Turning inbound communication complexity into competitive advantage
We are all consumers. We all know the frustrations associated with clunky, disjointed customer service. Living in a world of Google and Alexa - with facts and functionality delivered on command – serves to set our expectations of smart, instant service sky high. We want the businesses we deal with to deliver a similarly smooth and rapid path to the correct answer.
Failure to meet these expectations leaves businesses vulnerable. Challengers are emerging in every business sector, agile operations driving new ways of working, often centred entirely on digital processes and ease of interaction. For consumers, these competitors are just a click away, and recent market share figures in sectors such as banking and utilities reflect the appeal of these newer, trendier upstart brands.
With choice comes complexity
To compete, businesses need to build choice and convenience into their operations, which often means enabling customer interactions across a number of channel touchpoints. However, in offering this choice, businesses also introduce a great deal of back-office complexity for themselves. As customer communications arrive via mail, email, social, SMS, web-forms and more, attempts to manage this influx can leave operations increasingly siloed and fragmented.
The big picture answer is to simplify this inbound communications tangle by removing manual inefficiencies, connecting disparate touchpoints and creating a single workflow that drives quicker decision-making based on a 360° view of each customer. Understandably, businesses are looking for strategic guidance in identifying sensible pathways to begin this transformation.
Reducing paper is not the end goal
For the majority of businesses paper communications still dominate. And in most cases, the processing of this inbound paper volume is manual, inefficient and expensive. Reducing this paper reliance might seem like an obvious step to greater efficiency – and indeed it can be. But only as part of a considered strategy.
Digitisation in itself is not an end goal. Gone are the days of standalone digitization projects simply for the sake of reducing paper. Too often, businesses attempt to build new capabilities around existing, inefficient business processes, ultimately causing projects to fail. Swapping an inefficient paper process for an inefficient digital one delivers no advantage.
The real business advantage comes not simply from digitising inbound communications, but from classifying this digitised information and intelligently integrating it into business workflows. This capability is known as a digital mailroom.
The drivers towards a digital mailroom
The digital mailroom takes the digitisation of inbound customer communications as its start point and ensures that the captured information is made workflow-ready for any decision-maker within the business. But what does this look like in reality? Where are businesses typically beginning on this journey – what are the everyday challenges they are looking to solve?
The three core drivers for digital mailroom investment can be summarised very simply: reduce costs; increase efficiency and deliver better customer service. And there are several common points-of-pain across all business sectors that the digital mailroom is addressing.
The cost of physical mail at physical sites
Businesses have long known that handling physical mail on their own premises is inefficient and expensive. The impact of Covid has served to accelerate strategic thinking around replacing legacy mailrooms with more efficient digital processes. Remote working is now established – this is the future of work. Businesses need solutions that will digitise, classify and route incoming documents to decision-makers wherever they might be based.
Digitisation also serves to remove the number of internal touchpoints associated with inbound communications. In document intensive sectors such as insurance or investment services it is not uncommon for documents to have up to a dozen touch points before a process is completed. A digital mailroom uses machine learning and intelligent automation to extract, verify and integrate data into business workflows, expediting everyday business actions.
Extending the number of channels through which customers can communicate results in a multitude of interactions arriving at different touchpoints, in different formats, at any time of the day or night. Managing this mix efficiently and securely is a critical challenge for businesses. Not having the agility to meet this challenge is a major cause of slow and inaccurate customer service.
The compliance challenge
Complying with regulatory requirements is an ongoing challenge – businesses must stay on top of every amendment to rules and regulations. The digital mailroom provides a robust and comprehensive audit trail from receipt to secure archive. Authorised stakeholders have access to this secure archive at any time, from any location.
Labour intensive payment processing
Processing inbound payments and cheques is time-consuming and labour intensive. Failing to do so in a timely fashion can lead to organisations missing out on cash and can cause friction with customers. The digital mailroom can automate tasks such as reconciling incoming payments and allocating funds to particular accounts, improving process security and driving efficiency.
Over-reliance on manual processes
The processing of inbound communications still relies heavily on manual input. On a daily basis this takes valuable employee hours away from core business activities. Automating these manual activities is an obvious step towards greater cost and process efficiency.
Complexity in, excellence out
Organisations might focus on one of these challenges. Or they might immediately recognise several. But the common thread linking these pain-points is that, left untackled, they will all ultimately impact on the user experience of the customer.
The Digital Mailroom intelligently orchestrates every touchpoint with customers, joining the dots, removing friction, and transforming a complex tangle of inbound communications into information that is workflow-ready in seconds.
This isn’t done in one grand, sweeping gesture. Rather, it is achieved by identifying obvious points of inefficiency and reengineering processes so that they better serve the business and the end-customer.
Customers will be unaware of what is happening behind the scenes to transform these legacy back-office processes. But, when the digital mailroom starts to deliver faster, more convenient interactions and seamless multi-channel service, customers will quickly recognise a great experience from an ordinary one.