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12:27 PM
Robert Linsky, NEPS, LLC
Robert Linsky, NEPS, LLC
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Effective Policyholder Communication Requires Quality, Relevant Content

Whether insurers communicate to their policyholders through printed documents, email, online or social networking sites, a clear understanding of the central purpose of each communication and its intended audience are the first requirements for achieving success.

Every sector of the insurance industry is becoming more and more personal, which means the ability to effectively communicate with policyholders is vital to ensuring positive customer relationships. Companies that have made an effort to create a clear dialogue with customers have tripled customer response rates and documented a higher level of customer satisfaction that drives retention and loyalty.

There are many ways to communicate with policyholders and having these multiple channels to consider can present a host of challenges within an enterprise, both organizational and technical. However, whether it's through printed documents, e-mail, online or social networking sites, a clear understanding of the central purpose of each communication and its intended audience are the first requirements for achieving success.

Effective communications come down to quality and relevance of content A recent survey showed that people are desperate for clarity and simplicity in order to make informed decisions. After all, when a document is well-designed, the recipient is able to internalize, react to and act on the information presented. In contrast, poorly designed documents are ineffective because they can be hard to read, confusing, and fail to highlight the core information they were intended to convey. As a result, poorly designed documents evoke frustration, rather than understanding and action, on the part of the recipient. They can also result in numerous inefficiencies for the companies sending them, including increased call center inquiries, confusion in the workflow of employees processing the documents and excessive paper and mailing costs.

When taking a closer look at the strategy behind your business communications, here are two areas to consider:

Information design Simplicity doesn't mean a "dumbing down" of content, it means making information easier for the intended audience to both understand and act upon. The effective design of transactional communications: the statements, confirmations, enrollment kits, correspondence, and forms that run your businesses -- whether sent by traditional print or online -- requires more than just a simple graphic design or layout. It requires the blending of content, plain language, typography, imagery, and operational guidelines. This is a process commonly referred to as Information Design (ID). Here, the needs of the intended audience and proper presentation of the content are the first considerations. Deciding what information should be front and center, determining if any of your messages are too long or too short, and taking the time to study if what you are saying is clear to everyone who reads it are all part of the ID process. Effective use of white space also helps create a visually appealing and ordered appearance, and color, too, can play an important role in improving readability when used in the right way. When these tactics are accomplished, it is time to put the document to the test.

Testing usability While Information Design is objective, customer preferences are subjective -- and important. A document that is accurate and readable in every way may not be presented in the order preferred by a customer, or use the terms most familiar to them. Testing communications before, during and after you design them can assure that you have the best possible solution before you spend a dime on development. It is important to know, too, what delivery formats have been well-received to customize contact strategies.

Benefits across the board The immediate wins for clear, easy to understand policyholder communications are several: fewer customer service calls, more marketing opportunities and happier customers. And there are other potential wins as well: fewer pages to print -- reducing a statement by just one sheet of paper can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in paper and printing costs -- less postage and more services/products to sell to an already known market. And the bottom line benefit of doing a better job of providing customers with information they need and can understand is that it helps to differentiate your offerings in a highly competitive environment, enhance customer loyalty, and drive sales.

About the Author: Robert Linsky is head of the Information Design practice at NEPS, LLC, a provider of communications management solutions, services, and strategy that helps businesses design, develop, and deliver multi-channel communications that are simple, personal, clear, and effective. He is also a member of the International Institute for Information Design (IIID), a Fellow of the Communications Research Institute (CRI), and a member of the Information Design Association (IDA). He can be reached at robert.linsky@neps.com.

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