How to avoid increasing mail costs

Orpheus & Associates

By Steve Pryce, Orpheus & Associates – Communication Design Practise, 31st August 2009

 

Executive summary

“Customer Communications Management” or CCM is a term that is seeing increasing interest and broad adoption across the analyst community. At the same time organisations are focusing on the “management” component of CCM.

 

What is driving this interest?

The timely delivery of customer communications and the costs of printing and postage continue to be key concerns in most organisations. Recently announced increases1 in the cost of postage by Australia Post has allowed for the interesting observation that this may well drive organisations to accelerate their adoption strategies for electronic distribution. This is leading to increased interest in alternative (electronic) delivery channels however the key inhibitors to consumer adoption continue to be privacy, compliance and security. Moreover, the best approaches to drive adoption vacillate between “carrot and stick” – either rewarding customers to turn off paper delivery or punishing2 them for the privilege.

 

Research completed by Forrester Research3, Doculabs4, EDSf and the University of Illinois has highlighted some of the key metrics for consumers in receiving communications – either paper-based or electronic. For the organisations that service those consumers, the challenges related to the people, processes and technology for composing and distributing documents to meet these changing preferences is the core of Customer Communication Management (‘CCM’). Electronic delivery features heavily in responses however this is largely a bottom line, or cost saving focus rather than top line, or value creation, approach.

 

Market drivers

Increasingly, we are seeing four major interest areas:

 

  1. Customer Experience/Customer Centricity – how to leverage CRM and business analytics capability to generate multi-channel delivery. Many believe electronic is better without due consideration of end-user preferences. There is danger in this approach in that a cost-driven strategy may threaten customer loyalty.
  2. Sustainability – electronic delivery options are gathering mindshare for two reasons. Firstly, there is recognition that e-delivery is far cheaper than traditional channels and improves time-to-market. Secondly, as organisations seek to “walk-the-talk” of less- paper options e- delivery is an important component in meeting with their sustainability (triple bottom line) objectives of reduced carbon emissions and environmental responsibility (preserve natural forests).
  3. “In-sourcing” of Intellectual Property – to allow companies control of content and distribution, both electronic and paper.
  4. Trans-promotional documents- investigation of how to leveraging essential mail applications with marketing messages and how to migrate these transactional documents to an electronic medium (eStatements).

 

Other emerging trends and value-adds

  • Compliance requirements are dictating a “lock down” of brand standards via template-driven models
  • Web integration – personalised URL’s (personalised web landing pages) that allow for the terms of reference for ongoing communication – what customers receive, when & how – to be selected by the end customer
  • Increasing use of relevance across all channels; with content rendered appropriately for the end customers channel-of-choice

 

“Contemporary documents adhere to clear language guidelines and deliver content-driven, contextually relevant communication”

 

  • Cross-sell and up-sell using transactional documents and sale of “real-estate” on those documents
  • Communications for mobile devices Emerging electronic media such as blogs, wikis, podcasts etc.

 

The detail: Meeting business objectives

The central tenet in document creation is to deliver documents to customers to meet or exceed service levels, minimise the impact on call centres and achieve broader business objectives for simple, contemporary products at the lowest unit cost of production.

 

Contemporary documents adhere to clear language guidelines and deliver content-driven, contextually relevant communication. Viewing customer communications as a discipline means a tighter integration between an organisations view of a customer (customer data) and the means by which communication is created.

 

Selecting the most meaningful engagements across broad business strategies such as loyalty, retention and growth and then delivering in the customers’ channel-of-choice, is vital in delivering relevant, accurate and timely communications.

 

As a result, many companies are analysing their current document creation platforms and expertise with a view to a more integrated, service oriented approach. At the same time the rationalisation of a number of point solutions that represent islands of technology, people and processes can significantly reduce operational costs.

The changes to legislation that will allow the use of electronic distribution for compliant communications affords organisations the twin benefits of delivering in the customers’ channel of choice as well as reducing the need to print and mail the communications. This allows organisations to address sustainability, corporate responsibility and lower cost of generation (triple bottom line).

 

In addition to emerging trends in electronic distribution, traditional means of distribution are undergoing a move away from proprietary print formats and job workflow to a more hardware agnostic, ISO specified format. This allows organisations to send industry standard print files to the lowest, compliant bidders using a contestable model without sacrificing quality and risk in the fidelity of printed output.

 

Migration of content to non-print alternatives

Printing and pre-media services are attempting to reinvent themselves with digital asset management and cross media services in order to develop new revenue sources as some volume of print migrates to Internet, PDF, and other electronic publishing methods.

