As an unabashed proponent of outsource bill printing, it makes me cringe when I hear someone from a utility say that they prefer to print and mail their own bills. Granted, some utilities are too small for an outsource printer to be able to offer them a competitive price based on the number of bills they print. However, the reality is there are outsource printers that will offer a fair price to print as few as several hundred bills per month.

Common Excuses

Some of the most common reasons I hear from utilities that don’t outsource their bills are:

  • It’s too expensive
  • I don’t want to give up control
  • I don’t want our bills postmarked in another city
  • Our board wants us to print our own bills

Let’s begin by examining each of these excuses…

It’s too expensive

Initially, an outsource printing quote might seem to be costly, but if you compare all the costs associated with printing bills in-house, outsourcing is very competitive and, in many cases, less expensive than in-house printing. Some of the in-house costs to be factored in a price comparison include the cost of blank forms, mailing envelopes and return envelopes including the freight to have them delivered; postage; CASS certification software and maintenance fees; consumables such as ribbons or toner; bursters or inserting machines, including maintenance contracts; and labor to print and prepare bills for mailing and to deliver them to the Post Office.

I don’t want to give up control

If you are reviewing printed bills to look for errors in your billing, I would argue that you aren’t using the tools that your billing software provides such as edit lists, exception reports and billing registers. If your billing software doesn’t provide the tools to review bills before they are printed, then it’s time for new billing software!  Every utility has their handful of large users and customers who scrutinize their bill. To be sure these bills are printed correctly, every outsource bill printer I’m familiar with has a way for the utility to preview selected bills whether it’s online or an image of the bill that is e-mailed or faxed to the utility to review.

I don’t want our bills postmarked in another city

Is the postmark on your bills really that important?  Do you honestly think that many of your customers study the envelope that your bill is mailed in?  For the few customers who will question why your bills are mailed from another city or state, most will be satisfied once you explain to them how you are saving costs, thereby keeping their rates down!

Our board wants us to print our own bills

If you have board members who are opposed to outsourcing even after you’ve presented them with a full cost analysis, invite them to spend the day with you on bill printing day. Let them learn first-hand how much time and effort goes into printing and preparing bills to be mailed.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the advantages of outsource bill printing…

Zero preparation and mailing time

The biggest advantage of outsource bill printing is that someone else does all the work associated with printing and preparing your bills for mailing. All you have to do is, once you have reviewed your billing and you are at the point where you would start printing your bills, create the file that gets sent to the outsource printer and then send the file to them, either as an e-mail attachment or by uploading it to their website.

Minimal effort to modify your bill

If you print your bills in-house on pre-printed bill stock and you want to make a change to the format of your bill, you have to decide whether to throw out the remaining blank bills or to wait to make the change until you have used up your existing bill stock. Since most outsource printers print bills on blank stock, it is easy to implement a form change whenever you want.

No hassles from the Post Office

One of the biggest complaints I hear from utilities that print their own bills is how difficult it has become to deal with the local Post Office. I have heard horror stories of bills that have always been accepted for mailing suddenly are no longer acceptable and nothing has changed with how they are printed. Outsource printers are aware of all the latest changes in postal regulations, such as the upcoming change from POSTNET bar codes to the Intelligent Mail barcodes and dealing with the Post Office becomes their issue, not yours.