Over the next few years, the path to success in the document print and mail service business will differ greatly from the past. To remain relevant and useful to clients, service providers must recognize the trends and make the investments necessary to support them.
In the old days, getting documents printed and mailed faster or cheaper than the competition was enough for print/mail service providers to be successful. That worked for quite a while as printing and inserting hardware manufacturers ramped up the speeds at which they operated. Companies gained market share by acquiring a faster box that processed more pages per day than their competitors. They could lower prices while maintaining profit margins.
The next developments to come along for document industry companies were advancements in technology that added value to the finished product. Higher resolution printing, color, and automated document factories fall into this category. The idea was to provide functionality that set a service bureau above the rest. Because state-of-the-art technology benefitted all their clients, service providers could convince companies to abandon their in-plant operations and outsource the print and mail work. Each client took advantage of service provider investments in new technology without having to assume all the costs themselves.
Changes are already happening
Print and mail service companies are still using technology to stand out from the crowd. Today however, companies may focus on technology such as high speed inkjet-centric workflows, multi-channel communications, or customer channel preference management. Fortunately, Crawford Technologies offers solutions in all these areas.
All organizations are paying more attention to overall communication strategies and concentrating on customer experience. Service providers must adjust their approaches to help their clients achieve these new goals. Neglecting to recognize this shift will force companies to compete for low-margin work vulnerable to competition. In their client’s eyes, such companies will be a commodity and will be interchangable.
Relevancy isn’t limited to the methods service providers employ to create and distribute customer communications. Message relevancy is becoming one of the most important aspects of customer relationships. Companies are spending money to consolidate databases and build 360-degree views of their customers. They have invested a great deal in the documents created from such environments. Rather than a standalone communication, each personalized and targeted message is likely part of an overall customer experience strategy.
Relevant communications take the entire customer relationship into account. While in the past companies might have issued communications based on arbitrary timelines or crude, single action triggers, organizations are today analyzing multiple data sources. Data about the customer, where they live, or their past interactions with the company might affect the offer, images used, or promotional text.
It may seem that document relevancy has little meaning to a document operation, but it does. Because clients have invested more time and effort into individual customer communications, they are intensely interested in how these documents perform. They expect service providers to account for every printed and digital document. Even as the communications distribution environment becomes more complex, clients want the ability to query work in progress and work completed. They want to confirm when items were sent or delivered and make mid-stream adjustments based on late-breaking customer interactions.
Old-Style Document Operations Practices Less Important
Service providers must respond to this change in emphasis by collecting and organizing metadata about documents they handle. Clients are expecting dashboard-like interfaces with drill-down functionality to deliver details down to the level of individual electronic or printed documents.
Near real-time customer profile updates fueled by multiple data sources may necessitate client-initiated actions. Client interfaces must support last minute functions such as modifying marketing messages or suppressing documents.
Customer communications relevancy in the coming years will require service providers to offer services necessary for clients to communicate effectively with their customers. Look for workflow systems that can bring control and reporting from all the production systems into a single dashboard interface.
We’ll also be holding a webinar on workflow and attending several events this month, so you can also talk to us and learn more at any of these:
If you’re attending the thINK Conference, being held from September 5-7 in Boca Raton, Florida, come see us in Booth 17.
Register for our webinar, “Putting Together the Workflow Pieces” scheduled for Wednesday, September 19 at 1:00 PM ET.
Visit us in Booth 541 at Print ’18, being held from September 30 to October 2 in Chicago.