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Over the last decade, hundreds of billions (maybe even trillions) of communications have left our industry. It didn’t happen all at once. It happened a little at a time—one project at a time. The effects were often too small to make us curious enough to search for the underlying cause. Now, many of us find ourselves on the losing side of history, turning to LinkedIn to look for positions that no longer exist. Where did these communications go? How did it happen? How can you win them back?

Where they went
Since the release of the iPhone in 2007, many types of communications have been using smartphones and tablets to augment, improve, or replace document experiences. Paper, portal, and email communications have been migrating to native mobile apps, responsive websites, text messages, social networks, and notifications. As tablets became popular in 2010, the larger screens allowed for more traditional channels to migrate to another portable digital device. These communications migrated to new devices one interaction at a time, as soon as they became more convenient for the recipient.

There are billions of these smart devices out there, and over a billion new ones ship every year.
While we cannot be certain, it is reasonable to assume that more smart devices are shipped than the number of existing mailboxes. This is because much of the world’s population is near a reliable signal. The shipment numbers, the download figures from application marketplaces, and short message service (SMS) volumes all point to a world where a variety of devices are available to receive communications that were only available in a print-based format 20 to 25 years back.

If there were only three billion of these devices (there are more), each device would have to have made roughly 350 total communications (notifications, statement views, SMS confirmations, or app views) each to total a trillion communications. I know I check my phone several hundred times a month. I am guessing this is typical for you as well, so a trillion communications is entirely possible to attribute to these devices.

How it happened
On the consumer side, this is really a collection of millions of small stories, each occurring hundreds of times across a person’s individual devices. In their minds, these communications left our area of focus when one person wanted to try a mobile statement because they saw a link on the web portal. Others left when a new social network sprouted up and friends “liked” a mobile-only service. Tens of thousands left when the convenience of mobile browsing was “good enough” compared to other channels. Millions more left when a new smartphone launched. Again, millions left when new smartphone and tablet operating system (OS) upgrades were released.

Mostly, this was accelerated by the parallel trends of user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX), a focus that looked at how to improve experiences for end users as more things became digitized. Consumers became aware that experience was a differentiator and would choose to use devices, channels, and social networks that offered improved experiences.

From a business perspective, investment in these programs often focused on social and mobile interactions, leaving out the bulk of existing communication experiences that occurred in the print, email, or portal channels. From a technical perspective, after these communications left our area of focus, they ended up in mobile backend as a service (MBaaS), rapid mobile app development (RMAD), omni-channel, mobile application development platform (MADP), and other analyst-tracked technology markets.

Internally, the projects managed by many DOCUMENT Strategy readers were not equipped to play offense against this trend, because these projects were started as experiments under marketing budgets instead of operational budgets. Initially, these projects were outsourced to specialist mobile and social media firms with experience. Over time, the skills either did not get developed internally or they became isolated in silos dedicated to mobile or social media communication.

Win them back!
While hundreds of billions of communications are finding new homes in other channels, it is not time to give up. There is opportunity in these fragmented experiences. Many organizations have realized that their customer experience executes across an uncoordinated set of projects, potentially leading to confusion and frustration. As a result, leading firms are hiring a customer experience officer (CXO), chief customer officer (CCO), or vice presidents of customer experience.

As these new roles develop, an increased importance is placed on the revenue and profit effects of customer experiences. Very quickly, these executives see that inconsistencies across channels need to be made consistent (and positive). This is where you can play a strong role. While you might not know the technical aspects of mobile communications, you offer the most legal and compliance context. You have the systems to access the data and content that are the sources of communications for any channel.

By looking at what you bring to the other channels, you can become an important player in your company’s CX strategy. You can guide the flow of information and content to each and every channel, using the context of regulations, governance, and best practices. Expand your participation by reaching out to the CXO team, and you will find yourself as a trusted advisor that can improve customer experience in every channel.

Scott Draeger is vice president of product management at GMC Software Technology, a provider of multi-channel and highly personalized document outputs for customer communications management. For more information, visit or follow him on Twitter @scottdraeger.

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