In my opinion, customer experience is the number one area where print and mail operations need to focus in 2017. If you help your clients deliver an improved customer experience, you will almost certainly be rewarded. If you fail to do so, you will most certainly be penalized.

For mail service providers, this means holding yourselves accountable to a different standard and demonstrating value to your clients and business partners in different ways. In the past, most operations were measured solely on how cost-effectively they could process transactional mail. Today, they are also evaluated on how impactful and engaging their communications are and how much value they can add to the business in other ways. For those who are still being graded on the efficiency standard alone, you should demand, or better yet, demonstrate that you should be measured on a broader set of criteria. Efficiency is essential, but we have much more to offer.

Here are some ways you can drive a better customer experience in 2017:

1. Use More Personalization and Targeting

Personalizing your communications starts with knowing your customer. That means collecting and leveraging meaningful and accurate data. Ensuring you have the right lists, audience, and information is critical. Good data can make your communication more engaging and help you avoid waste (e.g., sending an offer for a home equity line of credit to a renter).

Making bills and statements personalized, colorful, and interactive not only reduces customer confusion, but it captures your customer’s attention and creates a vehicle for targeted marketing messages and additional engagement. Printing a personalized message on the statement and envelope drives higher open rates and can be a powerful and cost-effective marketing tool.

2. Take Advantage of High-Speed, High-Quality, Affordable Color Inkjet

For a majority of businesses, the capability to produce 100% variable data color print is no longer a luxury, but instead an expectation. Monochrome, spot color, or color cut-sheet toner systems simply cannot produce the same results as digital color print. Your customers will see and react to the difference.

Over a five-year period, digital production print shipments and services are projected to grow by nearly 11%. Much of this will be in the transactional mail space, as declines moderate and consumers across all demographics continue to value paper bills and statements as a convenient and useful payment reminder and reliable record for their personal archives.

3. Leverage Productivity Solutions

Streamlining your workflow with integrated print and inserting solutions and leveraging software that promotes productivity are great ways to create an environment for future growth.

As the software that runs mail equipment continues to improve, we are able to obtain more timely and detailed information to improve productivity and predictability. So, how does this relate to the customer experience? Quite simply, efficiency allows you more time to focus on the things that matter – meeting SLAs and driving revenue. The customer experience is improved by reliable delivery times and accurate personalization, including relevant and timely offers.

4. Choose an Omni-channel Approach

As physical and digital communications continue to converge, your bills, statements, and direct mailings must be part of an omni-channel customer engagement solution.

By continuing to anchor mobile, web, and video-based communications with an effective mail piece, we create more meaningful customer engagement. Leading companies are creating a tailored, seamless conversation with customers across channels and devices. By investing in the latest capabilities, including interactive personalized video, companies are driving richer interactions, deeper personalization, and greater access to information and options. Combining video technology with real-time data, for example, enables those companies to deliver billing statements in unique ways, providing a sound and motion experience to complement the mail piece.

Omni-channel communication also establishes a holistic brand and customer experience – a synchronized, connected journey across channels, including mobile apps, call centers, transactional communications, videos, and websites. Together, these pieces create a seamless, targeted, and relevant conversation that is tailored to each stage of the customer journey.

5. Give as Much Care to Your Inbound Mail as Your Outbound Mail

For mail service providers and in-plant operations with responsibility for both inbound and outbound mail, you need to love both of your children equally. An important step toward this balance is implementing a single round-trip tracking solution. The latest tracking software allows this, giving you extra control, more actionable data and complete peace of mind.

Intelligence on inbound mail performance can be invaluable not only for measuring incoming payables, but also getting an early reading on customer behavior and planning appropriate follow-up actions.

New software solutions provide a full variety of automated daily reports on billing performance that can be used as a suppression file against lists compiled for second notices, service cancellations, or outbound telemarketing. No more unnecessary notification mailings, premature service cancellations, or angry customers — because you’ll know when the check is really in the mail.

An exceptional customer experience is comprised of multiple interactions, so it is essential to think of the big picture. Collaborating with your marketing teams to deliver consistent, personalized customer communications across all channels; expanding your use of color inkjet printing to make your communications more impactful; and improving your tracking and management of inbound mail are all ways to provide a more consistent and meaningful customer experience. By keeping your clients’ needs at the forefront of your business strategies, you will be successful in 2017 and beyond.

Grant Miller is Chief Operating Officer, Document Messaging Technologies for Pitney Bowes, where he leads product management and strategy for the company’s enterprise-level production print and mail business. Grant holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from Butler University. Follow him @GrantMillerUS. For more information, please visit