Digital Mail is a CAO program that digitally scans hard copy mail, turns it into an image, and performs Optical Character Recognition (OCR) on the image to extract the text and constituent information. The program is now available for all offices.
Digital Mail makes it easier to log physical mail because the system already inputs the name, address, and phone number of the constituent, saving you the time it normally takes to search for a constituent and enter their contact information and letter details when logging the hard copy letter. It also makes it much easier to log duplicate mail like a bunch of identical postcards by simply searching all the mail and then logging them all at the same time.
Letter history is more detailed. When logging letters without Digital Mail, staffers usually put in a few comments about the letter. With Digital Mail, even a letter that is several years old can be viewed with a simple click.
How it works
Instead of mail going directly to your office, mail is sent to a Pitney Bowes facility in DC. The hard copy of the letter is scanned, and the image is stored on a central server. The hard copy is then placed into an envelope where it gets delivered to your office within five days.
Hard copy that arrives at your office is in three color-coded envelopes:
- Green Envelopes: Mail that has been scanned successfully (i.e., constituent mail).
- Yellow Envelopes: Mail that cannot be scanned (i.e., magazines, newsletters, journals).
- Red Envelopes: Personal mail that should not be scanned (i.e., personal mail, financial statements, or other items that are deemed sensitive).
The scanned image is then retrieved by our CRM server every morning at 9:00am and stored in the inbox as its own source.
To view only digital mail, click the icon on the lefthand sidebar of the inbox that looks like a mailbox and, if you hover your mouse over it, says "Digital Mail." It is a temporary holding place for the mail and allows you to sort and handle different actions on the mail before logging it. Unlike emails in the inbox, which typically only contain letters from constituents, your Digital Mail source for the inbox may contain invitations, bills, advertisements, and other letters that are not from constituents and will need to be handled differently.
Sorting Digital Mail
Click Mail Room>Inbox
On the lefthand side, click the mailbox icon to select just the Digital Mail source. You will see a vertical list of scans with the name of the sender and some other information. Mail in the vertical list that comes from this source will be grouped by each individual scan. Here are the following actions you can take on each letter:
- Log selected:
Mail that has no errors can be logged as constituent mail. If a letter has errors where the name cannot be determined, you can change the orange Search for Person text in the logging area to create person. You can then create a new person to attach this mail.
- Forward selected by email:
You can take letters and then forward them to an email. This is helpful for sending bills to the office manager or invitations to the scheduler. The email will include any name and address information, the text of the letter, and the image. After forwarding, you can either log the letter or delete it.
- Delete selected:
Mail that is spam or that won't be logged can be deleted. Deleted mail is removed from the inbox permanently.
- Download as PDF:
Each scan can now be downloaded as a PDF. Click the "Download as PDF" button in the top righthand corner of the inbox for each scan you'd like to download.
It's best to treat Digital Mail just like you would individual emails from the contact form and log everything each day. If you have a small amount of mail, it's easiest to go through each one and process each of the letters. Because actions can be applied to multiple letters, it is fastest to go through the mail and check off the items you need to forward to other staffers, then delete all those letters and the spam or other unwanted mail, and then move on to constituent mail. If you have a bunch of mail, you can search by keyword or a recent hot-button issue and then log all the items at the same time. The text search is a great shortcut when you are getting a ton of postcards or other similar mail and want to log everything at once. Once everything is processed, you should have an empty inbox.
Logging Digital Mail
Digital Mail is just like email or manually logged mail. The log screen is almost identical to log letter or log email page and has options to assign the mail, put it in a batch, and assign a form letter to the response. After the letter is logged, it will be removed from the inbox.
Questions and Answers
Q: If I can't tell from the text what the letter is about, what do I do?
Click the "View Image" link to look at the actual letter, or minimize the constituent profile sidebar to display both the image and the text if you have a widescreen monitor. If it is still unclear, you will need to wait for the hard copy to arrive in your office. Here is an example of how to look at the scanned image. Click the "View Text" button to view the scanned text.
Q: If I have a piece of digital mail for which I want to find a hard copy, what is the best way to find it?
The hard copy should arrive in your office about five days from the date of the incoming digital mail record. To see the filename of the scanned letter, click the "Download as PDF" button. The file that downloads will be something like AR022012070500004.PDF. You can look through the scanned mail (the green folder), and there should be a barcode on each envelope with the filename on it. The mail should be indexed, so mail in the back should be AR022012070500001 and on up to AR022012070500050 (the last couple digits are a count of the mail for that day) so you should be able to flip through quickly to find it.
Q: How come the text on letters looks crazy sometimes?
Scanning text is an inexact science. Handwriting comes through as "cartoon swearing," and we do our best to filter that out. With typewritten letters the accuracy is 90% to 99%, but it's never perfect. The exception is the constituent name and address, which is entered by a human so it is very accurate.
Q: What does the exclamation point icon mean?
An exclamation point icon can mean one of two things for digital mail records. It can either mean that you do not have Digital Mail configured at all or that the person who wrote in the letter was not matched to an existing record in Fireside. What you can do is either search for an existing person to see if they match or create a new person.
Q: Why can't I log letters that have errors?
When logging a letter, a constituent record is created (unless it gets matched to an existing constituent record). The minimum data needed to create a constituent record is name and full address (street, city, state, and zip). If either of those are missing, the letter cannot be logged. To fix this, you can click the constituent's name and fill in the fields.
Q: Why can't I rescan or redirect after three days?
The mail facility only holds on to the mail for three days and then sends it for delivery to the office. You can look for the mail when it arrives and then either log it manually, or if it needs to go to another district, drop it off at the other office.
Q: If I don't have Digital Mail, how can I get it?
Digital Mail started as a pilot program shortly after 9/11. Digital Mail is now available for all offices. Please contact Fireside21 at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in setting this up!
Q: If I accidentally deleted a letter, how can I get it back?
You can wait for the hard copy to arrive and then log it manually.