Achieving Customer Communications Nirvana

By | March 28, 2011

“Right message, right time, right medium” is the mantra that we’ve been hearing regarding the need to make communications more relevant, personalized, and tailored to a person’s interests and preferences. One area where we’ve seen increased focus on applying this concept is in the area of customer communications, which encompasses informational, transactional, and promotional communications that are sent from an organization to its customers across a variety of mediums. More and more, those three applications of customer communication are converging, all while organizations are striving to deliver better overall customer experiences across every touchpoint with those customers.

While working to achieve higher relevance  with customer communications can have effective results, aligning both business strategy and technology continues to be challenging. Walls need to be broken down between key departments like IT, marketing, public relations, and customer service to have uniform understanding of goals with customer communication, as well as to open up information sharing. At the same time, technology also needs to be aligned, integrated, and leveraged to meet customer communications goals, and needs to be user-friendly enough for business users to easily utilize it. Aligning the right business units with each other can ensure the right technologies are used for the right application and valuable information is driving those applications.

The customer communications technology landscape itself continues to evolve as companies continue to strive for better ways to execute on their communications strategies. Overall customer experience and engagement has become one of the pillars of the business technology IT stack, and communications is a big part of that. From call center management to CRM tools and content management systems, technology is being aligned to deliver consistent, relevant, and ultimately satisfying customer experiences.

This technology stack also includes tools that enable increasingly multi-channel output, including print, e-mail, text messages, and even Web presentation. We would traditionally categorize these tools as “document composition,” although over the past five years, many of these systems have greatly expanded in scope to manage and output communications across a variety of channels. In addition, as large, enterprise IT vendors have continued to help transform customer communications for their clients, they’ve needed to leverage document composition technology to manage the “last mile” of communications output to the customer.

Because of this need, we’ve seen a spate of acquisitions of document composition technology providers by enterprise-scale vendors:

  • 2004: Pitney Bowes acquires Group1 Software
  • 2008: EMC acquires Document Sciences
  • 2008: Oracle acquires Skywire Software
  • 2008: HP acquires Exstream Software
  • 2009: FIS acquires Metavante
  • 2010: OpenText acquires StreamServe

In general, these acquisitions serve as a way to support broader objectives of enabling businesses to execute customer communications in a more seamless way. Even those vendors that remain independent maintain partnerships with large-scale vendors and have worked to ensure that their technology can integrate with a wide variety of third-party systems.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that no single technology is going to be able to enable communications that achieve the concept of “right person, right time, right medium”. Enterprise IT vendors have realized this, and have grabbed many key output technology players to integrate that component with other systems in a modular way. Businesses need to be thinking the same way: leverage the right technology where appropriate and make sure it aligns with an overarching customer communications strategy. Achieving relevance and value through delivering a great end-to-end customer experience is more attainable than ever, but it requires goal-driven business and technology alignment to realize.

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