The United States Postal Service recently released their 2016 Household Diary Study, which, since 1987, has set out to collect data on household use of mail and how that use evolves over time. The survey culls information on “demographics, lifestyle, attitudes toward mail and advertising, bill payment behavior, and use of the Internet and other information technologies.” It’s a long, comprehensive, and interesting (really!) document. We pulled three facts worth noting about transactions mail.
- The share of bills payed electronically has increased—significantly.
Not too surprising, right? In 2006, 62 percent of households paid their bills by mail. In 2016, that number dropped to 27 percent. Conversely, the percentage of households paying electronically has jumped from 32 percent to 70 percent in those ten years. The study attributes this to “electronic diversion” which is another way of saying Internet access. A smaller percentage of households pay their bills in person, but that number also declined in the 10-year span from 6 percent to 3 percent.
- BUT the shift to bills received electronically hasn’t happened as quickly as you might think.
Though the Internet has dramatically affected the number of payments made by mail, the percentage of households receiving bills electronically hasn’t followed the same pattern with an increase from 4 percent to 23 percent. Why? The study attributes this to a correlation of household Internet access with income and education.
- Electric bills experienced the largest decline in payment by mail.
From 2011 to 2016, the percentage of households paying electric bills by mail dropped from 46 percent to 33 percent. The next largest decrease was with medical bills, with a drop from 41 percent in 2011 to 32 percent in 2016.
Here at OSG, we’ve just completed our annual customer survey. Though we love hearing the praise (shout out to Account Management for scoring more than nine out of 10), the constructive feedback is what keeps the trains moving. Maybe there’s a way to make a process run more smoothly. Maybe a client is interested in a new service of ours. Maybe there’s one simple change that would make the company’s overall experience with us that much better. Because that’s what we’re delivering—an experience, not a product.
Every single year, we read each comment, cull the best suggestions, and incorporate changes into our business where it makes sense. It’s crucial to live up to the kind of partnership we promise. The questions vary in scope and topic (customer service, products, management), but they boil down to this essential query: How are we doing?
We value this input so much, in fact, that we offer customer survey inserts as an option for our clients to send to their customers. It makes sense to use an invoice package as an opportunity to ask the questions that often go unasked amid the day-to-day tasks that keep us all bogged down.
Not everyone is going to speak up without prompting. Open a new line of communication. You might find insight that improves specific relationships and moves you closer to the bigger picture goals of your company.
Envelopes are marketing opportunities. When a customer sifts through an uninspiring sea of plain white envelopes, yours should float to the top. A smartly-designed envelope can be the difference between an immediate open or a toss into the deal-with-it-later pile. In fact, per a recent Xerox Color Study, people are 55 percent more likely to pick up a full-color piece of mail first.
We take that intel seriously. OSG Envelope Messaging is a key part of our communications strategy for your mailed transactional pieces. Color is important, but we also work with you to design something that communicates timely, relevant information to your customers right away.
Aside from encouraging recipients to tear into your envelope first, these are a few other benefits of using OSG Envelope Messaging:
- Brand familiarity. Let them know it’s you.
- Increased up-selling and cross-selling potential.
- Have a great offer inside? Tease it on the front.
- Educate and alert. Important dates need reinforcing.
Go here to learn more about how this might work for your business.
The words “bill” and “invoice” are often used interchangeably across industries and in conversation. Though not a major crime against the language (they’re swapped with such frequency, it’s unlikely a misunderstanding would occur), it’s worth noting the differences. The two are related, but they’re not twins.
Bill: What we most commonly refer to as a bill is a balance forward, business-to-customer document. It’s a request for payment with the expectation that the payment will be made by a specific date. If it’s a recurring bill, any missed payment will appear in the next bill. For example, if you don’t pay March’s bill, April’s bill will reflect the balance from March, what’s due in April and any penalty or interest that has accrued. A bill carries over, and it also makes a demand: Pay now.
Invoice: An invoice is an itemized list of goods or services with individual costs and a total sum, typically used in business-to-business transactions. An invoice can be sent before or after a payment, which is why it acts more as a record of a transaction rather than an immediate request for payment. (If the invoice is sent prior to payment, it will often say something like, “Pay within 30 days.”) An invoice is also a static document, meaning it doesn’t show the previous balance due or payment history.
Statement: That’s right, a bonus word. A statement is essentially a status document indicating where an account stands within a particular time frame–you’re all paid up, you owe x amount, etc. It’s not a request for payment, though the word is often used like it is.
And one last language note: Another reason these words are used interchangeably is a matter of tone. In short, getting an invoice or a statement sounds nicer than getting a bill.
