Guest Column | July 16, 2019

Addressing Preference Management With Channel Granularity

By Harvey Gross, Vice President, Crawford Technologies

Business plan

One of the key issues today across all industries is how to provide the best possible customer experience. In a digital environment, this can include appealing graphics and intuitive website navigation, as well as, increasingly, interactive communications. A positive customer experience is built on communication capabilities that help identify customers’ needs and interests, and offer personalized service that meets the expectations of each individual.  Here, “communication” itself is broader than any specific content or message. It means reaching customers with the information they want at the right time and through their preferred delivery channel.

The variety of communication channels now allow consumers to choose how and when they want product information, invoices, statements and everything else delivered to them, via print and mail, email, through a website, using SMS for a smartphone, tablet, or whatever else may be in the high-tech pipeline. For example, suppose a customer wants routine bill presentment sent to their smartphone, but requests a printed copy of their year-end statement be mailed to them. Or, perhaps they’re spending the winter in Florida, so request all communications should be sent to their phone in January and February, but after that, they want to resume delivery via email so they can access it on their home desktop. Or maybe they need to view or download a copy of a statement from three years ago from their provider’s website.  Production and delivery become more complex with the customer’s change of email address or text number or their use of several addresses for different devices.

Through all these options, one thing is clear: Ignoring customer communication preferences or failing to live up to expectations definitely sends them the wrong message, and may lead to customers seeking improved responsiveness and convenience with a competitor.

Despite efforts on the part of many organizations to migrate customers away from print and mail to electronic-based communications, most transactional communications initially are created for print distribution. Using document composition software, the no-longer-ordinary monthly invoice can include personalized announcements and even brief marketing messages side-by-side with a list of purchases and charges. While such composition software provides a level of flexibility, the print document language (PDL) employed in preparing hard copy production documents usually does not allow for easy transfer of that same information into formats designed to be posted on the web, or that are delivered via email or SMS.  

Additionally, in many organizations transactional data is originated and stored in one system while sales and marketing content likely is created and stored in others. Long-term customer histories may be archived somewhere else, often offline. And, in national or global companies—particularly in the financial and healthcare industries—local regulatory compliance language may need to be changed and updated from time to time. Duplicating and archiving many copies of a single document to meet the requirements of a variety of formats is not a satisfactory solution, considering the production time and storage space that requires.   

PDF formatting is often used to transmit documents to small, handheld devices, with the hope that customers are willing to do the pinch-and-squint exercise to orient the document so that it’s actually legible. Another alternative employed by forward-thinking companies is using responsive HTML5 in developing their websites, so that when a web page is viewed on a laptop or desktop, the document is reformatted, and the change allows the output to flow to suit the size and orientation of the destination device.  However, documents in HTML5 can be tricky to print.

In today’s world, a new standard of best practices for content-rich customer communications demands that documents be granular down to the level of document type, so they can be quickly and automatically converted to function effectively within the parameters of different distribution formats and channels—and they also should allow for making ad hoc changes. All of this can be done using existing technologies that have been specifically designed to facilitate document reengineering, and which can operate as an adjunct to document composition systems, as well as an extension to ECM systems and your infrastructure.

Now that customer experience has become a high priority, convenience and easy accessibility to your organization’s communications are no longer just a nice value-add for customers; rather, they have become something consumers expect and even demand.  It may make the difference between establishing a successful long-term relationship and failing to win the customer at all.


Harvey Gross is Vice President at Crawford Technologies, a provider of document solutions and services for document accessibility, output management, enterprise content management and archiving. Harvey has over 30 years’ experience in establishing customer communications systems of all types. His varied positions in executive management for independent software vendors, regional and international service providers and consultancies provide a unique perspective. Connect with Crawford Technologies at or Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.