August 26, 2020

Print/Mail Operations – Are You Still Relevant?

Harvey Gross | VP, products
inkjet production

Over the last few years, success in the document print and mail service business has required a different approach from the past. To remain relevant and useful to clients, many service providers have recognized the business trends their clients are experiencing and have made the investments necessary to support them.

In the old days, printing and mailing documents faster or cheaper gave print/mail service providers advantages over their competitors. Companies bought faster machines and competed on price while maintaining profit margins, due to higher productivity.

Next came technology advancements that added value to the finished product. Document operations invested in high resolution color printing and automated document factories. Their objective was to distinguish themselves by offering functionality their competitors didn’t have.

Technology Marches On

Print and mail service companies are still using technology to stand out from the crowd, and that technology continues to advance. Inkjet presses dominate the high-volume transactional document printing marketplace, now with higher resolution, wider color gamut, and automation that makes document production easier than ever. Sometimes the document applications evolved along with the production hardware, sometimes not. Plenty of in-plant and print/mail service providers continue to deal with legacy print streams that need to be enhanced with color, barcodes, accessibility, customer channel preference management, and more. Crawford Technologies offers solutions in all these areas.

For the last several years, all organizations have been concentrating on customer experience as one of their top objectives. Service providers must adjust their approaches to help clients achieve these new goals. Continuing to focus on only the old objectives of speed and cost reduction will not provide customers the value they seek from the print/mail operation. Neglecting to address this shift in the client hierarchy of desires will turn the print/mail function into a low-value commodity. In-plants will be outsourced and unevolved outsource providers will battle among themselves for the remaining low-margin work.

It’s Not About the Equipment

Being relevant doesn’t just apply 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. Customers want companies to communicate with them on a more personal level. They want companies to understand individual customer relationships and use that information to influence the way they communicate. Companies are consolidating databases and building 360-degree views of their customers. Each personalized and targeted message an organization produces is likely part of an overall customer experience strategy that includes communications in multiple channels.

Relevant communications take the entire customer relationship into account. No longer can companies afford to base their messaging on single data points like age, sex, or income. Organizations are today analyzing multiple data sources. Data about the customer, where they live, or their past interactions with the company can affect the offer, images, or promotional text.

Success of complex multi-channel campaigns may hinge on digital messages timed to support paper documents. Other campaigns are enhanced by variable messaging triggered by customer actions. Due to increased campaign complexity, clients expect service providers to account for every printed and digital document they handle.They want to confirm when items were sent or delivered and make mid-stream adjustments based on late-breaking customer interactions.

Workflow control systems, dashboards, and customer portals deliver the functionality clients demand today. See information on Crawford’s PRO Conductor for details on how we deliver this necessary upgrade in operational functionality and transparency to document print and mail operations.

A Change in Focus

Service providers must respond to this change in emphasis by collecting and organizing metadata about documents they handle. Clients are expecting dashboard-like interfaces to deliver details about their print and mail jobs, down to the document level. Client interfaces must support last minute functions such as modifying marketing messages or suppressing documents.

Customer communications relevancy is quickly requiring service providers to offer new ways for clients to communicate effectively with their customers. Just as with item tracking that became table stakes for print/mail service providers a decade ago, workflow software that brings control and reporting from all the production systems into a single dashboard interface is quickly becoming a necessary function for attracting the most profitable business.

PRO Conductor from Crawford Technologies does exactly that, and much more. If staying relevant is a concern for your business, contact us for a PRO Conductor demonstration.