Why should the phone company worry about saving $6.00 per year on bill production? Retaining my business a few more years by investing in communications I actually appreciate is much more lucrative. Double-Dipping Most customers who receive paper bills can also access electronic versions, but the two presentations are usually independent. Billers have made little progress integrating the two versions of transactional documents. Perhaps this goes back to the EBPP origins. In 1999, a prime concern of billers offering electronic statements was duplicating the paper documents exactly. This was a big deal back then. Corporate customer service departments were still using CRT terminals (green screens). They had already experienced the difficulty of relating a printed document to its electronic counterpart, so companies devoted a lot of attention to technologies that could mimic the printed pages. Document parity is no longer as important. With mobile devices serving as primary internet access points for many customers, delivering an exact replica, such as a PDF, of a printed bill is actually counterproductive. They are difficult to read on smaller screens. Billers now apply responsive design techniques so documents function effectively regardless of the device used to view them. Seamless customer experience is the goal of many organizations. Transactions or correspondence begun in one communication channel should continue uninterrupted in another. Paper bills can play a part in this strategy by treating the electronic version of a bill as an extension of the paper instead of a replacement. To continue the phone company example, their paper bill messages could prompt customers to access their electronic bills and view video tutorials on how to change to the recommended phone plans or download and install the security updates mentioned in the paper bill. Small investments a biller makes to add personalized useful content to their
Customers who sign up to have bills paid automatically from their bank accounts or credit cards have even less incentive to view the bills. paper and electronic bills can pay off as cost savings and CX improvements. Better transactional documents can lower expenses like reducing customer service call volumes and provide that seamless experience that contributes to greater customer satisfaction. High Open Rates It’s no secret that paper bills enjoy a high open rate. Around 90% of consumers receiving paper bills open the envelopes and view the content. This makes paper bills a highly effective way to communicate with customers. The same cannot be said for electronic bills. Email notices don’t get the same level of attention. Customers open fewer of them, and clicking through to view the actual bills happens even less often. It’s easy to understand why. To see their bill online, customers must spot the billing email in their crowded inboxes, click on a link, and enter their username and password, if they can remember them. If they’ve forgotten their login credentials, are using a new device, chosen a different browser, or cleared cookies from their computers, customers may have to endure a two-step authentication process before they can continue. Facing too many access barriers, customers may elect to bypass viewing the bill entirely. Some customers may never see promotional, educational, or informative messaging the company may include in the electronic bill.
Customers who sign up to have bills paid automatically from their bank accounts or credit cards have even less incentive to view the bills. How will a company improve the customer experience when they have essentially cut off their most consistent and effective channel of communication? I wrote about the danger of replacing a high open rate communication some time ago (see Paperless Billing Can Cost You from August of 2013). I’ll continue to help my clients cut expenses. I understand communicating with customers through only electronic channels is attractive to them. There are definitely some benefits, both financial and functional, that digital messaging provides. But I also make sure my clients understand the downside of aggressive paperless strategies. I urge my clients to monitor customer consumption of those electronic messages in a pilot program. If eliminating paper has a negative effect on areas such as customer retention, upselling, and referrals, then perhaps the savings in paper and postage aren’t really worth further intense efforts to eliminate paper documents. Leveraging the influence of an established communication channel seems smarter and easier than convincing reluctant customers to switch to digital delivery. Making paper documents more effective, efficient, and useful for customers can have a positive effect on customer relationships that outweigh net savings gained from increasing the number of paperless customers by a few percentage points. ¾
Mike Porter writes extensively on topics of interest to companies and individuals working in the customer communications business. Visit www.printmailconsultants.com to learn more about his writing and consulting services or follow him on Twitter @PMCmike or LinkedIn.
MailingSystemsTechnology.com | JULY-AUGUST 2017