Woman holding stack of mail

Protect critical customer connections with return mail management

by Steve Cousins
In the words of singer-songwriter Paul Simon, "There must be 50 ways to leave your lover." Unfortunately for those of us who handle return mail, there are likely just as many ways to break a customer connection — and some of those customers will just quietly slip away.

To demonstrate the speed at which the customer connection can morph from happy, satisfied customer to happy, satisfied customer of your biggest competitor, consider the following situation:

Meet Sophia, a millennial (a member of the generation born between 1981 and 19961) who prefers the convenience of online transactions over the face-to-face options that some older generations favor. She handles all of her banking online — and doesn't even know if there's a local bank branch. Now in her late 20s, Sophia buys her first house. She packs, moves, unpacks and stocks the fridge without ever stopping to think about updating her mailing address with the bank or U.S. Postal Service. Besides, most of what fills her mailbox these days goes straight into the recycling bin.

So when it's time for her credit card renewal, the Faithful Virtual Bank sends the updated card to her former mailing address, the last official address on record. Sophia is too busy to notice that her credit card has expired, but when she starts getting the expiration notices from failed monthly transactions, that certainly gets her attention. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Sophia, who is growing more and more irritated with each failed transaction notice, the Faithful Virtual Bank continues to spend time and money on subsequent attempts to deliver the replacement card to the (still) wrong address — driving the cost up AND increasing the risk of fraudulent card use. To avoid any further hassles and the potential for negative impact to her credit score, she immediately moves all of her regular monthly transactions to another credit card – and just like that – the Faithful Virtual Bank lost a longtime client, all because of a missed critical customer connection that might have been sustained if return mail operations had identified and remediated the undeliverable address sooner.

Safeguard your customer connections with better return mail handling

To help ensure stronger, more consistent customer connections, start by dispelling some of the misperceptions around return mail.
Yes, we know that it was actually an oversight on the customer's part that broke that all-important connection, but in a world that's often built on a "customer is always right" foundation, that detail is largely irrelevant.

What IS relevant — and expensive — however, is the cost associated with that customer attrition, a cost that might have been avoided entirely. Had the return mail handlers used proprietary database research to identify Sophia's new address shortly after the first replacement card mailer was returned to the company's mail center and then, after calling her to confirm her updated mailing address, quickly re-sent the updated credit card to the now-confirmed new address, Sophia would have had the card in time to update her automatic bill pay settings and Faithful Virtual Bank would still be her go-to financial services provider.
Return Mail Services infographic preview houses with server and mail connections

Return mail: hassle — or untapped opportunity to reduce expenses?

Discover how we shifted one company's perspective on return mail to save over $100k in the first month.

The hidden cost of missed customer connections

Each returned piece of mail, each missed customer connection costs the organization approximately $3 per piece2 for production and postage and has an operational impact of up to $503. In addition, the cost of replacing that former customer is significant — with estimates ranging from $122 for healthcare to $303 for insurance4. Harder to quantify are repercussions such as the impact made when that dissatisfied former customer takes to social media to vent his or her frustrations, which could eventually discourage other potential customers from considering your company when they're ready to buy.

Ultimately, the long-term effects of a couple of missed mailpieces can be much more dramatic than the initial missed communication, which just goes to show it can be tough to assign a dollar value to customer connections. Even something as rudimentary as a valid mailing address can have a lasting impact on customer retention.

Woman grabbing mail at mailbox with sold house in background

To discover other elements of mail handling with the power to help safeguard your customer connections and deliver a more favorable customer experience, read "Shifting perspectives: why it's time to stop looking at your mail center as an expense and start seeing it as a strategic player," our latest eBook that dispels some of the more common misperceptions around undeliverable mail.

Steve Cousins
Senior Advanced Services Strategy Manager for Ricoh USA, Inc., Steve Cousins has more than 25 years experience working in technology and production operations at some of the largest print service providers in the US and UK. Steve joined Ricoh in 2016 and is responsible for developing and launching advanced, repeatable service offerings within Customer Communications Management and Mail Services.
1Michael Dimock. Defining Generations: Where Millennials end and Post-Millennials Begin." Pewresearch.org, March 1, 2018. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/01/defining-generations-where-millennials-end-and-post-millennials-begin/
2Christine J. Erna. "The True Economic Impact of Return Mail." https://mailingsystemstechnology.com/article-3339-The-True-Economic-Impact-of-Return-Mail.html
3Jeff Stangle. "Undeliverable Mail Today: The Solutions (Part Two)." https://mailingsystemstechnology.com/article-4208-Undeliverable-Mail-Today-The-Solutions-(Part-Two).html
4Shafiq Mazlan and Cindy Nguyen. "Customer Acquisition vs. Retention." http://www.regitblog.com/blogposts/customer-acquisition-vs-retention