by Kirk Puterbaugh & Stephen Lankton
It appears that business today is more complex than ever before. People in the work place are interacting and conveying information at a pace never before imaginable. However, the most valuable product that your company owns is still the same as it has always been: It is knowledge.
The knowledge contained inside your company is how to manage, make, build, invest, market, evaluate, and grow. Yet, the tools for managing that knowledge are usually unexamined and unused.
The shape, form, and media interfaces used to transfer knowledge from one person to another have been the enablers to build and retain customer satisfaction and to conceptualize and improve organizational effectiveness, and more. To the extent that these channels of knowledge flow are well engineered, superior outcomes are painlessly achieved.
Documents in the various forms they take, become the vehicles that evoke desired customer and employee behavior, communicate vital knowledge to employees that stimulate appropriate decisions and guide action.
Xerox Professional Document Services, in conjunction with Behavioral Science experts, have developed a unique approach to engineering documents and document delivery systems. This approach combines elements of behavioral science, design, and document processing to improve knowledge communication throughout the enterprise. Improved knowledge communication means that working-models of your business are more accurate and efficient. This becomes true regardless of whether we look at those held by workers on the shop floor or your customers on another continent. And that leads to improved revenues and operating performance. The well engineered flow of knowledge results in effective communication. People who experience effective communication are creative, focused, and more efficient in their workplace. Satisfied customers continually return to purchase more products and services.
What to look for in this Knowledge Brief
This Document Engineering Brief contains the following major sections.
Analyzing the current and desired behaviors associated with communicating knowledge through various document interfaces (i.e. hard copy documents, Internet, Intranet, voice mail, multi-media training, etc.).
Understanding the events associated with the need to receive knowledge through a document interface. Understanding the importance of conceptualizing your business activities as the product of knowledge flow through document interfaces.
Engineering document interfaces to solve current business problems with an aim to maximize the accuracy and efficiency of future business directions and capitalize on existing corporate talent, opportunities, leading edge document-centric process, and technologies.
Highlights the overall value of engineering documents in conclusion.
Analyzing The Current And Desired Behaviors
Documents Evoke Behavior
Every document/interface evokes behavior. Many companies do not realize the behaviors evoked by the current document interface(s). These include not only hard copy documents, but also internet/intranet, and voice mail. Each of these are an interface that transforms knowledge from one location where is has been useable to another so it becomes useful.
To understand that document evoke behavior one only needs to look at the customer service departments which contain a wealth of knowledge as it relates to current behaviors. Customer service representatives have as much interaction with customers as anyone in the company. The training of customer service representatives in proper handling of adverse situations created by document interfaces is vital to customer satisfaction.
An analysis of behaviors evoked by documents can lead to an understanding of why people call customer service, are late with bills and tax returns, and cancel their business and go to the competition.
Behaviors That Often Are Discovered
Behaviors refer to the manner in which people behave or act to make personal experience out of events stimulated by documents. Perhaps the most common example comes from the observations that most people make use of visual (mental) pictures for understanding complex information. But most documents continue to carry a legacy from having been designed years ago when the cost and capability of producing visual ideograms to covey knowledge was prohibitive. As a result, bland and mind-numbing verbal documents are often used to convey complex information to employees and customers. No one thinks to address this by any means other than the addition of some graphic arts enhancement. One need only think about the common insurance policy in order to find a glaring example.
Other behavioral science processes are also crucial for redesign. This is especially true for those factors which effect documents in general and have to do with how much information a person can process effectively. For effective processing, information must be noticed, framed, chunked, and ordered for mental manipulation, integration, and assimilation.
Still other factors include whether or not the information appears to the user to be personalized, palatable, and relevant. Other factors regarding the behavioral science process of information exchange with a document include such things as feedback, classical conditioning, perception and interest that will control information retention, motivation, and recall.
Content concerns include the meaning that is conveyed by specific words, or conveyed by the association of words in context, and the emotions which are evoked when the document is used. Although it is difficult to convey correctly in words the importance of the emotional factors, it is not a trivial matter that emotional reactions in document users often result in undesired behavior.
