Many insurance and financial services companies are faced with the same sets of aspirations and issues related to improving the communications with their customer bases.
- Reduce the cost of publishing and distribution
- Increase speed to market for changes and new materials
- Improve ease of use and reduce “legalese”
- Personalize messages and content to improve relevance
- Provide consistent experience for customers across any and all consumption channels
- Incomplete or fragmented customer data
- Multiple non-integrated systems of record
- Tens of thousands of legacy documents in the inventory
- Multiple, distinct publishing processes
- Antiquated tools, with communications logic buried in code
Chances are your firm faces many, if not all, of the issues above, and yet has the aspirations of creating a best-in-class customer experience. So where do you start?
The common mistake is to blame the technology and focus on the tool and technology upgrade. But while technology and tools are likely a portion of the problem to be fixed, putting the focus here first tends to place too much emphasis on the mechanics of production and not enough focus on the “people” and “process” dimensions of the problem.
To avoid this trap, firms should approach their customer communications initiatives with a comprehensive program approach that includes people and process dimensions.
Focus on the People
Two distinct groups of people must be considered to effectively plan your communications program. First and foremost are your customers. Focus on what their needs are. What are their top frustrations? What does your market research tell you about customer expectations, as well as your gaps in meeting those expectations? Design your strategy with the customer at the forefront.
The second group of people is your internal employees. A fair and honest assessment of the skills and abilities of your existing staff is required. Have they got the right skills to improve the customer experience in what is written on how you communicate with the customer? Do they need additional training, or do you need an infusion of outside expertise? Are they empowered to communicate with the customer’s best interest first? Are the roles and responsibilities defined properly to enable you to successfully reach your objectives?
Many firms don’t address the human aspects of the problem. Then they wonder why the selected technologies have failed to live up to their billing.
Focus on the Process
At many firms, publishing and communications processes have developed and evolved in departmental silos over the years, creating a mix of processes, ranging from unmanaged to overly rigid and bureaucratic – processes that confuse the participants, slow production, and stifle service delivery. While a single process is rarely adequate for a large multi-product corporation, consolidating processes to a manageable set of streamlined processes with adequate controls is essential to enabling your staff to deliver the experience your customers demand. This manageable set of processes will also help ease and speed the technology implementation, as fewer processes will need to be supported within the technology stack.
Focus on the Technology
Finally, as your people and process dimensions are being addressed, you can look to putting the right tools in the hands of the empowered experts. An array of options exists that can be properly navigated only if you first understand your objectives and which people will be using the tools for which specific needs. Are you looking to empower business users with publishing tools, or are you content to keep most of the work in the hands of IT? Do you already have multiple tools in house? If so, do any of the in-house tools meet your needs? What are the most important features and functions of the technology solution requirements?
A comprehensive customer communications program approach will help to put each of these dimensions into perspective and enable you to develop a program that transforms your communications and the ways in which you interact with your customers. Only then are you likely to make the good technology investment decisions. Of course, program governance and executive support are essential ingredients to the program, too. We’ll address these items in subsequent posts. Till then, take a look at your people and process issues, before you start doing any vendor and technology research.