By Doug Cox
Oct. 6, 2011
Over the past few years, every industry has experienced a new market environment, marked by a sharp decline in consumer confidence and altered consumer behaviors that have made it increasingly difficult to acquire and retain customers.
Accelerated recovery and success in this new paradigm depends upon customer acquisition, satisfaction, and loyalty-and every consumer contact presents an important opportunity to improve the customer experience, reach new markets, and differentiate from the competition.
With the proliferation of available marketing channels and increased expectations of customers that businesses communicate with them in the manner they prefer, the ability to successfully implement a multichannel marketing communication strategy will most likely be the single biggest challenge-and opportunity-for every business over the next few years. Success in this arena will require a carefully planned customer communications strategy backed by robust technology that provides access to the information customers want-and enables delivery via the channel they prefer-morning, noon, or night via print, electronic, the Web, and mobile devices.
Seeking a solution designed for a multichannel, personalized communication strategy
Leveraging the power of multichannel campaigns requires the ability to determine the communication preferences of each customer and having in place the right solutions to deliver compelling, personalized content through that channel. Whether the recipient likes paper (mail), electronic (e-mail, Internet), mobile devices, or a combination of these channels, being able to meet delivery preferences is quickly becoming essential to engage prospects and simply to remain competitive.
One of the first decisions to be made is whether this can be done in-house or should it be outsourced to a third-party service provider. Many organizations already use third-party service providers to print and mail statements and other customer communications. If you choose to outsource, it is critically important to closely evaluate your vendor partner’s capabilities to ensure they can meet client communication needs in the areas of agility, flexibility and control. Employing “agile billing”- the ability to maintain flexibility and control of documents while enjoying the cost benefits of outsourcing physical printing and fulfillment-is simply good business.
Meaningful communications are the lifeline between every organization and its customers, and there are software solutions available that are specifically designed for a multichannel, personalized communication strategy. The right solution will be user-friendly and have the flexibility needed to allow business users to create interactive, point-of-need, personalized documents for their customers in-house, while ensuring that costs are controlled through centralized production and fulfillment. It pays to do research because not every solution offers all of the functionality you may need to achieve your specific communication objectives.
Providing relevant and effective communications
However, there is more to consider. Just as important as communicating through multiple channels is ensuring the delivery of easy-to-understand customer communications when doing so. Tailoring communications to specific preferences offers many benefits, including improving the customer experience, targeting marketing messages, and reducing customer service calls. For example, if an individual has a profile that suggests they may be interested in a new product or offering, the communication solution should be able to personalize their next statement or other communication with information highlighting it. Having the technology in place to access the data you already have about your customers can put their needs front and center with every communication sent to them.
Overcoming integration challenges
As with any customer communication management initiative, there are challenges when integrating multichannel communication options with current systems. Here are three important considerations in evaluating how well a communications solution will integrate with your existing processes:
Be sure the communication solution you choose can tap into the broad range of data sources that drive your business, and that the solution makes it easy to merge and consolidate this data and present it to users in a unified way.
Another critical feature for success is the ability for the solution to create flexible content that automatically changes to match the different formats and layouts of each delivery channel. Without this kind of flexibility, designing for multiple channels can become a painful and complex process.
Finally, having an integrated framework that can leverage data across the entire solution to manage content, logic, users and roles, interfaces, and change control practices for a multichannel solution is essential. Additionally, the ability to manage content-independent of the documents and channels that receive them-is needed.
Having the right technology in place for managing the customer base across all media channels is essential to overcoming today’s market challenges and succeeding when it comes to customer communication management. Multichannel communications are no longer the wave of the future for business organizations; your valuable customers already have expectations concerning how you communicate with them. Implementing a well-thought-out strategy can help improve sales and loyalty by getting relevant information to customers more quickly-and with a personal touch via the channel they prefer.
Doug Cox is General Manager, North America for GMC Software Technology, a provider of document output for customer communication management, based in Boston and Appenzell, Switzerland. He can be reached at [email protected].