We were given the opportunity to learn many lessons in 2020, probably more than we wanted to learn. Banks, insurers, healthcare providers, universities, retail, government and other industries had to make major adaptations using whatever tools they had available to accommodate the shift to remote working environments. Digital requirements accelerated. The need to produce customer communications with warp speed became the new norm.
With the surprise of all that behind us, it’s time to look at those lessons and translate them into the ability to create a nimble, effective and unified customer communications infrastructure that responds to change more readily. The question then becomes, “Where do I start?”
Some may look for a “quick win.” Customer communications are often looked at as a collection of projects, each one an island. It’s easy to find the ugliest project and spruce up the design for a quick win to meet urgent needs. Here are a few examples:
• Maybe an older project can be run through a converter, have a URL replaced and move it into a new archive system.
• Perhaps call center interaction is a candidate for digitalization in a new cloud offering to reduce service costs and improve the customer experience.
• Perchance there is an onboarding process that would benefit from an extra nudge from the CRM system to encourage early adoption.
Any of these examples could be great candidates for a quick win. You might deliver a big impact without breaking the budget. Fixing the problems caused by these situations could get you a well-deserved pat on the back. That’s great — it just may not last very long.
That is because solving a problem quickly may mean it isn’t solved holistically. If you adopt a system that’s “good enough” to design and deploy that particular communication, it may not be able to handle a more complex set of challenges that will arrive in the next week, month or year. Additionally, assembling a collection of communication systems means that your IT team will have to support the nuances of many separate systems over time, adding cost and complexity to the business.
These simple solutions often bypass critical internal steps for important procurement, IT security and legal reviews. While it may seem easy and cheap to quickly add in some simple services, you are subjecting your business to the terms and conditions of a click-through license that may violate key information or security provisions of your existing customer contracts.
There may also be a need for coordination of your solution with other critical systems. While it may seem easy to send a quick message to say, “Your service is temporarily down for routine maintenance,” if that message is not visible to the call center, it could easily result in confused call center employees, poor customer experience and increased follow-up costs to remedy the situation.
As the age of customer experience (CX) evolves, it is important to keep the bigger picture in mind. Abraham Lincoln said, “Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.” Let’s think about each customer communication in terms of what you want most, which is a portfolio of communications that supports your business goals.
The best way to think about all your customer communications moving forward (even the easy fixes) is to understand how they connect with other teams, other communications and other technologies within the business. In general, the following ideas are good reminders of what issues you—and the systems you choose—will most likely face and have to handle as you build the systems that will serve you well beyond 2021:
• You will be communicating with more customers more often
• Large numbers of messages will likely shift channels during an interaction
• Regulatory compliance timeframes will continue to shrink (to less than a week!)
• Content will change frequently due to business needs
• Content changes will need to be implemented instantly across all channels
• Compliance costs tend to increase when channels are added
• Customers expect self-service, but also escalation to agents with situational awareness
• The role of every communication should be understood in its customer context
Focusing on the bigger picture makes a difference in how your organization plans for this year and going forward. Remember that discipline is prioritizing the ultimate goal over temporary relief. Find your big win by taking a comprehensive inventory of the messages, systems, content, policies and processes in your organization. Reduce any unnecessary complexity, perhaps by removing redundant systems. As you look, you will likely find that a series of quick-win decisions over time prevent the big win that you need for your business and your career.