period of time.

“An audit can bury a midsize provider if they do not have the technology to get through it easily,” said Kline. “Audits are lengthy and can be extremely costly from the standpoint of what a small or midsize company can support.”

The bottom line is: If you are audited, can you easily provide proof? Proof that the content in each mail piece is accurate and compliant, that each mail piece is accurately compiled, addressed and produced, and that each mail piece was mailed at the right time to the right place?

“Making sure that the chain of custody isn’t broken and that you can verify it if you are audited is becoming a must-do,” said Kline. “You want to make the audit process more efficient and less costly, so that it won’t impact your workflow when it happens.”

3. Take a proactive approach to risk

Although you strive for 100 percent accuracy, at some point there will be an error. The goal is to reduce risk as much as possible while being prepared for when something goes wrong. By limiting the number of hands and handoffs that touch each individual mail piece, you go a long way to reducing human error.

Replacing manual processes with automation using integrated solutions designed to work together, you minimize risk and streamline the compliance process. For example, “file-based processing provides you with an auditable trail of a piece of work,” said Kline.

“While this type of compliance technology may seem like a big investment up front,” Kline continued, “it protects you if there’s an issue and is typically much less costly in the long term. The expense of defending yourself and implementing a one-time process change when you get audited can cripple your business. When you can easily prove that you did it right, audits are a lot more efficient, less costly and less disruptive to your workflow.”

You can proactively reduce risk and achieve the required level of compliance that meets customer guidelines without breaking the bank. “At a minimum, a service provider needs to be able to demonstrate what happened to a mail piece at every step of the process, from print to finishing to when it left their custody,” said Kline. “There are ways to do this that are more cost-effective than others, and we can help with that.”

4. Make compliance a growth driver

Compliance is critical for future-proofing your business and achieving long-term profitability. “Being able to demonstrate compliance is important,” said Kline. “Today, it’s the price of doing business.”

It also offers an opportunity. You can bring in new business by choosing to specialize. “There are midsize providers that specialize in insurance or healthcare by focusing on healthcare compliance or insurance compliance,” said Kline. “They’ve invested in specific infrastructure to be compliant in that vertical.”

But cost is important too. Determine what level of compliancy is required that is also within your cost model. “There are solutions for midsize providers that help track, monitor and control data through the print and mail process in a cost-conscious way,” Kline added.

Don’t let compliance issues cripple your business because you’re not prepared. Many Pitney Bowes clients are meeting these challenges by harnessing the specialized compliance features built into cost-effective, intelligent print and mail processing systems geared to midsize providers.