"A shopkeeper should always have a ready smile"
-- Chinese Proverb
In Part 1, I listed the primary reasons why you would want to implement a CCM solution, by looking at the big picture goals of a customer communication management investment. Management is about control, and CCM is about control over customer communications: delivering consistency, offering manageability, and providing progress metrics. If customer communication is critical to you, and you are operating without a CCM solution, I would have to conclude that you are a risk taker.
What CCM Controls
CCM solutions, and responsibility for customer satisfaction, is not delegated to one group or one specific task within an organization. They involve orchestration of multiple teams, multiple processes, and multiple objectives. CCM solutions don’t just control the text on the page, or the delivery channel. They empower organizations to be a shopkeeper with a ready smile.
To help get a handle on all the resources and processes brought under control, I have classified them into three broad categories, and I’ve broken each into a part within this series. In this part, I’ll explore the most important resource of all: an engaged customer.
Customer Engagement & Motivation
The end-game of a CCM investment is a satisfied, engaged, and motivated customer. It is certainly the case that CCM products can also be effectively used to automate document production, but there is a difference. Document production is a business necessity, a task that is “overhead” to an organization’s budget. When deployed to this end, there is no question that CCM solutions can reduce costs and improve efficiencies. But, CCM, in the hands of a customer-centric organization, can achieve much more. It is re-envisioned as a tool set that can positively affect the bottom line, as a strategic investment.
As is the case with everybody we talk to, conversation is based not just on the topic, but also on the relationship. We inform our conversations based on things like shared experiences and an appreciation of the other’s history and tastes. The state of the relationship matters too.
CCM solutions manage customer information in order to draw from it a context, and then generate from that context a personalized and targeted communication. Some of this information is unambiguous, as in preferences, shopping history, and support history. Moreover, while organizations “know” quite a bit about their customers, they can infer even more through customer analytics.
When customer information directly influences the content, the communication becomes personalized. We are all familiar with the monthly invoice, which by its nature, has personalized data (at least, account-specific data). But personal communications don’t have to be limited to bills. On-line shopping experiences are perfect examples of personalized content, as recent history and long term purchase history effects the web page content. With access to customer information, this personalization isn’t limited to web pages any more. Every customer “touch point” can be personalized.
Targeting is a bit different than personalization. Targeted messages segment the customer base, and adapt content appropriately. Analytics use customer information to find patterns and generate segments receptive to similar messaging. If you wonder if this is real or not, check out the success Target had with customer analytics.
Access to customer information also opens up controls over message timing and channel selection. For example, “notifications” are frequently personalized updates for a particular customer order. In this case, effective controls over notification-based engagement connect the CCM infrastructure to customer information in the order fulfillment department.
When we use customer information to personalize and target communications, we are taking control over the dialog we have with that customer. Each outbound message is a “touch point” that leverages customer information to offer some control over the customer’s engagement, motivation, and satisfaction.
Timely Message on Appropriate Channel
We also control customer engagement through well timed messages. Control over communication rate is an example. I’ve been getting nearly daily e-mails from a large department store chain since I bought an appliance from them. They go directly to my junk mail because they are annoying. There may be useful information in some of those messages, but there is too much noise to make it worth looking.
Communications need to be throttled, but on the other hand, they shouldn’t be absent. Engagement and motivation are only achieved with communication, so no communication is not the answer. CCM solutions can track customer communications, and that data can be used to govern engagement policies.
Voice of Company
The “Voice of Company” is one of the more subtle objects to control. This is more traditionally called “brand management”, but when we consider that a dialog requires two voices, we can easily see that those voices are those of the customer, and the company. Brands suffer when the company says the wrong thing, and prosper when it says the right thing.
Every time the company speaks through a communication, it needs to be controlled. This blog is reviewed before I get to post it because I’m speaking as Ecrion, as well as myself. The same principle applies for all customer communications, and especially correspondence that by its nature, doesn’t include text that went through project review and validation.
This also applies to tight correlation between component parts of documents produced throughout the organization. Distributed teams need to collaborate on these customer communications, and build up a message that is consistent with a single voice for the company. CCM controls offer collaborative authoring and reviewing environments, so the “voice of the company” projected in the communication is truly personifying the company as a whole, in the most accurate, positive and motivational way possible. A company voice is always carried by correspondence, notifications, forms, web pages, marketing campaigns, and traditional billing. CCM helps engineer that company voice.
Voice of Customer
Nobody gets to control what the customer says other than the customer. Influence is limited. With that in mind, a CCM solution has to capture and present the organization with the voice of the customer in order to empower it to enter into an engaging dialog.
To this end, CCM solutions offer ways to track responses customers have to outbound messages. These come in the form of specific customer response tracking, and in terms of statistical analytics of responses across customer segments. CCM solutions track opened messages, clicks within electronic messages, forms, surveys, and other digital experience interactions. The goal of this set of features is to capture the current perspective of the customer’s engagement and satisfaction.
These features are the “hearing” portion of a dialog. Customer-centric strategies need to respond to the customer, and response requires that your organization can hear the customer’s voice. How many of us have called a customer service center, entered our account numbers into the IVR system, and then been asked to enter them again? This is an example of an organization with an inability to capture the customer voice, but with an obvious use case. CCM offers organizations a way to hear, capture, and respond to subtle information offered through the customer’s voice.
“We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”
― Marshall McLuhan
Sometimes it is hard to envision an organization that can collaborate on a “voice of the company” scale. This is where incremental steps into CCM are beneficial. CCM infrastructure is a solution to traditional document production, and many of our customers start there. After the CCM tools are in place, it opens up opportunities for incremental progress toward a unified team in pursuit of an engaged and motivated customer base.
With the right tools, tactical document production projects are the gateway to strategic customer engagement and motivation. They open up access and management of customer information, they offer timing and automation of messages, and they offer collaborative generation of content. With tools like this, your organization can become customer-centric.
In the Next Part…
In my past, I’ve been a software engineer. In that world, we talk about “stacks”, and “peers”. Stacks are layers of services that combine in one program, and these stacks can be used to send and receive messages. Peers are the remote stacks that a program talks to. It is the paradigm we use to differentiate what our programs do, and what the “other guy’s” program does.
When we talk about CCM controlling a customer’s engagement and motivation, it is a “peer” relationship. But CCM solutions are not just about controlling the “peer”. They also control the stack: the files, processes, databases, and people who are part of that peer conversation. In the next part, I’ll describe how CCM controls these production and delivery resources.