digital and physical mail with graph

Is hybrid mail really the answer to rising postal costs and service delivery challenges? 

Over the last ten years, hybrid mail services has been seen by UK government bodies as a simple cost-effective way to maximise postal discounts and increase efficiencies by eliminating manual processes. 


Inexorable increase in postal costs 

However, the inexorable rise in postal costs has forced most government bodies to take a long hard look at this approach. The sad fact is, that whatever postal savings accrue from implementing hybrid mail, have been wiped out by the increased costs of post in subsequent years.

Decline in Royal Mail service deliveries

Aligned with increased costs, the Royal Mail ‘brand’ has been damaged by the decline in their service delivery. 

The company has consistently failed to meet delivery targets which state that 93% of first-class mail should be delivered within one working day, and 98.5% of second-class mail should be delivered within three working days. 


From 2022 to 2023, the regulator, Ofcom, reported that the company achieved levels of 73.7% and 90.7% respectively, and only 89% of delivery routes were completed each day.  

Royal Mail says the current system is built for 20 billion letter deliveries a year, while it is now carrying out only seven billion.


The difficulty with this statement and the drop in service delivery, is that a system designed to handle 20 billion letters a year should have no problems processing and delivering 7 billion letters a year (35% of capacity) on time and within agreed SLAs. 

image of a graph show a declining arrow

Decline in Royal Mail service deliveries

Royal Mail has proposed cutting second-class letter deliveries to every other weekday. 


It wants to keep its six-day-a-week service for first class letters, under the proposals to reform the company. This will consign the idea of a 5 day a week, 2-3 day delivery cycle for delivering time critical or information sensitive communications to the history books.  


This is no joke for government. This proposal means that the only way to guarantee the timely delivery of these communications will be to revert to a first-class postal service which currently stands at an eye watering £1.35 a letter (retail price). 


By migrating a significant proportion of second-class mail to a first-class service, one suspects it is Royal Mail’s plan to significantly increase margins and make first-class the defacto postal option for government communications. 


What is ‘Hybrid Mail’?

Hybrid mail is simply an outsourcing model. By allowing commercial organisations to deploy a proprietary print driver and associated technologies to the desktop, government organisations have handed control of their outbound communications and data to a commercial third party. 

Even more concerning, is that the majority of implementations have failed to fully integrate hybrid mail technologies across the whole organisation.

Most deployments are focused on outsourcing the simple templated outputs produced by their corporate applications, such as Revenues and Benefits. These are the simple, easy to process outputs that have already attracted the best price points from Royal Mail. 


Unfortunately, the remaining unstructured ad-hoc volumes are left inside the organisation meaning that the costs of these remaining letters is increased as the existing post room infrastructure and its associated costs remain. 


Why aren’t ad-hoc letters included by hybrid mail providers? 

The only volumes that make economic sense for the hybrid mail suppliers to focus on are the ‘low hanging fruit’ – large numbers of letters, few numbers of templates. Once the hybrid mail supplier has harvested this simple templated work, their interest in the remaining volumes diminishes as their investment rises in handling the remaining ‘dirty’ ad-hoc, non-templated outputs. 


The answer would appear to be the offering of a ‘simple desktop print driver’ as a panacea for everything else.  


Unfortunately, the legacy of thousands of templates that are not designed to conform to a standardised envelope and automated process, means the investment required by the deploying organisation is simply too large, too difficult, or simply too time consuming. 


Can hybrid mail providers offer a ‘digital-first’ strategy? 

Would you trust your digital transformation strategy to an organisation whose primary business is still printing, enveloping, franking or processing physical postal volumes? 


The vast majority of the hybrid mail suppliers on the new CCS framework are proprietary. Once deployed, these technologies will only send the submitted documents into their bespoke workflows.  


As most applications embedded across government organisations do not know which recipients have digital information (i.e. email addresses and mobile phone numbers) and which do not, the decision to filter these communications based on a digital-first approach needs to be made at the point of print. 


Caught in a proprietary ‘print and post’ workflow

Unfortunately, this means that organisations now become beholden to their hybrid mail supplier to manage their digital transformation, or at the very least, to facilitate the transfer of documents that require an alternative (digital) route. 


The challenge with hybrid mail service providers is their need to monetise every submitted document; this often means that the organisation: 

    •  Is locked into their proprietary hybrid mail supplier’s digital options (limiting choice and increasing costs),  
    • Must pay to have the documents returned so they can go out via the customer’s preferred digital channels or, 
    • Must pay the hybrid mail provider to facilitate the submission of their documents to their preferred delivery platform. 

Hybrid mail providers are ‘physical first’ and using them to deliver a ‘digital-first’ strategy seems a strange contradiction in terms.

multichannel digital mailroom


Unlocking efficiency with Publisure 

Whilst hybrid mail does provide an initial bridge between physical and digital communication channels, investing in a digital transformation solution such as Publisure can help you streamline communication processes, enhance citizen engagement, and optimise operational efficiency. 


Many hybrid mail providers still send documents via Royal Mail, and with new plans to reduce second-class letter deliveries, these cuts pose risk to patient safety by causing more people to miss vital appointment letters.


We want to keep you in control of your workflows whilst offering our support where needed. Publisure provides greater flexibility, accessibility, and scalability across your organisation by enabling seamless integration with your legacy systems and facilitating a non-proprietary framework to allow multichannel communications for SMS, email, post, web portal and app. 

Embrace innovation, choose digital transformation