Expresso Tips & Tricks
If you’re not steeped in printing or technology, some Expresso terms may seem a bit mysterious. To ensure you’re taking advantage of everything Expresso has to offer, we will cover the key terms for creating and distributing a document such as a customer bill, letter, email or text message.
At the end of the article, you’ll find a link to the Expresso Knowledge-base, with additional terms. Before you know it, you’ll be tossing off words like data parser and mix-plexed like a document production insider.
At its core, Expresso is a tool for managing recurring customer communications, ranging from monthly statements and payment confirmations to collection letters and HOA governance materials.
To create documents, Expresso users rely on key building blocks and layout options:
- Template—The pre-set format is used as a starting point for each document, so that the format and layout does not have to be recreated each time. The template has preset attributes such as paper type, size, simplex or duplex, graphics and/or text.
- Zones—Sections within the template that are positioned and sized placeholders for content. They are similar to text boxes in MS Word or similar programs. One zone might be established for containing the customer name and delivery address and positioned to show through a standard window envelope. Another might be reserved space for on statement, variable messaging.
- Content—All of the information and text, merged with data and/or rules, that will make up the document. Content placement is restricted to existing zones in the template.
Drilling down further, what exactly is content? Content is made up of a lot of different information, which Expresso users create and store in their own content library. Content can be words/copy or images, scan lines (for transactional communications), or a combination of data fields and rules. Content is organized and saved in modular formats such as standard sentences, paragraphs or blocks of text that can be plugged into various zones.
Content could include compliance language such as disclosures or preformatted text that requires information specific to the recipient to be inserted, such as account numbers, due dates, previous balance, minimum payment due, total payment due and so on. One piece of content can be mapped to multiple document templates and/or emails making future changes more streamlined. Change the content, every effected communication is updated automatically.
Variables can be added to content using:
- Data input files—The secure data batch file provided by the client, imported into Expresso. Each record in the data file is unique to each recipient of a communication. Data can also be received into Expresso via our standard API used most often for real-time communications such as vacation confirmation emails.
- Rules—Programmed logic that controls the presentation of variable content. The rules might dictate, for example, what special messaging to present on a statement based on the type of customer or where they live.
- Custom Table— A collection of variables used in the document that are not provided in your data file. The tables link to a defined ‘Primary Key’ which is typically a field in the data file. That is followed by columns where content unique to that data value is organized. Custom tables are editable in the Expresso dashboard. Healthcare Revenue Cycle Management Companies use these tables to maintain provider specific information such as hours of operation or the hospital logo. Vacation Ownership companies use tables similarly to manage the variable content for each resort location managed such as the resort address or check-in/out times. Doing so means less data has to be included in the data file, and the user has the ability to add new locations by simply updating the custom table.
Once you create a document, it is ready to be merged with your data file and business rules and delivered to customers via mail or email. If print/mail is the required channel, the package is used to manage the components of the mailing package that is produced and sent by Nordis.
The package may include:
- Document—Core communication, such as billing statement. Some packages include multiple documents and the inclusion of these additional pages can be managed directly by the user drawing from documents already configured and available.
- PDF Upload—Communications that are generic and non-personalized, uploaded into Expresso in a PDF format. The PDF upload is used when you want to include a notice or letter that is not addressed and does not contain any fields from the data file. An example is your annual privacy notification. It is printed in line with the document and preserved in archive.
- Inserts—Users select from a list of available pre-printed inserts to include in the mailing package such as a #9 remit envelope or marketing buck slip. These inserts can be conditional based on a field in the data. For example, billers may only include a remit envelope for customers that are not on auto-pay and generally mail in their payment via check.
Once you’ve mastered these terms, you have the main elements and how they fit together for developing and distributing customer communications. You can find other commonly used Expressoisms in our Knowledge Base.
At any time, though, please reach out to your Client Services Manager. We’re here to help!