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Approximately, five years ago, there was an explosion of research, articles, blogs, and other commentary on the topic of customer experience (CX). Working for a customer communications management (CCM) solution provider and traveling the globe to share CCM concepts with banks, insurers, and service providers, I started to notice that new stakeholders were appearing in these meetings—people for whom CX was going to become a priority.

The Early Days of CX

Initially, the talk about CX within verticals was just light chatter about business efficiency with a customer experience spin. I heard more about achieving cost reduction through forms digitalization than a true focus on the experience component. However, the excitement grew quickly, as companies were beginning to recognize there were strong business benefits attached to these projects. In 2012, I even saw a leader at a major bank who was barred from using any type of paper to do his work. It wasn’t nearly as easy as you might think. Back then, batteries didn’t last all day, so he was constantly charging things in his quest to digitize bank processes.

The next round of evolution involved using CCM technology to remove redundant data entry steps for customers and prospects. This marked a shift in considering the customer perspective, and phrases like “remove frustration,” “save time,” and “streamline the application process” started to become more common.

As the chatter got louder, the conversation became even more focused on the customer. Leading organizations were starting to place greater emphasis on consistency across their communication portfolios. However, as organizations became aware of the large number of disparate silos that existed in their organizations—such as data storage, communication archiving, operational ownership, and compliance—many were frustrated by the new channels that were added to the mix at an alarming rate to please customers. The customers noticed every inconsistency between the channels and call volumes increased. Worst of all, complaints now were seen by tens, hundreds, or thousands of their friends on social media channels.

The Fight for Communication Consistency

While all this was happening at the enterprise level, the leading CCM vendors were also talking about the importance of consistency of customer communications. In 2014, I was part of a scoping exercise for the newest version of our CCM software portfolio. Our team extensively researched the people and departments that would be using CCM in 2017 to 2020.

The new stakeholders, who had been showing up in those meetings a few years earlier, were now being recognized by Gartner in its research on chief digital officers (CDOs) and in Forrester's research on CX. As we thought about how these personnel changes would affect CCM going forward, we began to realize that the customer experience—and the user experience—needed to be addressed in future software innovation.

The challenge was how to deliver excellent customer experiences despite the existing silos, separate information technology (IT) systems, and compliance systems. "Talking the talk" was not enough. It wasn't a problem that could be left to organizations to sort out internally. It was well past time for CCM vendors to "walk the walk" by creating capabilities within their CCM solutions to help enhance communication consistency for an improved customer experience.

The road to any successful venture is sometimes rocky, and that has certainly been the case when it comes to achieving communication consistency. As touchpoints fragmented across channels, projects became split. Mobile started gaining priority, sometimes without regard for the other channels. Mobile application development platforms (
MADP), rapid mobile application development (RMAD), and outsourced digital agencies started replicating CCM jobs as small content elements in larger mobile applications. This added risk and endangered consistency.

But CCM innovators responded with solutions such as omni-channel proof files that allowed organizations to visually compare print, web, email, mobile, and other outputs side-by-side. This allowed designers, project owners, and compliance experts to visually ensure that the communications were consistent with one another and optimized for the channel used. This enabled CCM to ensure the consistency that the mobile-first/mobile-only approach was putting at risk.

Next on CCM’s trajectory was creating consistency across the entire customer journey. CCM solutions, often narrowly project-focused rather than comprehensively portfolio-focused, were bringing single touchpoints to new channels, but they needed to take it one step further. Collaboration tools were needed to encourage consistency across all touchpoints. It was at this point that an “aha” moment occurred. A connection between CCM and CX must be forged.

User Experience Enters the Scene

While organizations strive to deliver CCM and a great CX for customers who receive, send, and interact with communications (i.e., the consumer), it has also become clear that a great CX is equally critical for those using the CCM solution. That means that the CCM portfolio has to provide a consistent customer and user experience for all the people who interact with it. In other words, technology again had to step up and "walk the walk," not just "talk the talk."

The challenge today is that most CCM portfolios are cobbled together from old products, old acquisitions never integrated, new acquisitions not likely to be integrated, and multiple islands of technology that will never properly interoperate with other pieces of the portfolio. To deliver consistency in customer experience, a successful solution must be consistent itself.

As you identify opportunities for combining CCM and CX, it’s important to understand and seek out providers and solutions that are finding a way to “walk the walk,” not just “talk the talk.” If you are not willing to demand consistency, you may well not be able to deliver it.

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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