Blog: Let’s get Phygital

I really love digital.  It’s probably fairly obvious from my job title.  Most of my working life has been spent shouting the virtues of digital platforms, their ability to target specific audiences, measure engagement and take our messages to the heart of where our customers already communicate.  But even the most dyed in the wool digital comms person knows that it can’t all be about digital, and that failure to consider the full communication mix can lead to us losing sight of vital elements of the overall customer experience with our organisations.  It was with this in mind that I signed myself up to the recent webinar on the role of Customer Mail in building trust and engagement post pandemic.

Sophie Grender is Director of New Business at LGcomms partner Royal Mail Marketreach.  As might be expected, she knows her mail and the depth of insight available was inspiring.  I’d encourage everyone interested in this subject down download the report from the Marketreach site and really digest some of the figures in there, but for me, these were the points that really stood out and made me pay attention.

People Trust Letters

71% of people say that they trust the mail that they receive, and we know that people are far more likely to engage with your organisation and take action if they trust you.  With falling levels of trust in national and local government post pandemic, this is a statistic we cannot afford to ignore. 

Mail feels private and secure, which means people are less likely to perceive it as a scam. Perhaps more significantly mail is seen as important.  If someone has taken the time to write and physically send the information to them, people are twice more likely to perceive it as something that needs their attention and take the time considering what it says than if it had been sent in a digital format.

Letters make people feel recognised and valued

Receiving mail from an organisation is more likely to make someone feel recognised and valued by that organisation.  48% of people agreed that getting mail from an organisation showed them that the organisation cared.  Perhaps more surprisingly for me, this figure is even higher for the under 30s.  This is a demographic I hadn’t really considered as being prime for physical communications in the past, so this point was a real take home.  

Physical mail gets good engagement

I do love some good engagement stats, and it’s hard to ignore the figures JICMAIL provide for Customer Mail. 

99% of mail sent through the door gets some level of engagement.  83% of that gets opened, 70% of it is read, and 46% of it is filed for reference.  Those are figures that we could only dream of in digital comms! 

I confess I hadn’t really given much thought to how people ‘engage’ with physical mail in the past, tending to think of engagement as clicks, likes, comments and so forth.  But the very process of something coming through your letterbox, the need to pick it up, carry it through the house and review the envelope before you even open it and start to read means that people have prolonged experiences with their mail.  And mail is more likely to stick around the house for a period of time before it is filed or thrown away, meaning there are more chances for further engagement as time goes on.

It doesn’t have to be either/or

Digital works well when paired with physical – for example, the text message follow up to an appointment letter.  I have now added the word Phygital to my vocabulary and will be embracing the blended approach even more to help make sure our customers get the best experience possible from engaging with us. 

Best Practise Matters

This one was really familiar, but also the biggest surprise to me.  I hadn’t really considered the humble Council Tax Bill as a comms channel before, but making sure all our communications are consistent, that the layout of content is accessible and that we are living our values in everything we send out really rang true to me.  Whether it be including information on how to recycle your letter at the bottom of physical mail outs, or just taking time to think about whether the reading experience of that communication helps customers clearly identify what action they need to take and how, it all adds up.

I’ve come away with a whole host of ideas I’d like to follow up in my organisation, and a greater confidence that even as a self-confessed digital aficionado, physical mail has an integral place in the way we communicate with our customers.  Good comms is good comms, no matter what the medium.  Live your values, match the medium to the message, and make sure you really know your customer – something every comms person holds at the core of everything they do.

Lauren Doughton is Digital Communications Officer at Shetland Islands Council, and on the Future Leaders 2022 cohort


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