Stephen Covey always advised to "begin with the end in mind." As I look at the way many organizations approach customer communications, they seem to have lost track of true business goals. They base their vision of "the end" on rather old objectives.

For most of my career working for service providers, equipment manufacturers, or as a consultant, the driving force for physical document production has been lowering costs. Document owners wanted to know how to print fewer pages, pay less postage, produce more output per hour, or reduce expensive mistakes.

We used tricks, methods, and technologies to print duplex pages, merge documents, trim weight, add integrity barcodes, or encourage electronic delivery. We presorted mail, added intelligent mail barcodes, drop-shipped, and changed flats into letters to qualify for lower postage rates.

Pressure to cut costs still exists and will always be important, but it is unwise to sacrifice other business objectives to save money on customer communications. It seems many organizations are stuck in a cost-reduction mindset, unable to see the bigger picture.

Transactional Documents and CX

Printed documents, especially transactional documents, are important factors in determining individual customer experiences (CX). They regularly arrive in customer homes, get opened 95% of the time, and receive more scrutiny than any other communication the document owners send. The most reliable and controllable customer touchpoints are items like bills and statements.

Given the impact of transactional documents on customer perception, it would make sense to allocate more budget dollars towards making documents supportive of corporate CX goals.

I’m not suggesting businesses add gold foil to their monthly invoices or deliver customer statements by overnight courier. Print and mail organizations can improve transactional documents with modest investments.

Consumer Attitudes about Transactional Documents

When researchers asked consumers how to make transactional documents better, they suggested communications should be more relevant and personalized. Consumers also want these documents to be easier to understand. They believe the sensible use of color could emphasize important pieces of information.

Print service providers can do all these things today, with easily acquired hardware and software.

Many companies already own the tools necessary to improve their printed transactional documents. They just aren’t considering how documents can reinforce the business goals of their organizations as the first priority. Since about 2015, when businesses became intensely interested in CX, discussions about how to improve the customer experience rarely mention mailed documents. Plenty of enhancement opportunities remain.

Change of Focus

I recommend my print service provider clients stop talking with their customers about only saving money and learn what their customers want to accomplish as a business. Once they gain a clear understanding about what is important to their customers, service providers can design CX-supportive communication strategies.

To paraphrase Dr. Covey, if you fail to visualize what you want (or what your customers want), you empower people and circumstances to take control. Concentrating on document production expenses denies service providers the privilege of helping their customers achieve what they say are their most important aspirations.

I have no doubt document professionals will always find ways to lower the costs of printed communications. Focusing on integrating documents with the overall strategies of their organizations will add value to those communications without driving costs to unacceptable heights.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants believes in making documents better. He’s been writing and speaking about this topic for years and works closely with his clients to help them transition to a new way of thinking about the production and distribution of customer communications. He welcomes all sympathetic and opposing points of view. Connect with Mike directly at or follow @PMCmike on Twitter. Mike invites readers to visit and sign up for Practical Stuff – the free newsletter dedicated to information important to document operations professionals.