Northwest Mailing Service, a leading Chicago-based direct marketing service provider, does whatever it takes to help their customers succeed. Northwest has earned a reputation for efficiently producing unique and engaging direct marketing formats, resulting in steady growth and long-term customer relationships. Northwest’s nine-acre campus houses both offset and digital print platforms, high volume inkjet/inserting operations, fulfillment and more—positioning the company among the most progressive and relevant marketing service providers in the country.
Anchored by a focused vision and a progressive 58 year history, Northwest has transformed from a premier national one-to-one match mailer—distributing more than one billion pieces of direct mail annually—to a full service end-to-end marketing solution provider, uniquely positioned to manage the radically evolving demands of business and consumer marketing. Northwest’s direct marketing platform is complemented by Cleveland-based Metrics Marketing Group, a customer engagement agency with service offerings that include database marketing, research and customer experience, email marketing, modeling, and analytics. Operating under the Precision Dialogue corporate umbrella, the companies plan to consolidate competencies under a single Precision Dialogue brand platform in October.
Streamlining software updates
Ensuring its customers continue to be satisfied means pushing the envelope in data processing as well as reducing labor costs and looking at newer products, services and data service options available. That’s why Northwest Mailing Service investigated options for transitioning to a new vendor for its mailing software support and service needs. While its current software helped Northwest efficiently send out more than 1.5 billion pieces of USPS mail in 2011, it wanted to streamline its process for software updates.
Rapid changes at the USPS prompted numerous software updates for mailing preparation and presorting software in recent years. Software updates impact an entire mailing organization—no matter the size. For Northwest, software updates were especially strenuous. Updates affected its highly automated data prep, page layout and other production processes as well as its staff due to the laborious, time-consuming process caused by the vendor’s lack of service.
The Northwest team had to spend hours searching the vendor’s websites for issue keys and monthly tables—must-haves for its software updates. Then, Northwest’s quality control team had to confirm each item was accurate.
The toughest part of the updates was flying solo with very little vendor support. “At one time or another, every one of the 16 production programmers experienced some level of frustration with support during updates or initiating an incident report,” explained Philip Manade, Director of data services and digital imaging at Northwest Mailing Service.
“It was challenging to work with that vendor, and getting an actual person to answer the phone was very difficult,” said Manade. “They only wanted to communicate electronically. We had to chase them around, log into multiple websites and go through several channels to resolve any problems we had. Their first tier support staff were only minimally helpful to us. They used pre-defined answers, which meant that the majority of our issues were always escalated. It was common for us to go through this process three times for just one problem.”
A seamless transition for better service
Driven by tight mailing deadlines, service agreements and its commitment to customer satisfaction, Northwest chose to improve its process for software updates. It considered a complete transition to another vendor’s software. “Software transitions are tough for large, highly automated, 24/7 mailers,” said Manade. “We receive hundreds of files in the morning that will be in production within just a few hours. We can’t just stop everything to transition to new software.”