The undesired behavior may come in the form of avoidance such as ignoring due dates, delays in filing tax forms or paying billing statements, not signing contracts, and procrastinating decisions. Other undesirable behaviors which result in corporate expense come in the form of confusion, irritation, complaints, and even employee sabotage, absenteeism and so on.
Everyone has had the experience of being confused or mildly irritated with a document they needed to read or complete. As a result of this common experience one might think that it is the nature of a document to be less than perfect. After all, don’t we each experience feelings of confusion and frustration each day with the documents we face? The creator of a document can’t know the state of mind of the document user.
As a result, the creator of the document can’t afford the presence of noise (instead of signal) in documents. It is more common than not that the document user will approach the document with a good deal of emotional baggage from normal daily events. Many customers have a heightened sensitivity that predisposes them to quickly be on the defense against any increase in unpleasant emotions. If a form they receive in the mail introduces a small amount of confusion, it is likely that these users will discard the document before examining it. It doesn’t matter that the document might be important legal matter because emotional reactions more decisively drive behavior than does logical thought. And so it goes for other relatively minor emotions such as those of anger, helplessness, anxiety, worry, discouragement, bitterness, and more. When a document begins to elicit such feelings, the document loses its value as a business tool.
Redesign v. Dependence on Graphic Art
This paper is not attempting to provide careful application of the methodology that would allow companies to apply an analysis of behaviors in a document engineering effort. Instead, this paper is positioned to provide awareness that is often missed in companies today. It is overlooked for two reasons. Ironically, it is overlooked because it is so common and so central to how business is done every minute of every day. And also, it is overlooked because of the historical and pragmatic reliance upon the use of graphic artists.
This is due to the fact that many companies have, for years, had a graphic art or publishing department (usually within the span of control of the print shop or marketing) that has focused on how the document looks from an artistic point of view. In fact, an early awareness of the importance of the document interface – and how it needs to convey knowledge appropriately, is what gave rise to the existence of the graphic arts department in the first place.
The corporate Forms Department heavily depends upon the existing desktop publishing equipment, as well as the corporate graphics standards manual. Often, these “in house document designers” do not have sufficient training in understanding complex business problems, or the understanding of human behavioral factors. In many cases, they are also too close to the problem – as if they are so much a part of the picture that they cannot step back and see the whole picture clearly.
It is little wonder then, that as we have a more sophisticated understanding of the importance of the document interface and live in a world where knowledge exchange is more intense than it has ever been before, the need for solutions that are more sophisticated than graphic art has led to the service that we call Document Engineering.
The Nature of Desired Behavior in A Document Interface
Eliminating or neutralizing of the current negative behaviors
Retrieving the desired user experience
Organizing and guiding user experience for effective action and decision making
Other Characteristics of a Well Designed Document Interface
Easy induction phase of entering the interface – ease of entry through a quick engagement
Perceptual capture and focal guidance throughout the flow of framing cues and document intent
High signal to noise ratio
Specificity on what the user should do next
How using the interface or document has been effective and valuable
A Document Engineering Case Study
A test was conducted utilizing a questionnaire for a Property and Casualty Insurance Company. The Document was used to accurately collect the total mileage driven on a monthly basis. This allows the insurance company to accurately place the driver into the proper rating categories for limits of liability and insurance premiums.
Document 1 was the existing form – black and white
Document 2 was the existing form – black and highlight color added
Document 3 (redesigned by the company’s graphics art group) – black plus one color
Document 4 was an engineered document – black and white
Document 5 was an engineered document – black plus one color
A survey was conducted with the above documents by mailing 200 of each to a random sample or policy holders. Measurements were placed on the number of responses that were received, phone calls that came into customer service asking questions about the form, and the overall accuracy of information that was collected on the form.
Document 5 received the highest amount of responses, while Document 4 received the next highest. Very little difference separated Documents 1, 2 and 3. The company’s graphic art department had added color highlight based only on the look and feel of document 2 and 3. However, document 4 and 5 were the result of the behavioral and business issues resolved by document engineering effort.
