By Olivia Cahoon
While print is an essential component of a successful customer communications (CCM) strategy, it’s not the only element. Electronic options like email, SMS, and electronic bill present and payment (EBPP) provide strategies that span multiple channels. The adoption and use of electronic components within a comprehensive CCM strategy allows print and electronics to combine into one effective solution.
“Developing a strategy for effective electronic delivery requires considering two things—the customer experience and customer engagement,” suggests Gina Ferrara, senior analyst, Madison Advisors. “What will make a good customer experience, but also capture the customer’s attention long enough to offer a new promotion or product and service enhancement and make them want to know more or take a desired action, such as signing up for additional products or services?,” she asks.
Electronic delivery components are leveraged as part of a successful CCM strategy. This includes email, fax, EBPP, IPDF, mobile and tablet applications (apps), SMS, social media, video, and web apps.
“The real power is not in each of these technologies in and of themselves, but is realized when they are orchestrated to provide an immersive, consistent, and significant customer experience,” says Mike Lambert, SVP, customer experience solutions, Bell and Howell.
Lambert believes the primary driving factor in the adoption of electronic delivery channels is the evolution of consumer preference and self-service trends. Meeting and exceeding customer expectations affects loyalty and future revenue. By optimizing the continued growth of digital touchpoints, organizations create conversations with customers. “By providing an enhanced and personalized customer experience, they have found a key differentiator and competitive advantage,” he adds.
While delivery components can span multiple channels, each touchpoint should work simultaneously for a smart, omni-channel communication strategy. CCM strategies featuring separate channels without a connection to one another are likely to be less effective.
Josie Stein, marketing communications manager, XMPie, a Xerox Company, says consumers are aware that omni-channel CCM is available and that consumers expect brands to use it. “They are connected 24/7, more informed, empowered, demanding, and mobile than ever before. Consumers expect and want to connect with brands across a variety of channels spanning print, digital, social, and mobile,” she offers.
Because millennial and xennial generations are generally more aware of how and why data is used in marketing, they tend to be more willing to participate in activities where data is collected. Stein says this drives the adoption of more extensive CCM strategies like electronic delivery channels.
As CCM touchpoints gather data, organizations receive insight to create opportunities for brands and consumers, which improves interaction and fosters a stronger relationship. “Consumers develop trust with brands when they see consistency in the communications, which is only delivered when an integrated approach is taken,” says Stein.
To implement a successful CCM strategy with electronic components, Scott Draeger, VP of product marketing, Quadient, says it’s important to look at the communications from the customer perspective. By doing this, organizations see that the electronic versions of communications do very different jobs. For example, email and print are reliably delivered at certain times on the organization’s terms.
However, when customers select a tablet, smartphone, or browser to pay a bill, file an expense report, or get a receipt, they have a specific task. “These channels offer a chance to make the same information more engaging and should be sortable, searchable, and interactive,” says Draeger. Each channel is effective at serving different needs.
Ferrara says companies see the role electronic delivery can play in reaching larger company goals, which extend beyond CCM. “For example, if a telecom company recognizes that customers who receive bills in the mail are slow or late to pay, giving those customers additional electronic payment options—such as an SMS alert message as a payment reminder—has the potential to speed up the receivable cycle.”
Primary challenges for electronic delivery components in CCM strategies include factors like customer preferences and siloed channels.
The manner in which businesses communicate with customers may vary, frustrating customers with more than one product from the business. Ernie Crawford, president/CEO, Crawford Technologies, offers the example of consumer banking, where a consumer might have mobile availability, but the retirement line of business only offers print and online accessibility.
Eliminating print and becoming 100 percent electronic is a challenge. According to Patrick Kehoe, EVP, product management, Messagepoint Inc., many consumers don’t want to eliminate print. “Seniors in some cases don’t have easy access to electronic channels; Gen X and Baby Boomers often engage electronically, but want the security blanket of the paper backup; and hipsters have their communications sent in print as an ironic statement,” he explains.
Delivering to each channel creates logistical problems. According to Crawford, the quick fix is to convert the print file to a PDF and present it in a variety of output channels. However, this prevents leveraging some channel benefits like mobile, which usually has a touchscreen and prefers responsive content and flow to the device-set preferences like large text. “This is much easier and less time consuming than designing the communication in a way that it can be formatted properly to the selected output,” he states. It’s also more affordable than training staff to design for each channel.
Organizations should be ready to address customer preference management challenges to create successful CCM strategies that utilize electronic delivery components. Kehoe says organizations don’t always have customer emails or logins for their web portal. Some only have a single customer preference.
Customers want the ability to specify their delivery preference for each type of communication. “A banking customer might want an SMS message on a low balance, but an email for a monthly statement. Or, a life insurance customer might want their policy in print but their billing notices via email,” explains Kehoe. Customers seek a granular preference management system to track delivery preferences by communication type, which provides a solution if one channel fails.
