Seven Requirements For Managing Effective Customer Communications
By Jeroen Huinink, Vice President, Product Marketing, Lexmark
Nearly every sizable organization on the planet has at least one customer relationship management (CRM) software system. Over the years, as these systems expand and mature, most organizations compile a wealth of customer data that can be segmented for automated, ongoing customer communications. Unfortunately, the primary form of communication is a steady stream of unsolicited emails which, over time, results in diminishing response rates and click-throughs, doing little to drive meaningful customer engagement.
A better approach? Optimize scheduled and ad-hoc customer communications by incorporating customer communications management software (CCM) into your information infrastructure. There are various types of correspondence that are ideally suited for regular communication, such as your customer’s monthly account statement or bill. Increasingly, however, customers prefer to receive on-demand communications that are more aligned with how they wish to interact with your organization. Since more customers are relying on their smartphones and tablets for most of their business interactions, the primary form of ad-hoc communications is now digital.
Communicating with Demanding Customers
Today’s customer expects your organization to be available to them wherever and whenever they need you. This is not exclusive to the younger, millennial population of consumers. There’s disruption and change across all ages and demographics. According to Gartner Research, an estimated 70% of customer communications will be digital, contextualized and consumed on demand via multiple channels, including the Web, mobile devices and social media by 2017.
Therefore, your customer communications must be timely, relevant, and responsive. For example, auto insurance shopping is increasingly done on the Web. To satisfy customer demands, insurers have to deliver a self-service, intuitive and responsive customer experience. This often involves re-architecting an existing or traditional business process to work much differently in a digital business environment. If your customers are accessing your website and applying for automobile insurance via their smartphones, ideally they would be able to navigate the site as they would on a personal computer and receive immediate responses auto-sized for their particular device vs. receiving email or paper-based confirmations that arrive by email hours later or via postal mail days later.
Optimizing the Customer Experience
Customer communications management enables organizations to more effectively create, personalize and deliver communications to any output medium and throughout the customer lifecycle. Think marketing and lead generation, new product adoption, purchase transactions, support and customer service inquiries, renewal notifications, and bill and payment notifications. CCM solutions improve the end-to-end customer experience and are an ideal approach for organizations looking to streamline and integrate their customer communications.
Once your organization makes the decision to move forward with a CCM initiative, use the following seven-point checklist to ensure you choose the right CCM product for your business:
- Does the CCM solution improve customer communications?
Too often, a company’s communications are disjointed and don’t engage the customer in a meaningful way. Your CCM solution should help improve communications by enabling you to speak to your customers as individuals across all channels in a single voice throughout the customer lifecycle. It should let you:
- Reach your customers with documents that offer the content, tone-of-voice, brand image and personalization your customers expect via the channels of their choice.
- Leverage templates for letters, emails, PDF files, fax and text messages, and other printed document or electronic formats.
- Integrate CCM into your business processes to make production of customer communications more reliable and consistent. Be sure it includes integration with SharePoint, Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics and SAP or your customized business application.
- Can I customize communications on the fly?
Responding quickly to market developments and continuously changing customer preferences and needs gives you a competitive advantage. You can foster customer loyalty by making customers feel more valued and appreciated with communications that are tailored specifically to them. A CCM solution’s capabilities to customize communications are an essential enabler in this context. Likewise, ownership by business users makes this effort more agile and fluid, so it’s important to approach customer communications as a business process that can be owned and directed by your business managers.
When it comes to a solution’s ability to readily customize communications, keep it simple but have the ability to overcome the complex. A viable solution should allow you to:
- Tailor communications to customer preferences and strengthen relationships by providing relevant and personalized information.
- Enable business users to own the templates, content and the communication profiles that drive communication rules, such as channel selection, bundling and postal optimization rules.
- Implement multi-branding options with a single template that supports all of your business brands.
- Provide usage to your line of business managers through its role-based authorization capabilities.
- Define communication rules using concepts and terminology that make sense to your business.
- Will my team have full control of all customer communications?
