Within Customer Communications Management (CCM) and Strategic Document Outsourcing (SDO), there is a lot of talk about multi-channel delivery and the many benefits it provides. But rarely do you read about what it truly takes to get you there. For all the excitement and high expectations, relatively little has been said about how often companies stumble along the path to multi-channel and omni-channel customer communications. This blog gives some insight into the key pitfalls and common mis-steps that can cost your organization (and your clients) big time in costs, frustration, and missed opportunities.
Multi-channel and omni-channel customer communications require the appropriate mix of process, people and technology to enable delivery of key servicing documents (e.g. bill statements and invoices) via all print and electronic means available: Print/Mail, Mobile, and Web.
Effective multi-channel communications must meet the following criteria:
- Support delivery according to each customer’s unique delivery preferences
- Adhere to Federal, State and Municipal regulatory requirements for information delivery and tracking based on document type
- Provide customer action/interaction with the document in a timely and relevant manner
- Enable business users to modify and update service documents in real-time
- Provide secure archiving and timely access to archived documents by stakeholders: Customer Service, Legal, Accounting, etc.
To meet all these criteria, the CCM/SDO workflows must touch a number of core business systems and support multiple departments throughout the organization. It is the cross-system and cross-functional aspects of CCM that represent the greatest danger for delay and even failure of implementing effective multi-channel delivery systems.
The harsh reality is that many organizations have not upgraded their Customer Communications Management/Strategic Document Outsourcing processes in decades - often using patched together software with over extended shelf life. Most core corporate systems were not built to provide robust interactivity or data manipulation with other application data. The result is silo-based communications, where each product group, or organizational function, develops and maintains their own disparate communications with each customer.
The business impacts are twofold:
- The business has at best a fractured view of their clients – never seeing the whole through all the separate silos. This means higher customer support costs and missed marketing opportunities.
- The customer has a disjointed and often frustrating experience interacting with the business across multiple services. Dissatisfaction leads to churn and lost revenues.
Even companies that have invested in building or buying software to enable multi-channel delivery often find themselves with unsatisfactory results including myriad manual processes to span silos and cumbersome workarounds that limit cross functional visibility and control.
Creating a truly seamless, cross-application, cross-functional Customer Communications Management/Strategic Document Outsourcing platform requires knowledge, experience and tools that many IT organizations simply don’t have. While deep expertise within each application is sure to exist, few IT shops have people with the skills and expertise in cross-application work flows to adequately define and manage projects of this scope.
It takes years of experience - testing and refining of practices - to have a proven process for implementation and transformation of your customer data from core systems to where it can be used for multi-channel delivery. There is a multi-faceted approach to implementation that should be based on best practice know-how before customer data is transformed and prepared for multi-channel delivery. Within the 4 typical phases of this type project: (1) Discovery Phase, (2) Requirements Phase, (3) Development Phase, and (4) Configuration Phase, there are hundreds of potential points of failure.
The keys to avoiding these pitfalls include:
- Properly scoping the work – change your perspective and you’ll improve the results: instead of looking at the process from your service to your customer, look at it from the other direction – from your customer, across all their interactions back to you.
- Involve all the stakeholders. While Finance may have started an initiative to improve collections, by involving Marketing, Customer Service, and Legal, you will get a much better understanding of the reach of each decision and improve the end result.
- Understand the need for - and lead the development of - new workflows. Use the technology backbone to eliminate manual processes and enable business agility to respond to changing business requirements without reinventing the wheel.
- Critically evaluate your internal skills and systems capabilities: if you don’t have the deep experience for this type of undertaking – be sure to find the right systems partner who does.
If your internal evaluation leads you to look for an experienced CCM partner, consider the following attributes when selecting a partner:
- Deep knowledge and experience in multi-departmental, multi-functional project definition and scoping.
- Proven track record of successful implementations
- Highly integrated technology backbone
- Flexibility in planning and scheduling of implementation
- Ability to provide visibility in the uncovering and documenting of needs throughout the process
A properly implemented customer communications management solution will give any organization a significant competitive advantage while at the same time saving money, improving customer experience and empowering business users.
Make sure to download a free copy of the following Analyst Report from Madison Advisors "Enabling the Next Generation of Customer Communications Technologies and Services".