For many organizations, the thought of delivering communications digitally can seem a bit daunting. Driven by the increasing expectations of customers and distribution partners, the transition to digital is an unstoppable trend. Research shows that most organizations are still in the beginning stages of their digital-communication initiatives.
While some of the larger and more innovative enterprises are farther along, most organizations have limited options or even no options for digital communications at this point.
As one example of the progress and, conversely, the remaining opportunity, 39% of insurance carriers say they offer digital delivery of ID cards today. This should be one of the easiest communications to deliver electronically, yet 61% of insurers do not provide this service today (and this is just delivery via an e-mail or a web link so customers can print their own—not to a mobile device that requires regulatory approval in each state).
So the key questions facing most organizations are: 1) How can we begin? 2) What can be learned from the pioneers in this area?
Here are some obvious (and some not-so-obvious) steps to take in the planning for digital communications:
- Develop an overall plan that incorporates both digital and traditional (print-mail) delivery. Many of the early movers in digital communications are funding their efforts by reducing print and mail costs. Map out a multi-year strategy on how you will ramp up digital delivery and gradually decrease physical paper output and mailings. Consider the assets currently owned for print and mail or the terms of the outsourcing contracts you may have in this area.
- Investigate to determine what your customers (and distribution partners) value most regarding digital delivery. Of course, there are many types of customer communications, and it is not necessary to digitize all of those right away. And, not everyone is clamoring to get all of their documents via e-mail or their mobile device. Understand which segments are pushing for more digital communications and what specific kinds of documents will provide the highest value.
- Ensure that you are capturing contact information at the front end. Most legacy administration systems do not capture e-mail addresses or mobile phone numbers for SMS/texting. When independent distribution partners are in the customer-lifecycle loop, it may be even more difficult to secure this information. Consider building the capture of e-mail and mobile phone numbers into standard question sets at the beginning of the customer relationship.
- Develop a comprehensive plan (including an IT approach) for capturing and managing delivery preferences. Early adopters of digital communications built their own systems or extended legacy systems for this function, but now there are more software providers that are beginning to offer these capabilities within their offerings. It is important to understand customer (and distribution partner) preferences for the delivery of each individual type of document—it should not be just an overall “yes/no” decision. Some customers may want to have certain communications delivered digitally and others printed and mailed, while other customers may opt for all printed and mailed. Bottom line: Each customer will have their own unique needs.
- Ensure that your customer communications system can generate and deliver documents in traditional print formats and also produce the same content for digital delivery. Ideally, your customer communications system will not only handle traditional and digital communications, it will also integrate directly with your core administration systems to leverage transactional data to help drive deeper personalization of content as well as delivery preference for each communication.
Digital communications offer great promise for organizations of all sizes and verticals. Digital plays an important role in improving the overall customer experience and ultimately drives “win-win-win” outcomes: lower costs, great response times and satisfied customers.
Plans for digitizing communications must be integrated with plans for core systems, customer communication solutions and CRM, and should be considered part of a longer-term business strategy; not just standalone, point projects.