The volume and complexity of corporate customer communication processes is increasing - keywords being omnichannel and personalization. At the same time, companies are outsourcing more and more tasks and are subject to constant organizational and technological changes, for example in the course of mergers and acquisitions. The result: insufficient transparency in document production. Cost pressure (postage optimization, paper savings) is exacerbating the situation.
The fact of the matter is: Only very few companies can answer the following questions satisfactorily at the first attempt without extensive research:
In most cases, companies that do not immediately have detailed data on these points at hand have the following problem: Despite increasing digitalization, their output management is predominantly based on paper. Although attempts are being made to adapt the associated processes (creation, modification, dispatch) to the new "digital age", they are in fact far from meeting the new requirements (personalization, multichannel capability, compliance, etc.). Let's be clear: Sending a PDF document by email has nothing to do with digitization.
In the past, archiving a printout or a copy was sufficient proof that a document actually existed. But there's more to it now: A company must be able to track the entire correspondence creation process seamlessly - from the "delivery" of data (e.g. from the database applications or a CRM system) to the creation or production of an to electronic and/or traditional delivery, including archiving.
This is where many companies reach their limits. Many cannot even prove the correct dispatch because they do not have the technology to uniquely identify each letter, e.g. by assigning a document ID. Similarly, it is difficult to calculate the cost of redundant deliveries of the same document (e.g. undeliverable due to wrong or incomplete address or because the recipient did not reply).
One thing's for sure: The benefits of digitization are not yet reflected in business communications as they should be. The technologies are abundant, but many companies lack the necessary awareness, not only of the existence of solutions, but also of how to reconcile them. Often companies also do not have a stringent data storage strategy and are therefore only partially able to use contextual data from a customer transaction. What is missing is a 360-degree view of the communication history.
Surprisingly, it is governments that are increasingly acting as drivers of digitization. This has to do with the increasing requirements and directives to which the public sector is subject. In United States, for example, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is going through great lengths to make documents and correspondence accessible and 508 compliant so that users with visual impairments can have these documents read to them by a screen reader.
Another popular trend is that some laws require invoices to be stored in an audit-proof manner and also to provide proof that they have been properly sent by post or electronically. So it is not only about the document itself, but also about the circumstance or delivery method. In other words, the legal value of a communication is measured by the extent to which it can be credibly and seamlessly reproduced or proven. Some countries like France have already developed a standard for this: "NF Z 42.026". It defines which criteria the digital copy of a document must meet in order to be legally recognized as evidence (for example, in courts).
As verification is the core of Blockchain technology, based on the principle of "distributed burden of proof", the technology creates a secure framework by means of specific rules and obligations to guarantee the authenticity and integrity of exchanged data or content. In fact, against the background of different regulatory contexts, blockchain offers the opportunity to facilitate, for example, the recognition of certificates, attestations and legally relevant documents. In the event of a dispute, it could then become more difficult to doubt the validity of a document. Not an insignificant advantage if one considers that many legal cases are won precisely by challenging documents.
The explosive nature of this issue is also reflected in the following example: The bills of an energy supplier are questioned by a number of customers. Manual verification shows that consumers are right. Apart from the image damage - the real problem for the supplier is to uncover as quickly and comprehensively as possible th e faulty spot in the document production. Are the business applications to blame for this? Was there a "data leak" in the communications chain? If so, where? What is the procedure for solving the problem? Not an easy task, considering that the "life cycle" of a document is quite complex.
Many companies are dealing with grey areas. One could also say: You are not able to have all data related to a certain document available centrally and consistently. Remaining doubt. Is the information really complete and up-to-date? Is there possibly data that has not flowed into the output management system (OMS) and instead resides on a decentralized server? This lack of transparency ultimately makes customer communication the weakest link in the company's entire value chain.
The inability to seamlessly monitor document production steps not only involves the risk of breaches of regulatory requirements (compliance). Rather, it is one of the main reasons for inefficiency and unnecessary costs in customer communication in general.
What is missing is consistent data - both on each individual specific process and on the document to which the process relates. Only they allow a concrete assessment of whether the established communication channels really meet the business requirements as well as the expectations or preferences of the recipients. Without them, the whole thing remains a blind flight: although trends can be predicted (for example, when and how customers change their channels), the concrete effects of a change in communication behavior can in very few cases be precisely assessed (e.g. information on new mailings, call center capacity utilization, missed sales opportunities). It's hard to imagine when system failures, sudden peaks and other unforeseen events occur!
At this point, companies should realize how helpful reliable data and adocument analysis can be to anticipate such situations in good time instead of just reacting to them.
Important: The data should be retrievable at any time and in any place of a document-related process. Real-time "mapping" of transaction data is a key feature of modern auditing systems compared to conventional data warehouse solutions.