Today your employees might use their word processor to handle ad-hoc correspondence to compose a letter or a document without applying an adequate or sanctioned corporate template. With a CCM solution, your employees have a framework to manage this, which can include an “empty letter” template and also reference standard text block libraries. This makes workers more efficient and ensures automatic compliance with your company standards, such as using the approved disclaimer, correct copy blocks and corporate logo.
Some capabilities to look for that maximize your management and control of customer communications include:
- Integration with tools that provide dashboards and analytics.
- Integration with systems of record, such as CRM systems and SAP.
- Central management of text blocks, version control and audit trail.
- Role-based authorization and built-in approval workflow for templates.
- Does the solution support passive and active multi-channeling?
A strong CCM solution should allow both passive and active multi-channeling. With passive multi-channeling, your users can repurpose a document for different delivery channels without causing any variations in the output. Active multi-channeling generates alternative content and formats for different delivery channels.
For example, active multi-channeling allows you to send an email that includes a personalized link to a portal and requires the recipient to register to log into the portal for the printable version of the communication. Another example of active multi-channeling is a print communication that includes a brochure, and a digital version of the same correspondence sent via email and including a link to the brochure.
Your CCM solution’s channel output capabilities should:
- Provide personalized and relevant communication delivery through traditional print, fax, email, SMS and portal publication.
- Support both passive and active multi-channel capabilities.
- Integrate with e-signature solutions to enable automatic electronic signatures across all output channels.
- Can I rely on the solution’s communication profiles to support compliance?
With rules and regulations tightening in a range of areas, it is increasingly important for companies to stay fully compliant. This concerns both government-imposed rules and companies’ internal policies. Your CCM solution should empower your business to manage document generation with greater accuracy to reduce the risk of unwittingly creating rule violations.
To strengthen your document compliance controls, your CCM solution should:
- Facilitate consistent, straightforward and secure generation of business-critical documents that comply with all current rules and regulations.
- Provide internal and external communication profiles that drive rules and preferences from all stakeholders, including internal users, regulators, customers and channel partners.
- Enable you to authorize users to edit specific parts of a document to ensure that content elements of critical documents are handled by qualified staff.
- Does it empower personalized communication?
Not all customers are alike, and nothing makes a customer feel more unappreciated than receiving a communication that ignores a conversation they already had or clearly shows the vendor doesn’t know them — like which product they own or how long they’ve been a customer. To support your efforts in generating more personalized communication, look for the following capabilities:
- Standard documents that can be personalized within the framework of the template.
- Users can provide additional or missing information that is not available in a system of record.
- Text blocks that can be selected from a text block library defined within the template.
- Users can manually change text blocks to refer to previous communications, whether they were in writing or verbal.
- Access to all data from business applications and legacy systems that includes personal information about the customer for creating documents.
- Smart use of data to compose documents tailored to the personal situation of the customer.
- Composed documents that can be edited in the word processor of your choice for final personalization, as needed.
- Integrates with smart process applications (SPAs) to provide a controlled environment with checks and balances to manage the personalization for all case management, contract management and other types of negotiated documents.
- Is the CCM solution a single, integrated platform for all document processes?
For the utmost in efficiency, your CCM solution should use a single engine and content repository for your document processes — from simple renewals to complex, personalized quotations. Some key features to look for in your CCM’s integrated platform include:
- Web-based wizards for document composition that let your users select text and content elements, and enter additional data not available from an application.
- Server-based communications engine that produces documents based on application data, on demand and in real time, without requiring user interaction.
- High-volume batch job management with logging that provides users a full audit trail, traceability and control.
- Database details where partial and failed jobs can easily be identified and restarted.
The customer expects extreme ease in conducting business. Customers want to choose how they are communicated with, through what channel, and when. Having a flexible, on-demand customer communications management capability is essential to reaching and retaining today’s empowered customers.
Jeroen Huinink is the Vice President of Product Marketing for Kofax Customer Communications Management at Lexmark. He was previously the owner and CTO of Aia Software. Jeroen has a deep understand of the customer communications management space through his 18+ years of experience in the industry. Jeroen holds a masters degree in Computing Science from the Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.