It’s the most wonderful time of the year…unless you’re somehow affiliated with a mailroom. Then, the barrage of holiday packages and cards can make you feel like you’re constantly under fire with nowhere to take cover.
If your mailroom has seemed chaotic during past holiday seasons, as the saying goes, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. COVID-19 has driven package delivery to unprecedented levels, and you can expect the holidays to increase that already head-spinning momentum.
According to James Thomson, a partner at Buy Box Experts, “Ecommerce sales typically increase by 30 to 40% during Q4. When you add COVID to that, some retailers will see up to a 200% increase in sales depending on the industry.”
Consider these statistics to drive our point home:
- In the first six months of 2020, consumers spent over 30% more than they did in the same period in 2019. (Compare that to the 2019-2020 increase for that same time period, which was just 12.7%.) (Digital Commerce 360)
- Amazon reported that its July 2020 traffic was up by more than 28% compared to February 2020. (Digital Commerce 360)
- May 2020 ecommerce sales eclipsed aggregate sales for the 2019 online holiday shopping season. (Dmagazine.com)
- E-commerce sales will grow 25 to 35% year-over-year during the 2020 holiday season, compared to a 14% year-over-year increase for 2019. (Deloitte)
Remember that scene from “Elf” with Will Ferrell entertaining a crowd of jubilant mailroom employees?
What we’re saying here is that if you don’t make adequate preparations for the 2020 holiday mail season, you are definitely not going to have the same degree of holiday cheer in your mailroom.
Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take now to ease the burdens on your mailroom staff.
- Circle up. Meet with your mailroom employees and encourage them to set accurate expectations. If they’re new to the industry, they may not have a thorough understanding of the extra pressures that the holidays bring. And even if they’re a veteran of mailroom work, they may not realize what they’re in for in 2020 due to the pandemic. This heads-up will help employees know what’s ahead so that they can adjust their life accordingly (i.e., letting their families know that they may be gone more, getting their own shopping done early so they’re not trying to make personal preparations for the holiday on the busiest workdays, etc.)
This is also a great way to get input from employees on what’s working well in the mailroom and what’s not. If there are fault lines in your processes now, they’ll just be exacerbated when things get busier.
- Assess your manpower. Consider your staff’s availability and decide if it is sufficient for the mail surge ahead. What hours of the day are you busiest? Do you need more employees to augment these shifts? If so, consider hiring temp workers to get you through the rest of Q4. Do you need to extend your hours to service residents who work late? Or to accommodate last-minute holiday deliveries? Are your employees willing to come earlier or stay later if needed?
Talk to your staff about their vacation times. If they are planning on a weeklong vacation to see Grandma in December, you may need to bring in a temp to fill their spot. As an alternative, some companies pay employees extra during the holiday weeks, which incentivizes them to hold their vacation plans until things slow down in January.
- Rethink your space. A disorganized mailroom hurts morale and can lead to inefficiency and inaccuracies. Is there a way to streamline the flow of your mailroom? Do you need more tables for sorting? A bigger area for storing packages? A bulk mail space? An area for “action mail” that needs to be dealt with right away?
- Have proper disposal equipment. Mailrooms have no shortage of waste so make sure that you are equipped to handle it properly. Recycling bins and shredders should be easily accessible and also close to an exit so that they can be emptied out easily.
- Consider mobile sorting areas. Sorting modules are often anchored in place, but that limits your flexibility. Some companies are investing in free-standing sorting stations that can be wheeled around the mailroom. You can purchase modules that come with pull-out shelves and surfaces to fit your needs.
- Integrate mail management software. Automating your mail processes can revolutionize your mailroom. Tired of your error-prone scanner? A mailroom app such as our PackageX solution allows you to read labels (both handwritten and typed) with great accuracy, and if the label is partially missing or obscured, artificial intelligence features will even suggest close matches. And best of all, the package scanner app can work on most devices—be it a phone, laptop, etc. This cloud-based solution eliminates the need for finicky hardware, such as the antiquated hand scanner.
Another great feature of mailroom software is the built-in communication tools. No more calling or emailing each resident to let them know that they have a package ready for pickup. The scanning feature will trigger an email to the appropriate resident, letting them know that their package is ready and offering the resident simple options (forward, hold, deliver, discard, photograph documents and email, etc.)
- Provide proof of pickup. Your staff swears that a resident picked up a package already; the resident denies it. What do you do? You can eliminate the “he said, she said” with proof of pickup. You may already be tackling this idea with a sign-out log, but if you opt for mailroom management software, an integrated feature should allow you to capture and save proof of pickup with a digital signature collection, ID card photo, photo of the person picking up the package, or photo of the package at the drop-off site.
Whether you deal with mail for college dorms, corporate spaces, apartments, or other facilities, you’ll want to be ready for the weeks ahead. A little legwork in advance will pay dividends in keeping your mailroom staff happy. Granted, they may not be doing the Russian squat dance on the mailroom sorting table like Buddy the Elf, but morale will still be high by the time they head into 2021.