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TriPartum in conversation with… Paul Brough

In the first of our guest blogs, James Shand catches up with Paul Brough of Brough Consulting, previously CEO of Opus Trust in Leicester to hear his views on Postal Services in the UK. Postal services is often the greater part of the cost for transactional mailings and can contribute significantly to the overall end-to-end solutions for delivering cost-effective communications.

James Shand: How many years have you been in the Customer Communications and Print Industry?

Paul Brough: After a successful career in Production Management working for various engineering companies, I joined Royal Mail Group in their Electronic Services division 23 years ago this year.

I stayed at Royal Mail for 5 years and then a Joint Venture was formed with Opus Trust Marketing (OTM) where I stayed for a further 16 years.

JS: What were your responsibilities during your time at OTM?

PB: I started out in production management at Royal Mail moving to head up the Client Services team at the OTM Leicester site, focussing on transactional mail. I was responsible for all their customers at the time such as Royal Mail, BT, Post Office and some large financial organisations including Banks and Pensions Providers.

I set up a new postal services division from scratch within the business which now processes tens of millions of mailpacks per year. I worked closely with Royal Mail over many years helping them implement the new Mailmark® service being the first to go live out of all providers.

Finally, I became CEO over the last 5 years of my tenure, growing the business from £15m to £26.4m.

JS: Tell us about Brough Consulting?

PB: I formed Brough Consulting in 2018 as I believe there is a lack of independent advice for customers who are reviewing and selecting their end to end communications providers. I have forged relationships with leading industry directors and companies in the marketplace such as TriPartum.

I recognise I cannot provide this single-handedly, and that is why my partners cover a broad spectrum of services such as document design, composition, data processing, digital services and one to one messaging systems. My specialisms are print, e-services, and postal services.

JS: How do you keep up to date with the Postal Industry?

PB: I have been a Non-Executive Director of the Mail Users’ Association (MUA) for four years and member of it for nearly ten years. The MUA is an independent organisation which seeks to influence and advise the postal services industry. This is done through lobbying government, unions, Ofcom and Royal Mail and working with other relevant groups across the sector. I am heavily involved with this group and we believe we have created both opportunity and influenced great changes to the benefit of the whole postal supply chain through our efforts.

I also currently sit on the Royal Mail Letters Advisory Board (LAB) as a representative of the MUA, a forum hosted by Stephen Agar, MD of Royal Mail Letters. This again is a key part of how change is managed and driven by the major mail provider in the UK.

I was a board member of the Royal Mail Strategic Mailing Partnership for 6 years, this board focussed on mail producers and how the industry could grow and benefit if we all worked together.

JS: How do you help the customer make savings on Postal Services?

PB: My knowledge of the wide range of postal services ensures that we find the most competitive rate available, secured through my relationships with the main Downstream Access (DSA) providers such as UK Mail and The Delivery Group (Secured Mail). Then we look at a number of areas:-

1. Do the existing document and pack designs attract high postage rates?

The most basic example of this is where it is still surprising to see how many customers use C4 size packs when C5 production can be as much as 30p cheaper in some cases.

Other factors are quality of data and machine-readability to ensure that that the documents are addressed to Royal Mail’s requirements.

With OCR and Mailmark®, there must be clear zones around the address block, barcode and on the envelope.

2. Can the print provider produce mail packs that access the most competitive rates?

Mailmark® attracts the lowest postal rates and should be considered where the print run meets the criteria (min volumes, data quality and format).

Where the print provider is able to merge streams together to maximise run sizes this will attract discounts for pre-sortation.

Addressing standards is a key factor and must meet all of the correct address line elements in the agreed format.

3. How can we make changes to reduce postal costs?

Where mailpacks are produced outside the tolerances of the specifications, surcharges may be applied, and we seek to eradicate or minimise the risk of these being applied by attending to every detail of the document and pack design.

Therefore, the initial review includes obtaining samples of all documents and then understanding how many print streams there are, volume per stream, frequency, format, current service used, current provider(s) and review of data sets.

The next stage is understanding the print provider’s capabilities, if they can pre-sort mail, can they produce Mailmark®, do they have colour print facilities to enable merging of print runs, what formats can be produced (DL, C5, C4, booklets)? Their location may be another factor when looking at postal rates from DSA providers.

JS: Are there any other ways of making postal savings?

PB: Yes, there are a couple of areas depending on the customer type and willingness to make document changes. For example:-

1. VAT savings for charities and financial organisations.

With DSA the postal rate is made up of two parts:-

Access charge – this is the Royal Mail price for final delivery of the mailpack.

DSA charge – this is the charge made by the DSA provider for collection and onward delivery to Royal Mail.

Typically, the bulk of the charge, around 95%, is the Royal Mail access charge and the remainder DSA. By setting up an ‘Agency Agreement’ the access charge can be charged at zero VAT. We help our customers set up these arrangements in the best way to reduce their VAT costs.

2. Incentive schemes

As UK postal volumes have reduced by at least 5% per year and around 7% in the last year, Royal Mail set up incentive schemes for Advertising Mail to encourage customers to use direct mail. Advertising Mail makes up 31% of UK letter volumes and volumes have been hit by digital substitution, economic uncertainty and the effects of GDPR. These schemes were a good start in reducing costs for customers and making some of them choose mail again over other channels.

