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.
Working with clients on their critical communication needs means we get insight into how different types of companies transmit information and which methods prove most effective for them. Here are some general observations that apply to anyone trying to create a better customer experience.
- Pretend you’re the customer.
Obvious, right? But really consider it from their end. The thing about billing is that we all deal with it, so what are the ways to make the experience less annoying and more fluid? What are some offers or messaging that would have an impact and not just take up space?
A point that comes up again and again is the issue of clarity. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: poorly designed bills and invoices will help slow down your revenue stream. If they can’t understand the bill, they certainly won’t pay it on time. Once we achieve clarity, we can work on messaging that reinforces your brand and drives new business.
- Don’t be so quick to declare that paper is dead.
The funeral for paper has been scheduled and cancelled dozens of times. It’s true that as many companies have made the promise to be eco-friendlier and offer payment options more in line with the modern world, the need for electronic billing services has become more prominent. But that need isn’t universal. Many people still rely on paper when it comes to bills, whether for security reasons or plain ol’ habit (yes, even millennials). Listening to that need and being flexible is critical.
- Think about the industry.
One thing we pride ourselves on is not being a one-size-fits-all model when it comes to communication services, particularly since we work with clients across a broad spectrum of industries. Thinking about the needs of specific industries, and how their customers interact with them, is central to our work.
We offer technology that improves the customer communication experience. A key component to that improvement, however, is to use technology in a way that empowers your staff and makes their workload more manageable. (Happy employees = happy clients.) An example of a product that offers that mutual benefit is OSG’s CSR eView℠.
CSR eView is a web-based application that allows your customer service representatives to access customers’ invoices or bills quickly in real time to address their concerns and questions. If you’ve ever made a call feeling frustrated or confused by a billing statement, then you realize the value of having an application that would allow your reps to see documents the way customers see them. This makes communication more fluid, of course, but it also reduces the amount of time a CSR spends on the phone altogether.
We also archive PDF images of the invoices or statements for CSR eView users, and maintain a log that records the date, time and activity. This technology will empower your team to:
- Find answers more quickly in high resolution
- Give more accurate answers
- Provide the best customer service possible
Contact us to start improving your team’s workflow today.
To Whom It May Concern:
Hope this post finds you well. We’ll get right to it: It’s time to improve your company’s letter writing process.
OSG Letter Composer℠ is our self-service program that will upgrade your letter writing game while also streamlining and simplifying the process altogether. You can compose and edit customer letters, collection letters, regulatory notices, and any other form of personalized communication.
Why is it worth it?
Writing a letter is about more than just crafting its content—it’s also about style. You can upload your logo and other branding elements right into Letter Composer, avoiding the all-too-common questions that come up in this process: “Where is our letterhead?” “Where is our logo?” “Is this the green we normally use?” Your company will speak in one clear voice.
There’s no special software required, and there’s no lost time waiting for approvals.
With this tool, anyone in your office can make a letter look more composed.
It makes a difference.
Even with our Dynamic Messaging, Envelope Messaging, and Lifecycle Marketing options, we recognize that the bill’s efficiency and clarity come before any other bells and whistles. Here are the two questions every bill should answer immediately.
- “How much do I owe?”
This is a case where the bottom line should be the top line, whether it’s a paper bill or an electronic bill. The number could never be too obvious. Loud and clear, front and center.
- “When is it due?”
The final call for payment is almost more important for you than it is for the customer. Don’t bury this somewhere on the bottom of the paper or screen.
Any other messaging, information, or design should support these two pieces of information, because the third question is the one we’ve all asked ourselves upon opening the mailbox or inbox:
- “Is all I ever do pay bills?”
Well, yes. That’s all any of us do. To take the edge off and strengthen customer retention, it’s a smart idea to include special offers, refer-a-friend inserts, or any other communication that reinforces the relationship and reminds the person why they do business with you in the first place. But first, answer those two questions.
Back to school isn’t a day or a frame of mind—it’s a powerful marketing season that kicks off earlier than you might think. (Some schools start up again in early August.) And as one of the biggest spending seasons of the year, back to school is also an opportunity to drive some new business and get creative with your marketing efforts.
In other words, summer is over, but that can be a good thing.
The monthly invoice package you send customers can include an insert that’s designed within this framework. Offer “last chance” summer sales, promote the latest products and services you have, and anticipate your customers’ needs. These inserts are also a great way to touch base with them before the next big spending season.
OSG Creative Studio has a lot of experience creating these types of targeted messages , and we can come up with a fun campaign that fits within your brand guidelines and taps into this market. Contact us for more details before school’s back in session.
P.S. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook for the latest updates!
As a leader in customer communication management services, we try to move the ball forward when it comes to all forms of critical communication. That means creating new solutions for our clients and improving our own internal strategies. We’re excited about a couple of new changes we have in the works.
Our team is currently in the process of transferring to the WhatCounts email platform. This platform is a more personalized email program that allows for enhanced designs and optimization. (Translation: Looks better, gets results.) This transfer is one way we hope to communicate more fluidly with our clients and customers.
We’ll also soon unveil details on a new OSG Healthcare eBill. We’ve been offering healthcare providers innovative billing and communication solutions for 25 years, and our goal with this new approach is to present an option that offers even greater security and flexibility—for patient and provider.
What’s central to both things—and all the changes we make—is using technology in a way that keeps the people on both sides in mind. Does it improve customer experience? Will it lead to an increased ROI? Is it a step to the next great innovation? Like the communication itself, the answers are critical.