Message in a bottle or how to win the communication war
The search for the best way to deliver a message has been going on for as long as we have been producing messages.
The static message
Probably starting way back with a drawing on a stone wall, hoping whoever was supposed to "read" it would walk past, see it and possibly respond to it. In one way or the other. Later we used leather, papyrus, messages in a bottle, the pony express, telegraph, and more recently fax, email, the short message service on mobile phones and a personalised website to get personalised information from a to b.
Moreover, for many centuries now, of course, the classic letter. Handwritten, typed or printed, with seals, envelopes, stamps, hoping that the content matters and postal services will fulfil their promises of timely delivery.
All this has been good enough for us: form, content, delivery.
I want it my way
Was the "old" way really good enough for everyone? In particular, for business? And for its counterpart, the individual customer? Times are changing, and so are the lines of command when it comes to content and delivery method.
Customers no longer accept the way organisations think they can reach their clients. With trends such as the paperless movement and digital communication, the power of paper is shifting.
Paper has a new name: Quality
Today paper is, in the light of digital data breaches, again considered a safe way of communicating, it frees us up from being slaves of email or other digital communication clients, it still arrives and stays around, even if the internet is down. If used with attention to detail, paper delivers unparalleled quality as no computer screen can replace the feel of high-quality paper, replace the impact of special fonts or special ink/coating options.
And the statistics are on the paper side, too; a high-quality direct mail campaign still beats all other campaign channels by far, or in percentage: direct mail has a response rate of app 3.7%, all digital channels combined don’t even get close to the 1% mark. (more details available here: DMA, 2015 DMA Response Rate Report)
Communication and the impact on organisations
In the way we communicated until today, very often we had insufficient control over form, content and delivery status. And above all the communication did not really "talk" to the individual. But leaving all these "modern" aspects of communication aside, how does communication affect an organisation? The most frequent piece of mail is responding to a customer interaction: an order confirmation, an invoice, a reminder, a piece of advertisement, a response to a complaint, and many more. Some of it are, in numerous companies, already highly automated (or even outsourced) and individuals hardly ever interfere with it.
However, when team members are required to take action, say regarding a complaint (and for the sake of this post let's simplify the process and stick to paper), organisations want to make sure the communication is in line with their legal regulations, style of writing and overall look and feel. The document also should end up on the right letterhead, find its way into the right envelope, and of course, requires postage.
This takes time and attention to detail.
- We can all agree a complaint is something a knowledge worker will be dealing with.
- We can also agree on the fact that a knowledge worker will not be found at the bottom end of the salary scale.
- Hence, the time a knowledge worker spends in the office working on cases is rather precious.
So, if I asked you the following question: Is spending time on finding the right template, typing a letter from scratch, hoping it meets all legal and brand requirements, printing it (and I'm thinking positive here, the first printing attempt is successful including letterhead, no technical printer issue, no 500-pages print job of another colleague in the queue), putting it in an envelope, bringing it to the outgoing post tray, is what this person should be spending their time on?
I am sure you'd think of me as a fool.
Let thoughts wander... to hybrid mail
And this is the point when considerations should wander off in the direction of hybrid mail and mail outsourcing.
Streamlining the above drawn scenario and many other mail-based communication processes: from content entry, via sign off, printing (if printing is the option), across enveloping, franking, on to delivery tracking. All with the ultimate goal of reallocating time and resources for optimised productivity (including, where possible – legal exceptions considered - pleasing the customer to receive the communication their way).
So in a nutshell, what are the aspects we should consider when thinking to improve 1:1 communication, and possibly migrating to a hybrid (*) inhouse or outsourced mail system:
- First and foremost, review all resources, staff, hardware, software and their correct and productive allocation (ROI!)
- Secondly, review the content you are communicating, is it in the right format, brand consistent but also meeting customer requirements and expectations (including the communication vehicle).
- Thirdly, are all contact details correct including delivery options and is a QA / testing process in place.
Food for thought
Let me say good for today with some food for thought:
- Are your knowledge workers spending their precious time on the right tasks?
- Do you get the best possible results from your current communication workflow?
- Are your in-house printing devices supporting your communication efforts?
- Have you recently completed a TCO and ROI analysis? The numbers will not lie, often saving between £1 and £2.50 per communication without risk factors.
(*) A Hybrid Mail solution such as Compart Filecab solutions, solves the problem of collecting, checking and transferring remotely generated office documents to a company’s centralized or outsourced production. As part of the print process, documents can be automatically checked against various criteria and rules for brand and quality standards, address accuracy and completeness. DocBridge FileCab even offers an optional review process.