Royal Mail then introduced a scheme for transactional mail users producing Business Mail. This makes up 60% of UK letter volumes and has suffered the biggest price increases over the last few years despite volumes being in decline due to a drive to digital.

We have set up applications to qualify for the Business Mail ‘Testing and Innovation Scheme’ where up to 30% discounts can be applied for a 6-month period and in some cases further discounts for up to 12 months. This involves a test using mail for a purpose not tried before or to test innovative changes to existing mail to improve its performance. For example – this could be a company testing changes to the format of a document in order to reduce customer queries through call centre traffic.

There is an approval process with Royal Mail and Brough Consulting take on this process on behalf of our customers to provide a seamless service. As part of our initial review for postal cost reductions we consider the incentive options available to maximise savings from the beginning of the process. Working with TriPartum who may already be reviewing the end-to-end document process, we add further value by considering the postal discount options available concurrently.

JS: Do you have an example of what value of postal savings can be delivered?

PB: I have recently reviewed a major IT provider’s application and postal profile and identified six figure savings per year by changes which also included switching provider.

Savings obviously depend on a number of factors, some of which we have discussed, however, I have not yet come across an operation or customer where savings cannot be found. One simple change can result in considerable savings.

There is no doubt that there are opportunities for organisations to reduce their operational costs by investigating and reviewing their postal requirements. This is just a part of the overall opportunity in reviewing your end-to-end customer communications strategy to enhance the customer experience and save further operational cost.

Paul Brough – Brough Consulting
mobile: 07554 523549
email: paul@broughconsulting.co.uk
website: www.broughconsulting.co.uk

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Improve the effectiveness of your customer communications

Customer experience and digital transition are two major challenges facing housing associations today, along with the longstanding requirement to deliver Value for Money.

In our article for Northern Housing magazine Summer 2019 read more about the process to improve the effectiveness of customer communications, especially around rent and service charges, delivering key benefits of improved customer experience and value for money.

These changes in process can also help with digital transition as solutions can be integrated with portal developments; secure electronic file delivery; automating change processes; electronic completion of forms with signatures, as well as the ability to integrate data from multiple systems.

Download the full article

Outsourcing and shared services – Housing Technology March 2019

Read more about the opportunity for shared services written by TriPartum MD James Shand for the March 2019 addition of Housing Technology magazine March 2019

In recent years, shared services and outsourced services have tended to morph into a single area as housing providers seek to optimise budgets. The original objective was to collaborate within the sector, to effectively share the provision of a service by one part of an organisation or group, but this only took into account the best practices of the interested parties, rather than necessarily the best practices across all sectors for the services involved.

Download the full article

Communicating service charges to customers – Northern Housing Spring 2019

Read more about the importance of communicating service charges to customers and the opportunity for shared services written by TriPartum MD James Shand for the spring 2019 addition of Northern Housing Magazine.

Communicating the detail and associated explanations of Rents, Service Charges, Sinking Funds, and Section 20 notifications, is often seen as a ‘chore’ when having to report on how money is being spent. There is a growing demand from customers for greater transparency to ensure they are receiving ‘value for money’. Developing a strategy for this is also important with a continued challenge for ‘doing more with less’.

Download the full article

Inside Housing CX 2019 The sector’s festival of customer experience

We’re looking forward to connecting with existing clients and forging new relationships at The Customer Experience Conference and Exhibition (CX2019) — the UK’s leading event for CX leadership teams & practitioners in social housing.

This conference brings together cutting edge thought leadership for personalised customer experience with disruptive business models, and technologies in one place and represents “a new dawn of the customer”.

The extensive programme offers

  • insights and practical tips from social housing providers leading in customer engagement, customer involvement, customer experience, and proven digital models
  • case-studies presented by the companies themselves giving you relevant examples to adopt in your organisation
  • thought-leadership and panel debates on common challenges facing all UK social housing providers
  • best practice in the private sector with presentations from CX practitioners from outside the social housing sector

#Custexp19

www.insidehousing.co.uk/events/events/cx-2019

Monday, 25 Feb 2019
Business Design Centre, Islington, London, N1 0QH

We’ll be at the CHC Communications conference

We’ll be showcasing our solutions for resident documents which are transforming the way housing associations are communicating to their customers at the CHC Communications conference on Thursday 24th January at the Village Hotel, Swansea.

Visit our stand next week to find out more about our solution to help you successfully deliver the Renting Homes (Wales) Act with clarity and confidence.

To view the conference agenda, click here

TriPartum raises over £300 for Christmas Jumper Day

Today the TriPartum team donned their favourite festive, jolly jumpers to raise donations for Save The Children. We had Reindeer’s, we had Elves and even Santa Claus made an appearance for today’s fun. We are proud to announce that we raised over £300 for this cause and we would like to thank everyone that supported us and made it possible.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Clearer information proves to be a hot topic at NLG 2018

Housing Associations seek out solutions to enhance their customer’s experience

TriPartum were pleased to be a sponsor and exhibitor for this year’s National Leasehold Group (NLG) Annual Conference held at Olympia, London and have the opportunity to meet with many industry professionals within the housing sector, many of whom expressed the need for enhanced customer communications around service charges.

