At the end of a busy workday, consumers retreat to their homes to find a collection of mail awaiting them. The routine collection of mail is there - bills, statements, notices, and a smattering of mostly unsolicited marketing mail. Those transactional documents in the pile are pretty dull, but they could be more than just bearers of uninteresting account information and payment demands. They possess the capacity to elevate or depress the customer experience (CX) for the mail recipients - depending on the document contents and presentation.

Transactional documents are brimming with latent potential. They play a part in tailoring a customer's perception of the company. It's a role that is often overlooked in the overall corporate CX strategy.

Transactional documents are far from ordinary paperwork. They present an opportunity to build, engage, and strengthen an organization's bond with their customers - if the company takes advantage of a communication channel, they may have long neglected. Documents designed a decade ago and never updated might be due for a refresh to take advantage of new capabilities in document technology including software, hardware, and data.

Tailored documents can increase efficiency, enhance customer loyalty, and potentially lead to upselling or cross-selling opportunities. Do not underestimate the humble transactional document. It's time to use it as a powerful tool in the customer experience arsenal.

Transactional Documents' Role in CX

Tiffani Bova, a Gartner Vice President, said, "Customer experience is the last source of sustainable differentiation and the new competitive battleground." I think her assessment is on-target. The way customers feel about an organization with which they do business can impact how much they spend, how long they remain customers, and what sentiments they share with others.

With that thought in mind, take a look at the bills and statements you produce for your in-house or external clients. Do they communicate a message that shows the company knows and cherishes its customers or do the documents seem to be mass-produced items created only because the company has to issue them? Are the transactional documents you handle viewed as an asset or an expense?

The object of a CX strategy is to influence customers so they have a positive perception of the business. Companies know that happy customers are more loyal, will refer the company to others, and are more likely to increase their spending on company goods and services.

If you want to influence customers, you first have to get their attention. This is where monthly bills and statements outshine any other communication method a company might use. We know a high percentage of people open and read their bills and statements every month. These documents also have a long lifespan. Billpayers hold onto their documents for weeks as the due date approaches. If they pay through their bank, they will retain the bills until the next one arrives, to make sure their payments were recorded. It's hard to imagine a direct mail marketing piece or an email with better penetration and staying power than the monthly bills or statements many organizations generate.

How to Improve CX With Transactional Documents

· Personalization: Adding a personal touch to transactional documents can go a long way. The documents are already personalized - they are meant for an audience of one. It's not a stretch to include other personal information related to their longevity as a customer, their geographic location, recent purchases, etc. Relevant information can help the customer feel valued and connected.

· Clarity and Simplicity: Keep documents clear and easy to understand. Confusing bills or statements can lead to unhappy customers and negative experiences. Reduce the need to call customer service or navigate a chatbot to get answers to questions spurred by a less-than-optimal document presentation. Avoid jargon, use clear headings, and present data in a digestible manner.

· Utilize Data: Use customer data to improve the customer experience. Tailor the information in the documents to the customer’s specific needs. A good example might be displaying how much longer a customer must remain on a cell phone plan, for example, to qualify for device discounts on a new phone.

· Engagement: Include ways for customers to engage with the brand. This could be a simple survey, opportunities for customer feedback, ways to update a customer profile, or links to social media pages. QR codes and personal URLs (pURLs) can connect the physical documents to rich online content such as videos or online shopping.

· Call to Action: We generally think of a call to action (CTA) in marketing materials, but they can be used effectively in transactional documents as well. With a bill or invoice, the CTA is obviously to pay. Other common actions you might add to the documents include converting to paperless communications or establishing autopay. Any CTA on a transactional document should be easy to find, but not detract from the main mission of the document.

· Design: Good design matters. Make sure documents are visually appealing and easy to read. This not only improves the customer’s experience but also reinforces brand identity. Companies can increase customer comprehension and reduce calls to customer service by adding tables, charts, and graphs to increase comprehension.

Incorporating these elements into transactional documents can turn a simple bill into a powerful tool for enhancing the customer experience. Be consistent and genuine in the approach. True CX improvement happens when companies listen, understand, and act according to their customers' needs. The monthly customer appointments we call bills or statements can help companies demonstrate those qualities.

Transactional Documents and Customer Loyalty

Transactional documents are regular, powerful touchpoints and vital opportunities to connect with customers. By enhancing these documents, companies impact the CX, and consequently, improve customer loyalty. Neglecting to correct documents that do nothing to improve CX can cause customers to leave. The way to keep customers is continuously showing them that they matter - even when demonstrated in the seemingly mundane details.

Several years ago, a study produced by a Macquarie Graduate School of Management visiting professor investigated the reasons customers left a company. Interestingly, it wasn't poor products and services or competitive pressure that most often drove customers away. 68% of customers pointed to perceived indifference as the main reason they abandoned a company. The customers thought the company didn't really care about them.

If the number one way a company regularly communicates with their customer base is through their transactional documents, it makes sense to use those communications to their full advantage. Construct these documents so they show the company respects their customer's time. Use them to deepen customer relationships and strengthen customer loyalty by insuring customers get the message that the company sees them, knows them, and appreciates their business.

Enhancing CX through transactional documents is all about understanding and meeting customer needs. With the right approach, these documents can become a powerful tool for improving customer relationships and driving business growth.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants creates content that helps attract and retain customers for companies in the document industry and assists companies as they integrate new technology. Learn more about his services at Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.