Cover Story: Sprint Saves Green

Keanon Swan, manager of vendor management and postal strategy, Sprint

Two-in-one wireless billing envelopes save the telecommunications giant $500,000 a year

That’s why in August 2010, Sprint partnered with McClellan, Calif.-based technology services company SumRall Solutions, Tension Corp. and ecoEnvelopes to help the idea of a two-in-one envelope take root.

“I believed we could be change agents within our industry,” Swan says.

The Seed of an Idea
It was love at first sight. At MAILCOM 2008, held from April 29 to May 2, 2008, in Atlantic City, N.J., Swan saw a way to make green mail a reality at Sprint. He got a hands-on look at ecoEnvelopes, or reusable envelopes
(Check out this slideshow for Sprint’s version of the ecoEnvelope).

Gale G. Ward, president and general manager of ecoEnvelopes, still remembers seeing Swan approach her booth that was all the way at the back of the exhibit hall. “As Keanon made his way down the aisle, he was followed by a wake of executives from companies selling insertion equipment and stopped to explore [the] new two-way ecoEnvelopes. There were eight or 10 executives gathered in our booth discussing [the envelopes]. As he looked at our ecoEnvelope, Keanon’s comment was, ‘Look at this. It’s beautiful … [The outer envelope looks] the same as what we are mailing today.'”

At the time, Sprint sent its customers their bills in an outer envelope with an invoice and a return envelope enclosed.

“What we needed to do was create what I called a two-to-one-to-none or two-to-one-to-e,” Swan says, adding that there’s a general trend among consumers toward e-bill adoption.

While many direct marketers, including Sprint, are incentivizing their customers to switch to electronic bills, Sprint wants its customers to have the choice to receive direct mail if that’s the channel they prefer, Swan says. That’s why he wanted to offer Sprint customers a “more responsible” choice.

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.
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  • Tamra

    I’ve considered cancelling my Sprint account over those damn envelopes. I don’t have an extra 30 minutes in my day to carefully follow their directions, so I’m stuck spending my own money for envelopes (non-recycled, mind you) and then hand-writing their mailing address on the outside while angrily throwing their "green" envelope into the trash. They should have spent some of that savings on hiring a firm that would test their envelope’s difficulty level on folks who don’t have 20-year-old hands that can manage to open their ugly and annoying envelope without tearing the crap out of it. Not all cellphone users are teenagers, and those of us who aren’t appreciate things like envelopes that don’t require advanced engineering degrees to use.

  • Joe

    You have been thoroughly "green washed". Sprint’s new "green" envelope is a joke. They print their bill on 6 pages, and then claim that they are trying to save tons of paper, waste, water, etc by having customers reuse the envelope. What they are really trying to do is make paying by mail such a pain that everyone uses on-line payment instead. Although on-line payment can be convenient, many businesses need the physical paper trail (it’s not "paranoia", it’s a legal/tax/accounting issue) . If sprint was really interested in "going green", they would print their bill on one page and go back to a real envelope for those that pay by mail.