But be careful - before you collect such data, you need to clearly define where it will be stored. Typical error: You leave them in the IT system in which they occur - ergo only the department that works with them has access to the data. The fact is that most companies now see the creation of a central data repository as a feasible solution. It is accessible to all, but at the same time "acts" independently of the departments and also of the document-generating and document-processing systems.
It is crucial to store only the really document-relevant data in the repository. Otherwise, it is very difficult to generate meaningful information from the resulting "data chaos" with the aid of expensive tools. The creation of such a central data instance would lay a technological foundation for complete traceability. Instead of storing data decentralized ("silo architecture"), it is managed and consolidated by a central "control center".
Important in this context: The repository must be able to store data from the entire document production chain (e.g. printing/shipping date, document volume, postage costs, shipment bundling) as well as accompanying information (when to receive and read email). When did you click on the link? When letter delivered? When to view archive copy?). In addition, it should have a high degree of flexibility to pick up information from new media of the future - after all, customer communication is subject to constant change.
It becomes clear: Meaningful, consistent and centrally available data are the basis for establishing IT-supported traceability. The aim is to ensure that no more data is lost - neither in document production itself, including dispatch, nor in the associated communication with the customer. Each process must be subjected to a preliminary analysis in order to identify the most important data to be stored as a basis for assessing how efficient customer communication is in the company and where there is still potential for optimization.
The purpose of an IT-supported system for seamless traceability in customer communication is to consolidate the collected data and its dynamic consolidation. This would make it possible, for example, to track the entire "life cycle" of a document - from creation through inserting and franking to delivery to the recipient. Even more: The follow-up processes resulting from the document dispatch (e.g. reply to the received letter or to the message) can be recorded and monitored in this way.
Ultimately, traceability is also about questions such as: Does compliance with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) need to be verified and proven? Or should specific data be collected, stored and analyzed for later analysis or automation of processes?
Knowing what happens when and how in document production is an elementary factor. Especially in the event of unforeseen events (e.g. unintended production interruptions), well-founded decisions can be made more quickly. In general, the seamless, automated monitoring of production continuously uncovers optimization potential and ultimately results in better operational management.
One could also say: The IT-supported capture, storage and consolidation of events over the entire communication cycle provides a fact-based view of the quality of the processes in document production par excellence. For example, a clearly structured dashboard serves to detect non-compliance with an SLA (Service Level Agreement) in good time and to initiate targeted countermeasures.
On the basis of such data, so-called "warning thresholds" can be stored in the IT system in order to identify malfunctions or conspicuous events (e.g. missing answers) in good time or to distribute the volume of documents to be processed better over a certain period of time and thus cushion peak loads. "Warning thresholds' may include, for example, statistics on order volume, a specific response time or the lead time for the production and dispatch of standard consignments. There is no reason why the CRM system should not be fueled with such indicators. For example, the sales representative can remind a customer of the response to a particular request if the customer has not responded within a specified timeframe.
Moreover, such statistics within a document analysis also make the costs within the company-wide customer communication transparent. For example, the actual data can be used to better assess the costs and benefits of marketing campaigns carried out and to more accurately predict the effectiveness of planned actions. The responsible decision-makers can then define various measures or limits in order to remain within the agreed budget framework. For example, the systematic addition of inserts could be stopped in order to reduce the weight of the items and thus the postage costs.
DocBridge® Auditrack enables the tracking and tracing of all correspondence throughout the entire production cycle: the path of a document can be traced seamlessly from creation to dispatch.
The solution developed by Compart for real-time monitoring, evaluation and traceability of processes, systems and events in customer communication consists of two basic components:
The software developed on the basis of specific customer requirements automatically brings together the relevant information from various applications and areas of document production in the repository. This can be adapted at will to specific customer requirements (e.g. consideration of new communication channels). The collected and consolidated data can then be prepared and visualized as reports and dashboards.
The greatest benefit for users is that the tool gives them easy access to their company's entire multi-channel communication cycle and enables them to analyze it according to various criteria. DocBridge® Auditrack Monitoring Software provides real-time process-related data, enabling users to respond early to critical situations. In addition, the software enables detailed research on the basis of various filter and search options.
Compart is an internationally active manufacturer of software for customer communication management. The company, with headquarters in Böblingen, has been present in the market for more than 30 years and has branches in Europe and North America. The scalable, platform-independent and easy-to-integrate solutions cover the entire cycle of document and …Read more
Carsten Lüdtge, a qualified journalist (University Degree: Diploma) and specialist editor, is responsible for press and public relations at Compart, an international manufacturer of software for customer communication, and is in charge of the Compart Group’s entire content management. He has PR expertise of more than 20 years with a focus on IT.