For years transactional output – bills, statements, letters, policy documents and so on – has been seen as a poor relation of marketing communications – if indeed it has any relationship at all. However, a perfect storm could be brewing as recent developments in marketing thinking, combined with the latest digital printing technologies may just be about to propel this sector of the printing industry to the forefront.
Customer Experience Management – the next big thing for marketers?
More and more organisations are now focused on the need to provide a better total customer experience (sometimes called the customer journey) – as a means not only to secure customer loyalty in difficult economic times, but also to create competitive advantage. In fact, in the ultra-competitive industries such as Insurance , Energy and Financial Services the quality of the customer experience may well be one of the only ways of differentiating from your competition: –
“Over the last few decades, we have seen competitive advantage moving from the manufacturing and distribution sectors (think Ford or Tesco) to controlling or using information (Google or MBNA). Yet the future may see customer experience become the differentiating source of success and dominance.” Marketing Week*
The latest research from IDC, sponsored by Ricoh (Organizational Blind Spot: The Role of Document-Driven Business Processes in Driving Top-Line Growth, IDC Sept 2012) identifies how Customer-facing document processes have a major impact on the bottom line. In particular:
• Among consumers who are dissatisfied with companies’ document processes, 60.1% would switch to another provider and 56.8% would likely tell others about their dissatisfaction.
Source: Organizational Blind Spot: The Role of Document-Driven Business Processes in Driving Top-Line Growth, IDC Sept 2012
Where Transactional comes in
So what has this to do with transactional output? Customer documents – the bills, statements, letters, formal communications – are a key element of document processes. Therefore Transactional documents have a key but often overlooked role in customer experience.
The iceberg effect: Transactional documents are “below” the waterline and out of sight of Marketing Departments
In some industries like Utilities, of all the many forms of customer communications, it’s the bills, statements, letters and so on that the customer sees most and therefore these have a key role to play in the customer experience. Major organisations like Retail Banks send out hundreds of millions of customer documents a year. This number of touches far exceeds customer touches that could be achieved cost-effectively via direct marketing activities.
That’s why some people talk of the iceberg effect. Whereas – in the mind of marketers – websites, ad campaigns, social media, and such are above the waterline, transactional documents are out of their line of sight, and so can be described as below the waterline.
In fact in Marketing Week Magazine**, June 2012, Ian Peters, Managing Director of Energy at British Gas is quoted as saying
“For most customers, energy bills are the single most important communication they receive from British Gas. They are the key to understanding exactly what’s been used, and what it’s costing.”
And of course, it’s these types of document that customers will pay more attention to. According to Matt Swain, associate director of document outsourcing at InfoTrends***:
• On average, consumers spend up to four minutes reading and reviewing these documents
• recipients open and read 95% of transactional documents, substantially more than any other type of mail.
Therefore Transactional documents are significant “moments of truth” between the brand and their clients: in this way they provide literally millions of opportunities for brand awareness and quality conversations.
However transactional output does not get the same organisational attention as other forms of customer communications. Web sites, mobile, social media, direct mail and advertising, communications are managed by marketing teams, whereas, too often, perhaps, transactional output is managed by the IT department with a focus on meeting internal Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and driving down cost – rather than enhancing the customer experience.
Therefore perhaps it is little surprise that transactional documents can often lack the creative flair of corporate web sites / adverts / direct mail. As stated in an article in Marketing Week July 2012****, “Such information, however, is rarely presented with a great deal of élan. Instead information is presented in prosaic manner, seemingly designed to have the bare minimum of impact.”
Of course, there is a trend for organisations to try to move away from printed transactional documents – mainly on the basis of cost-reduction. However in practice few organisations have actually gone completely paperless for their transactional documents. This is mainly due to:
• consumer resistance
• lack of good alternatives.
According to InfoTrends**, despite many years of pressure on consumers to go paperless, printed transactional statements still account for 85% of all statements in 2011, and paper-based delivery of transactional documents in the US is forecast to decline by only 5.2 % from 2010 to 2015. Interestingly the total volume of transactional communications is forecast to rise in this period by over 3%.
Source: InfoTrends The Emergence of Digital Mailbox Services: Moving Beyond Online Bill Consolidation in the U.S. 2011
There are signs that the marketing world is beginning to wake up to the opportunities. According to Marketing Week****
“There is a canvas available that is being criminally under-utilised. The same care and attention – tone, creativity and message – needs to be adopted for all communication opportunities and not just those that are traditionally labelled marketing.”
So how can marketers take advantage of this opportunity and start to use this canvas as part of the total customer experience?
The perfect storm – using the latest technologies to enhance customer experience through transactional documents
First, don’t think transactional document. Think customer communications. Transactional does not have to mean printed. Increasingly, documents are becoming multichannel. With the latest workflows and document creation technologies customer documents can be electronic, mobile and printed. And offline can be integrated with online for a consistent and enhanced customer experience.
Second, transaction document production should be seen as a way to generate new business opportunities and not just as a cost centre.
Third, consider consolidating and merging messages. Marketing departments already use transactional mailings to get across key offers and messages but this is usually a separate activity, where transactional documents are often delivered with unpersonalised inserts and flyers. Sometimes this is even a separate mailing.
Fourth, harness the latest digital technologies. Traditionally transactional documents are printed in mono on headed paper. However this restricts flexibility and makes it difficult to use colour effectively in documents. Using the very latest workflows and colour digital printing it is now cost-effective to personalise every part of every document. This means that messages can be consolidated which not only reduces cost but also creates a more concise, personalised communication.
A good example of this is DocaPost, a subsidiary of La Poste Group in France. The company supports businesses and government agencies by optimising customer related communication processes. Docapost is using Ricoh technology to add value to customer communications through design improvements, such as incorporating colour and personal messaging in documents, and minimising production costs by introducing more efficient, automated processes.
The company champions the transformation of statements and other seemingly humdrum transactional documents into high-impact communication tools. Working on behalf of its clients, Docapost-DPS produces millions of transpromotional documents every week.
Another great example is Multi-Post, a leading provider of mailing solutions in the Netherlands. Using colour variable data printing technology within its automated production process, Multi-Post integrates plastic cards with eye-catching one-to-one mailing pieces.
The approach adds value, presenting businesses with the opportunity to incorporate powerful promotional messages that drive loyalty and help sell associated services. One leading health insurer uses Multi-Post’s service to distribute 1.3 million health cards every year. The cards are integrated with a personalised policy document and a cover letter promoting additional services.
Finally using the latest Precision Marketing techniques, organisations can introduce better targeting which not only reduces waste but also can increase response rates and, above all, ROI. For example, an organisation could send out a document with a different look and feel for VIP clients than for low-value clients.
Maybe the time is right for organisations to exploit the conditions of the perfect storm to reinvent transactional documents into a more powerful, more effective customer communications vehicle, no longer the poor relation but central to the business strategy.
Benoit Chatelard General Manager Solutions, Production Printing Group, EMEA
General Manager Solutions, Ricoh Production Printing Group, EMEA
For more Insights from Ricoh see: ricoh-europe.com/printandbeyond
*Marketing Week,September 2012 “ I see no reason why CMOs shouldn’t also take customer experience under their wing”
**Marketing Week, June 2012, “British Gas launches billing for ‘dummies’”
***Response Magazine, October 2012 “Transpromo — marketing via transactional customer communications — gains new life with new technology and some good, old-fashioned know-how.”
****InfoTends, December 2011, “The Emergence of Digital Mailbox Services: Moving Beyond Online Bill Consolidation in the U.S.”
****Marketing Week, July 2012, “A bill is too valuable an opportunity to be left with anyone but a marketer”