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Achieve Enterprise Efficiency and Effectiveness with Every Customer Communication

BY Patrick Kehoe

No matter what industry your organization is in, documents drive the fundamental functions that make your business run. In particular, customer communications of all kinds—from invoices and statements, to forms, disclosures, direct mail, marketing collateral and more—are created with the sole purpose of accelerating and facilitating the work of your organization.

While customer-facing documents have great influence on company performance as a whole, the management and control of their creation and distribution too often can be fragmented and isolated. Document strategies and investments in one area, such as customer statements, may be planned for and implemented independently of efforts to produce documents intended for other purposes, such as marketing, disclosure or support. It is very common for organizations to have multiple departments, multiple vendors and multiple systems in place for different document-related activities; each with its own unique workflow, decision-making processes and financial impact on the organization.

Do the document management processes at your organization deserve closer examination?

Despite the critical role customer-facing documents play in the success of any business, they rarely receive the same strategic attention as other fundamental activities within an enterprise. The following four questions can help identify whether your organization could benefit by taking a closer look at your document management processes:

  • Do the various stakeholders and business units involved in the communications process work in isolation from each other?
  • How well do your organization’s current document systems contain costs? Are they part of the problem, instead of part of the solution?
  • Does your organization have difficulty managing and optimizing the many legacy applications and systems that create your documents?
  • Does a simple change take weeks or months to implement?
  • Is it difficult to respond to demands for timely communications based on regulatory requirements, customer needs and market competition?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is “yes,” your organization might want to consider implementing a more strategic and holistic approach to customer communication management.

Establishing a Document Center of Excellence

Most critical functions within an enterprise typically have a center of excellence or a similar concept of central governance; legal, IT, marketing, research and development and human resources are common examples. However, despite the critical importance of customer experience to business success, enterprises often overlook the potential for a Document Center of Excellence (DCOE) to achieve better results with customer communications.

Creating a Document Center of Excellence requires bringing the right stakeholders, resources and process owners together in a forum that allows for greater control and governance over the organization’s documents and communications.

A DCOE is tasked with enabling the organization to develop and efficiently implement specific communications projects with high ROI, balancing longer-term strategic considerations with the realities of day-to-day document management operations. The goal of the DCOE is to ensure efficiency and cost savings in document systems, while fostering advanced strategies and techniques in customer communications that will result in a superior, revenue-generating customer experience.

Who should participate in a DCOE?

The DCOE should have cross-functional members so it has the right knowledge, skills, abilities and responsibilities necessary to address the many technical, process and business issues that often arise with producing customer communications. It is advantageous if the members include both in-house resources and third-party providers. A highly skilled, cross-functional DCOE team can promote the kind of innovation that results in competitive advantage through a creative, collaboration process grounded in the realities of maintaining efficient and effective operations.

As with any center of excellence, to succeed a DCOE needs to have executive buy-in and ongoing support. One way to ensure this high level sponsorship is to establish a DCOE steering committee that includes executive membership from all involved stakeholder departments. This cross-functional membership helps ensure that the perspective, objectives and activities of the DCOE align closely with the broad demands of daily operations and the critical technologies that make them work.

An integrated approach enhances every communication

One of the primary benefits of establishing a DCOE is that it can promote an integrated approach that can improve customer communications. The integration should marry both design and development. Document design is concerned with the aesthetic appearance of each document, the content it contains and the color and graphic elements that propel the message. Carefully considering these design elements is essential in order to realize the full communication potential of an organization’s documents. Development is concerned with bringing those designs to life in the operational world.

Mindful of both the design and delivery elements of customer communications, a DCOE can help the organization ensure documents are readable, understandable, delivered in a timely manner and elicit the desired response to a call to action. Harmonizing the needs of both document design and delivery in this way has great potential to enhance the customer experience.

Overcoming technology barriers

In many organizations, existing technologies and systems present a fundamental barrier to optimizing customer communications and achieving strategic results. A governing DCOE can help overcome these barriers by leading the difficult task of ushering in changes to processes and systems. Instead of planning strategies and investing in technology in isolation, a DCOE can ensure a more holistic approach to customer experience management and investments that lead to improved communications throughout the organization.

Moreover, without a DCOE, making changes to document content or design could take weeks or more to schedule, program test and implement. This lack of agility is an obstacle to improving customer experience, especially when multiplied across large volumes of communications with numerous versions and variations. By virtue of its structure, composition and governance role, the DCOE can work to reduce or remove common document workflow barriers while enabling business stakeholders to take a more proactive role in integrating documents into broader operational marketing programs and campaign strategies.

Striving for continuous improvement

One important task of the DCOE is to ensure results are centrally monitored. Lines of accountability should be established for measuring and tracking results and reporting back to the governing DCOE. For customer communications, key performance indicators may include time-to-market, customer satisfaction, response rate for calls to action and cost of delivery.

With the goal to “measure and improve” and acting on behalf of the organization, the DCOE is driven to make decisions based on facts and to design and select communication strategies grounded in real world measurement data. This continual pursuit will lead to additional activities that save money, strengthen every outbound customer communication—and achieve a higher return on investment.

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