March 3, 2017

Reaching the Customer: Can They All Read And Understand Their Statements?

The print and mail industry reaches billions of people around the world every day; those print and mail documents include critical customer communications that people rely on to pay their bills, receive benefit updates, manage their investments, etc. In 2011, InfoTrends estimates that 23.9 billion paper-based transactional documents were delivered to customers around the United … Continue reading “Reaching the Customer: Can They All Read And Understand Their Statements?”

The print and mail industry reaches billions of people around the world every day; those print and mail documents include critical customer communications that people rely on to pay their bills, receive benefit updates, manage their investments, etc. In 2011, InfoTrends estimates that 23.9 billion paper-based transactional documents were delivered to customers around the United States. Of those documents delivered to customers have you ever considered how many of those people couldn't read and understand those critical communications?

It is estimated by the National Blind Federation that 1.3 million1 people in the U.S. are legally blind. They also estimate that 75,000 more people will become blind or visually impaired each year. If you count the number of people in the U.S. that are blind or visually impaired the estimated population total rises to 10 million2 and over the next 30 years those numbers are expected to double due to the “baby boomer” generation.

The National Blind Federation is just one organization that researches and seeks to help those with visual impairments. The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) also works in this area, but with a broader scope of vision loss defined as people who have “trouble seeing.” The AFB defines this using the Center for Disease Control National Health Survey3 definition of vision trouble that takes into account anyone that has trouble seeing with glasses or contacts.

For businesses that print and mail customer communications, this expanded view of the population is important to consider when evaluating the need for document accessibility formats. The AFB 2010 research elevates the National Blind Federation number of people with visual impairment from 10 million to 21.2 million4.

Given these document accessibility statistics, are you sure that you are reaching all of your customers with the critical communications you are sending them?

In Canada, offering customer communications in alternative formats for the visually impaired was highlighted with new law that took effect this past January called AODA or Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The new act requires legally that business make every effort to provide citizens with disabilities the information they need in a format that they can understand. The U.S. also has regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, the tide is changing a little slower within the U.S. The expectation, however, is that regulatory compliance will require U.S. businesses to deliver alternate formats to customers who have disabilities.

The regulatory portion is just a part of the equation though; what about the customer service aspect of alternate formats for customers with disabilities? If 21.2 million people in the U.S. have vision trouble or a form of visual impairment, then about seven percent of the population could be having difficulty reading your communications. Let’s put that into perspective.

If they all could purchase just one dollar’s worth of additional services, that could represent up to $21.2 million in return. Or to put it another way; for every 100,000 customers as many as 7,000 may delay payment due to an inability to understand your bills; that is literally hundreds of thousands of dollars you have to chase, and chasing payments increases costs.

As a printer and mailer of transactional documents, how do you reach people with visual impairments so that you can open the lines of communication, provide better customer service and potentially provide your organization a cross-sell/up-sell opportunity?

The answer is alternate format document production such as Braille, large print, e-Text or audio CDs and accessible PDFs. We know what you are thinking, “document accessibility sounds great, but how do I do it.”

Crawford Technologies has produced a white paper, Business Documents: Meeting Accessibility Needs of the Visually Impaired, which dispels the idea that accessible PDF documents are enough to not only be compliant with current legislation, but that they satisfy the needs of the visually impaired customer. Included in the white paper is a link to a replay of a live webinar we conducted discussing alternate formats and the importance of them to print and mailers in the U.S. and Canada.

In the end, eventually the law may force companies to provide communications to the 7% of the population (projected to be 14% over the next 30 years), but why wait until then to reach them? Learn more about the importance of document accessibility, how easy it is to put a solution in place and why not only your customers, but your business, can benefit from the shift to reaching 100% of your patrons.