An interview with CSG
With over 35 years of experience, CSG delivers revenue management, digital monetization and customer experience solutions for companies across multiple industries. CSG’s customer communications management solutions deliver seamless and personalized experiences across both digital and physical channels for both transactional and marketing communications.
As CSG sought to act on three opportunities—today’s multichannel world, a strategic expansion within both traditional and adjacent market spaces, and the need to upgrade their ten-year-old fleet of color production printers—CSG turned to a trusted, client-focused, and agile print-and-mail problem-solver: BlueCrest.
In a world where market conditions are more dynamic and complex than ever, CSG helps their clients deliver innovative products and services and connect with customers anytime, anywhere on any channel. They empower clients to operate more efficiently, deal with increasing demands and regulatory pressures, adapt to evolving delivery models, and address new requirements at every turn to ensure they stay ahead of their competition.
CSG is the trusted partner driving digital transformation for leading global brands, and those brands expect consistency, quality and accuracy across communication channels. The transactional and promotional communications that CSG produces impact almost every business-sustaining client application: billing, receivables, marketing, sales, onboarding, cross-selling, upselling, long-term customer retention, and more. In their print-and-mail services, they require superior color output quality, flexible and agile operations, and maximum efficiency, integrity, and cost-effectiveness.
"Branding is very important in a time of consolidation. BlueCrest IntelliJet® 20 printers let us reach new levels of print quality with a richer color palette than we had been able to do in the past."
—Tommy York, VP, Customer Communications Management
Enabling operational agility
A company known for leading-edge products and services, a keen understanding of clients’ and prospects’ needs, and a laser focus on offering value and innovation, CSG was approaching the end of the reasonable-use life cycle of their printing systems.
Their seven first generation inkjet printers, some in place for more than a decade in their Florida and Nebraska operating centers, had served CSG well over the years. However, CSG was concerned about their rising maintenance costs and operating expenses, their ability to handle growing workloads and more stringent service level agreements, and other limitations in print quality, job-type flexibility, and overall functionality. As they began to plan an upgrade of their print environment, CSG identified four basic needs:
- Higher print quality
- Consistent operation, maximum uptime and dependability
- Greater flexibility, capacity and throughput, and
- Lower total cost of ownership (TCO).
"High-resolution color capability is key for us," says Tommy York, CSG’s Vice President, Customer Communications Management. "We want to give our clients’ customers the best of both worlds: the quality of a digital interaction and the tangible experience of holding the actual document in their own hands. To promote our clients’ brands, offer a look-and-feel consistent with digital environments, and deliver a great customer experience for them, we need to produce printed transactional documents that are close to offset in terms of resolution and quality."
CSG’s need for operational consistency and productivity led to a broader review of their entire print-and-mail environment. In addition to their legacy print systems, CSG used roll-to-fold pre- and post-finishing equipment and three different inserting platforms. Because CSG produces documents in different formats and sizes, they needed to simplify job set-up and materials handling processes to maintain efficiency, accuracy, and overall integrity.
"Our environment wasn’t standardized," York says. "We average over 800 different jobs a day and they vary greatly. We were looking for flexibility in handling medium to large-sized jobs, and anything in size from flats to No. 10 envelopes."
The company also wanted the ability to scale to higher levels of capacity and throughput. This was important to CSG’s traditional cable TV and satellite provider clients, who every six months must (per FCC regulations) notify subscribers of their detailed terms of service. The requirement swells the number of pages to be printed and inserted into each statement envelope. These spikes in volume highlighted the need for high-performance printing systems as well as high-speed, multi-format inserting equipment.
Strategic considerations also came into play. Because CSG’s legacy printing environment could not produce high resolution, color promotional inserts, they had to be printed by other vendors, then shipped to CSG’s operating centers. To leverage their sophisticated, in-house design group, become a single point of contact for design, print and mail services, and increase their value to their clients, CSG wanted to print these inserts themselves. Moreover, the company’s growth strategy, which encompasses branching into new and adjacent markets, depended on better output, dependable performance, and superior print and mail integrity and data security.
CSG determined total cost of ownership, the fourth key criterion behind their upgrade program, through direct and indirect KPIs like capital costs, uptime and performance metrics, maintenance costs, and personnel and training needs. They also assessed each asset’s potential impact on the company’s value and profitability. "We look at all aspects," York says, "including things like, how does better output quality and integrity improve our value proposition to our clients and prospects?"
"Full visibility and mail tracking are table stakes for clients in heavily regulated markets, but every customer deserves 100 percent integrity no matter their market. BlueCrest’s file-based processing gives us the confidence that all the mail is going out correctly."
—Tommy York, VP, Customer Communications Management
With the goal of improving the output quality, capacity and performance of their printing technologies, CSG was considering potential solutions from their incumbent print systems vendor. Then BlueCrest was able to propose a print solution that met CSG’s needs.
BlueCrest (formerly known as Pitney Bowes® Document Messaging Technologies) has enjoyed a productive relationship with CSG for many years, building an outstanding reputation for the quality and performance of their inserter lines. CSG also is a long-time user of Enterprise Manager and Output Manager software, allowing them to transform, distribute and manage print output between their two production sites and drive files to their fleet of printers. Based on this track record of success, the two companies began to explore the underlying business objectives behind CSG’s print-and-mail environment upgrade.
