This article appears in the Spring 2019 digital issue of DOCUMENT Strategy. Subscribe.

Image by: Victoria Bee, ©2019 Getty Images

As we bring our document applications into the omni-channel era, it’s critical to understand several important questions before starting any major redesign of your customer communications.

Why Is the Communication Being Sent?

These days, communications should no longer be initiated by the enterprise on their own schedule. Instead, it’s important to understand why each communication is being sent in the first place. This requires the design of an integration-friendly system that responds and reacts to customer demands. As a result, you must be open to application programming interface (API) calls conducted by other systems (for such tasks as credit scoring, data validation, data acquisition, ad targeting, and digital signatures) across all the channels you support.

It’s also necessary to have systems that store and supply information on the customer’s channel of choice for a particular interaction. For example, if we’re talking about your call center applications, you probably also have interactive voice response (IVR) systems. However, for this to work, you need to integrate all the contextual data across the various systems used—even those that you acquired from other companies. To further boost the customer experience (CX), look at how you can automate the most cumbersome interactions with robotic process automation (RPA) systems, since many customer-initiated communications are repeatable and can be automated.

Who Is Going to Receive the Communication?

Organizations should also determine who is going to receive the communication and what needs they might have. To conform to legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the communication must be designed for screen readers and meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 compliance for web and mobile presentations. This requires knowledge of HTML 5 standards as they apply to the end user experience in each channel.

Similarly, styles across the entire business need to be managed and checked if the channel preferences are overridden by a customer’s need state. For example, an auto insurer may prefer the mail channel, but the customer certainly won’t when they are pulled over for speeding. Designing for inclusivity requires greater efficiency with your content management strategy, ensuring the channel-specific format is an attribute of a single design for the communication whenever possible.

It’s important to understand where the customer is on their journey, which means opening up access to the archive system for all of your customer-facing employees. If the customer can see all of their relevant communications—from email to phone to paper to web page—so should the customer service representative assisting them.

What Devices Are Presenting the Communication?

Omni-channel means you are working across channels, so it’s crucial to know the requirements of the device. Is the screen large or small? If it’s small, what are the elements that can be moved down or removed? To meet these challenges, responsive design must be considered to understand the way design elements interact in a variety of form factors.

With design becoming more flexible, it’s important to reuse content elements as much as possible, so investing in your content management system becomes critical. Channel-based formatting should be an attribute of a great omni-channel design, not something designed and maintained on a per-channel basis. Organizations should also consider designing a preview infrastructure that reduces the cost of compliance by creating an easy markup and approval process for your expensive legal and compliance review team.

Where Is the Data Coming From and Going To?

We find that one of the toughest questions for organizations to answer is, “Where is the data coming from and going to?” This is because the answer may not be readily available. No matter what business you’re in, data privacy and security regulations are coming for you. Even if you aren’t forced by regulations to pay increasing attention on security, you should still be motivated by new stories of major breaches occurring every day.

To deliver omni-channel communications, you must know where all your data is coming from, where it’s being stored, and who has access to it. When well-intentioned people from marketing want to use a new service that scores leads, you have to know the policies on how each piece of customer data is managed.

It’s clear that we must build our technology tools to support the maximum flexibility of design and delivery with as little complexity and vulnerability as possible. The only way to achieve this level of coordination is to simplify the underlying technology stack, because we all know architectural complexity exponentially grows with organizational complexity.

Scott Draeger is Vice President of Customer Transformation at Quadient. His broad experience includes helping clients improve customer communications in over 20 countries. Follow him on Twitter @scottdraeger.

Bjorn Hildahl is the Head of Digital Experience for Quadient. With deep experience in a wide variety of platforms and technologies, he has helped define and drive the mobile revolution in the financial sector for Fortune 500 companies. For more information, visit
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