How To Connect the World You Don’t Control With the World You Do Control

Who is responsible for customer-centricity, Marketing or Management? According to a recent Thunderhead poll, 77% of business people polled said Management. And that explains the problem. Because while 80% of CEOs state that they offer a "great customer experience" only 8% of their customers agree.

Management doesn’t have a clue.

However, while Marketing, from the CMO down, tends to be the ultimate champion of the customer, a business can only be truly customer-centric if it becomes an organizational value and the responsibility of every single employee along the value chain. And that requires Management buy-in. Given the average shelf life of a CMO*, another champion within the organization is needed.

That is the conundrum. But we’ll get back to that in a moment.

It is the well-understood but still neglected “silo effect” – the lack of a cohesive, connected plan to interact across every line of business via all channels – that is apparently the key contributor of customer unhappiness with a business. That unhappiness—according to the World Insurance Report written by CapGemini—leads customers to seek an opportunity to do business elsewhere.

These silos exist between business units, between departments -- even between channels. Adding channels without coordinating new and established channels leads only to chaos. And chaos doesn’t work for your customers.

Because customer insight is also siloed, individuals within the company don’t have a complete view of the customer, don’t truly have a sense of the customer, which means no one is able to harness customer data and use it to inform more personal, relevant and valuable communication and experiences.

Upon further review, it was their lack of management of the central customer database or master file that was the problem here: no one updated it, no one managed it, no one shared it across the enterprise.  That data is the heart and soul and the life’s blood of your business. If it isn't regularly updated you have no heart, you have no soul, and your business is bleeding out. And so, a number of years ago, a concept called CCM was born.

Customer Communication Management (CCM) is more than the province of some document composition vendors with big money corporate backers. It is a global understanding of the customer based on the movement and updating of data and the metadata associated with each encounter with the customer. It is as much a philosophy as it is technology, and as much a corporate mindset as it is an IT-advisory group category. This is an area the CMO can lead the company. CCM encompasses many silos that are not the traditional bailiwick of the CMO: operations, finance, A/R, IT. For a CMO to be successful (and extend his or her tenure) the organization must be de-siloed.

Customer Communication Management

Because CCM is more than creating a document, composing a page, or linking CRM tools with the output process. CCM is the result of a deeper understanding of the entire ecosystem that contributes to the customer experience. It is a full understanding of the customer data and the environment that surrounds the experience of your customer with your brand. Regardless of whether it is paper or electronic, it is about having a full understanding of the whole round trip of the customer interaction from inception to call to delivery to remittance to the data source, which is then enriched or enhanced by the information gleaned from the encounter. From the testing of new customer-driven offers to the interaction of the recipient with the enterprise through the channel of their choice, much can be learned about the interaction to improve it for the next go ‘round.

Part of the difficulty with CCM -- that the bank in the story above and plenty of other organizations have -- is that the technology used to build those customer databases is old. The technology that drove that data into the print centers -- and now needs to drive it to print, web and mobile -- is old. In business, where euphemisms are as common as muck, it's called "legacy" equipment and "legacy" data. Legacy means old. In some cases, inherited. But definitely old.
How old? The people that architected that environment and designed those systems are long retired. Those tools were written in languages that they don’t teach anymore in computer classes. A CMO might expect Shakespeare -- but this stuff is ancient Greek. That’s how old.  

Transforming Data—And Your Organization

But now the legacy must be transformed into, or at least interfaced with, the new. Few organizations have this kind of legacy data expertise because the technology has outlasted the human resources that installed and maintained it. So to work with it, you need to first transform the data stream into something more usable and contemporary. You need someone who offers nearly 25 years of experience transforming, converting, manipulating, appending and working with the data, without rasterizing it or losing the metadata.

Also keep in mind that many of the processes affected by CCM are mission critical. Billing and statement cycles are too important to be interrupted by someone tinkering with the processes that create and produce the means by which organizations most often communicate, most reliably get revenue, and most appropriately use to gain further wallet share of each customer: the bill. So gaining access to data without disturbing the flow of customer communication is a value.

The result of the investments in CRM, ERP, web and mobile communication channels – plus mergers and acquisitions -- is a mishmash of old and new technology that doesn’t necessarily play well together and that doesn’t deliver on the promises of the big IT projects of a decade ago. Disjointed and unstructured data is continuously allowed to flow into an already bewildering mix of channels, siloes, databases, processes, initiatives, etc. Organizational silos combined with a proliferation of channels and customer touch points that are not connected and add little if anything to the knowledge base of the organization. If the data and metadata can’t add value to the knowledge base, the business struggles to connect with the customer. Valuable insights are simply lost. CMOs frankly lack the stature and tenure to do anything about it. And as a result you have a VP struggling to name the very customer he or she is on the phone with as in the example above.

Big Data offers Big Potential

But the good news is that this is the age of Big Data. That data repository can be used to store much, much more than just the customer’s name and address.  The customer database is used to build up a “persona” of who your customers are, and perhaps even what their buying habits are and, like, what time of day do they like to do business? How early or late to they tend to pay their bills? Do they buy Big Ticket items or small stuff?

But more important:
How can we tap into this gold mine of information in this world of instantaneous communication?  Are companies building electronic personas for messages that were once paper and postal that can also be transformed into digital?  Do these companies continuously build and improve upon the information already stored for each customer or do they operate blindly, depending on the kindness of strangers?

Here’s the answer: the ability to loop that customer data and metadata back into the system by creating a hub—or a hive—of customer centric information and action.

To accomplish this, one would need a toolkit with a library of tools that provides the capability to upload data back into the enterprise databases via clean API’s. The creation of clean API's are vital to analytics because they provide a predictable method for the transfer of data between applications that may have not been designed to exchange data. APIs open the door for the deep enrichment of the Customer Experience based on information exchanged between applications as well as ecological factors that come into existence while the customer interaction takes place, rendered as metadata. Keeping that data and metadata intact and having the ability to re-purpose it for analytics without smashing it in an effort to make it look pretty, is a big part of the job. And the result is a hive of activity centered around the customer.

In a report released in March, 2016, Michael Maoz, a research analyst with Gartner, recognized the importance of the “emergence of open APIs as an IT imperative opens up entirely new capabilities. As the implications of open APIs becomes clearer, IT will examine the hundreds of ways that a mesh of related services can be sewn together” (Maoz, 2016). In the final analysis, the creation of a customer engagement hive is a key initiative to pull together the chaos and use the APIs as a way to connect the world that you cannot control with the world that you can control.

Here is one last question to ponder:

Are you working to build a best-in-class customer data hive that can help you conduct great interactions and experiences with your customers?

If you are now or want to build this, give us a call. We have the toolkit and the expertise with transforming legacy data to help turn your operation from a cost center to a profit center. Customer centric solutions will help you create a customer centric organization.

Compart AG is a leading provider of document and content technology solutions. The unique Docponent™ approach to print stream conversion is the most useful and efficient process available because it a) retains the metadata and b) keeps the objects (fonts, graphics, blocks, text) intact. No other solution for print stream conversion can boast of this. Print stream modification is simple, printstream workflow is streamlined and printstream optimization is readily available. For a matrix the input print stream and the output printstream please click here.


*The average tenure for chief marketing officers of leading U.S. consumer brand companies dropped from 48 months to 44 months, according to the 12th annual CMO tenure study by executive search consulting firm Spencer Stuart.

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