Documents you produce as an internal or external print/mail service provider should impact the recipient. Otherwise, there's no reason to send them (besides conforming to regulations). Documents, both traditional and digital, serve as a crucial communication bridge linking businesses and their customers or prospects. The items you process distribute relevant information to the recipients, but also affect their relationships with the organizations you serve.

When you take time to assess the documents and suggest refinements, you open up opportunities for your customers to make improvements in communication and customer service. Find out if the documents can help solve a problem or assist your customer in accomplishing their goals. Understand their business objectives and think about how the documents you produce can play a part in those ideals.

Here are a few ways transactional, informational, and marketing documents can influence the behavior or perceptions of the recipients:

Reduce calls to customer service by promoting self-help resources

Boost conversions to paperless communications

Enhance customer experience and tie it to your customer's online messaging

Drive more followers to your customer's social media accounts

Improve document readability and clarity

Examine areas such as design, layout, choice of colors, the addition or removal of text, re-wording sections, or incorporating personalized messages. Such improvements can transform an ordinary document into a potent tool for interaction.

Trends in Document Design

Personalization is a key trend in document design that enhances customer interaction. This involves tailoring the content of the document to the specific recipient, making the document more relevant and engaging. Personalization includes basing document content on information specific to the recipient. This approach can make the recipient feel valued and understood, increasing the likelihood of a positive response. Upsell and customer loyalty appreciation messages triggered by individual data make a document recipient feel like an individual, not just a faceless customer.

Another trend is clear and concise language. It's important that your customers’ documents are easy to understand. This means avoiding jargon and complex language, and instead using simple, straightforward terms. This can help ensure the message is understood and acted upon. If the legal department requires specific language, you might try including simple language on the documents while referencing the "official" version available online.

Interactive elements are also becoming increasingly popular in document design. QR codes can link to online resources, pURLs can pre-populate interactive online forms, or augmented reality features can add interactivity and connect physical documents to the digital environment. These elements can make your documents more interesting and provide value to the recipient.

Graphs, icons, and other visual elements in documents are on the rise. These items can help break up large blocks of text, making your customer's documents more visually appealing and easier to digest. Graphs can also help to convey complex information in a simple way, increasing the likelihood that document recipients will understand and remember your customer's message.

Realistic Expectations

Print/mail operations usually just print what they are given. They are not involved in document design or strategy meetings. Many times, the items to print and mail are pre-composed by the customers, giving document operations few opportunities to alter them. That doesn't mean you can't suggest improvements - especially modifications that will improve productivity or raise quality in your operation.

Perhaps a certain insert is prone to jamming the mail inserter or the address block on a document won't line up with the standard envelope window. Maybe the number of pages in document sets can be reduced without impacting messaging or readability. Adding a control number visible through the envelope window can allow you to automate reprints in case documents jam in the inserter. Adjustments like these can improve throughput, increase quality, or lower the cost of processing the documents. Make appointments to meet with your clients and show how they can benefit from such modifications.

If your department handles the document composition, you're in a fine position to implement the changes you suggest, and customers approve. If not, you'll have to convince customers to make the changes on their end or invest in a post-composition tool that allows you to re-engineer the documents without changing the upstream software that creates them.

Document Layout and Colors

The layout of a document can influence customer engagement. A well-structured layout can guide the reader's eye through the document, highlight key points, and make the content more understandable. For instance, breaking up large blocks of text with bullet points or subheadings can make a document more readable. Similarly, using boxes or borders to separate different sections can help organize information and draw attention to important details.

Colors can capture attention, set the mood, and reinforce brand identity. A consistent color scheme that aligns with your customer's brand can enhance recognition and create a cohesive look across all their documents.

Effective layout and color strategies can guide the reader's attention to specific parts of the document. Strategic use of color can highlight important information or calls to action, making them stand out from the rest of the text. This can be particularly effective in driving customer engagement, as it draws the reader's eye to key messages or actions they need to take. I can recall working on an application once, where printing a single sentence in red practically eliminated unnecessary calls that clogged a customer service phone line - just by changing the text color.

Understanding the Power of Document Impact

You, as a print/mail service provider, directly influence the overall experience someone has when receiving a document. Whether it's a monthly invoice, a marketing flyer, or a new policy update, every piece you produce should have tangible effects on the recipient.

Does the document you're creating only conform to regulations, or does it also accomplish something more? A bill is just an obligation to pay unless it also helps customers understand their spending habits. A marketing flyer is mere noise unless it connects with customers on a personal level, encouraging interaction and further engagement with your customers’ brands.

Even simple modifications in design, layout, colors, or text can drastically change the impact of your documents. Try rewording sections for clarity, adding or removing text for brevity, or inserting personalized messages to deepen the connection between your customers and their clients. These minor tweaks, being billable work, could transform your service delivery while simultaneously improving your customers’ relationships with the document recipients.

Don't overlook document design modifications that can be helpful in your own document operations workflow. Some simple changes may be all that is necessary to make major productivity improvements or lower costs. Ensuring the address block prints in a standard location, for instance, may allow you to reduce custom envelope inventory and combine small jobs, eliminating inefficient starts and stops and machine set-ups. Simply changing fonts and margins can make a big difference. For one client, I changed the layout of their documents to reduce the page count. They cut their paper costs by fifty percent, reduced postage, and processed the work in half the time.

In the end, your clients' satisfaction lies not just in receiving documents for their review but seeing tangible results stemming from these documents. Ask some questions and seek opportunities to create documents that are impactful. Your efforts won't just make your clients happy, they'll also elevate the importance of your print/mail operation.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps his clients meet the challenges they encounter in document operations and creates informational content for vendors and service providers in the document industry. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, send a connection request on LinkedIn, or contact Mike directly at