Every month, like clockwork, your organization has a prime transactional opportunity with a captive audience – your customer. Whether print or digital, your company has the opportunity to interact with your customer to drive an overall better customer experience. Through the use of transactional communications, designing an engaging communication creates a personalized, interactive, colorful and promotional or educational message that encourages a long-term customer experience and satisfaction. But don’t lose sight on continuing to incorporate cost saving measures into your business strategy that supports overall solid practices in operational excellence, postal optimization and multi-channel delivery preference.

What Are Transactional Communications?

Effective delivery of transactional communications continues to reinvent itself. With the rise of the customer experience and customer expectations, the preferred delivery method is just as impactful as the transactional content itself. These mailings include statements, bills, policy notices, EOBs, late notices and other time-sensitive account-level transactions. Research suggests the average customer spends two to five minutes with a transactional communication; this is much longer than you’ll get with a direct mail piece. This is where you’ll be able to make a more impactful communication with the use of full-color messaging and Customer Communications Management (CCM) software solutions versus producing a black/white monochromatic communication.

Target Color Messaging

Incorporating a colorful, personalized strategy with targeted messages throughout a transactional communication will require an investment in production and operations cost. To help offset the additional cost, consider optimizing your mailing processes by combining smaller jobs to increase the postal density and take advantage of the 2nd ounce free. By increasing postal density, this will help to qualify your mailings for lower postage rates and faster speed of delivery. As a suggestion, add an additional marketing page since the second ounce rides free. Instead of mailing a separate marketing correspondence, include the communication within the First-Class Mail transactional mailing for higher readability, lower postage and faster delivery. To incentivize the move to color, the Postal Service specifically offers incentives in the form of a postage rebate at the time of mailing. As background, postal incentive programs were initially introduced in 2011 and have since developed into offering repeated incentives for more personalized color messaging printed on the transactional document. This year’s promotion is called the “2016 Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion” and offers an upfront postage discount to mailers who use personalized dynamic/variable color print for transpromotional marketing and consumer messages on their bills and statements. The Personalized Color Transpromo promotion runs July 1st through December 31st. Registration for the program begins on May 15th and runs through the end of the promotional period.

Service Providers Transform the Need for Color

Mid to large tier service providers are well-positioned and equipped to support enterprise mailers’ high-quality, full-color inkjet needs that in-house operations may lack. This is due to high implementation costs of hardware, software, experience and the lower per sheet cost of color that service providers can offer. In addition to print service providers, many Hosted Managed Services (HMS) providers offer robust offerings that support data-driven services, such as interactive document composition, responsive design messaging management, and preference management capabilities.

Postal Optimization

One of the top business goals for enterprises is to reduce postage spend. That should come as no surprise since these rising postage costs account for approximately 67% of operations’ budgets. If you are nodding your head in agreement, you are certainly not alone. Additionally, enterprises have faced many challenges by not leveraging new innovations and technologies around postal optimization. As a first step to a postal optimization strategy, start with the data integrity. Each year roughly four billion First-Class Undeliverable-As-Addressed (UAA) mailpieces are destroyed due to poor address quality. Fortunately, USPS data shows the rate is slowly decreasing year-over-year, but clean data continues to be the responsibility of enterprise mailers. As a best practice, conduct an electronic process of your customer data each mailing through a USPS certified Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) presort and address validation software. CASS Certified automation software identifies the Delivery Point Validation (DPV), ZIP+4, LACSLink, SuiteLink, and other ancillary services during the mail preparation stage. Since the Full Service Intelligent Mail barcode was introduced, presort automation and physical commingling have also been a key optimization tool to improve productivity and postage savings.

Take an evaluated look at your data integrity. If you are finding your organization has a higher than average CASS error rate (industry average is two percent), you may want to consider taking additional pro-active actions for increasing resolutions. One of the ways to optimize your data is to take your address scrub one step further by processing the mailing list through a solution called Address Element Correction (AEC). AEC is a two-step USPS process, depending on the severity of missing or inaccurate information. This electronic process has an estimated resolution rate of 60-70%, which moves towards a cleaner, quality and deliverable address. Your organization may opt to utilize the USPS directly, or there are service providers that manage the process in an automated fashion.

Additionally, on average, 17% of Americans move every year. Maintaining a move update method every 95 days will increase the deliverability, client satisfaction and decrease the costly return mail expenses attributed to both the USPS and the mailing industry. Pre-mailing move updates, such as USPS’ National Change of Address (NCOALink) provides updates based on what the customer has filed with the postal service. In 2015, the USPS rolled out a nationwide no-fee post move update service that incorporates Address Change Service and Secure Destruction called USPS BlueEarth Secure Destruction. This service was primarily designed for customers in the telecommunications, financial, insurance and health industries using First-Class Mail. USPS BlueEarth Secure Destruction helps lower the carbon footprint of the Postal Service and participating customers through efficiency, and provides fast and accurate electronic information to participants about their outgoing mail pieces that could not be delivered. If your organization is looking for enhanced capabilities with move update and the reason the mail piece was undelivered, this is a good sustainability program to check into. Service providers also offer automated return mail offerings to optimize the deliverability of the mail piece and a better address with third party tools.

Over the past year, the USPS has been pushing closer to the implementation of Seamless Acceptance. This will track the automation of the Full Service Intelligent Mail barcode through a new monthly reporting system within the Business Customer Gateway called the Mailer Scorecard. There are still hiccups with the accurate data verification, but the USPS and mailing industry are active in monitoring its progress. With that said, there are actions you can do now to prepare your mailings in time for Seamless Acceptance, such as keep monitoring the Mailer Scorecard against your eDoc data for accuracy and maintain a good system for address quality.

Driving Towards an Optimal Customer Experience

Ultimately, today’s communications need to meet customer expectations and provide a good customer experience. Unfortunately for the printing industry, this means a shift to electronic communications in addition to print and mail and the need for managing these customer preferences. However, as we see influenced by USPS promotions, these channels do not need to be siloed. CCM solutions as well as offerings from service providers enable enterprises to provide an integrated experience that gives their customers that prefer print a bridge to the electronic world through the use of QR codes, pURLS, augmented reality and other emerging technologies that provide interactivity and additional information that can be overwhelming to provide in print. In addition to providing management of these customer channel preferences, they also provide analytics tools that help enterprises gain an understanding of how customers are interacting with their communications today, providing the necessary insight to fine-tune the overall customer experience.

Mandi McCoy is the Research Manager, Service Provider Consulting Services at Madison Advisors. In this role, Mandi is responsible as the lead resource and research analyst for custom consulting projects and Continuous Advisory Services within the service provider market. Additionally, Mandi will work in conjunction with the VP of Research and Enterprise & Technology Consulting Services to provide guidance in the service provider research and development space.

For over a decade, Madison Advisors has been actively studying the print service provider market and growing multi-channel trends within the transactional print and mail industry. According to Madison Advisors’ most recent Service Provider Market Pricing Study, 4th Edition, among the service providers surveyed, material and market costs to support color inkjet printing has dropped, thus significantly increasing the adoption of inkjet printing systems. The study also details growing trends within the transactional statement messaging and expanded multi-channel delivery preferences. Additionally, Madison Advisors has published a comprehensive report, Hosted Managed Service: Changing the Paradigm in Customer Communications Management, detailing important trends in the CCM marketplace.