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As service providers seek new avenues for engaging and retaining customers, bills and statements represent formidable — and massively underutilized — tools in their arsenal. New technologies and user-experience design principles can enrich these communications to make the consumer-client bond stronger than ever.
To spur clients’ imaginations and reveal the true potential of these essential communications, Broadridge Chief Digital Officer Rob Krugman recently spearheaded a design challenge. Within just six weeks, three interdisciplinary teams researched, ideated and prototyped customer communications experiences for the next 5-7 years. That future is not as remote as it may seem, and brands have the power to shape it, as Krugman discusses here.
A: Quite simply, we wanted to see if we could simplify billing and statement communications. The deeper question that we were getting at is, what should these communications really be? How should they function in a way that is beneficial for consumers and brands alike?
A: Bills and statements have largely been considered operational requirements. Yet, they are the primary mechanisms by which our clients communicate with their customers; consumers typically receive them once a month, open them 97% of the time, and spend 2-5 minutes reviewing them. Why not take advantage of them by considering ways they could also engage, educate or highlight the value that a company brings to the relationship? Tackling the goals of engagement and retention from this position makes a brand much more connected to customers, and it has all kinds of positive effects: You can reduce call center volume. You can get paid faster. You can introduce new products and services that really speak to the needs of specific customers.
A: We always focus on how our clients could deliver better experiences to their customers. Now that the design challenge has concluded, we can go back to our clients and present what we've learned. It may be framed in terms of how you go from a physical communication to a digital communication. Or maybe how you optimize your omnichannel experience — where there's a physical component, as well as a digital one.
None of this can be done from the perspective of, ”I am a brand, and I want my customers to act like this.” If consumers aren’t given a good reason to do something, they won’t. So, instead, we asked, what really satisfies and solves for consumer behavior? How do we enable our clients to make that leap?
A: It’s a reframing. It’s a full 180 from what billing and statement communications currently are, which is, ”I’m going to tell you what you already know” — which is usually, ”You owe us money.” Instead it can be, ”I’m going to tell you something that matters to you.” That’s a huge pivot.
A: The first one seems obvious, but it’s rarely practiced: Consumers should be able to designate how and where they get their communications. Another is that content should be interesting. It should be engaging. Consumers’ other digital experiences are already delivering on those fronts, so that kind of mindset needs to be applied to bills and statements as well.
A: “The internet of everything” is the starting point for so many conversations, but we know — from the data we collect and the conversations we have with our clients — that paper is the fly in the ointment. You can’t bisect it. But the physical document that we hold in our hands can also evolve.
Paper or digital, these communications have to be approached as marketing materials. When they are, they’ll cease being something that a consumer has to engage with, and become something they want to engage with.