Let’s talk about paper

It’s been a week of talking about paper. Specifically, organisations that continue to insist on printing & sending information to customers, whether they like it or not.

In 2018 there’s really no excuse for doing that. The common refrain is, “well, we’ve always done it like that”. However that doesn’t mean you should be.

Last weekend I recorded a video about accountants posting financial statements to their clients for signing, without any explanation of what these statements mean. It’s a practice that many accountants have used for decades, but what we found in our research before we launched Ashton McGill was that clients really dislike this. They often don’t understand what they’re being asked to sign, it feels cold and impersonal, and there’s no attempt to explain or educate.

That video generated a lot of interest and people shared their individual stories with us. We got a bunch of enquiries on the back of it, and so for we’ve won 3 new clients as a result. There’s a message there for the luddites who insist on continuing to send stuff out in the mail……

The second example this week was a local college whose finance department insist on posting paper invoices out to customers. This seems to be a practice that many education institutions still use. They also expected us to phone them to make payment. I mean, really?!? Their process couldn’t have been less customer-friendly if they had tried.

And yet we see this sort of thing time and time again. Systems designed around the needs of the organisation, without any thought for the user or customer. Systems that are never reviewed, they just do it that way because……..well, because that’s how they’ve always done it.

Surely we can do better than that? You have my email address, you know my name, company, and our physical address (because you insist on mailing stuff there!), so why not email me a copy instead? It’s costing you money to post documents to me. Not only the paper cost, the ink, the envelope, the postage, but also the cost of someone’s time to do this.

Then I’ve got to do something with the paper documents. I’ll sign them if I have to (assuming I understand what I’m signing!), scan them, then email them back to you (see the irony there?) before shredding them. What a waste of time.

So, come on. If you’re the recipient of this type of behaviour, then insist they change (unless you like receiving mail!). And if you’re printing, stuffing envelopes, sticking on a stamp, then mailing them – ask yourself why? More importantly, ask your customers what they want.

We don’t need to print. Not only will it save you time, it’s also better for the environment. It’s time to be better.

8 thoughts on “Let’s talk about paper

  1. Ali, as you know I’m relatively new to living and working in the UK. How much has electronic signing taken off in the UK ? I’m very used to working with docusign etc for electronic signing of everything… oh, and since I started out in business for myself about ten years ago, haven’t ever sent a paper invoice to a client 🙂

    1. Hey Tom! It amazes me that digital signing is still seen as a ‘new’ thing in the UK. We introduced it at FW back in 2012, but for most small businesses their accountants are still asking them to sign paper documents. Same goes for legal and many other services. Eventually they’ll be forced to change…..

      1. You would know this.. are there any legal holdups in this, eg DocuSign not being accepted as legal ? If not, it is simply a paradigm.. you know.. “we’ve always done it this way”… hmm.. let me know, I sense a post coming in my Friday series “Smashing Paradigms” 🙂

  2. Hey Ali, good to see you earlier in the week.

    Paper hmm I see where you are coming from. Slightly off topic perhaps but bear with me …Interestingly it’s paper receipts that I really wonder about, for petrol etc. Yes, lots of people probably need them, but many probably don’t. We have a bee in our bonnet about plastic bags and straws but I wonder how much receipts waste. And all you need to do is ask…

    I would love to be a fly on the wall when you have taken the time to scan your documents, emailed them and shredded them and a few days later your receipt lands on your desk…😉 (see what I did there).

    Great reading your stimulating blog. Cannae wait for the next one.


    1. Thanks Kevin. Good to see you too. With tools like AutoEntry, Curve & Xero, there’s simply no need for paper receipts any more. It won’t be long until receipts can be sent automatically into your accounting system from the supplier……

  3. Exactly. Recently halfords the aa and even mothercare have emailed receipts. And they are only occassional use. Its things like BP, who know my email address through loyalty programme who fail to innovate or just ask…think of the savings of no paper …good luck !

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