Today’s company requires a more expansive set of resources than ever before to accommodate increasing customer demands. This does not mean things have to be more confusing.
The management of complex processes emerges from simple controls.
Complicated and complex are two similar-sounding words with slightly different implications. Complexity invokes sophistication, complication invokes mess, and the line is thin: whichever our Customer Communications turn out to be depends on how we initially perceive them, then on how we manage them.
The complexity stems from a wide range of options around: creating digital vs. print documents, managing intricate templates, editing individual ones. Further intricacy is generated by customer preferences multiplying over time, a growing need for convenience and availability by multiple channels.
These are best tackled by a sort of “divide-and-conquer” model. Managing complexity in customer communications requires projects to have role-based access, so that each member of a team can give 100% of what they do best.
The resulting workload is simple for any given person, because it is exclusive. This is most effective for providing a customer with options; and while too many options can be overwhelming, there are ways to leverage modern technology that make the options work in your favor.
1. Complex Customer Demands: Increase Options for Delivery & Design
Customers today want to be reached in a variety of ways – in fact, the jury is still out on whether they wholly prefer digital or print documents best, with several opinions looming about either one. Experience tells us they like print for some document types, and digital for others.
Snail mail is obviously still mainstream, whether it be for legal reasons or preferential. But preferences are changing fast, and all signs point to a future where the only print documents left are the obligatory ones. En masse delivery of documents is simply slower and more costly than print. Companies regularly spend about up to $0.20 per piece of physical mail, and this adds up when you consider customer bases in the thousands.
Digital documents provide a colorful array of options to both businesses and their consumers that are not available in print. There is a layer of interactivity in the design process, giving the content manager a broader range of choice regarding which elements to use. Clickable infographics, for instance, take up less space than if you were to sprawl every data point across the page. And, of course, these options extend to the end-reader of the document: they can provide data on which are the most engaging, how the customer uses them.
Communications featuring dynamic documents like these cannot be without an organized workflow to create and deliver it.
2. Complex Workflow: Employ an End-to-End CCM Solution
End-to-end solutions cater to several points of customer demand; but the core of the issue is not the specific medium you’re serving – it’s in the options, again, the autonomy you’re giving a customer.
Customer communications are high-level, and the higher things get, the more abstract they appear (where’s the octopus head start, anyway?). So rather than saying your customers need SMS or email delivery to be happy (as if we were favoring a single leg on an octopus), we should instead address the need for autonomy – customers need to be able to choose, and so of course, they need options. How is this provided for? That’s answered with these higher-level intangibles: Workflow, Governance, Controls.
This goes even deeper than the availability of choice, though; it’s about offering an easy way to cope with it. Without controls, you have complex processes serving complex demands, which really only sounds like a fit – this is where we distinguish complex and complicated, once again. A solution can be complex without being difficult. In performing a card trick you would tell your volunteer to pick a card, in which case it probably makes more sense to hold the deck out in a conventional fan-shape than to drop them in a messy pile on the floor. A complex solution is certainly needed to serve complex demands; but behind it needs to be a streamlined, straightforward process.
I’m imagining an IT department at the helm of your document production, cross-skilling between the financial, marketing, and regulatory aspects when they would ideally be giving more time to what they are known for – managing the technical aspects of the templates themselves. This is complicated. The workflow that lends itself to a complex, uncomplicated document production solution is specialized, with strictly delegated roles.
Tasks must be separated into controlled environments, with separate departments focusing exclusively on their strengths. For this to happen, the process needs to expand from the IT department and become a high-level initiative. Separate, controlled environments need oversight, and delegation needs to essentially be the medium that speaks to the complex demands.
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3. Complexity: See the Big Picture
Digital delivery costs less (and is probably read more) than print. Omni-channel presence fully accounts for customer preferences. Delegation and governance are the end of cross-skilling, and the beginning of organized data for clear, consistent communications.
This all boils down to one phrase: business process management, which can also be called “workflow integration”. As you probably know, this is essentially the top-down mode of document creation that we’ve been alluding to. If we’re going to engage customers today – such an abstract, high-level term – non-technical business stakeholders need to be involved with customer communications just as much as the technical teams. This requires addressing complexity in the following areas:
- Business rules: Stakeholders need to be armed with the capability to manage customer communications policies through a convenient, natural user interface.
- Digital Assets: Storing these in a central location means you can update elements in hierarchical fashion, from the master template, with no redundancy.
- Touchpoints: Address the complexity of customer needs by including a variety of digital interactions within your print, email, or mobile communications.
We can hopefully “trim the fat” from our customer communications management, streamline our document production processes in such a way that no resource goes untapped. Document automation can happen quickly, in batch or on demand, to delivering to all available channels to support end-to-end customer relationship.
Your customers have complex communication needs. Unifying your voice, developing consistency in colors, emblems and other assets is a complex ordeal. But none this has to be complicated.