By Kevin O’Brien
March 29, 2012
Gone are the days of the single print channel with patience for lengthy response times for customer communication. Today’s digital world is multi-channel with high expectations around personalization, convenience and speed. Customers expect the information and activities they want access to via the channels or devices they want to use to access them. In fact, there are few customer interactions that don’t involve more than one channel. According to Forrester Research, 75 percent of all customer interactions involve at least two communication channels (2009).
So what is in your customer’s multi-channel portfolio? Does your customer want to receive his bill online but pay it by phone with a credit card? Does your customer want to purchase your products via his iPad and have confirmation sent to his email? Answering these questions might conjure up a flood of concerns such as “We can’t afford to keep up with all the channels and devices like the Internet, smartphones, and iPads,” “We have seven different leading edge systems distributing information now,” and “We already have processes in place that work with these systems.” And all too often the answer to keeping up is “We need an app!” But if you do not have an overall customer communication strategy, this will only add to the communication breakdown.
Keeping up with the digital world is vital to retain customers, conduct business efficiently and remain competitive. Your concerns can easily be eliminated with a stronger understanding of what print to digital migration opportunities exist for your business.
Migrating from print to digital doesn’t only mean the Internet and delivering information in a new form. Being digital means transforming your business, enabling you to deliver better services more efficiently with effective processes. And, yes, while adding value and benefits well in excess of the cost of doing so.
The value is around the document process with software technologies that help move you from paper to digital and the information technologies that help you have access to information in ways that are far more productive than past methods of search and capability. In other words, you will gain efficiencies and reduce costs by improving information flow, throughout an organization internally and ultimately to your customers.
Consider a direct marketing campaign from a retail store promoting a sale. The store might reach some customers through direct mail, others via email and still others through social media using an offer on a company Facebook page. This campaign requires collaboration among many company functions including IT, sales, marketing, design, and customer service. Without a centralized platform to assemble this communication, this sale quickly becomes cumbersome and time consuming.
This campaign is simplistic in that it only considers three ways of receiving an offer and three ways of responding, but the concept is still clear: the channel in which the customer initially receives the offer may or may not be the one that they want to use to respond. To take it a step further, the customer may want to respond to certain things in one channel and perform other activities using a different channel. For example, a customer may want to print a coupon from a website and walk into a store to use it. Another customer may be in front of the store scanning a QR code from a window sign, downloading the coupon on his smart phone, and walking in to redeem the offer. Managing these different channels can get messy and damage the customer experience if all communication methods are not working seamlessly. Keeping offers consistent across these channels is often difficult and can be compounded by different offers for different locations or giving preferred customers better offers than other customers.
While many realize that a complete digital system for collaboration and communication is at the core of every great company, many stop at the roadblock of concerns conjured up when defining what is in their customer’s multi-channel portfolio. Migrating from paper to digital is not simply a matter of replicating old processes using new technologies. The new technologies enable new ways of meeting customer needs. Migrating to digital also means a greater level of collaboration function-to-function, and this in itself is the basis for efficiencies.
Managing significant amounts of information in an ever-changing marketplace will remain. Doing so in a manner that improves the efficiency of your business, reduces costs and controls risk, is the solution to driving extraordinary financial and competitive results.
Before the migration from paper to digital can begin, business leaders may need to take a step back to answer to these questions:
Where is our data, how is it collected, and are we leveraging it to the utmost extent?
How are communications distributed now and what are customers asking for?
How do we store and retrieve information to serve the customer across multiple mediums?
How are communications created and assembled?
Do we have a centralized platform to manage all of this?
In many cases, the information that can improve the customer experience is locked in a non-actionable environment and information needs to be extracted from multiple systems and repurposed to deliver back to the customer in their preferred method. Often, the process is too slow to keep up with today’s customer expectations.
PepsiAmericas’ business-to-business customers were requesting to receive and pay their bills electronically. Responding to their customer needs, PepsiAmericas partnered OBRIEN to implement the service. Within the first two months of launching, 10 percent of PepsiAmericas’ customers signed up to receive electronic bills. PepsiAmericas quickly found that customers receiving their bill electronically were paying immediately versus taking the usual 30-day float. In addition to the positive cash flow gained, PepsiAmericas’ customer service improved significantly with customer self-service reducing the number of calls to the customer service department.
CEO and co-founder of OBRIEN, a provider of electronic business solutions, Kevin O’Brien has been innovating and exceeding the needs of more than 500 clients for 38 years. O’Brien has increased ROI for industry leaders in the insurance, health care, education, printing, publishing, and manufacturing industries. He can be reached at [email protected].