By Jenna Cyprus
In the pursuit of paperless communication, customers were typically seen as a deterrent more than an aid. For years, businesses fought to get customers to opt out of paper statements and go online. But things have finally changed. It’s now the customers who are demanding paperless options.
The 'why' behind going paperless
The idea of the paperless office has been tossed around for decades, but it’s always discussed with hesitancy. For one, most businesses owners aren’t sure it’ll ever be possible to go totally paperless. Secondly, those who believe they can go paperless don’t necessarily want to. But the good news is that paperless is finally becoming a realistic option, and your customers are likely already on board (whether you realize it or not).
Many business owners assume that the primary reason for going paperless is to show customers that the organization prioritizes sustainability. And while this may be true to an extent, there are much more practical benefits involved. Sometimes customers just want to enjoy the surface level benefits.
“Imagine yourself as a customer,” document workflow expert Dave Quint suggests. “What if, instead of filling out paperwork in the waiting room of your doctor’s office, you were able to fill it out from the comfort of your own home at your convenience before the appointment? Or if your doctor could pull up all of your health records from a tablet or computer right in the exam room? How about if your real estate agent could access all the details on the home you were standing in from a tablet? Would you feel satisfied as a customer?”
See, today’s customers are looking for convenience. First and foremost, going paperless appeals to this desire. The fact that paperless operations allow your organization to be sustainable is just icing on the cake.
Practical action steps for your business
There really aren’t downsides to going paperless. It’ll require some time and energy up front, but the benefits are far greater than you can imagine.
Here are a few practical steps that will allow you to satisfy the call for paperless communication.
1. Ditch the mass mailers: Few things are more expensive or inefficient than mass mailers. Not only do mass mailers provide little return, but they’re also a waste of paper. You’re better off burning down a couple of trees and using the heat to warm your office. At least then you’d get some practical value.
What’s the alternative, you’re probably asking? Many companies are turning to voice broadcasting systems that are quicker, cheaper and more efficient.
2. Require electronic billing: A lot of businesses offer electronic billing, but few are adamant about it. Customers still sign up for paper-based billing, not because they want to, but because there’s no incentive to do otherwise.
If you want to get serious about paperless billing, incentivize your customers. Offer them a discount to go paperless. You may even try the reverse by adding a surcharge for paper billing.
3: Create accessible online content: If you’re going to cut ties with paper, you have to make sure that your communication doesn’t suffer as a result. In fact, your communication with customers should improve when you make the move to paperless.
Depending on the type of business you run, you may need to create online functionality that lets customers log in to see information specific to their account. Or it may be as simple as launching a blog and being intentional about keeping people abreast of changes and developments.
4. Feel free to brag: You’ve been taught your entire life that humility is a characteristic worth fostering. And while that’s true, the same can’t always be said in the business world. If your company is doing something that’s considered good practice, you should shout if from the rooftops.
Once you go paperless, make this one of your calling cards. Feel free to brag about it and let customers and prospective customers know that you prioritize sustainability and listen to the needs of the marketplace.
Being outspoken about paperless customer communications will help you gain more visibility and enjoy a higher return on your investment.
Recognize the true value of paperless
Sustainability is obviously at the heart of the paperless office, but don’t assume that this is all about reducing your company’s environmental footprint. There’s also an extremely practical reason for ditching the paper and pursuing digital forms of data storage and communication. Put simply, customers want you to ditch paper.
Conveniently, going paperless is more practical than it’s ever been. There are still some logistical issues you’ll have to sort through, but don’t let these small problems prevent you from pursuing the larger objective.
Going paperless is possible – so give your customers what they want.
Image credit: Pixabay
Jenna is a freelance writer from Renton, WA who is particularly interested in travel, nature, and parenting. Follow her on Twitter.