This article originally appeared in the March/April issue of Mailing Systems Technology.


There is a great deal written today about the importance of every communication you send to customers. These communications are now considered to be at the heart of your company's image and have a direct impact on your customers' experience. That means that effective and efficient print and mail functions are more important now than ever, making it critical to evaluate what resources and expertise are now needed to produce every customer communication in the most cost-effective, sophisticated, and efficient way.


What is exciting to see is that today’s technologies continue to make it possible to move well beyond simply putting ink on paper. Companies now have the opportunity to customize business communications based on collected customer data, personalizing the content to market specifically to an individual for cross-selling and up-selling new and additional services. Along with advanced technology, the United States Postal Service (USPS) offers a number of advantageous mail stream options that can enhance results and reduce costs for all types of mailings. Then, of course, is the need for omnichannel capabilities. When it comes to your ongoing transactional communications, to up the game you need to consider all three factors — and then some.


Start the Journey With Leveraging Effective Document Design

Delivering a positive customer experience requires careful attention to every aspect of the customer journey, including the transactional documents that customers receive from your organization. Every bill or statement you send to customers is an important touchpoint and an opportunity to do much more than just present the basics.


Improving the design of your transactional documents can achieve a number of goals, including:

· Creating a more engaging document using cost-effective color

· Including educational details, product information, and personalized promotional messages on the statement

· Adding larger and more noticeable inserts and on-serts (promotions printed on the bill or statement)

· Including informative newsletters with your statements

In fact, we have seen that companies that have included color and promotional and educational messages on their transactional statements have saved on mailing costs, increased response rates, and enjoy a positive impact on the experience their customers have with the company.


Optimize Your Mailing Strategy

Companies routinely mailing customer communications should also take advantage of the most effective and cost-efficient mailing techniques. Here are a few that should be a part of your strategy:


· Third Ounce Free Companies mailing First-Class automation presort letters can significantly reduce mailing costs by taking advantage of the upcoming USPS 3rd Ounce Free program as of January 22. There will be just one price for pieces weighing up to 3.5 ounces (i.e., you’re able to send another ounce and half “free”). The program enables those mailing transactional bills and statements to include additional ounces of material for operational or marketing purposes at no additional cost. This gives organizations the option of using higher quality paper stock or larger envelopes to create a greater impact or adding more inserts or on-serts.

· Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) The USPS next generation barcode is used to sort and track letters and flats and reap the greatest automation postal discounts available.

· IMb Tracing For outgoing mail, Destination IMb Tracing provides advanced notice about when mail pieces will reach their destination. For incoming mail, Origin IMb Tracing provides information about when checks, replies, or orders are on their way back to your company. Editor’s Note: You can read more about IMb tracing and its capabilities by visiting www.MailingSystemsTechnology.com/IMbTracing.

· Move Update This service enables your organization to maintain the highest quality of address accuracy and avoid wasted costs due to undeliverable-as-addressed mailings.

· IntelliAddress A service that utilizes the latest USPS software to update mailing addresses prior to mailing using real-time change of address information.

· ACS Service Another cost-effective means to obtain accurate change of address information, reducing the risk of undeliverable-as-addressed mail and labor-intensive and expensive steps involved in address change operations.


Offering Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment (EBPP)

In addition to optimizing the design and mailing of paper-based customer communications, it is also important to consider the growing requirement for paperless delivery. Using the internet to send, receive, and pay bills offers many advantages to your business as well as your customers. In addition to overall convenience, the popularity of mobile technologies and rising postal rates are some of the reasons why electronic billing solutions have become an important part of business operations for organizations in nearly every industry.


For any company that routinely sends transactional statements, the benefits of EBPP are obvious — they reduce costs compared to paper bill processes while improving customer satisfaction and retention. E-bill presentment can reach customers through their preferred delivery method, whether that is via email, fax, or web presentment and can accelerate payment.


Sharing the Risks and Responsibilities

When performed in-house by business organizations, transactional print and mail operations can be costly and difficult to manage functions. They are labor-intensive and involve significant capital outlays for purchased or leased print and mailing equipment. Often, it is difficult (if not impossible) for most organizations to fully account for the costs of these functions or keep abreast of the rapidly changing technologies and logistical strategies to reduce electronic and print document production and mail costs while enhancing results.


Outsourcing transactional customer communications to a qualified service provider can overcome the difficulties and expense a company incurs by performing these functions in-house, leveraging the experience and expertise of the service provider to optimize print production and distribution and stay competitive by gaining access to the latest capabilities and technologies.


A qualified outsource service provider should have the technology and expertise to help you evaluate your company’s approach to ensure you are taking full advantage of the communication opportunities and value that print and electronic transactional documents and mail processes can deliver for your organization.


Plus, utilizing the advanced document processing and delivery capabilities of a third-party service partner can enable your company to create data-driven, highly targeted communications that engage customers, deliver print and electronic documents through the channel of choice, all while optimizing those postal costs.


Two More Necessary Considerations

In addition to the considerations mentioned above, there are two more important questions to ask when evaluating whether to engage a service provider for your transactional print and mail operation:


Are adequate security measures in place? One thing you can’t compromise on is security. Two independent certifications are particularly important in ensuring operational excellence and security: The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) SSAE 16 Type II certification and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) version 3.1. Additionally, is the company trained in SOX regulations to ensure that its clients are compliant with all corporate accounting controls required by US federal law?


Will we have the benefit of USPS Full-Service certification? When choosing a third-party provider, look for an organization that has successfully completed the USPS Full-Service Certification (FSC) program. The FSC program recognizes those mailers who are able to implement the full service mailing process and consistently meet all of the USPS Full Service Certification standards, offering a variety of solutions to prepare and present full service presort mailings. The certification recognizes the fact that the company has consistently provided a comprehensive spectrum of fully automated mailing services for its customers, ensuring them timely, accurate mail delivery at the most beneficial postal rates.


Either In or Out

In today's competitive marketplace, organizations need to continually evaluate whether they are communicating with their customers in the most effective ways possible and whether they are devoting their resources in a way that will reduce costs and drive revenue.


Whether an internal or outsourcing approach is right for your organization, enhancing your transactional customer communication processes has the potential to significantly deliver the kind of customer experience that will increase the bond with your customers. Don’t miss the opportunity.


Harry Stephens is President/CEO and founder of DATAMATX, one of the nation’s largest privately held, full-service providers of printed and electronic billing solutions. As an advocate for business mailers across the country, Stephens is actively involved in several postal trade associations. He serves on the Executive Board of the Greater Atlanta Postal Customer Council, Board Member of the National Postal Policy Council (NPPC), Member of Major Mailers Association(MMA), and member of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service. For more information, visit www.datamatx.com.

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