In some instances, customer preference data is either not collected, or is collected and maintained in separate databases throughout the organization. “Preference management needs to capture the necessary contact information, such as postal and email address and mobile phone numbers in order to deliver communications in accordance with the customer’s preferred channel of choice. But too often there is no central database collecting this information. Additionally, most CCM solutions don’t directly collect, store, and manage preference data, but do have the ability to collect that data in real time at document generation,” says Ferrara.
These challenges are intensified by difficult web portals, PDF limitations on mobile devices, and lack of historical documents. To solve this problem, Kehoe suggests enterprises focus on the right channel for their customer by allowing them to choose communication methods and provide an easy to use, optimized experience.
Electronic delivery components pave the way to transform print and electronics into one effective CCM strategy. While digital communications become important, paper is still integral.
“When email was first introduced, everyone was predicting the demise of print. While there certainly has been a decline in print, we don’t think it will ever go away completely for several reasons,” shares Ferrara. These include regulations, customer preferences, and cross-marketing potential.
“Although many consumers opt to pay bills electronically, they still want a paper reminder to pay the bill or a paper copy for their records. Paper is not dead,” says Tami May, CCM product marketing manager, OpenText. She says studies show that although millennials love pixels, they enjoy high-quality printed pieces. “They view it as a novelty and often respond better to printed offers rather than email.”
Annemarie Pucher, CEO/co-founder, ISIS Papyrus Software, believes companies that successfully provide digital communication incentives, education, extensive customer self service, and different digital experience offerings achieve higher rates of digital adoption with digital as a preferred method of customer communications.
However, she agrees that print is not going away. “There will always be customers or communication contexts that require print communications. Modern customer communication leverages all existing communication channels—electronic and traditional—to communicate with customers in an optimal way without taking a one-size-fits-all approach,” says Pucher. Ultimately, a successful CCM strategy comes down to a mix between digital and print solutions—allowing consumers to choose the solution they want, when they want it.
Jonathan McGrew, director, communications and engagement, Solimar Systems, agrees, adding that print is still a key part of CCM strategies because of regulated industries that require printed and mailed pages to certify documents as communicated to the consumer. “Also, the pendulum has swung so far to electronic or digital communications that there is an uptick in print in terms of open and response rates,” he offers.
50 years ago, print and mail was the primary form of communication with consumers. But today, McGrew says providers need to have appropriate messages for each channel, which includes email, instant message platforms, print and email, push notifications, SMS, social media, and web pages. “Leaders should also be accepting communications back into their organizations on those channels, which would truly make it omni-channel,” he says.
“What we think will change in the future are the particular print applications and the variety of use cases. We’ve seen examples of printed documents that can be scanned to generate a virtual reality experience. Opportunities like this are endless and organizations will continue to realize new ways that print can drive digital and enhance the customer experience,” says Ferrara.
Industries in Need
A variety of industries—from insurance companies and healthcare to manufacturing and banking—rely on effective CCM strategies with omni-channel solutions.
According to Madhavi Hindupur Chandrasekhar, head of marketing, Intense Technologies Limited, any transaction-oriented business that has a large customer base and a mandate to send customer communications needs a CCM strategy. These industries include insurance, banking and financial services, telecommunications, government, and manufacturing.
For telecommunications scenarios, Chandrasekhar says operational support systems and business support system apps should be unified to deliver faster and more efficient customer experiences across multiple channels. “Monthly bills, payment reminders, and notifications are still sent through CCM channels. At one of our implementations, we send more than 200 million notifications in a day through email, SMS, and apps,” she explains.
In the manufacturing space, Chandrasekhar says CCM strategies automate the generation, design, and distribution of all types of documents including invoices, packing lists, mailers, labels, custom forms, and driver-ready packs through digital channels.
Daniel Schmidt, senior product marketing manager, Kofax, agrees and says that organizations in industries with high-volume or high-value documents and communications rely on CCM. “They are looking to improve the quality and effectiveness of communication with their customers, partners, and suppliers,” he offers. Organizations avoid time-intensive tasks and added costs from managing communications manually by implementing CCM.
Print is still an integral part of a strong CCM strategy. Paired with electronic delivery components, organizations further their connection to consumers while developing valuable relationships.
“Businesses are not only recognizing that they must take a multichannel approach if they want to deliver the best possible customer experience, but are also increasing efficiency and reducing costs by adopting newer technologies that cater to digital communications,” says Simon Tindal, CTO, Smart Communications.
Before implementing electronic options into a CCM strategy, it’s important to consider customer preference management and how print will work cohesively with electronic options.
Jan 2018, DPS Magazine