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Getting Control of Customer Communications
The payoff can be substantial.
Posted Aug 1, 2005
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As companies expand their product and service offerings to become more competitive, it's quite common for customers to have multiple relationships within a company. For example, you may have checking and savings accounts, a mortgage, and a retirement fund with a single financial services provider. Not only is it more convenient to do business at one place, but you'll more than likely get preferential treatment for being a good customer. On the downside, the communications you receive probably won't reflect your whole relationship with the company. How many times, for instance, have you gotten offers in the mail for a service or product you've already purchased? And do you receive a consolidated statement of all your accounts or several statements on different days of the week? More often than not, inside the organization the customer is really a fragmented series of loosely related profiles. With different lines of business (LOBs) managing different accounts with different technologies, it's difficult for organizations to gain a 360-degree view of each customer. But without this complete view, organizations face diminished customer loyalty and weakened brand identity--and it shows in the inconsistent communications they send out. One way to overcome this problem is with an enterprise personalization solution designed to deliver timely and consistent customer communications with inherent value to the customer. Enterprise Personalization: What Is It and Who Needs It? Enterprise personalization is a common platform, or infrastructure, that allows organizations to produce and deliver coordinated communications through multiple print and electronic channels. It provides LOBs the ability to maintain and create content for customer communications, reducing reliance on IT and driving the timely delivery of documents through the customer's preferred channel. Any customer-focused organization needs a well-defined strategy for communicating cost-effectively, accurately, and consistently with customers across all touch points. A successful enterprise personalization strategy protects the current IT investment, eliminates integration risks, and enables your business to grow and adapt to changing market requirements.
Keys to Success Here are some things to consider when shopping for an enterprise personalization solution. 1. Robust functionality is a must. The solution must be able to easily integrate with your existing business systems--from legacy and CRM to the disparate information management systems in various LOBs. It must make it easy to develop and deploy new document applications, and it must allow you to get to market on a timely basis with relevant information. It should track what materials go out, when, and to whom, as well as customer responses. Subsequent communications should be automated so that your interactions are always relevant and meaningful. 2. Look for flexibility that allows you to grow. It is imperative to find a solution that is flexible enough to meet your current business requirements, as well as future needs that you might not even know of yet. You must feel confident that the vendor you select is a technology leader and will be a true partner, listening to and accounting for your needs through solution enhancements. 3. Think big, but move forward in manageable, prioritized phases. Think blue sky, but start out with a single, high-visibility application--like a bill redesign or call center correspondence that will deliver results. Ensure that the solution provider offers comprehensive training and consulting services, especially for LOB staff, marketing, and customer service--they should be your biggest users. 4. Deliver the right information through the right channel. An effective enterprise personalization solution must allow you to quickly build document applications that can be driven from any originating system and delivered to internal or external customers through any channel. For example, an outside sales representative might need to access product information from several corporate systems to quickly create a customized document to hand to the customer on the spot. And don't forget the growing group of customers who want personalized information directly from your Web site. 5. Differentiate communications. Smart companies focus on creative ways to retain and grow their top-tier customers, drive down the cost of communicating with the middle tier, and minimize the resources spent on the least valuable customers. Look for a solution that automates the process of differentiating communications based on customer categories, and allows you to manage personalized content for cross- and upsell opportunities on routine business correspondence. The Benefits Are Quantifiable--In More Ways Than One Companies that have implemented a successful enterprise personalization solution reduce customer churn, strengthen brand identity, substantially reduce the cost of creating and delivering customer communications, and introduce new products and services to a customer base more willing to buy. The payoff can be substantial. For many large companies, being more efficient and providing more effective communications can drive millions of dollars to the bottom line. About the Author Davis Marksbury is president and CEO of Exstream Software. Please contact Exstream at info@exstream.com or visit www.exstream.com
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