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Rick Willmann discusses automated mail services at the NISC

Published on February 25, 2011

Rick Willmann, Manager of Automated Mail Services at the National Informations Solutions Co-operative, discusses what they do, who their customers are and how they serve them.

Cary Sherburne:  Hi, Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com and I'm here with Rick Willmann who is Manager of Automated Mail Services for the National Information Solutions Cooperative or NISC.  So Rick maybe you can talk a little, you have an unusual customer structure, maybe you can talk a little bit about who’s your customer and who are their customers and how does that all kind of play out. 

Rick Willmann:  Sure.  Our company is approximately 42 years old.  We were formed as a regional data center in 1968 and we serve rural electric cooperatives.  We also serve rural telephone cooperatives.  In 1968, as computers were just being introduced to the workplace, they could not afford their own data processing, so the leaders in the industry, The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, got together with several industry leaders and came up with these regional business models and there were three and now we have two right now in today’s world.  But the concept was that we would provide all of their software needs.  They didn’t have to go out and have an IT department.  They didn’t have to buy their own computers.  They didn’t have to buy their own printing equipment to produce their statements.

Cary:  So they just pay you a fee, it’s sort of pay as you go.

Rick Willman:  They pay a monthly fee per electric meter or per telephone subscriber to us and for that we provide them any type of service that they may need whether its engineering, outage management, meters, transformers, connecting consumers, disconnecting consumers, printing and mailing their billing statements, cash register systems.  We do a large e-Bill customer work for them.  We actually have another part of our business where as a cooperative a subsidiary of our company is we pay every electric bill for Wal-Mart, JC Penny, the US Postal Service, Bank of America, T-Mobile and several other large organizations where their electric bill comes in to us and is paid by us.  We manage all of their electric statements no matter who prints and mails their statements for them.  So we have several models though that we do but we’re basically a software cooperative that is owned by over 400 electric cooperatives and 110 telephone cooperatives.  And another part of our business is we’re just now getting into the investor owned and municipal market to where we will do that work.  They won’t be owners of our company but we will offer those services to them as well.  I am looking for ways to integrate other products to make our life easier, more automated, more add integrity and color.  Color to both the statements and color to the envelope.  Like I had mentioned, we do windowed envelopes right now.  We’re looking to get away from window envelopes, reduce cost and reduce the space that those windows take up on the actual inside piece.  Without those windows we’re less restricted to the data type of information that we can show. 

Cary:  Have more white space.

Rick Willman:  We have more white space, we can put coupons, advertisement, messages, target certain types of consumers and those things.  So we’re not stuck with, you know, what has to be inside.  We’re stuck with whatever the customer wants us to be stuck with.  And also on the outside of the envelope, the reason we went to the windows is because we don’t want to stock 400 different types of envelopes.  So their logos show through the top window and to go to a non-windowed envelope now we can bring in their full color logo and print it right on the piece itself and still not have the inventory and have the waste of throwing away envelopes if their logo changes.  You know some companies we’ve heard of throw away a year supply of envelopes simply because the marketing department decided to change the colors so they had to throw away the old envelopes and now that won’t be a problem any longer.

Cary:  Or if somebody moves even, you know, just change the address.  Isn’t that a big reason they throw them away.

Rick Willman:  Exactly.

Cary:  So you’re here really looking for new ideas and advice and new technology that enhance your business and make you a better service to your customers.

Rick Willman:  And that’s what our business model is.  We’re a non-profit company so we’re not in the business to make money.  Any money we make we give back to our customers but it’s we don’t want to make money but we like to make money, by doing that we want to reduce costs to our customers.

Cary:  Yeah, Yeah, well good luck at the show and I hope you find what you’re looking for.

Rick Willman: Thank you.

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