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Drawing upon their years of hands-on communications consulting expertise, Matt Swain and Lisa Meath share an outside-in look at how companies can optimize their transactional and marketing communications to reduce internal costs, streamline resources and improve the overall customer experience.
Forensic Accountants: “As consultants, I like to term ourselves as ‘forensic accountants’. When we go into a client environment, we're able to really uncover all the costs that are associated with that internal operation. There's a whole layer that sometimes is not taken into account when internal folks are looking at… we are able to analyze the tangible costs that are associated with a print operation – the resources, facility, infrastructure – and be able to identify the current state cost analysis and what it would require to retain it. So, if the client was going to continue to keep their internal print operation, we identify the necessary investments to meet their business requirements for the delivery of transactional or marketing communications. I would say that 9.5 out of 10 times it sways toward why it should be sourced versus retained. We're able to help clients with the validation of that decision-making process, and it really ties to the three buckets of the old adage: people, process, and technology.”
Technology Roadmap: “In a lot of cases, we're brought in because the client wants to improve their customer experience. They want to look at ways to provide more of an omni-channel environment for their communications. When we look at these improved experiences, you really need to look at the backbone of the environment; that's around the communications platforms, the content management systems, the asset management systems, and how they are all functioning. There are disparate systems, duplicative processes and redundant resources. You may have the business unit handling one aspect, like the composition, but you also have a shared services group that's also doing some work. We do a thorough assessment of all the software integrations, internal or external, how they're being leveraged, what the license costs are associated with it, what the resources that are allocated to it, and we do an overall analysis of that environment. For example, we worked with a large global financial investment company, conducted interviews and looked at all the different workflows. We uncovered at least an additional $6 million in annual spend for the software and resources that the client was not aware of – in addition to the fact that they had over 60 different resources supporting the disparate systems. We designed a simplified and streamlined solution that helped reduce internal costs, streamlined resources and improved the overall customer experience. We were able to save a significant amount of money – about $5 million annually – just by optimizing their infrastructure.”
Show Me the Money: “On average, we find a save across the board – be it print optimization, vendor consolidation, sourcing of operations or improvement in overall backbone of the communications environment – at a minimum of 20%. We're going to find savings just because of the way the processes are done, the way the infrastructure has been built over time. I think the ROI comes from being able to bring in a consultative view that does not have any direct interest within a company. We're not there looking out for our department or our homegrown solution that our team might have built. We go in with an open mind and perspective of looking at the environment for just overall benefit to meet the client objective – be it cost takeout, process improvements or improved customer experience.”
Challenges Lead to Opportunities: “There's always the opportunity for vendor optimization in a client environment. All companies have a multitude of print and print-related providers. One opportunity is to look at the environment for optimization of those providers: maximize buying power by hosting under a smaller number of providers and visibility to spend for the vendor management piece. When a company has one hundred providers versus 10, it's going to definitely improve your manageability and also your cost controls. The other piece is the customer communications piece – from the user to the customer experience. When I say the user experience, you have different internal resources composing, programming, structuring; you have marketing involved. When we're going into these environments to enhance the customer experience, we're also looking at the software and the solutions that make it easier for the internal user and the internal resources to leverage those software. It helps improve their day-to-day implementation, which impacts the customer experience.”
The Vision of a Visionary: “In regards to customer experience, I think it's critical to understand where the company wants to be with their communications. Are they moving to complete digital adoption? Do they want to remove print at some juncture, outside of any kind of regulatory print that they would have to do? Understanding the future state is critical because it's difficult to solution one year out. You want to be thinking a couple of years out on where you see your communications environment going with your customers, how you want to be viewed by your customers, how you want to interact with your customers, how you want to deliver to your customers’ preferences and make sure they can interact with you how they want. I think that it's important to think ‘big’ long-term. When we work with our clients, we always try to push by asking, ‘Where do you want to be a visionary?’, then we back into a phased approach to get there because you can't boil the ocean and expect success out the gate.”
The Most Exciting Client Engagement: “The one client that stands out brought the consulting expertise in to look at their internal print operations, as well as their communication platforms. It was one holistic view and assessment. Their internal print operation was very dated and manual. There was a significant amount of volume that was still being produced through the operation, and they expected the volume to grow because they were acquiring other companies and their participant growth was also increasing. That said, they did not have the infrastructure to continue and, from a process efficiency standpoint, it wasn't an efficient environment. We were able to help them do the overall assessment, as well as the cost and resources associated with it. They were also looking to be a leader in customer experience. They couldn't do that with their current internal print operation structure because they were not doing a lot around digital delivery, their technologies were a little more antiquated, etc. We looked at sourcing their operations to one of the lead providers in the industry that could offer them a multitude of services, as well as capabilities to increase their overall tangible print channels and support them in their growing volumes. That was exciting on the print side. On the communication side, they were siloed with multiple resources between marketing and the transactional teams that were working within several different platforms. They did not have a consistent content and asset management structure, so there was a lot of duplicity. We were able to help them find a provider and drive all of their solutions through one platform versus having several disparate systems. We improved everything – from the document creation all the way through the document output. Then, we did an overall forms assessment to reduce the number of forms that they were developing. As they were looking to move to digital, even though they still had print requirements, we were able to reduce the number of actual tangible forms that they were producing in market. That helped drive cost reductions on the form side, but also improved the structure of the forms and what was being communicated to the customer. It was an exciting complete engagement.”
Looking Ahead: “I think we're going to see the continual focus on customer and user experience. That's going to be a critical continual path for a lot of our clients. I also think we're going to see continual ways to improve: How can the communications be more relevant internally? How can the processes be optimized so that they're getting to market as quickly as possible to react to whatever the customer needs are to receive that communications? I think we're going to see opportunities to find cost optimization. That's just critical for any company to keep competitive in today's environment. I definitely see that we'll still have print with the continual shift to digital and how those communications can be maximized for the customer experience.”
To dive into these topics and more, check out our podcast, Reimagining Communications.