Jamie Flintoff (Leasehold Manager from Notting Hill Genesis) and Becca Fury (Conference Chair from Hastoe Group) presented a session on “Service Charge Communication & Presentation – Is There Best Practice?”. This was an open and honest review of how two organisations tackled a common requirement — to communicate service charges to leaseholders —but with very different processes and associated numbers of residents. Notting Hill Genesis has c9,000 leaseholders and c4,500 tenants with some 40 staff involved in the end-to-end process, whist Hastoe only has c450 leaseholders and 3 staff generating the service charge reporting.

The issues for the both organisations were the same:

  • checking the number of repairs that contribute to the service charges
  • managing spreadsheets to capture and allocate the associated costs
  • apportioning the costs and checking, checking, checking and more checking.

It was important to ensure the reporting of service charges were correct as it only takes one leaseholder to identify an error then the level of trust with all is lost.

A show of hands amongst the audience for those housing associations that also relied on spreadsheets to manage and report on service charges – indicated that the majority were also using spreadsheets and had empathy with the comments being made during the presentation.

Another aspect of service charges is explaining the Reserve (Sinking) Funds and Cyclical funds to tenants. The key was to provide context to the potential funds required with estimates supported with previous year’s figures. Explaining all major works undertaken or scheduled is necessary but often access to the source information is not easily accessible.

Whist the processes for generating service charge figures takes time the production of statements for tenants is another challenge. Notting Hill Genesis have recently taken to providing additional information with a combination of WORD merge documents, including graphs and tables from spreadsheets. Manual collation of the pages along with the fulfilment taking resources away from the ‘day job’ to stuff envelopes. Hastoe have much smaller volume but the same tasks need to be carried out.

Jamie raised a question as to who was looking out for the ‘outcome’ which was to present the figures and supporting information to tenants (customers) in a meaningful way. With all the activity to generate and report this is very often forgotten. Notting Hill Genesis created new reports with more information and explanations around service charges but feedback from tenants was there were too many pages and the information was not clear enough. This was impacting overall customer satisfaction ratings which were c55% down from c60%.

Both Jamie and Becca said their respective organisations were looking at alternative software solutions to improve the collection of data and preparation of reports. It is questionable whether the actual reporting would still be sufficient to deliver the level of customisation that would best explain the charges to the individual.

This is an area in which TriPartum have excelled with other housing associations in providing customised statements, which are easy to understand, whilst ensuring statutory obligations are met and deliver value for money.

After the presentation James Shand, Managing Director interviewed Jamie and Becca with three questions.

With everything you are doing today what would your top desired outcome be?

Jamie: “We lack a system that produces a clear and easy to understand account for customers that we could support with easy to access information.  This would allow local officers to have tools to communicate quickly and accurately on a more personal basis with leaseholders.  We need to have a unified voice across our whole service and we need our offices to be customer focused”.

Becca agreed with this idea “I think we need a clearer set of communication rules and a better ability to produce and explain accounts to our customers”.

With the number of stakeholders involved, 40 at Notting Hill Genesis and 3 at Hastoe, how do you manage the different interests?

Becca: “I think for us we don’t tend to have a specific person leading the project – it’s often me – as everyone has the same goal and that would be the same if you have 1 person managing it or 40 people managing it”

Jamie: “To a degree its similar, being a much larger organisation, our local offices are responsible for creating the commentary about the service charges. This being the case it’s important that we have a unified voice across our whole service. To do this we ensure our management teams are very customer focused.

You both mentioned the need to focus on the customer so what specifically would help you achieve this?

Becca: “I think just a clearer set of communication rules with the ability to produce and explain accounts that produce the customer statements.

Jamie: “Yes, I agree. We spoke a lot about officers before but I think what probably happens is we lack a system that produces clear, easy to understand accounts of customers and that we could back up with easy to access information.  So, giving the local officers the tools to be able access information to communicate with our leaseholders quickly and accurately would help”.

Save The Children’s Christmas Jumper Day

We’re delighted to be participating in this year’s Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day.  We will be donning our fabulous Christmas jumpers to raise money for this great cause and join the rest of the country in helping bring essential food, healthcare, education and protection to millions of children around the world who are in need.

Help us to build a better future for children around the world – Donate just £2 by texting TEAM07799 to 70050.  You can also pay online, through your bank or by post using our reference TEAM07799

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TriPartum gears up for this weeks NLG Annual Conference

As sponsors and exhibitors at this year’s event, we are excited at the opportunity to meet with thought leaders within the Housing sector on Wednesday 28th November 2018.

At TriPartum we bridge the gap between data and your customers to help improve the customer experience as part of your digital transition. We have experience across many different sectors – housing being one – so can bring a variety of insight and knowledge for delivering effective customer content solutions.

To find out more about how our solutions can streamline your document and communication challenges, call David Pickett (New Business Development Manager) on 0207 186 0055.

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