How to Eliminate the Expense and Aggravation of Retrieving and Reprinting Customer Documents
If anyone has been audited by the IRS, dealt with a home theft insurance claim or had to show income history during a divorce, then they know that it can be difficult to obtain the past 12, 24 or 36 months of bills, statements, invoices and records. Even electronic documents that are older than a year are hard to find, while accessible documents for individuals who are blind or vision impaired are extremely difficult to track down.
Many organizations will provide 3-6 months of previous PDF statements via their customer portal. Some will even print and mail a paper copy of the previous month’s statement, but those organizations are dwindling fast. Why is it difficult to obtain older copies of statements from a bank, claims documents from an insurance company or medical records from a hospital or any other organization that we conduct business with? It has to do with the time, labor and cost of manually printing and mailing the requested information to you. According to Bell & Howell, “…industry estimates suggest that materials and labor needed for manual reprints can cost anywhere between $15 to $20 per piece,” with a large portion of cost going to labor.
Cost to reprint customer communications
Organizations that do offer customer statement/billing reprint requests charge a fee, typically $5 per each statement/bill reprint and limit the total number of reprints for a customer. But what about insurance claims with supporting documentation, medical records from a hospital stay, or three years of investment documentation to defend a challenge from the IRS? Trying to obtain those documents can become much more complicated and expensive than needed.
The typical process in the United States to obtain copies of medical records, insurance claim documentation and investment transactions and statements is to mail a signed paper letter or completed specialized form to request a copy of records in electronic and/or paper format. The cost can be as little as $5 for a one-time electronic copy and $.80 per page + postage and sales tax or as high as $75 per printed document. It depends on the industry, size of the organization and mail volume.
The reason for the cost is to cover the operational expense for a manual reprint. Many organizations haven’t figured out how to set up an automated workflow to manage electronic and/or paper reprint requests. In my previous article, The Benefits of Process Simplification and Workflow Automation, I contended that having disconnected workflows and systems makes it difficult to tailor operations and services to match customers’ needs. How, then, do you avoid disconnected workflows?
Tailor workflows to match customer needs
A proven approach to tailor workflows to match customer needs is to use a solid, hyper-automated, no-code workflow platform that lets your operations team easily add, remove and adjust workflows based on both your business needs AND customer needs. The platform can be used to create a standardized, single trunk-based workflow that can connect your applications and production systems together via APIs. Any workflow variables, such as customer reprint requests, can be added as branches to the workflow and then configured to automatically launch based on a trigger event and resource availability.
I realize not all organizations have modernized their multiple, disparate workflow processes into a single trunk-based workflow, making this approach a long-term modernization project.
Another method is to create a new reprint workflow that can be added to a new single trunk-based workflow process when ready. This can be done by using web services and APIs to route customer reprint requests from either a customer service representative (CSR) application or a customer web portal to a dedicated reprint server. The workflow and server can be configured to execute when a customer asks a CSR to send them a copy of their utility bill, medical record, investment statement or when a customer clicks on a reprint request link. The process can be as simple as:
- Create a reprint request button in the CSR application or a link on a web page to open a form to capture the reprint request details.
- Use a unique identifier, e.g., customer ID, to make an API call to search repositories that contain archived customer statements.
- Retrieve the print file (AFP, PostScript, PDF) that contains the customer’s statement.
- Extract pages from the print file into a new one that contains only the customer’s statement.
- Transform the new print file into the file format and optimize it for the reprint printer, e.g., AFP to PDF.
- Batch the PDF with other reprint requests processed that day or week for production and mailing.
- Bundle household mailings together based on business rules to save on the cost of envelopes and postage.
By adding an “accessibility branch” to this example, this process can be used to convert documents to braille, large print and accessible PDF for individuals who are blind or vision impaired.
With today’s web services, APIs and no-code workflow platforms, enterprise no longer need to manually process customer reprint requests. The benefits of adopting modern, process automation and workflow technology outweighs the cost to purchase and implement, disruptions to business and resources to manage. Implementing an automated reprint workflow process also provides its own set of benefits, including increasing reprint flexibility, reducing reprint costs and improving performance. The result will give your business an ability to increase revenue to fuel growth and offer your customers better experiences that create positive outcomes.
Erin McCart is Senior Product Manager at Crawford Technologies, a provider of document solutions that streamline, improve, and manage customer communications. McCart has 25 years of product management and marketing experience in the software industry and content management and output management markets.