By Jeffrey Lipes
For Regus Americas, a legacy network of postage meters across our business centers presented a challenge in terms of cost, visibility and control.
Worldwide, Regus operates more than 1,000 business centers across 450 cities in 85 countries. The company has a large footprint in the US, where we offer fully equipped and staffed offices, business support services and conference/video communication services in prestigious buildings such as Rockefeller Plaza, The Chrysler Building and Spear Tower. Our business model allows our clients to reduce their facility costs, increase employee productivity and achieve a tighter focus on their core business.
However, our business centers had traditionally relied on postage meters to manage clients' mailing and shipping needs. Each business center had a dedicated area that housed a large postage meter along with all of the other consumables required to supply it. Employees used this space to support their clients by collecting, sorting and processing postage requests.
The Problem with Postage Meters
Although clients paid for the postage used to ship their packages and mail their envelopes, each location incurred considerable expense by operating its postage meter, including:
Cost. Between the multi-year lease, maintenance fees, proprietary ink costs and hidden charges such as insurance, reset fees and extra phone lines, the cost of using postage meters at each business center location added up quickly.
Time. Managing numerous leases, keeping track of constant inventory changes with center openings, closings and acquisitions, and manual management of the postage fund for 400 centers were all very time-consuming.
Productivity. Postage meters did not maximize employee efficiency. Our business center staff was forced to print separate address labels for each piece of mail, handwrite international customs forms and manually input client charges into our billing system, leading to inefficiency, errors and delayed billing.
From Hardware to Software
Our management team soon recognized the operational waste caused by the postage meters and initiated a search for a more modern and cost-effective solution. As the person responsible for evaluating and selecting the technologies offered to our clientele, I led the search. My key selection criteria included:
- Cost savings for Regus and for our clients.
- The ability to meet every type of postage demand.
- Scalable across 400 business centers.
- Robust reporting capabilities to track postage spending.
- Automated client chargeback.
After a thorough evaluation process, my team and I chose an Internet-based, enterprise postage service from Stamps.com in 2008. This new solution allows employees at our business centers to calculate and print official USPS postage from the computer, improving productivity, saving space and eliminating the need for expensive postage meter ink and dedicated phone lines.
Working with our Operations and Procurement teams, Stamps.com quickly rolled the solution out to 400 business centers. As part of the company's "White Glove Roll-Out Program," Stamps.com managed the creation of all our postage accounts and provided customized communications materials and software training for all our users. The implementation went smoothly, and I did not have to invest a lot of time overseeing the process.
Stamp of Approval
We've realized a number of benefits since implementing Stamps.com Enterprise, including:
Cost savings. Our Internet-based postage solution has reduced costs by approximately $1.2 million per year by allowing us to use the computers and printers we already own instead of renting expensive postage meter equipment. With Stamps.com Enterprise, no extra equipment is required, no special labels or ink refills are needed, and we're not locked into a complex multi-year contract.
Space savings. Because Regus' product literally is space, each square foot taken up needlessly has a direct impact on our overall bottom line. Postage meters took up dramatic amounts of work space in each business center and even more in storage space needed for their custom consumables. Without the postage meters, we've been able to offer more work and storage space to our clients, increasing the revenue potential for each of our locations.
Robust functionality. Regus serves the business needs of organizations ranging in size from small startups to Fortune 500 companies. Because the postage needs of these organizations range from simple day-to-day mailings all the way up to bulk marketing initiatives and shipping large packages, we needed a postage solution that was flexible enough to adapt to the required project and robust enough to meet these different challenges on an ongoing basis. Stamps.com Enterprise is both easy to use and powerful enough to manage even the largest postage projects.
Improved productivity. Mailing and shipping is much easier with Stamps.com Enterprise, so our center staff no longer has to spend so much time on mailing-related tasks. The software prints address labels and postage in one easy step, verifies addresses and provides automated customs and certified mail forms to cut down on the amount of paperwork staff must fill out by hand. Regus corporate employees' time is also freed up because they no longer have to manage postage meter inventory for 400 business centers, and they aren't required to manage a postage fund account. In addition, with automated chargeback, Regus employees no longer need to spend time manually inputting postage charges into our billing system. Instead, they use that time to better service their clients.
Comprehensive reporting. Because Regus generally has numerous clients sharing business resources at each facility, it was important for our mailing solution to have advanced tracking and reporting capabilities so that postage expenses could be allocated to the appropriate client. Stamps.com Enterprise allows us to use cost codes for each client and attach them to every piece of mail that is processed in the center. Reports are automatically generated and displayed on a comprehensive dashboard that enables each business center to quickly and easily identify postage usage and accurately bill clients. In addition, Stamps.com worked with us to create a report/file that automatically interfaces with our billing system and captures all client chargebacks.
Increased control and visibility. Postage meters gave us little visibility into how our postage dollars were spent. We had no centralized way to view activity in remote locations and therefore no way to identify discrepancies until long after they had occurred, if at all. With Stamps.com Enterprise, our management team can view activity throughout all our locations via a centralized dashboard, giving us 360-degree visibility across the enterprise. Additionally, the system can set permissions on a user-by-user basis, virtually eliminating the risk of abuse of the system.
In the days before the Internet, postage meters were a smart choice for companies that wanted to simplify the mailing process. Today, this no longer holds true.
As Regus expanded, we were challenged to update the mailing and shipping infrastructure. Stamps.com Enterprise gave us an easy, affordable and effective way to update our postage-related practices by eliminating postage meters; as a result, we drove savings of $1.2 million a year throughout the entire U.S. operation.
About the Author: Jeffrey Lipes is purchasing/sourcing manager for Regus Americas, a global provider of workplace solutions ranging from fully equipped offices to professional meeting rooms, business lounges and the world's largest network of video communication studios. Regus has nearly 500 business centers throughout the Americas and more than 1,100 locations worldwide. More information at www.regus.com.