Engaging Documents and Production: The Big Picture

As organizations retool document production infrastructure as part of their customer retention strategy, they invariably establish a new appreciation of the very nature of their customer communications.

A monthly invoice that was just a part of the standard billing process can be recast as an opportunity to engage with the customer. Paper and print are less engaging than web sites and smart phones, so the entire production process is called to deliver into these new engaging channels, as well as the traditional ones.

This is why “Omni-channel marketing” gets so much attention, and why “Customer Communications Management” (CCM) has emerged as an enterprise software category.

With the addition of electronic engagement channels, the old model of batch document production didn’t go away. Rather batch production was joined in importance by on-demand document production.

Engagement doesn’t happen in mass produced form letters, but rather, it happens when communications become a personalized, time-sensitive dialog.

As a result, high-volume state of the art rendering engines not only drive print infrastructure but are also integrated into web sites and business processes in support of on-demand customer engagement strategies. These engines have to produce channel-appropriate formats: a web site cannot serve up a PostScript document any more than a printer can print an HTML5 document.

In addition, post-production steps have to deliver output into the appropriate channel: through portals, REST APIs, SMTP servers, social media sites, content management systems, and SMS gateways, to name a few. This is in addition to traditional print and mail infrastructure.

These engagements may take the form of an interactive form on a customer web portal, or outbound e-mail as a follow-up to a sales or support activity. The reasons to engage with a customer are without number, but the key is to create a positive engagement: with the right message on the right media channel at the right time.

As the reasons to engage become apparent, a new challenge comes into play.

If you are responsible for quality control of your outbound documents, you might be raising an objection to this on-demand personalized production. In a monthly batch process, document layout is fairly static, and changes to the layout have time to be proofed and approved. In an Omni-channel solution, the whole point is to generate personalized content without the delay or overhead such as that introduced by manual reviews.

Executives are being reasonable when they limit the freedom of their front-line employees to engage because the cost of alienating a customer isn’t just that one customer, but can be amplified by social media. On the other hand, the front-line employees need the power to engage, to take communication out of the realm of static form letters.

For companies that gain strategic benefit from CCM, customer engagement, brand management, and document production infrastructure are all intertwined. A document production system that doesn’t address on-demand quality oversight is like running a chainsaw without goggles: eventually one of the many messages it produces will come back and hurt you.

On-Demand Document Production

Within the realm of on-demand document production, there are two fundamentally different use cases.

In one case, exclusively database-driven document templates generate the personalized content of the document. The data used to generate the document exists ahead of time. Two common examples of this include e-mail messages to notify customers of order status, and presentation of customer loyalty program summaries within the company’s website.

The second use case is unique in that it needs to capture new information, and immediately use it within the document production process. Data collected as part of a customer interaction is merged with data retrieved from a database, and the output is then used to produce a document. This is known as interactive document production.

Interactive document production is, by its very nature, tightly coupled with business processes. Purchase orders, customer on-boarding, service dispatch requests, and loan rate quotes are all typical examples of interactive document production. Modern document production combines all the features necessary to engage the customer with interactive production and immediate delivery of these documents, as well as seamless integration of the production task with corresponding business processes.

Conclusion

For years now, document production software has been pushing batch production forward, as it becomes more engaging, more efficient, and more extensible. The next step, though, is not to improve batch production. Rather, the next step is to extend this software from this specialized “batch” use case into all the different use cases encountered by enterprises pursuing a CCM strategy.

Forward-thinking enterprises see document production software as an infrastructure and as a service layer, rather than as a specialized application.

With this approach, On-Demand cases become opportunities to engage with customers. With the right Customer Communications Management (CCM) solution, this can be done with confidence: confidence that quality is upheld, that CCM strategies are present in all documents, and that business processes run smoothly.

Contact us today for information about using Ecrion Omni System (EOS) to generate your on-demand documents, and to schedule a personalized, guided tour of EOS.