May 13, 2014

Insurance Industry Best Practice for High-Volume Customer Communications: Part 3 Quality and Personalization

In the previous blogs around the Insurance Industry Best Practice for High-Volume Customer Communications series, we discussed an introduction into these best practices and also legislative impact on document generation. In this post, we are discussing quality and personalisation of customer communications. Please enjoy!

Trends in Document Generation for Insurers

Document generation is the class of application that captures the output of policy administration systems and presents it in a format suitable for delivery to devices such as printers. Because document generation has traditionally been built into core business applications it received relatively little recognition as a function in most enterprise software applications until the early 1990’s.

Early reporting and document generation processes produced reports with ASCII line printer style presentation qualities with very limited opportunities for techniques like graphics and variable fonts. Reports would usually be output on pre-printed forms to company standards with the result that many companies had to have large amounts of stock paper for different purposes. Even today many corporate reports and output still use ASCII line printer style output.

The applications which produced this output were often handcrafted in 3GLs such as Cobol, PL/1, SQL and C and whenever changes to the report were required programmers would need to be involved to customise the program.

Advanced Function Printing (AFP) was introduced by IBM to allow high-end printers to produce output with high-quality presentation characteristics such as graphics, fonts and barcodes. The techniques employed by AFP even allowed forms to be customised through configuration although programming was often required. The ability to address all parts of the page is known as All Points Addressable (APA) and other manufacturers have since introduced their own APA formats such as Xerox's Metacode, Hewlett Packard's Page Command Language (PCL) and Adobe’s PostScript®. These Page Description Languages have made it possible to add rich graphics and presentation qualities to printed documents.

Without separate document generation processes however these features are difficult to utilise and can be costly to run and maintain.

Over the past 15 years there has been a growth in the market for stand-alone document generation or output management tools that make it possible to extract and capture data from line of business systems and produce high quality printed output without needing to make costly changes to core business applications.

What’s Next?

There are many applications that provide output management capabilities, however, the growing demand for localization, personalization and even more demanding presentation qualities had led to the need for a new generation of applications. The introduction of new print technologies has allowed high-volume printing of quality documents including the use of techniques not previously available in administrative customer communications such as graphics, color and font. Generally, consumer expectations regarding the quality of output have risen significantly in recent years and the difference between old style and new style documents is visible in the administrative documents we receive through the post.

In particular, the use of sidebars and highlighting has become a part of standard customer communications although the use of colors, fonts and graphics is still a subject for regulation to ensure that these presentation devices are not abused or used to mislead consumers.

The use of the modern presentation techniques can also help save space and reduce the size of documents produced. Regulation places significant emphasis on the content of policy documents including cancellation rights, key features of policies, claims handling process, offers and promotions, cancellation rights and statements of price. In all these regulatory changes to the content of policy documents has led to an average increase in size of policy documents by 30%.

Personalization

Personalization plays an increasingly important role in document generation processes because marketing groups must strive to provide more targeted communications to prospects and customers. It has long been the aim to differentiate between communications with the use of language and message in order to provide relevant and interesting communications.

The goal of content personalization is to achieve optimal levels of relevance by matching customer information and context with business rules and logic to establish context quickly, present information more efficiently and streamline the communication process. Customers should receive exactly the information they need, at the time they need it, using a communication channel that both reflects their personal preferences but which is also appropriate to the purpose of the communication. In other words: the right information, at the right time and through the right channel.

A further issue for personalization in a consolidating European market is the need to personalize language for cross-border communications.

The improvements in the quality of communications has enabled insurance companies to be more sophisticated about how to up sell and cross-sell products to customers although care is needed to make sure that such offers comply with regulatory guidelines for investment related products.

In our next blog we’ll be looking at some of the legislative issues for archiving insurance customer communications. So stay tuned!

Did you miss the previous parts of this Insurance archiving series? Catch up by following the links below:

Insurance Industry Best Practice for High Volume Customer Communications - Part I Introduction

Insurance Industry Best Practice for High Volume Customer Communications - Part 2 Legislative Impact on Document Generation