In today's multichannel communications world, successful companies communicate with their customers by paper and electronic delivery channels. A recent study conducted by InfoTrends (The Future of Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment in North America) showed that while 65% preferred to receive their bills and statements by paper, a large number (46%) also prefer email.

Building a quality mail delivery engine is all about delivering mail by the most cost-effective method while meeting the delivery preferences of customers. Businesses love email because of the low cost and more and more customers hate paper. That sounds like a match made in heaven.

The migration from paper to electronic delivery is well underway. Companies offering multichannel mail delivery options have been able to sign up, on average, 10% of their customers to view their mail on the business's web portal and suppress paper. Opportunities to enable the dramatic growth of web and email messaging will take place as PUSH email delivery replaces more and more paper. By working in harmony with a business's website, PUSH eDocument and eBilling solutions will move paper suppression rates into the 40-50% range.

When it comes to quality, every company and industry has its own benchmarks and standards. For those of us in the communications and messaging business, it means getting the right documents, correctly printed and assembled, to the right per person in a useable format, on time.

In the past, the attention was on whether you printed all of the pages in the batch, got them (all) into the right envelope, prepared the mail properly for the USPS and delivered it to Jane Doe on time. Today the focus has expanded to include: Did the server receive and build the batch correctly? Were the emails delivered or were they stuck in a spam filter? Were they blocked by a fire wall? Could Jane open the email?

The basic result may be the same, delivering mail to the customer. But now, electronic delivery ensures that not only will the mail be delivered more quickly, at lower cost, but Jane will be more receptive to opening the mail, paying her bill and reading/responding to the marketing inserts. One mailer reported a 23.2% increase in their portal usage from customers who previously received paper bills, and now receive their bills through the Striata email delivery system.

We've Come A Long Way, Baby
Technology for paper-based mail has come a long way. Sophisticated vision and matching systems can confirm that all mail pages were correctly inserted into the envelope; software will prepare the batches, manage the print process and prepare all of the correct tags, labels and reports; and the IMB can confirm when the letter was sorted in each city as it travels to its destination. Great tools exist to slice and dice the data and create management reports to maximize deliverability and response.

Done properly, a multichannel delivery system is a win-win. From quality and success standpoints, you need to focus on the following:
--Manage and maintain customer mail preferences - paper, email, web, fax, sms.
         --Customers are most likely to open and read documents delivered in their preferred way.
         --Multiple channels can be utilized to leverage one another.
         --Paperless adoption will increase if enrollment is simple and easy.
-- Maintain accurate addresses.
      --People move and change email addresses.
               --Monitor bounced emails.
               --Allow simple self service tools for customers to update their email addresses.
--Protect customer privacy and security. 
       --Avoid opportunities for phishing scams by not forcing customers to visit your website to retrieve their mail. Include personal (non-confidential) information in any email correspondence to add authenticity to the email.
      --Always encrypt private and confidential electronic documents.
--Maintain the integrity of the message content.
      --Always maintain secure sessions to send and retrieve data with adequate feedback loops. Utilize the data and reports to monitor and confirm processes and delivery.
      --Digitally sign all email attachments.
--Improve processes - with electronic creation and delivery comes the ability to:
      --Easily monitor results against benchmarks.
      --Make corrections in minutes or days, not weeks. If one document design works better than another it's a matter of minutes to make the change, and guess what, no scrap. 
      --Get immediate customer feedback. 
      --Get paid faster and generate new business.
--Meet or exceed SLAs
      --Absolutely mandatory from a compliance and business perspective, this has major impacts on cash flow, customer satisfaction and call center activity.
      --Electronic delivery will cut 2+ days from delivery and improve cash flow by 30%.
--Get through the electronic firewalls and spam filters (nearly 20% of standard emails are not delivered).
      --Proper document and message design combined with working with the ISPs to be whitelisted can minimize these potential roadblocks to successful email delivery.
--Comply with Can Spam rules and regulations.
      --Make it convenient to opt out from continuing to receive electronic messages as a normal part of your messaging system.
--Engage customers in two way communication -"Pay Now" buttons replace BREs and targeted links to web landing pages replace paper inserts.
      --An effective mail piece will motivate the proper call to action.
            --Collect money.
            --Generate new sales and cross marketing.
            --Request information.
            --Draw qualified traffic to your website.

It is a competitive world and offering multichannel delivery options will give you an edge over competition. While electronic delivery has its own set of challenges, the advantages over paper are enormous and measureable. It's easy to calculate hard dollar saving (60-90%) and the value of better cash flow (+30%). Businesses embracing a multichannel mail delivery strategy will find themselves in an enviable position of:
Lower Overhead + Improved Operating Efficiency + Highly Effective (low cost) Marketing + Higher Customer Loyalty and Retention = Higher Profit and Increased Revenue. Now that is a winning formula.
Richard Rosen, CEO, The RHRosen Group, can be contacted at