Industry-leading BlueCrest inserters opened door to a broader solution.
“We really liked the design, performance and flexibility of the Epic inserters,” York says. “They exceeded all of our expectations. So when we were looking at a larger-scale refresh of our print-and-mail environment, we turned to BlueCrest.“
BlueCrest asked CSG for the opportunity to demonstrate its IntelliJet® 20 HD printing system to allow York’s team to assess its capabilities as part of a pilot program. During the annual end-of-year print volume spike in 2017, CSG decided to expand their print capacity by adding one IntelliJet 20 HD system to their existing printer fleet. “When they installed the IntelliJet on our floor, we were impressed,” York recalls. “The uptime and throughput really helped us in the short term.”
Yet the printer’s performance and output quality formed only part of CSG’s decision-making criteria. “We had been with our previous vendor for over ten years, and we were very pleased with that relationship,” York says, “Making a switch was a huge decision encompassing a lot of different factors. The issue of support was a major concern. Based on our history, we had looked at BlueCrest as ‘an inserter company.’
“But after we had the IntelliJet printer on the floor, it didn’t take long for us to feel very confident about BlueCrest. Our confidence level has kept growing for two main reasons: the systems’ performance and the expertise of BlueCrest’s subject matter experts. BlueCrest has a heck of a good product, and a service and support organization to match.”
The success of the pilot program convinced CSG to make the IntelliJet 20 HD their new print platform, integrating eight IntelliJet 20 HD systems with their BlueCrest inserting systems, DirectView Productivity Suite, Enterprise Manager, Output Manager and Output Enhancement software, as well as professional and global services.
CSG ultimately added five additional Epic systems, bringing their total to 22 BlueCrest high-speed inserting solutions, and a like number of unwinders. The BlueCrest print-and-mail environment is designed for high performance, efficiency and integrity. It’s driven by file-based processing, an underlying technology that links bar codes printed on every element of a mailing—every sheet of every document within every envelope—to an information-rich external data file that controls production workflow, mail piece tracking, and postal optimization software and processes.
“In an ideal state, we would run small-to-medium sized jobs on the Epics and the largest jobs on the MPS systems,” York says. “We wanted a straightforward environment with the flexibility to handle multiple mail piece formats. We also wanted to cut changeover times and simplify job set-ups. The Epics checked all the boxes.”
"We can produce best-in-class quality at a price that’s affordable for our customers, and for us. We can scale in capacity and flexibility, handling different substrates and mail formats, and satisfy more demanding service level agreements at lower price points."
—Tommy York, VP, Customer Communications Management
The new BlueCrest environment was installed during 2018 and was fully in production 60 days prior to CSG’s annual end-of-year spike in print and insertion volumes. York gave it the highest grades.
“The 2018-2019 peak season was the most efficient that I’ve seen since our move to inkjet over ten years ago,” he said. “The new equipment ran exceptionally well. We realized an increase in throughput of over 20 percent, with minimal downtime. BlueCrest offered us excellent support. Our mailing schedule was extremely predictable, our costs were inline and, in many ways, it felt like a ‘normal’ month.”
Over time, the IntelliJet 20 print solution and the expanded BlueCrest Epic and MPS inserter fleet are expected to deliver value and competitive advantage through superior:
- Color output quality
- Agility, performance, productivity and scalability
- Print-and-mail integrity
- Cost savings
- Lower total cost of ownership.
“Branding is very important in a time of consolidation” for print-and-mail services providers, York says. “BlueCrest IntelliJet printers let us reach new levels of print quality with a richer color palette than we had been able to do in the past. With them, we can produce best-in-class quality at a price that’s affordable for our customers and for us. We can scale in capacity and flexibility, handling different substrates and mail formats, and satisfy more demanding service level agreements at lower price points.” The performance measurement and workflow tracking capabilities of BlueCrest’s Digital Solutions software enhance CSG’s operational efficiency and print-and-mail integrity.
“DirectView gives us clear visibility into productive, nonproductive and idle time, and tracking data gives us a strong audit trail, documented integrity processes and a platform for continuous improvement,” York notes. “Full visibility and mail tracking are table stakes for clients in heavily regulated markets, but every customer deserves 100 percent integrity no matter their market. BlueCrest’s file-based processing gives us the confidence that all the mail is going out correctly.”
York believes that BlueCrest has given CSG a scalable, “future-proof” environment that can meet the company’s strategic direction and growth objectives.
“The roadmap for BlueCrest’s print platform is very clear; they’re committed to their platform, and to their relationship with Hewlett-Packard®. I look forward to making ‘upgrades in place’ with this platform to get the latest and greatest inkjet technology.”
Overall, BlueCrest’s ability to identify and address business challenges and objectives in partnership with CSG made a deep impression.
“We want to help our clients solve complex business problems, to offer a bridge between the print and digital worlds,” York says. “BlueCrest showed that it understands my objectives and can address my needs.”