Customer communications go ignored because businesses cannot process paper


By Charlotte Marshall

Four in five UK consumers say their top complaint when dealing with customer service departments is having to explain the same problem to different people and 50 per cent say they dislike having to chase up a written request by phone. These two findings, taken from a new European study from storage and information management company Iron Mountain, suggest businesses may be struggling to integrate paper records effectively into their customer management systems.

The study shows that even in today’s digital age, more than half of companies (56 per cent) still receive the majority of their customer enquiries on paper. Yet many are struggling to cope with the volume. Close to three in five ( 59 per cent) organisations don’t have a process for dealing with incoming paper, and 66 per cent can’t store incoming enquiries from multiple channels including online, phone, social media and paper, in a single customer profile.

Iron Mountain’s findings reveal that more than half (57 per cent) of firms wait for customers to follow up paper correspondence by phone before taking any action. Many (39 per cent) are unsure what to do with the written enquiry and so simply file it. Close to two in three organisations (63 per cent) manually enter the data into automated customer relationship management systems, a resource-intensive and error-prone approach. And nearly a third of businesses (31 per cent) actively discourage people from sending them letters.

The business impact of not knowing how to properly manage paper can be significant. Up to a quarter of customers will take their business elsewhere following poor customer service, according to research from CTMA World. While separate research from the 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer reveals two thirds of customers say they are willing to spend more with a company that provides excellent customer service. The Iron Mountain study shows that many businesses fall short of the quality of service they want to deliver, with more than a third of businesses (41 per cent) reporting that they often have to deal with angry customers whose correspondence they have lost.

People still like to communicate on paper. So businesses that fail to integrate paper into their customer relationship management systems are going to lose out. Customers expect the company they’re doing business with to have instant access to a single, comprehensive view of their history with the firm.

We recommend that companies embrace a paper-light approach, where inbound customer documents are automatically scanned and the relevant data extracted, validated and entered into the customer service process. Older or less essential documents can be indexed and archived for easy retrieval if required. A paper-light approach ensures that customers get the quality service they expect, no matter how they choose to get in touch.

About the author

Charlotte Marshall is Managing Director of Iron Mountain in the UK.

Iron Mountain Incorporated (NYSE: IRM) is a leading provider of storage and information management solutions. The company’s real estate network of 64 million square feet across more than 1,000 facilities in 36 countries allows it to serve customers around the world. And its solutions for records management, data management solutions, document management and secure shredding help organisations to lower storage costs, comply with regulations, recover from disaster, and better use their information for business advantage. Founded in 1951, Iron Mountain stores and protects billions of information assets, including business documents, backup tapes, electronic files and medical data.

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