Customer Engagement

Make sure your omni-channel communications strategy helps accelerate digital engagement

By Chuck Cordray, CEO, Inlet

You may be making great strides forward in your paper billing strategy, perhaps even going so far as to align it with your customer engagement programs. It’s important to evaluate whether these efforts fully support your digital strategy.

Think about delivering bills and statements electronically (“eDelivery”). How is that experience from your customer’s standpoint? An eDelivery notification to a customer’s inbox typically has no upsell, cross-sell or analytical insights attached. As an industry, we must make these experiences better for customers by providing them with engagement capabilities during the eDelivery process. We also need to help our colleagues in digital marketing who actively look for new, effective touch points and engagement strategies.

Take the utility industry, which has had tremendous success shifting ratepayers from paper to electronic payments. In some cases, they’ve averaged a 70% ePayment rate. Yet, utilities have been challenged with a much lower rate of digital bill delivery 1. They’ve averaged between 12% to 30% paper suppression rates, based on nearly twenty years of effort across multiple initiatives 2

For consumers receiving statements both online and in the mail, redundancy (and extra costs for the business) runs rampant. With millennials and younger generations to come, we can only assume paying bills online and on mobile devices will be the most natural behavior for them. Consolidation of activity in a place they already use is a key theme, evidenced greatly by the proliferation of social media. Where individuals used to communicate one-to-one via calls and letters, they can now reach their entire social ecosystem by publishing a tweet or Facebook post. 

For instance, a recent report by Javelin showed that consumers increasingly want to view and pay their bills at their primary financial institutions. The report found that while viewing bills at biller websites is expected to remain flat through 2019, 57 percent of consumers will view bills at their primary financial institution 3. Why? It is the convenience of seeing multiple bills together, in conjunction with their bank accounts and personal finance features – all at-a-glance. 

“A synchronized communications execution strategy enables clients to look at the bigger picture where customer communications and interactions are aligned across multiple channels, and customer data and information is passed throughout the system. Clients have the ability to archive these customer interactions, analyze their past responses and dig into past behaviors, ultimately creating a closed-loop that feeds right back into the personalized customer engagement strategy.” Liz Roche,
Director, Product and Solution Marketing, Software Solutions
Pitney Bowes

Trust and convenience play important roles in digital adoption. It only makes sense for billers to move towards an efficient document delivery process if it takes advantage of a consumer’s existing digital relationships.  The result: An increase in paperless adoption, faster payment as well as savings on postage, paper and printing. Plus, providing bills and statements online frees up call center resources at companies for actual service problems rather than billing issues.

Survey results vary around the level of consumer engagement with paper mail. Some findings indicate that 85% of consumers skim their mail and 92% engage with the piece for between two and five minutes.4

However a recent survey by my company, Inlet, found that consumers open just half of their paper mail. That doesn’t give hard copies of important documents a fighting chance when paper mail is the only distribution mechanism.  However, by activating an omni-channel strategy, companies can deliver important documents such as statements, bills and even proxies to multiple, integrated channels that consumers already trust and frequently, including digital channels. Whether that consolidation point is the customer’s own bank or a cloud storage site like Dropbox, it’s time for companies to catch up with their customers’ 24/7 digital lifestyle.

Beyond the convenience of online document storage, companies have an opportunity to further engage their customers by improving their online communications and document sharing. Customer engagement can always run deeper. Loyalty is hard to secure in many industries. The bottom line: A more active customer is easier to retain and even upsell.  

To keep consumers satisfied, online access to providers went from a luxury to a necessity.  So how can companies tap into this digital ecosystem and reach their customers where they want to be reached?  Through partnership.  Partnering with technology providers to reach the widest array of online channels is a low-cost, low-risk way for providers to become more innovative and current.

New technology partners can help:

  • Convert “double dippers” into satisfied digitally engaged customers by providing added convenience.
  • Reach consumers at critical banks/credit union organizations, popular cloud storage sites and digital mailboxes.
  • Achieve savings for your company on production, postage and payment processing fees.
  • Deliver a PDF document to the payer – identical to what is delivered by postal mail – with line-item detail and your marketing messages.
  • Receive electronic payments with no processing fees from bank bill pay channels.

Proactive organizations are augmenting their paper-based experiences by creating consistent, memorable and easy-to-use digital experiences for their customers.  By working together with banks and other major online destinations to provide easy, centralized ways to pay bills, everybody wins.

Learn more about how Inlet can drive digital engagement, paperless adoption and help your company achieve cost efficiencies at InletDigital.com.

Chuck Cordray is CEO of Inlet, a joint venture of Pitney Bowes and Broadridge Financial Solutions. 

Sources:
1. Mobile Bill Pay: Strategies to Grow Adoption and Build Engagement, Javelin Strategy and Research, 2014.
2. The Future of Multi-channel Transactional Communications in the U.S., InfoTrends, 2013
3. Javelin Strategy & Research -- Online Banking and Bill Payment Forecast 2014-2019: Tech-Savvy Moneyhawks Foreshadow New Bill Pay Habits, October 2014.
4. USPS – The Household Diary Study Mail Use & Attitudes in FY 2012