Creating a Multichannel Delivery Strategy

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Traditional print communicators are at a crossroads. They must reach new and existing customers through such ever-increasing contact points as e-mail and kiosks. Yet they also must provide more individualized information.


Perhaps most challenging of all, they must ensure that messages are relevant and communicated consistently across all contact points. Effective management of interaction with customers and prospects is becoming a critical part of business strategies.


The e-generation, today's fastest-growing consumer market, wants information on demand and in real time. Greater convenience is driving them to alternative channels such as online self-service and e-fulfillment. But research shows that paper-based communications, as well as personal interaction, remain critical to consumers. According to one survey, use of the Internet for monthly business-to-consumer communications will not equal mail until 2020.


For some industries, such as financial services, insurance and retail, multichannel communication demands are coming very quickly. Customer communication used to occur monthly, when statements were sent; now, the rate of interaction has accelerated. Many customers log on or expect a daily e-mail. And when they go online for a transaction, they expect an updated statement seconds later. Response rate becomes more urgent. Communications through all contact points must be relevant based on the last customer contact, wherever it occurred. Customers are also intolerant of information they don't need.


Along with statements, the Web and other routine business correspondence, customer contact points include branch offices, ATMs and other kiosks, customer service call centers, outside sales representatives, e-mail, faxes and direct mail.


Self-service operations - from checking bank balances at ATMs to paying for gas at the pump to requesting auto insurance online - let companies deliver services more efficiently and cost-effectively. Personalized information must be delivered consistently across all these channels, too.


What happens if a customer completes a transaction via the Internet, yet your next mailed statement doesn't reflect the change? Channels must be synchronized, and responses need to be automatic, through both print and electronic channels.


Managers should ask specific questions to identify a multichannel model that delivers consistent, relevant messages to customers across all touch points. The information systems or operations team must determine what platforms and applications are involved and which channels must collaborate. Many print operations are MVS, while the Internet environment is UNIX or NT.


When determining what multichannel strategy is right for your operations, consider how you will handle:


o Developing efficient documents for ease of use, quick time to market and multimedia delivery.


o Integrating multiple format standards for electronic documents such as PDF and XML.


o Maintaining the processing speed required for personalized messaging and complex applications.


o Managing consistent document appearance across different media.


o Integration of a central set of messages used to personalize communications.


o Delivering color output across multiple media.


o Integrating, re-purposing and adding content to legacy documents.


Cost, customer preference, speed and other factors all determine the necessary channels. A careful multichannel strategy combined with the right technology ensures the most appropriate channels to strengthen customer relationships and build business.


Greater marketing opportunities are some of the best reasons to implement a multichannel strategy. The ability to cross-sell and to build stronger relationships across print and electronic channels are critical to staying competitive, especially in industries like banking, telecommunications and retail, where customer churn can reach 30 percent.


Because of the Internet, it is easier than ever for customers to move their business elsewhere. Business communications must be leveraged to make it more convenient and valuable for customers to stay with you.


Today, time to market is measured in hours, so it is critical to bring marketing into the development process early. Marketing historically has been locked out of complex composition technology. As a result, companies miss chances to connect with customers through traditional business communications like statements and general business correspondence.


Effectively managing message delivery requires tracking all messages sent to all customers through all channels. This requires a centralized database to store information about all touch-point interactions so communications can be consistent and relevant.


How will you track across multiple channels? Monitoring and evaluating campaigns is never easy, and is even more challenging when you multiply the media. Digital content, automation and intelligent archiving have made it easier to track, report and analyze the results of a multichannel delivery infrastructure. Marketing can establish important tracking mechanisms early on to help campaigns achieve maximum revenue.


Organizations want to automate and control one-to-one communications across the enterprise, but how will everyone know what other departments are sending to customers? Companies considering multichannel strategies should avoid dividing applications across media or creating islands of messaging. An enterprise-wide delivery strategy demands a total view of all customer touch points.


Consistent messaging over multiple channels can reduce confusion and inquiries to call centers. Given an average of $8 to handle each call, this is a chance to reduce costs. Tie your call centers into the same campaigns and messages customers receive. This accelerates call handling and ensures that productive conversations take place.


Multichannel delivery can encompass not only externally destined documents, but internal applications as well. All documents and content within an enterprise are fair game for consideration. If this is part of your goal, be sure to allow for mainframe and Windows users.


As companies stand at the crossroads of information delivery, everyone's choices are expanding rapidly. A good multichannel delivery strategy helps control and empower communications, but is flexible enough to leverage new opportunities for strengthening customer relationships.


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