Business is booming; revenues are growing by double digits; margins are expanding, and the company is hiring like crazy. If this describes your company, no need to read on.
Unfortunately, the world is in a slow growth/slow inflation environment, which is having a multiyear impact (as in “drag”) on business. Low interest rates are hurting insurance companies and banks, and low inflation prevents companies from raising prices. Low wage (and tax) countries continue to take our jobs and headquarters.
It is up to each of us to do our part to enable our company to prosper through these difficult times. It’s time to get back to basics—improving operational efficiencies—and to focus on what we can control. Cutting costs, improving processes, and improving cash flow are three things we should be looking at.
If we can cut costs without hurting the customer experience, perfect. If we can cut costs and improve the customer experience, then it should be a no brainer.
By helping our employers control expenses, we take some of the pressure off for the need to cut headcount or outsource jobs. This is good for careers and your co-workers. Here are four areas to look at:
- Growing e-delivery and e-billing by adding a new delivery channel
- Improving processes in print/mail, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and document management
- Increasing the volume of electronic payments
- Lowering purchasing costs for office services: supplies and carrier services, to name two
Cutting print and mailing costs is within our control. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has given us a break for a while on the cost to mail a letter, but don’t expect that reprieve to last forever.
Every business that I speak with has an active, multiyear program to migrate customers from paper to electronic delivery for statements, notices, policies, and invoices, and yet, unless companies add new channels or give expensive financial incentives, the growth in paperless adoption is agonizingly slow. So, ask yourself:
- Does your e-delivery and e-billing portal approach provide enough benefits and convenience to attract new users and get them to remain paperless?
- Are you delivering customer communications in the form customers want? What channels are you missing to be truly omni-channel?
- Are you properly leveraging mobile devices for communications and billing/collections?
- What is holding back the growth of paperless adoption?
- Do most of your customers like (or just tolerate) your paperless solution, and is it driving web traffic?
- Are the current incentives/promotions to convert customers to paperless working, and are they cost-effective?
- If you could cut your printing and mailing expense by 30% to 50% or improve cash flow by three to five days, what would it mean to the company’s bottom line?
As mail volumes decline, at some point, it may also make sense to outsource hard copy mail production. Letter shops can efficiently process your mail without the need to worry about equipment, labor, and valuable space.
As part of your overall view, don’t ignore the cost of processing electronic payment transactions. As e-payments go up, so do the transaction costs. Merchant processing is very competitive, and some companies provide better customer service than others.
Don’t forget about the lowest hanging fruit. Cutting the cost for mailing and office supplies and reducing your UPS/FedEx bill are all very achievable as part of your overall plan to improve your company’s operating cost structure. Whatever you save can go right to the bottom line. Don’t wait until it is too late—act now before your company is forced to take steps that are irreversible.