Six Key Elements of Your Customer Communications Management Initiative

So you’ve been tapped to lead your company’s customer communications management (CCM) initiative. The objectives may or may not be crystal clear, but you know you’ve got to:

  • Reduce the overall cost of producing documents and correspondence
  • Shorten the cycle time for content development and publication
  • Maintain or improve regulatory compliance
  • Improve the experience for your customers

You know you face many challenges, including silo-based business processes, “legalese”-filled documents that frustrate your customers, and tightly coupled legacy systems with embedded content and code that’s brittle and expensive to change. So how do you set yourself up to succeed?

To ensure success for your customer and your company, you need a strategy to put in place a program for CCM. Your strategy and program should include these six key elements:

CCM program

1. CCM Program

It is imperative that you operate your CCM program as an enterprise-class strategic initiative that includes senior-level sponsorship and appropriate governance. Doculabs’ extensive experience with clients indicates that bottom-up efforts driven by IT or Operations tend to fizzle out after the quick wins and the low-hanging fruit have been used up. To sustain momentum (and funding) for the duration of the effort, build the following principles into your CCM program:

  • Ensure a holistic approach across businesses and product areas.
  • Once you’ve developed your enterprise strategy, align the organizational leaders behind it and communicate broadly throughout all levels of the enterprise.
  • Build a consistent governance mechanism that enables diversity of approaches and actions, while still allowing these approaches and actions to remain aligned with strategic objectives and core tenets of the program.
  • A Center of Expertise (COE)-based approach helps consolidate skills and focus efforts on achieving business objectives within the CCM program.
  • Think of the customer first (especially if customer experience is a high priority). Evolve the focus of the program from publishing documents to creating an exceptional customer experience.
  • Consistent branding across products and delivery channels improves the engagement of the customer and enhances their overall experience.
  • Be aware that there are likely at least two or more other ongoing projects in the enterprise that will directly or indirectly affect customer engagement and experience. Align with these efforts, leverage each other’s work, and integrate wherever possible.
  • Build your business case with a 3- to 5-year time horizon. It’s taken 10-plus years to get to your current situation; it’ll take 3 to 5 years to fundamentally change how you communicate with your customers.

2. Roles and Responsibilities

Set up your Center of Expertise for success by clearly defining the roles and responsibilities to be contained within the COE and by documenting the boundaries of responsibility for groups and teams that exist external to the COE.

  • Roles within the COE should be consistently defined and at the enterprise level. Disjointed roles and task assignments will inhibit process improvement and consistency.
  • Standards and guidelines regarding customer voice and look and feel for communications should be owned and maintained within the Center of Expertise.
  • Focus on clear roles first, not jobs or titles. Individuals can and will play multiple roles.
  • Establish the relationships with other functional groups and ensure that boundaries and ownership are clearly defined.
  • Multiple operating models can be successfully implemented for a CCM program. Choose the model that best fits your corporate culture and aligns with your business objectives.

3. Process

Multiple fragmented and manual processes are likely to exist across the various business units in your enterprise. Align on a consistent, high-level process that can be specialized where needed within specific areas.

  • Consistent processes across teams and product areas are a “must have” if you’re trying to create a consistent experience for your customer.
  • Ensure that process variations are enabled within the high-level framework to provide the flexibility that business units will demand.
  • Pilot the processes and work out the kinks before applying automation to drive consistency and efficiency.
  • Accountability for compliance should be built into the process, with the required minimum levels of review and approval.

4. Content and Rules

Remember that “content is king.” Your successful CCM project is only as good as the messages produced and the relevance and timeliness with which they are delivered.

  • Conduct a thorough analysis of your content at the document and component level. Don’t underestimate the effort and importance of this task.
  • Align your messages, content, and customer experience objectives across multiple dimensions.
  • Centralize storage of customer content and make it available to all participants in communications processes, as well as others who need access (Sales, Compliance, Customer Service).
  • Ensure that the standards for content usage within specific delivery channels and formats are well documented.
  • Integrate CRM and/or customer preference data to build the triggers and rules across the full customer experience lifecycle.

5. Technology

A portfolio of standard solutions to deliver multichannel communications is more successful than trying to force-fit onto one platform. The diversity of target platforms, devices, and delivery channels is growing more rapidly than ever. Define a consolidated platform and tools approach that balances the diverse needs with effective and efficient operations.

  • Your standardized architecture should define and include the core platforms and vendors that make up your communications portfolio.
  • Integration with other enterprise initiatives will be required to leverage consolidated views of customer data that inform and determine the events and triggers for your communications throughout the customer experience lifecycle.
  • Don’t let your technology and tools define or limit your capabilities. Technology decisions and product selections should be made only after the other aspects of the program have addressed.
  • Ensure that sales, service, and compliance retention and accessibility needs are met by storing communications for fast and easy retrieval. This will likely involve integration with an ECM system or systems.

6. Metrics

Plan broadly, but implement tracking and reporting based on your maturity and progress. You should grow into your metrics and reporting sophistication as you mature within the program.

  • Consider measuring performance in two big buckets: internal measures of productivity, quality, timeliness, etc.; and external measures of customer satisfaction and experience.
  • Establish the minimum metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) and start collecting data to establish baselines early.
  • Micro measures include unit cost, productivity by role or phase, content inventory and reuse counts, etc.
  • Macro measures include cost reductions and ROI, along with customer satisfaction scores, campaign results, and behavior changes at the external or customer-facing level.
  • Standardize internal metrics throughout the lifecycle.

Establishing baselines early (even if the results aren’t attractive) will enable you to proactively identify trends, as well as measure and manage continuous improvement.

Throughout our experience with many insurance and financial services clients, Doculabs has found these six critical elements to have a significant impact on the level of initial success for corporate CCM programs, as well as on their ability to sustain the program over time.

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Rich Medina
Tom Roberts
I’m a Principal Consultant for Doculabs with more than 25 years experience, focused on delivering strategies that improve clients’ enterprise content management capabilities, with an emphasis on customer communications management strategies.