Getting Control of Customer Communications Across the Enterprise Delivers Bottom-Line Impact

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Everyone in business is focused on doing more with less. Organizations continually look for ways to cut costs and streamline processes while still maintaining profitable growth. Most organizations also face much more serious strategic and operational challenges to drive growth.


Customer satisfaction and customer loyalty have a major effect on revenue and profitability. Studies have shown that a key factor affecting loyalty is the relevance and clarity of the communications customers receive.


That relevance is often based on an enterprise's ability to communicate with the customer based on a total view of the relationship. It is not uncommon for customers to have multiple relationships with a company. For example, a customer may have checking and savings accounts, mortgages, home equity loans and retirement funds with one financial services provider.


These customers naturally expect the organization to have a single, unified view of their relationship, including all their accounts and interactions. They expect communications to encompass the whole relationship. But that's not what typically happens. For example, how many times have you received offers in the mail for a service or product you've already purchased?


More often than not, inside the organization the customer is really a fragmented series of loosely related profiles across various systems. And 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.


The relevance of communications also is intimately tied to a company's ability to deliver innovative communications within a short time. Cross-selling, upselling and customer relationship management programs all depend on speed to market and a company's ability to treat different customers differently. Old technologies, new regulations like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and HIPAA requirements, and an ever-expanding landscape of delivery media create many challenges to communicating effectively.


One way to get a leg up in this demanding business environment 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 an integrated content architecture that lets organizations produce and deliver fully personalized, consistent and relevant communications through multiple print and electronic channels.


Enterprise personalization lets LOBs maintain and create content for mission-critical customer communications, reducing reliance on IT and driving the timely delivery of documents through production print/mail, on demand and interactive delivery channels.


Any organization for which customer communication is mission critical needs a well-defined strategy for communicating cost-effectively, accurately and consistently with customers across all touch points. But implementing such a strategy can be a huge challenge, especially when it is common to have silos of information distributed across the enterprise, each with different customer data, business systems, regulatory content, workflows and delivery channels.


A successful enterprise personalization strategy protects the current IT investment, eliminates integration risks and provides a common architecture for creating accurate, timely customer communications across the enterprise.


Keys to success. Developing and executing an enterprise personalization strategy that addresses the important issue of communicating effectively with customers across all touch points requires a solution that lets your business grow and adapt to changing market requirements. Here are things to consider when determining the best enterprise personalization solution for your organization:


1. Robust functionality is key. To meet the enterprise personalization objectives of the organization, robust and sophisticated 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 -- and it should streamline the process of creating personalized communications. 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 and targeted offers.


To ensure consistency across all enterprise output, the solution should let you create any type of document quickly and easily. It should track what materials went out, when they were sent and to whom, as well as customer responses to offers and requests for information. 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 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 proceed in manageable, prioritized phases. Think big, but start with mission-critical communications like bills, notices and other important correspondence. Ensure the solution provides a collaborative authoring environment and meets the needs and varying usability requirements of every department that will use it, from marketing to operations to IT.


Ensure that the solution provider offers flexible and comprehensive training and consulting services, especially for LOB staff, marketing and customer service -- they should be your biggest users. Then, consider the applications and needs of suppliers, consultants and outside salespeople, all of whom have a stake in the company's success.


4. Deliver the right information through the right channel. An effective enterprise personalization solution needs multichannel delivery capabilities, allowing 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 rep 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 that want on-demand personalized and relevant information directly from your Web site.


5. Differentiate communications. Smart companies focus on creative ways to retain and grow 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 different customer categories and lets you manage personalized content for cross-sell and upsell opportunities on routine business correspondence.


The solution also should prioritize which messages are included in a document to maximize use of valuable real estate and have automated cost-control features to ensure you stay within budget.


The benefits are quantifiable -- in more ways than one. The right enterprise personalization solution can provide the foundation to strengthen relationships with customers across all contact points -- print, electronic and interactive. And because it provides a single, streamlined solution that uses the most up-to-date information, communications are consistent, reach customers faster and are relevant to their interests.


By providing a whole view of the customer, companies can use mission-critical documents -- like statements, bills, enrollment kits and correspondence -- to cross-sell and upsell products and services, and LOBs can reinforce brand identity and representation of the organization.


Companies that have implemented a successful enterprise personalization solution reduce customer churn, enjoy stronger brand identity, 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.


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