Increase ROI through usability, design, philosophy and plain language
The effectiveness of any business communication hinges on clarity. The sequencing and placement of messages on a page, the simplicity of the words and phrases used, the sizes and styles of fonts chosen — these and other factors dramatically impact the effectiveness and accessibility of your communications. The Clear™ Communications Practice is a professional service from NEPS that delivers positive customer experiences while maximizing ROI with every letter, statement, invoice, notice, email or text delivered using the LUNA™ Philosophy.
When the LUNA™ principles are correctly applied, businesses can experience many benefits including:
An optimized document management process
A reduction in the production costs: printing, paper and postage
A reduction in customer service calls
An increase in productivity
An increase in customer retention
A better customer experience
These benefits have proven that creating clear communications using the LUNA™ Philosophy is worth the investment.
In this example of a letter from a financial institution, the recipient is given information about their personal RMD (Required Minimum Distribution). Most people don’t know what the RMD is and how it impacts them. An RMD is money that has to be taken out of a retirement account once the recipient has reached a certain age. This letter also includes 1 or 2 pages (not shown) of definitions and additional information. For the purpose of this example, we are only concentrating on the letter. However, content within the letter is in direct opposition to content in the definitions page
First note that the letter is 2 pages. That alone makes it more expensive (paper, printing). The content is written using industry jargon, making it difficult to discern its purpose and importance. If the recipient were to go to the third page, definitions, for help (a logical place to go), they would find conflicting information. No plain language definition of an RMD is included. The annuitant’s name appears at the top (an important area for key information) yet annuitant’s name serves no purpose or value. Contact information appears on the second page at the end after the signature yet the body of the letter suggests to contact the service center.
Now, let’s look at a revised version using the LUNA™ Philosophy.
“L” – Locate
Ensuring that all users can Locate information they are looking for quickly and easily is the first step in creating a successful communication. The placement of important information on the first page of a communication should be taken into consideration for many reasons, the foremost being that studies have shown most people do not go beyond the first page.
NOTE: The letter now has a title which is located at the top and is easily seen by the recipient. It even includes IRS information in the title to help the recipient understand the importance of this communication. Also included at the top, in addition to the service center information, only the appropriate contract information appears. It is more effectively placed on the page.
Organizing content by putting like information together helps to clearly define sections, as well as locate the important information quickly. By creating defined sections through organized content, a hierarchy of information can be established by using a readable font and utilizing an array of weights and point sizes.
“UN” – UNderstand
Once users are able to Locate information, they need to be able to UNderstand it. Understanding involves the use of plain language (in this example, a plain language definition), avoiding industry jargon and using language appropriate to the audience. In addition, the proper use of color (and, yes, even in black and white documents there is color) and understanding that every communications process often involves multiple users is critical. In this example, a plain language definition of RMD is included right at the beginning of the letter and emphasized.
“A” – Act
After stakeholders have quickly Located and UNderstood the information, they also need to be able to Act. Simplifying language, avoiding industry jargon and including well-organized content with a visual hierarchy helps the stakeholder act on information.
The body of the letter is reduced to just the most important information allowing the recipient to Act in the way it best works for them, including reviewing the attached definitions, visiting the IRS website or contacting a financial advisor. Everything else is found in the places that have been identified.
The bottom line: using the LUNA™ Philosophy will save time and money, reduce errors and create a better customer experience. Can your communications pass the LUNA™ test? If so, then you have achieved clear communications.
To learn more about the LUNA™ Philosophy and how applying these principles can improve your customer communications, contact Robert Linsky at email@example.com.
About the Author: Robert Linsky, Director of Information Design and Clear Communications at NEPS, Inc., is an expert in clear communications and has been creating solutions for a wide range of nationally and internationally recognized financial, insurance and healthcare companies.
Robert has created the LUNA™ Philosophy (Locate/UNderstand/Act), the design of information for clear communications. LUNA covers the three pillars of clear communications utilizing the principles of information design, plain language, typography, graphic design, analysis, psychology, stakeholder management and usability testing.
NEPS is part of the Taylor Corporation, one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S., as well as one of the top three graphic communications companies in North America.