In pursuit of improved customer experience, companies must personalize customer interactions to cultivate individual relationships and retain their business. Correspondence, marketing material, and transactional documents contribute substantially to customer perceptions. The contributions to the customer experience made by the documents can be positive or negative.

Corporate document centers aren’t usually responsible for document content, but they can suggest changes that help their companies raise customer satisfaction levels. Document professionals can show business units and administrative departments how combining functionality built into their document composition software, digital printing, and intelligent finishing equipment can create unique and personalized communications.

Customers can tell when a sender neglects to tailor messages to match their personal relationships with the entity. Poorly designed documents can actually negate customer retention gains made in other areas of the business.

Documents Fail to Impress

I recently experienced a disappointing customer interaction with my bank.

Bank policy changes prompted me to call the customer service department to make a minor adjustment to my business checking account. The representative handled the call without delay or hassle. I hung up the phone a satisfied customer.

About a week later, I received an official-looking packet, mailed as a 4 ounce flat. Inside were 12 letter-size digitally printed pages and a 26-page booklet of legal information and disclosures. The only personalized content in the packet was the name and address block and salutation in the cover letter.

The letter alluded to an unspecified account change, which had apparently generated a great deal of paper. At first I did not connect the mail piece to my earlier phone call. All I did was switch overdraft protection from a credit card to a savings account. I didn’t expect follow-up paperwork from my simple request. The customer service representative did not mention it.

Once I overcame my anxiety about unanticipated account changes, I examined the pages more closely. I wasn’t sure if I was being asked to take any action. Three pages addressed changes in terms, services, and fees; including the overdraft arrangements. It was unclear though, how any of the other listed items would affect me.

The remaining pages listed services and fees for 16 different varieties of business banking accounts. I couldn’t identify which of the 16 I owned. I think the names of the accounts have changed since I opened them eight years ago. I recognized none of them. The bank covered all possibilities and made it impossible to tell which information was relevant by burying me with details about every business account they offer.

Poor Execution Damages Customer Experience

The point here is the documents I received undermined the positive effect of my customer service phone call by sending me confusing and unnecessary information. I understand requirements to inform customers of certain changes in their accounts, but I question the practice of generating one-size-fits-all terms and conditions. Barcodes in the margins tell me the documents were probably printed on demand, so there was an opportunity to communicate what had changed for my accounts without cluttering the message with details pertaining to other business banking customers.

My bank missed a great chance to impress me and instead dropped a few notches on my loyalty scale. Personal interactions in any channel, including print, have greater influence on my propensity to continue doing business with a company than all the money they spend on television ads and sponsorships. Most customers probably feel the same.

Responsibility for customer relationships extends to parts of an organization that never come in direct contact with a customer. The document center is one of those departments entrusted with the power to shape customer perceptions. Doing everything possible to ensure those perceptions are positive, even if it isn’t part of the job description, is advice I’d give any company striving to improve the customer experience.

Mike Porter writes extensively on topics of interest to companies and individuals working in the customer communications business. Visit to learn more about his writing and consulting services or follow him on Twitter @PMCmike.