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    It should come as no surprise that data is a critical component in customer communications management (CCM). Given the amount of time consumers spend on computers and smartphones, personal data is collected from almost every activity we do each day. For companies that create customer communications, the importance of data is obviously not a new concept; however, many organizations face a significant challenge when it comes to extracting relevant data from source systems.

    The Bottom Line

    To create personalized, relevant, and timely communications in real time, the data needs to be available in real time.

    At Madison Advisors, we work with many large enterprise clients that have multiple lines of business, each with a unique set of core systems. These core systems contain a significant amount of customer and transaction data and are associated with output files in a variety of data formats. The output files become the input for the document composition process. Since these files are not standardized, data preparation and manipulation processes are typically needed to create a standard input file structure. Preparing the data in this way for effective use in customer communications is a critical first step in the document generation life cycle.

    Effectively capturing customer and transaction data is crucial. In addition to being used in the document composition process, this data is also used for executing business rules that drive variable content, which may include blocks of regulatory text, geographic or lifestyle-specific images, QR codes, or other links to external sources. Well-executed variable content is the key to personalizing communications with marketing or promotional information relevant to the recipient.

    In addition to customer account and transaction data, marketing departments maintain separate databases with information such as consumer behavioral data that helps marketers understand the drivers for purchasing decisions and life event data, such as the birth of a child or purchase of a new home. This event-based data is necessary to gain insight for expanding existing customer relationships with promotional product information and targeted marketing messages that are used in customer communications.

    Delivery preference data that indicates how consumers want to receive communications is yet another important component of CCM. Customer contact information, such as postal and email addresses, mobile phone numbers, as well as delivery preferences at the customer or document level, should be captured and stored. This data is often used during the document composition process to optimize the content of the output based on the desired delivery channel.

    Data in Real Time

    Given the rapid rate at which new data is captured—and the fact that this data is being locked in numerous legacy core systems and separate databases maintained by business units, along with corporate marketing departments operating in silos—it is no wonder that managing and extracting data continues to be a challenge for large organizations. Ownership and storage of the data is decentralized across the enterprise. However, to generate documents in real time, not only does this data need to be made available during the document composition process, but updates need to be reflected in real time as well.

    For example, some organizations give customers the ability to self-manage their contact and delivery preference information. These changes should be reflected immediately in order to generate and deliver communications to customers in real time. Additionally, while on the phone with a customer, customer service agents should be able to create documents with data obtained using interactive forms that allow for data capture. These communications should also be generated in real time and include personalized and targeted marketing messages that are pertinent to the customer and delivered based on a pre-determined channel of delivery.

    Generating and delivering documents in real time is a goal that organizations should be striving for, but the inability to access and capture all relevant data poses a continuing roadblock that must be overcome to attain this goal.

    For more information on real-time document creation and delivery, don't miss Gina's session at DSF ’17, May 1-3, 2017 in Downtown Chicago.

    Gina Ferrara is a Senior Analyst with Madison Advisors and provides advisory services to organizations in the financial services and service provider industries. Visit www.madison-advisors.com or follow them on Twitter @madison_advisor.