In the period 1999 to 2003 the printing industry experienced a loss of about $16 billion in revenue (Romano, Print Outlook, 2003; Info Trends/CAP Ventures, 2003), as content that would have been in print form moved to Internet or recorded media distribution. Although pre-media services now also perform new media production, the volume and profit has not restored most companies to their pre-new media volumes and profits.

 

Enterprise approach to customer content management

The objective of an enterprise approach to document creation and distribution is to address the shortcomings and risks of multiple, ad-hoc document generation

 

“Printing and pre-media services are attempting to reinvent themselves with digital asset management and cross media services.”

 

environments, and outsourcing mission critical document processes, by replacing it with a single, best-practice, enterprise-wide solution. Many organisations approach this with a religious zeal at the expense of usability or capability. An enterprise-wide communications solution should meet the following criteria:

 

  • Use commonly available, non-proprietary development tools that allow for easy adoption within the document development community – whether Business or IT.
  • Produce all types of communication
  • Transactional documents – eStatements, invoices, etc.
  • Personalised marketing collaterals
  • Emails and SMS
  • Distribute documents across all distribution channels
  • Print
  • Web portals
  • Email (as HTML content or PDF attachments)
  • Archive
  • Perform equally well in batch, real-time and on-demand modes of operation.
  • Provide industry standards for integration with host/front-end systems and self-service portals.
  • Allow content to be collaborated upon and shared in commonly available content management systems.
  • Integrate with workflow systems to support business process automation and straight through processing.
  • Integrate with commonly available archive platforms to archive all communications generated by the solution and allow retrieval using meaningful indices.
  • Support third party sales channels such as agents and brokers by allowing products to be branded and styled in third party formats. Known as “white labeling” this allows organisations to support multiple sales channels without having to recreate and maintain a suite of supporting documents.

 

This approach to document creation will:

  • Reduce printing and distribution costs — through design of more effective documents, electronic delivery and consolidated documents, reducing the number of document creation environments, reduced cost of vendor management, reduced local printing, productivity improvements, and scale discounts through centralised batch printing
  • Create revenue— through integration of marketing campaigns with regular customer communications (known as Trans-Promotional documents)
  • Reduce environmental impact — through paper savings from electronic delivery and reduced page counts, providing environmental and sustainability improvements.
  • Reduce the cost of change — through more efficient technology, the removal of multiple out- of-date document-generation systems, the use of shared components, streamlined processes, and a centralised document generation solution

 

“The selection and use of a CCM platform should meet five key criteria.”

 

  • Increase change agility — through use of simple non-proprietary development environments organisations can quickly respond to development cycles generated by business requirements or legislative process
  • Reduce operational risk — through improved processing performance, removal of redundant technology, stronger version management, robust disaster recovery, scalability and a single solution
  • Reduce compliance risk — through improving your ability to quickly respond to compliance changes and version auditing

 

Conclusion

The selection and use of a CCM platform should meet five key criteria:

  1. Reduce Cost of change and provide change agility – better document creation features, a business-friendly design, review and approval processes.
  2. Usability – better usability makes it easier for document creators or users to make quick changes that meet compliance requirements. Template-based documents can facilitate “lock- down” of items that must meet corporate brand guidelines.
  3. Best Practise – open standards technology, superior support for best practice processes and open-standards.
  4. Reducing compliance risks – approved content and changes can be applied to all documents
  5. White Labeling – support for multi-branding

An over-arching communications strategy using a CCM platform for customer documents should cover two core areas:

 

  1.  Deliver Operational Excellence by:
  • Reducing the number of platforms, processes & technology used to create customer- facing documents (printed and electronic)
  • Rationalise the number of environments that create & distribute content (internally & externally)
  • Leveraging investments in Enterprise Content Management (ECM) architecture(s)
  • Ownership of Intellectual Property = commoditisation and reduced cost at document distribution point and reduced cost in content creation.
  1.      Deliver best practise customer communication by:
  • Providing options of customer self-service rather than “pull”
  • Ensuring “on-brand” communication across all channels — customer documents should reflect the organisations’ brand standards
  • Providing multi-channel delivery options (electronic and print) that reduce overall printed output
  • Provide aggregated batch capability across the organisation to maximise bulk mail discounts
  • Invest in technology that allows for the incorporation of marketing messages in documents
  • More flexible and dynamic platforms that allow rapid, real-time response to customer or regulatory events (triggers)

To learn more about CCM visit http://www.orpheus.net.au or call Australia +61 (0) 3 9988 4123