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Powerful Communications Tools
Transforming customer relationship data.
Posted May 1, 2007
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Most large companies have made sizable investments in implementing CRM. However, there is still a significant disconnect between the information stored in these systems and the vital role this data could play in the generation of communications that improve customer profitability. Some CRM data is used in customer interactions, but few organizations systematically use the information to drive the content of all their customer communications. The challenge has been one of capturing the data to making it broadly actionable. This has required too much human interaction to be viable in the past. New tools are enabling companies to gain greater control over the automated generation of highly personalized, contextual, and compliant documents and correspondence. These tools are also allowing companies to use all available channels to communicate with their customers via their preferred communication method. Some financial institutions are pioneering these tools while organizations across other industries are noting the developments. Financial institutions touch their customers in the letters, statements, and transaction-based reports they send on a daily basis. Typically, these are printed and delivered through traditional channels. But with these new tools, pioneers in the banking world are leveraging highly contextual information, and are communicating it through personalized correspondence via the customer's preferred communication method, be it email, the Web, or SMS messaging. Notably, these pioneers are realizing that delivering correspondence via the customer's preferred communication method is not just a simple formatting exercise where traditional paper-based communications are simply repurposed across other delivery channels. Different channels also require different content and even different styles of communication. This signifies a key difference in the realm of document generation. Traditionally, document generation technologies have been deployed departmentally; however, companies are realizing that these technologies should be leveraged across the enterprise. Hence, relationship communications is the new enterprise approach to managing customer data and the myriad of interactions with customers. By automating the process and linking it to CRM or transaction data, companies can establish true relationship communications that create deeper bonds with their customers.
Relationship communications move beyond customer segmentation and segment-specific messaging to leverage each customer's unique data to develop individually personalized communications. The information customers need to make communications highly personalized and contextual is in the transactional and CRM systems. But the challenge has been to extract this information from the various systems in an efficient, automated way, and incorporate it into the various documents and correspondence. Enterprise Communications does just this. It begins with open standards and service-oriented architectures that enable rapid integration with existing CRM and transactional systems. Once integrated, enterprise communications architectures (ECAs) transform this information into highly personalized, highly effective relationship communications. The ideal solution applies complex business logic to automatically assemble relationship communications that interprets the transactional data and customer information from the various business systems. While the CRM solution or transactional business system automatically triggers the generation of a relationship communication, logic prescribes the construction of an individual customer correspondence, automatically assembling the various content and customer data, properly formatting it for delivery through a specific channel or channels, applying corporate branding guidelines, and even inserting customer-specific offers. Personalized communications requires the ability of customers to manipulate the content of each correspondence at a highly granular level. This may include incorporating customers' language preferences and tailoring all marketing messages to their demographic, all tailored to meet the nuances of the customer's preferred communication channel. Improving Time to Market One of the most critical benefits of automating a firm's communications processes is improving the time to market of a particular product. With manual communications processes, it often takes too long to develop and deliver a document to the customer. In financial services, for example, market conditions change or a more nimble competing organization could deliver a more enticing offer, faster. The same is true of one-day sales offered by retailers with e-commerce capabilities. But by tightly integrating ECAs with existing business systems, companies automatically include changes in rates, terms, and conditions; compliance mandate and other critical business information. Relationship communications must meet corporate standards and regulatory requirements for disclosures rather than leaving these details for individual clerical workers or customer service representatives. Compliance with corporate brand guidelines is also vitally important to ensure that each correspondence has a consistent look, feel, and content. Therefore, to unlock the value from the legacy customer information systems, financial institutions and other companies must develop an ECA that enables them to better automate and control how they produce relationship communications. Lasting relationships are based on meaningful dialogue and effective relationships. Companies must not fail to take into account the vital role their customer communications play in building lasting relationships. The approach outlined here enables companies to produce correspondence that is more relevant to their customers, in an automated environment that is mindful of compliance and the multichannel preferences of their customers. About the Author Christopher McLaughlin is CMO at Thunderhead. Please visit www.thunderhead.com.
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