Documents that are “prime candidates”
It is essential that a company’s document management group realize the importance of certain document families that must continually be transformed time and again. That is, as users of the document become increasingly sophisticated, their ability to use more and different information also matures. The document interfaces that they have been using, therefore, must also mature and change. This life cycle of the document usage especially applies to any interface that sees a high frequency of knowledge flow. In plain talk, that means that documents which see a high usage must be reviewed more frequently than those which do not. Mission critical documents for businesses are therefore the prime targets for this continual redesign strategy. This refers to executive, marketing, management, financial, and training documents. Specific examples of some of these include the following:
Explanation of Benefits Statements
Customer Service Letters
Documents that serve the purpose of communicating knowledge
Document Design vs. Document Engineering
Document design is a term that commonly refers to the thoughtful application of graphic arts to improve a document’s look and feel. As mentioned before, an historic moment in business history occurred when graphic design talent was brought into the business world. While we have all benefited from the aesthetic qualities that such improvements provide, Document Engineering seldom endorse such efforts beyond their ability to attract attention and provide quality to look and feel. By contrast, Document Engineering is the methodology by means of which documents are improved to better handle business concerns, behavioral, and emotional responses of their users.
The Events Associated With The Need To Receive Knowledge
Events that lead to a document
An interface is a set of rules that transform useful knowledge from one location to another location where it (the knowledge) can also be useful. Documents utilized to accurately account for financial transactions are considered especially crucial. Legal statement documents and insurance documents are also considered important because they outline behavioral limits and services which constrain the parties involved. On the far other end of the continuum, temporary documents such as restaurant napkins and scratch pads are intended to capture thoughts on the basis that they can be used to trigger more complete thinking later on. Discussing the entire range of all document families is beyond the scope of this paper but the following explanation of financial and insurance documents will provide a background necessary to understand how the existence of documents are based upon a set of events.
Every time we need to write a check, visit the doctor, or make a long distance phone call we trigger an event that leads to a document. As mentioned, one purpose of a document is to give users an accurate account of their transactions in dealing with the company for a specified time frame. Some examples of this include:
Bank statements that provide a summary of your financial transactions for the previous month.
Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statements that provide a summary of how your medical insurance was administered for medical care provided by a physician or medical institution.
Tax Forms that prompt and guide you to report income, revenue, or taxes collected during a specified period of time.
Customer Service Correspondence used to communicate feedback to customers based upon a series of events between the company and the consumer.
The success that companies have in properly communicating the knowledge has a direct impact on:
The number of customer service calls
The number of dissatisfied customers
The number of customers who do not pay bills or taxes on time
Certain two-way documents, due to their very nature, provide greater possibility of error. As such, they can effect corporate revenue in still other ways.
We have been suggesting that the way a company comes together with its customers is always through interfaces. That is, telephone customer service systems act as an interface for interactive clients. Marketing campaigns, both in print and in multi-media, are other interfaces where the company meets the client or customer. Client billing statements and Explanation of Benefits statements represent hard copy documents that serve as interfaces for the company to communicate with its customer. In some cases, poorly designed interfaces in one area of the company can result in huge economic losses or deficiency logjams in other areas of the company. Such was the case in the following example:
A large, anonymous, health care insurance company was experiencing 30,000 customer service phone calls per month associated with their Explanation of Benefits statement. While conducting an “engineering” of their Explanation of Benefits statement, we were able to determine that it was extremely important for customers to be reminded of the reasons for receiving this document, and especially that the EOB was not a request for them to pay money to the company. Previously failing to realize this, 1 policyholder in 50 sought further explanation by means of the customer service phone call interface.
The behavioral science redesign of the Explanation of Benefit statement resulted in a decline in the logjam of phone calls into the customer service department. The re-engineered Explanation of Benefit statements generated only 1 phone call in every 300 that were mailed. This is a gain of 600% (percent) efficiency.