As more and more companies transition to electronic billing, it’s important to remember that digital solutions can also improve print and mail services. Paper can be optimized. MailTrekˢᴹ, OSG’s tracking application, combines the latest United States Postal Service (USPS) technologies with our own software to track your outbound and inbound mail in real-time. Here are five ways this can improve your business.
- More efficient mail delivery means more control.
An obvious point, but nonetheless worth emphasizing: You’ll know when your invoices are sent out and when they reach their destinations. Each piece of outgoing mail gets an Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) specific to its envelope, which allows it to be tracked (or “trekked” if you will). In your OSG InSight client portal, you can see when the envelopes are scanned and know the delivery status.
- Tracking outbound mail can help with staffing.
Since you know the status of your mailed invoices and statements, you can better predict the staffing needs at call centers. When the customer calls spike in volume, you’ll be ready.
- You can verify a customer’s check is in the mail.
That IMb code? You can also add it to the return or remittance envelope. There’s no guesswork—the check is on its way or it isn’t. Which brings us to the next point.
- You’ll have better insight into cash flow.
Because the inbound mail has the IMb codes, managing cash flow becomes much easier and much more efficient.
- You’ll likely reduce the number of mailings while improving customer relations.
MailTrekˢᴹ isn’t just a tracking application; it’s a line of communication. By opening this channel, you’ll have a better understanding of your customers’ payments and contact them less frequently. Increased efficiency for all.
In conclusion, as your company evolves its invoicing practices, it makes sense to maximize the digital potential of whatever system you’re currently using—even print.
By Guest Author, Ashley Sherrow, OSG Manager of Production Graphics
Did you know that a dynamic message on an invoice or statement is a designated area that allows you connect directly with your audience? It’s your monthly opportunity to relay a specific message to your customer. And since research tells us that invoices are opened 97 percent of the time, you are virtually guaranteed of having your message read.
Using a little bit of creativity you can create a message that is eye-catching, colorful and informative. The OSG data-driven application, Campaign Composer, gives you full transpromotional marketing capabilities that compliment your statement or invoice package.
So what do you need to do?
First you’ll want to compose your message.
- You can do this using design programs such as InDesign or Illustrator. Designing your message in one of these programs makes the design process easy. Also, since these are the same programs we use in the OSG Creative Studio, should you need help, we can guide you through either of these programs to help you get the message you need created.
- Tip: If you are designing multiple messages within an area, it is a good idea to separate the messages with a thin line between each message, or a border around each message.
- This space provides a great opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell your services or even your customer’s services. Not sure what to feature? Think about deals, sales, promotions or even important messages you want to share with your customers.
Next, as long as you’re designing a bill or invoice, why not create a whole invoice package? You can coordinate by utilizing other OSG communications tools such as Envelope Messaging, Additional Message Page and OSG Inserts.
You’ll want to be sure you’re designing your message to its full potential. To ensure this, here are some things to pay attention to:
- Is the message sized correctly so that it will fit into the message space on the bill?
- How will your message look on the invoice/statement? Make sure your messages blend in with the colors and style of your invoice/statement.
- Have you used imagery and colors to your advantage?
- Choose bright colored images and text that will stand out and grab your audience’s attention.
- Remember, less is more – you don’t need to plaster the message area with tons information. Short and sweet. Then direct the customer to a website for them to gather more information.
This weekend is Selection Sunday. You know what that means! Tourney Time is upon us. What that also means is that employers can expect to see a slight dip in productivity this month. According to a study by employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, nearly 2.5 million people devote over an hour of each workday to following the NCAA Tournament. So that’s an hour you’re not actually spending on work. To help your productivity we’ve pulled together three easy ways for you to maximize the effectiveness of your invoice or statement package.
- Add an insert to your next invoice or statement package mailing. They fit easily into your mailing and provide cost-effective one-to-one marketing to your customer base. Don’t have one? Not to worry, the OSG Creative Studio can design one for you.
- Add a Full Color Dynamic Message to your invoice or statement. Your readers are already looking at your invoice statement. Why not add a message unique to them on the invoice as well? A recent Pitney Bowes study found that color increases reader’s attention by 82 percent.
- The invoice isn’t the only colorful part of your invoice or statement package. Are you taking advantage of Full Color Envelope Messaging? That same Pitney Bowes study found that 69 percent of the study participants were more likely to open an envelope with color or graphics on the front than those without. Take a look at your envelopes and see if they could use a splash of color.
By implementing some or all of these ideas you can end up being the winning team and enjoy a championship season.