By Gina Ferrara
Developing an optimized customer communications management (CCM) strategy is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle—to complete the picture, all the pieces need to be interlocked together. When implementing a customer communication strategy, all of the necessary components need to be part of an integrated technology solution to successfully manage the communications lifecycle and enhance the customer experience. However, while technology is important, other factors are required for a successful CCM strategy.
Relationships are built on communication and customer loyalty is built on the experience a customer has with a particular brand. Customer experience has become a strategic priority for many organizations hoping to stand out from the competition. As a result, there is a renewed focus on CCM. Once a new customer is onboarded, there are numerous communications that follow—welcome packages, policies or contracts, monthly statements or invoices, and a variety of correspondence like customer letters. It is with these communications—referred to as transactional communications—where the challenges begin. Changes in technology and increased customer expectations are forcing companies to re-examine their customer communications strategy to keep up with digital delivery expectations and increase personalization while remaining compliant with regulatory requirements. Companies that do this successfully and provide positive experiences for customers will reap the benefits of customer retention. Along with this increased focus on CCM, initiatives such as digital transformation have become a high priority as well. The reality is that strategies for digital transformation, CCM, and customer experience should not be developed separately. They need to be linked together.
In Madison Advisors’ experience providing guidance and consulting services to companies that want to create an optimized CCM strategy, we have found that beyond technology acquisition and integration, there are other key components to a successful strategy, such as executive sponsorship and centralized ownership of CCM. While on the surface this sounds like a simple idea, in reality, it is not. CCM is shared across IT, marketing, the production in-plant—if print and mail has not been outsourced—and all lines of business, creating a new strategy that impacts the entire enterprise. Because of this, it is a good idea to centralize ownership to ensure that all communications across all delivery channels are consistent, compliant, and created in accordance with corporate branding standards. We have seen lines of business within large enterprises that manage their transactional communications independently; however, this “silo” mentality often leads to multiple solutions to generate and deliver customer communications, multiple content and archive repositories, and creates an inconsistent experience for customers across business lines as well as delivery channels.
Above: Quadient helps companies deliver meaningful interactions with current and future customers
Maya Angelou said, “You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” Although we know she wasn’t referring to CCM, this concept can be applied to embarking on a new strategy for CCM. Organizations that want to create a new CCM strategy may not know where to begin; however, a good first step is to understand the current state, which will help identify any gaps that exist in order to determine a future state. One way to do this is to take an inventory of data, document generation, post-composition software, content, customer preferences, delivery, archives, and documents.
Begin identifying all sources and formats of data used in customer communications. Examples of data sources include core processing systems, customer relationship management applications, and other third-party sources. Data is the most critical component in the communications lifecycle since it is used for document composition, execution of business rules that drive the use of variable content, data analytics and business intelligence, and personalization of communications.
List all document composition software used to generate communications, including the version of the software and the number of licenses. It is also important to note the annual maintenance cost and whether the software is still supported by the manufacturer. In addition, be sure to record any core processing systems generating customer communications outside of the composition process.
Take note of software that performs additional post-processing to optimize print output, such as application of barcodes, batch optimization, and postal processing. Post-composition software may be used if the organization currently operates a production in-plant.
Identify all repositories that house variable content—digital assets, logos, document templates, business rules, and other resources like state-specific regulatory text or customer service phone numbers. Be sure to include all shared network folders that contain content and identify third-party providers—such as a print service provider (PSP)—that may also house content.
Determine if customer delivery preferences and associated contact information—postal address, email, mobile number—has been collected and retained. This data is used to determine communication delivery preferences, such as print, email, or SMS, and is typically collected by individual lines of business and not stored in a central database.
Identify all methods of communication delivery and determine whether each solution has been developed internally, purchased, and installed in-house, or outsourced to a third-party provider—such as a PSP—for print and mail. Multi-channel delivery refers to making documents available to customers via more than one delivery channel, including print, email, web, mobile, tablet, or SMS text.
Identify the number of repositories used to store customer communications and whether or not communications can be retrieved for re-delivery and meet customer service requirements. In addition, determine whether associated metadata for each document, for instance, create date, delivery channel, or delivery status is also collected and stored. If electronically delivered documents are stored, determine if bounce back and remediation data along with click-through metrics are stored in the archive as well.
Take inventory of all applications and document templates. This step is probably the most challenging since multiple versions of the same document exist within the organization. Be sure to identify any documents that are generated by contact center personnel and supporting operations, which are often created using word processing software.
To define the future state of CCM for an organization, business requirements need to be collected from all stakeholders, including the lines of business and IT, marketing, legal and compliance, and customer-facing employees such as contact center personnel.
Requirement gathering should be coordinated with other enterprise initiatives, including digital transformation and customer experience to identify areas of overlap where coordination is necessary. Additional insight may be gained from voice of the customer reports to identify pain points and areas of opportunity tied to customer communications or customer experience.
Utilize a customer journey map, which is a diagram that illustrates the steps a customer must go through to interact with a company’s product, online or retail experience, and service. Journey maps can provide tremendous insight into how customers engage with an organization across any touchpoint and the communications that are exchanged along the way. An exercise in journey mapping can help to define areas of opportunity not only to improve customer experience and communications, but also to help define requirements as part of the optimized CCM strategy.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Embarking on a new strategy for CCM is no easy task. There are certainly roadblocks along the way. However, by avoiding the following pitfalls, the road to success can be a little less bumpy.
Socialize and obtain buy in from all lines of business, marketing and internal IT so the strategy can be successfully implemented across the enterprise.
Be sure to identify and coordinate with other enterprise-wide initiatives—digital strategy, customer experience, and digital transformation—all of which will have an impact on the success of the CCM strategy.
It is important to recognize and also plan to overcome the silo mentality of individual lines of business.
Start the project with the mindset that changing the CCM strategy is not going to be easy and there will be setbacks along the way. Many companies are burdened with legacy systems and a disjointed CCM technology infrastructure. They may require a whole new platform to meet business and customer experience requirements.
Do not overlook the importance of preference management and collecting and storing preference data in a centralized repository for use across the enterprise. In our experience, preference management tends to be considered too late in the process, making it harder to go back and resolve correctly.
Acquire point solution(s) or outsource to a third-party provider to get to market quickly. This also helps to fill in gaps in the strategy.
Focus on digital transformation initiatives, but plan on taking into consideration back-end or post-sale servicing requirements that can generate customer communications.The Path to CCM Success
Standing out from the competition is no longer about selling a product or service at the best price—it’s about the customer experience and the relationship developed between that customer and a particular brand. Advancements in technology have increased customer expectations exponentially—those organizations that provide an exceptional customer experience will reap the benefits of customer loyalty, deeper relationships, and increased sales.
A successful CCM strategy requires all of the critical components to be joined together in an integrated technology infrastructure to manage the entire communications lifecycle from data through delivery. Unfortunately, many enterprises struggle to successfully integrate all those puzzle pieces and ultimately fall short of achieving their strategic CCM goals. There are several components to a successful CCM strategy and, although technology is deemed to be the most critical, the strategy really needs to be defined by the customer journey. Beyond technology, enterprises need executive leadership and sponsorship to implement an optimized CCM strategy. Making a successful investment in CCM technology can occur once a current state assessment and inventory have been performed, gaps in capability are identified, and requirements from all stakeholders and other enterprise-wide initiatives are defined.
Gina Ferrara is senior analyst at Madison Advisors. Connect with Madison Advisors on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/madison-advisors or on Twitter @madison_advisor.
May2019, DPS Magazine