With the rise in omnichannel capabilities, coupled with the pressure every business is experiencing to significantly reduce costs, the complexities of managing documents as a third-party service provider have multiplied. Print service providers (PSPs) are challenged with addressing these market changes by providing new services to keep pace with increased demands for faster turnaround, lower costs, and value-added services. One avenue is finding a solution that provides the opportunity to work collaboratively with clients when it comes to managing their content.

PSPs serve many industries where small changes in documents need to be made frequently. However, even simple client alterations can derail production schedules. The time required to update changes and get approvals pushes production timelines to the brink and causes billing nightmares. Providers get in an endless cycle of changes and updates that would have taken seconds if there was a way for the client to do them and approve them at the same time. The bottom line is that the traditional model of submitting changes, updating the documents, and sending back proofs is time-consuming and no longer fits today’s time-to-market requirements.

Putting Clients in the Driver’s Seat

The past decade has seen the emergence and continued growth of online customer portal solutions that provide customers with the ability to make changes to text, images, and messaging. Initially, these systems only allowed for small changes with very limited control on the part of the client. Today, collaborative online solutions have evolved to meet compliance standards and create reliable expedited workflows. As technology has evolved, so has users’ comfort level with making changes utilizing online portal tools. Working in a world that has come to expect same-day service, online portals provide the speed to make and approve updates without complicating the process, reducing the number of required proofs and giving users ownership in the process.

Not only does the implementation of portals save time, it also provides an opportunity to improve the relationship between provider and client. Providers can focus their time on serving up new solutions and expanding business relationships when the tedious task of changes and approvals are removed.

Empowering an organization’s content authors is particularly valuable for industries that send out a variety of time-sensitive communications that require regular modifications, such as healthcare, insurance and financial services. Because these business users are the most knowledgeable source of information about their organizations’ communication strategies, key messaging, and current offerings, having control of what updates they want to make provides a measurable advantage in managing and delivering effective relevant messaging. Then, there is speed. Having the ability to change messaging or information on the fly reduces time to market, which is critical today. Additionally, when customers have real-time control over their customer communications, they feel more assured they are providing an exceptional customer experience.

On the flip side, PSP staff that manage the production of these communications will spend less time making those time-consuming (and costly) minor edits and adjustments that often come up in the production process. Liability is also decreased when customers are involved in the approval process and in control of their changes. Additionally, online collaboration tools engage users in the process of creating and working within the provider’s ecosystem, making it less attractive to change suppliers.

In addition to empowering users and providers to work closer together, online portals have the potential to address issues surrounding billing. With users in control of their own changes, service providers have the power to reduce change alteration (CA) charges and replace them with online portal subscriptions. Clients are accustomed to paying for subscription services, and charging monthly for access to online tools gives clients a predictable monthly cost while also simplifying the process of billing. With the simplification of billing, providers can again focus more readily on the business of expanding their portfolio of solutions and cultivating client relationships.

What to Consider When Evaluating a Collaborative Online Tool

Conventional campaign management tools often limit customer control, putting an outsourced provider in the position of being responsible for accumulating, managing, verifying, and controlling most elements of a customer’s campaign. In contrast, it is important that the solution used ensures business users are able to control virtually all elements of the process, including approvals, tracking, and even which updates they want to see. Having a tool with a web-based wizard makes it possible for users to change communications on the fly with relevant messaging, such as educational details, product information, and promotional campaigns on their outbound communications— all without leaving their desks.

This independence dictates that the platform must be user-friendly, with simplicity of access and navigation. It must include a user permission structure that has secure roles for various types of users. Clients may want to designate users as editors, approvers, or super users with varying degrees of access when it comes to uploading new templates and designating permissions. A well-developed platform will have the flexibility to set up user permissions based on client capabilities and the provider’s preferred process. In addition to ease of use, the platform should include a dashboard where both parties can see projects in process, approved projects, and projects waiting for approval. A well laid out dashboard also reduces calls about status of work and provides a historical record of changes and approvals.

The past 10 years have brought significant changes in terms of how customers interact with technology. Online collaboration tools have become essential in a business environment where frequent changes are made. They streamline processes, improve client-provider relationships, simplify billing, and enhance communication and transparency. These solutions are expected to continue growing in popularity as they meet the demands of today's expedited business models and client expectations for real-time updates and approvals.

Ryan Semanchik is an equity partner and President of Transformations, Inc., developer of Uluro, a comprehensive Customer Communications Management (CCM) software. A CPA, Semanchik’s expertise in operational excellence is gained from 20 years of hands-on production and document management experience laser focused on measurable results. He can be reached at ryans@transfrm.com. Visit https://www.linkedin.com/company/uluro/ or https://www.uluro.com/ for more information.

This article originally appeared in the January/February, 2024 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.