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Part 7: Seeing the Tree for the Forest

BY Chris Miller

One could argue that the vast majority of customer touchpoints today are already unique variations.  Think of the bills, statements and other correspondence, that go out today containing your unique address, and an accounting of the items owed or paid by you.  Like a fingerprint, it seems that no two touchpoints are alike.   And it’s true, but when it comes to touchpoint variations, we’re not talking about the magic of mail merge of similar content integration.

When we talk about touchpoint variations and the challenges associated with it,  we mean that for a given touchpoint, like a statement, the messaging being presented to one customer can and in many cases should be fundamentally different than another. And that the deeper we get into giving our customers a targeted, relevant experience of our products and services, the more variations we’ll generate.

So what are some of the drivers of variation?  In many industries, especially those regulated by state and federal jurisdictions, geography can play a major role in defining what you can and cannot say, as well as what you must say to customers, based on location. Program or product ownership can also play a role in what needs to be communicated — after all, a basic cardholder is a different audience than a platinum cardholder, as an example.  Branding requirements are also critical for many businesses who provide private-label billing or touchpoint fulfillment services. Geography, ownership and branding form perhaps a core set of variation requirements which lead to large volumes of variation, but when you layer on relevance — communicating to customers as individuals with unique needs, expectations, and aspirations — touchpoint variations get driven to a new level altogether and the numbers increase exponentially.

With variations, you’re not just faced with managing the content and the rules around them, but also the challenge of seeing what I call the tree – the individual variation – and even the glen – a subset of variations — for a massive dense forest of messaging.  In the Touchpoint Messaging 1.0 world, you get two views: 1) you generate an ever-growing forest of messages and rules without any easily discernible context of an individual touchpoint variation, or 2) you divide touchpoint variations into distinct, separately-managed touchpoints. The challenge with the former is that you still can’t see the trees for the forest, and onboarding new variations just add to the confusion and make development and test cycles even more onerous. The challenge with the later is that you’re no longer managing the lifecycle of a single touchpoint template, rather many hundreds or even thousands of individual touchpoint versions, which makes maintaining common content across touchpoints that much more difficult or even impossible.  It’s not an easy nut to crack, but there is a solution.

In Touchpoint Messaging 2.0, you should expect your platform to offer a well-defined model for managing and viewing touchpoint variation. To truly get the value and efficiency of driving variations through a common touchpoint design template, and managing that forest of messages and rules behind it, you need the ability to filter and create intuitive slices of variation (whether trees or glens!) that represent different views of your customers or your client’s customers touchpoints.  It also means that for content that is identical across multiple variations, you should be able to edit in one place,  at one time, and have it cascade or be represented in all of the variations that leverage that same content.  In other words, you need to take advantage and demand intuitive, intelligent content management models, especially ones that provide the right views for review and verification, before you send them out.

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