This was accomplished by taking care to assess the policyholders’ exact confusion by means of focus groups, interviews, and Rapid Assessment and Prototype Image Development (RAPID) Knowledge groups. Rather than simply using a graphics redesign approach to improve the appearance of a document that was in error by virtue of its intrinsic construction, knowledge engineering, behavioral science, and design expertise were all employed. Specifically, the improved Explanation of Benefit statement now reminds the users of the events that took place in order for them to have received the document interface.
Engineering Document Interfaces – The Business And Technical Needs
Document design efforts that focus only on look and aesthetics fail to deliver much needed business improvements. The Collective Corrective Modeling (CCM) process utilized during Xerox Document Engineering projects assures that people who own the business (and technical) issues associated with the document are represented during RAPID Knowledge Group Sessions.
The CCM process allows individuals who may be responsible for one area of the document to proactively share their insights on how current issues are being addressed. What may appear to most as a simple topic, phone numbers, for example, could present business problems within the document; Where to place phone numbers, how often to remind the reader of the phone number, as well as the current client staffing to handle phone calls that are sometimes over-encouraged. Other opportunities for business improvement include the following.
Improvements in Customer Satisfaction
Every company employs personnel and programs aimed at improving customer satisfaction. Improving customer satisfaction is certainly an element of the document that is addressed directly by a Document Engineering project. During each project, a client is asked to submit lists of frequently asked questions received by their customer support departments. In addition, further research is usually acquired by monitoring customer service phone calls. Detailed analysis is completed with these questions and observations and attempts are made to resolve most, if not all, barriers to customer satisfaction through the document itself. This is possible, since content value and communication effectiveness is considered for all elements of information contained in the document. The result is improvement in customer satisfaction levels due to a decrease in customer support calls because customers can now quickly and easily understand the information they receive. For clients such as banks, insurance companies, and state tax departments where documents represent the primary product or service purchased, this can result in significant increases in image, as well.
Cash Flow: Depending on the nature of the document being reengineered, Document Engineering may also have implications for improvement in cash flow. For instance, if billing statements are addressed, the elimination of confusing information or the addition of clear instructions can result in a client’s customer writing the check for payment sooner, resulting in improvement in the client’s cash flow. Other tools, such as highlight color availability, may also be applied to the document to facilitate the timely payment of a customer’s obligations.
Postage Savings: All documents which have been reengineered thus far have been mission critical or high-volume documents, such as insurance policies, bank statements, billing statements, customer correspondence, etc. Most of these are multi-page documents. Careful consideration of all postal savings opportunities are given to each document as it is being reengineered. Many Document Engineering efforts have been cost justified based on the postage savings expectation alone.
Productivity: Productivity gains will occur as a result of a Document Engineering project. Since the entire process for producing the document is addressed and streamlined wherever possible, as a part of a Document Engineering project, including work process, software, printers, finishing equipment and mail room operations, it is easy to see how productivity gains can be achieved.
A Document Engineering project takes a “holistic” approach to documents, including all technical aspects of document creation and production. The Document Engineering process assures that the software, printers and finishing equipment chosen for the final document will accommodate the engineered document, taking advantage of as many productivity features of those technical elements as feasible. In addition, at the end of a Document Engineering project, the client receives a detailed specification model of each document. Having the detailed, highly realistic document models in hand before technical implementation begins is considered a blueprint or road map for the next steps in implementation. This has been a tremendous benefit for all clients.
Organizations must recognize the critical role of documents within their companies. Effectively managing the knowledge and desired behaviors of documents within companies is not just a “nice to have” feature, but a tremendous knowledge-sharing profit-building benefit.
To the extent that companies deliver value through the document interfaces that are produced today clients are also receiving value through increased customer satisfaction, and decreased expenses. How well these elements perform ultimately determines such basic measures as margin and profit. Superior business performance, by whatever means, can usually be traced back through a company’s products and services to a superior communication interface. Similarly, inferior performance or failure usually has its roots in one or more document processes in need of change.
Given the complex nature of communicating knowledge, companies who engineer, craft and maintain superior document interfaces will have to possess the behavior, wisdom, knowledge, skill, and discipline to comprehensively deal with the plethora of behavioral, business, and technical issues that are critical elements of knowledge management.