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The seven keys of effective customer communications management every PSP should know


January 31, 2020
By Gina Ferrara

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Photo: PeopleImages / E+ / Getty Images

As more and more enterprises make the decision to outsource the physical manufacturing of customer communications (print and mail) to print service providers, companies are seeing the value in outsourcing the logical generation of their documents. For print service providers, expanding beyond print to offer a broader scope of customer communications management is an excellent source of additional revenue.

Many enterprises are burdened with legacy systems and a disjointed customer communications management (CCM) technology infrastructure that prevents them from achieving strategic communications goals. Multiple document composition software solutions and content repositories make simple document change requests time-consuming and complicated. Thanks to advancing technology, consumer expectations for personalized and consistent experiences across any delivery channel have many organizations struggling to keep up. While internal IT resources are focused on timely delivery of communications and staying compliant with changing regulations, lines of business are becoming more frustrated by long lead times for document changes. To be competitive, organizations have made customer experience a top strategic priority to offer better value to customers, maintain their loyalty, and ultimately increase revenue. Unfortunately, for some organizations, their current technology environment has caused them to lag behind their competitors. All of this presents the perfect opportunity for print service providers to offer CCM as a service, helping enterprises to focus less on the day-to-day activities associated with their customer communications and more on customer experience.

The seven components of CCM
Print service providers that wish to offer CCM as a service should consider designing a solution that incorporates all seven components of CCM. These components include data, content and preference management, document composition, omnichannel delivery, archive and dashboard/reporting.
Although each component is critical to managing the end-to-end communication lifecycle, data is the most critical. Data comes from multiple sources and can be structured or unstructured. Many enterprises struggle with collection, aggregation and normalization into a standard data model. This is where service providers can add a lot of value for their clients. Data is used in the document composition process, execution of business rules that drive variable content, personalization of communications with targeted marketing messages, and for analytics and business intelligence.

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Content includes all components necessary for the document composition process, such as document templates, business rules, digital images and regulatory text. Content should be stored in a centralized repository with version control to ensure that out of date content is not used. In addition, workflow and approval processes are necessary for when new content is loaded to the repository or when existing content is modified.

Preference management is another input for the composition process and is the collection of customer profile information and delivery preferences. Delivery preference data is used to optimize the composition process to generate the output according to the customer’s preferred channel of choice.

To create the communication, the document composition process combines data and variable content with document templates according to pre-
determined business rules. It is during this process that communications are optimized for the delivery channel.

In addition, an archive copy of the communication should also be generated for storage, future retrieval and re-delivery if needed.

Once the communications have been generated, the final step is delivery. In the CCM industry, the terms multi-channel and omnichannel delivery are often used interchangeably, but there is a notable difference. With both multi-channel and omnichannel delivery, all channels are available to the consumer; however with omnichannel, all channels are integrated together. This is an important distinction as it helps to ensure the customer experience is consistent across all channels.

Despite declining volumes, printed communications are still valuable because print is a trusted channel and consumers still open and read their mail. Although many consumers are “digital first,” they are not “digital only” and still value eye-catching, colourful printed communications that are personalized and contain content that is relevant. This is also a great opportunity for print service providers to offer guidance to their clients on the benefits of colour and how redesigning communications to incorporate more colour can improve the customer experience.

The last component of a CCM offering includes a dashboard that has reporting capabilities. A dashboard provides full visibility into the entire production workflow and can be made available to client end-users through a browser-based user interface. Job-level and piece-level tracking provide additional monitoring capabilities and the opportunity to pull and reroute, destroy and redeliver documents as needed. Through the dashboard, standard and custom reports can be generated and made available to end-users.

Navigating the enterprise: Finding the decision-makers
Print service providers that offer CCM as a service will have their share of challenges to navigate when prospecting enterprise clients. For example, who within the organization has responsibility for CCM and its ownership across the business? Many of the enterprise clients we engage with do not have a single owner of CCM, but rather it is shared among the individual lines of business, IT and in some cases, marketing. In situations where there are multiple owners of a particular function, there will be some who do not favour outsourcing CCM. In addition, the concept of outsourcing might give enterprises the feeling that they no longer have control over their customer communications. This perception can be mitigated by providing a user interface that gives business users access to manage content, control messaging and create business rules as needed.

Important considerations for a transition
The success of most projects can be likened to painting a room. The more time spent in the preparation phase, the better the outcome. This too applies to outsourcing CCM to a service provider. The transition process should begin with business requirements and specification gathering, followed by a complete inventory of all document applications, templates, content and business rules. The inventory process provides the opportunity to rationalize and consolidate all document templates and variable content to eliminate duplicates and out-of-date content and load to a single repository.

Outsourcing CCM benefits both enterprises and service providers
By providing CCM as a service, print service providers are able to expand their value proposition and deepen relationships with both existing and prospective clients. When selling this offering, it is important to highlight the fact that outsourcing to a service provider eliminates the need for enterprises to continuously make capital investments in technology and transfers the risks associated with purchasing and installing software to the provider. This allows the enterprise to obtain the full benefits of a CCM as a solution while focusing on other strategic initiatives, such as digital transformation and customer experience. CCM as a service also allows enterprises to benefit from an end-to-end technology solution that meets their communication requirements and offers efficient change control and workflow.

By outsourcing CCM, enterprises can realize a return on investment by shifting from a capital expenditure model (CapEx) to an operational expense model (OpEx) and the resulting customer experience.

Gina Ferrara is Senior Analyst at Madison Advisors. Connect with Madison Advisors at www.madison-advisors.com, on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/madison-advisors or on Twitter @madison_advisor.

This feature was originally published in the January/February 2020 issue of PrintAction, now available online.