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The Criticality of Clarity in Essential Communications

For the purposes of this paper, we define “Essential Communications” as the transmission of highly regulated transactional information, such as statements, bills, proprietary information [i.e. Non-Public Personal Information (NPI) or Protected Health Information (PHI)], and legally required notices. The overall message to providers of essential communications is that offering your clients, patients, or customers their choice of preferred channel for communication (within legal restrictions) is an essential factor in client satisfaction. 

Far more important than the medium, though, is consumer comprehension. No matter the medium of choice for recipients of your essential communications, providing that information in a clear, concise and understandable format directly impacts their customer experience (CX), Customer Experience thereby affects consumer trust, confidence and loyalty. The greater inability for consumers to understand their essential communications, the more likely they are to be non-compliant, require additional client services, or simply leave. Simply put, better bills get paid faster. Providers of essential communications need to consider the clarity and ease with which consumers can digest information as their first step on the path to improved CX. 

 

Cost of fulfillment is also of great importance to businesses that deal with large numbers of consumers and are required to transmit essential communications. Many data fulfillment experts contend that the medium of choice is the main factor in controlling data fulfillment costs. It seems intuitive that sending an email containing password-protected information, or a notification that essential information awaits them on a secure portal is far less expensive and more reliable than printing out the information in a tangible format and mailing it to the recipient. This is not a foregone conclusion for many reasons:

 

  • Digital data security and the possibilities of a data breach, versus the historical security of the USPS?
  • The lack of ubiquitous technical proficiency in retrieving digital essential communications
  • The cost of client services in operating and maintaining a customer-friendly portal
  • The global availability of digital services, even within the US
  • Is providing data fulfillment exclusively through digital channels perceived by regulators as discriminatory against segments of society who do not have access to these channels? 

 

 

As proclaimed earlier, consumer comprehension of the information contained within the communication, regardless of its delivery method, is primary to the CX. Consequently, consumer comprehension is also a critical factor in the cost of fulfillment for that information. Trend data continues to show(1) “that globally when consumers do not understand communications from their provider, their first response is to phone the call center. In fact, four of the top five preferred methods of contact are all human resource-heavy and require staff to spend valuable time researching and resolving queries.” 

Live customer support capabilities are expensive. Reducing help center calls is an important factor in reducing costs, increasing CX and increasing customer retention. Providers should collect and analyze data on what triggers incoming call center incidents to reduce call center volumes and call length. Review your communications to be sure they are clear and concise from the outset. Then use the data collected from your live customer support functions, be they call, chat or email, to continually improve communication protocols, thereby minimizing the need for live customer support. 

 

Consumers also indicate that clarity of communication impacts their level of trust in their providers. Providers that don’t offer easy-to-understand content risk causing consumer frustration, confusion, and annoyance. “Over half (52%) of consumers surveyed said they were either very or extremely likely to switch providers if they continued to receive communications that were difficult to understand. These trends were consistent across all industries, but the Wealth Management sector showed the greatest trend toward churn (58%). This can, in part be attributed to the fact that this sector is most often dealing with high-net-worth individuals, or significant long-term investments such as superannuation accounts, which means that consumers are more discerning and may be more likely to act when confused or frustrated. The Personal Banking sector showed the lowest propensity to churn at 44% – which as a standalone number, is not low.” (2) This again is not surprising considering the level of paperwork and red tape involved when switching personal bankers. 

Tolerance for receiving poor communications, regardless of the medium used, is also demonstrably age-related. Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X are significantly more likely to feel stressed, confused, and angry with poor communications than Boomers. The three younger generations were more likely to switch providers compared to Boomers. Providing a good experience, especially to those aged Gen X and below will help build brand loyalty, and in the days of social media and online reviews, help protect your brand. Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X are also significantly much more likely to switch providers than Boomers if this irritation persists.(3)

 

Another trend of note involves media preferences. Many companies perceive digital communication as the holy grail: “If all consumers would opt for receiving their critical information via digital channels, costs would go down and client satisfaction would go up. We all win.” This digital myopia is generally fomented by those involved in the digital field. Those with direct knowledge concerning digital fulfillment of essential communications often lack knowledge of, or a comfort factor with, analog data fulfillment, primarily mail. It’s interesting to note that Digital Burnout, the effect of being bombarded by thousands of digital messages every day, has increased a preference for paper mail among Millennials and GenZ. 

As we opened this paper, having the ability for omnichannel data fulfillment is going to be increasingly necessary for all aspects of communication going forward, including the fulfillment of essential communication. The one unifying tenet is that clarity and ease of understanding will continue to emerge as the most important factor in achieving true client satisfaction.

Mailtropolis is an outsource provider of essential communication services, and the parent company of We Are Kymera, an omnichannel marketing company. We can be found at: Mailtropolis.net and WeAreKymera.com

Source:

  1. Computershare Communications Services (CCS), Coleman Parkes Research, Quadient “The Pace of Digital Evolution” December 2021
  2. GoCardless, June 2021, “Trailblazers and latecomers: open banking around the world”
  3. OptinMonster, August 2020, “Is Email Marketing Dead? Statistics Say: Not a Chance”