Document operations centers originally installed Automated Document Factories (ADFs) to streamline paper document production and improve quality. The concept has evolved with the times to add multi-channel output management capabilities. So far, the main beneficiaries of ADF technology have been the document operations facilities themselves.

ADF systems ensure organizations complete final production and distribution steps accurately and on time. Many issues with customer communications, however, reside upstream from document output workflows. Now may be the time to use data collected by the ADF to improve performance in areas beyond the document center.

Communications status and history information collected by the ADF could be helpful in developing corporate-wide views of customer relationships. Analysis of customer-indexed ADF data might reveal:

· Irrelevant messaging

· Excessive or redundant communications

· Contradictory messages

· Miss-timed communications

Organizations may best understand total customer relationships when they know what information they sent, when it was delivered, if customers accessed it, the method of delivery, and perhaps even why the company produced each document. ADF data analysis can answer some important questions, such as:

· What messages are being transmitted to customers?

· How often do customers hear from the organization?

· What are the variables?

· What communication channels does the organization use?

· Which communication channels are most effective in connecting with customers?

Departments and divisions of large organizations maintain independent customer databases and document composition systems. Marketing, sales, billing, customer service, product support, and others each have their own communication strategies. The one place organizations store information about all their output in a common format may well be the ADF in document operations.

Customers Expect Better

Experience with social media and online shopping have shown customers how companies can track customer behavior to improve subsequent interactions. They expect similar experiences when dealing with their insurers, utility companies, and banks. Companies capable of generating individually relevant material by analyzing communications data will enjoy a competitive advantage.

Vertical departments often pursue target marketing or personalized communication strategies without the benefit of an enterprise-wide view of individual customer relationships. Communications customers receive from one functional part of an organization can conflict with the state of relations they have with another. This disconnection can lead to disenfranchised customers who surmise (accurately) the company doesn’t really know them.

Leveraging ADF Data

Benefits of enabling an enterprise-wide customer communications strategy fueled partly by ADF data might include:

· Improved customer loyalty

· Fewer complaints

· Increased upselling success

· Higher customer lifetime value

· More referrals

ADF data won’t tell the whole story of a customer’s relationship with an enterprise, but it is an excellent starting point. Companies may uncover new opportunities to impact customer experiences by simply identifying issues with communications that are detracting from the customer relationships they strive to achieve. Making communication adjustments could improve customer experience less expensively than projects such as re-designing websites or creating mobile apps.

Mike Porter helps print/mail organizations improve operations and develop strategies for growth. Contact Mike at or follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter @PMCmike to learn more.