Traditional CRM won't work in the age of Amazon

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In any industry where transactions are ongoing, the communications sent to customers have not always been viewed as an opportunity to improve the customer experience.

However, companies like Amazon, famous for giving customers what they want, how they want it, and when they want it, has changed consumer expectations on many levels. Consumers now expect to communicate with companies in a way that is personal and relevant to them—even when it comes to bills and statements.
They also want more choices when it comes to how they engage with an organization. Ensuring a positive customer experience has become a significant goal for organizations that do frequent business with consumers, particularly in the very customer-facing, and also very competitive, financial industry. Providing a higher level of what is now termed “customer-centricity” is the way a business can differentiate itself and hopefully win the title of most preferred supplier of the financial products and services offered.

However, the actual delivery of a personalized customer experience can be a challenge for organizations that serve hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of customers every day. CRM solutions have proved useful in providing a technological infrastructure for gathering data on a customer, but they are just that—an infrastructure.

The larger difficulty is often managing the content and messaging that goes through the CRM pipeline, including legally mandated content that can change with varying geographic jurisdictions; notifications about changes/improvements in products and services and optional and often time-sensitive information about loyalty programs or other marketing or promotional offerings.

Organizations tend to focus on implementing the technology and the new channels and tools that have become available to manage this content and messaging, only to realize that what they really need to do is empower the content authors, regulators, marketers and product managers responsible for communications, to get the right personalized messaging into those communication channels to the customer.

Something that financial services organizations will instantly recognize is the complaint many consumers have about the “fine print” that is included on invoices, statements and other financial documents. This is usually government-mandated information and may be necessary for consumers to make useful decisions about their credit and other financial agreements. However, while the language may make perfect sense to the lawyers who wrote it, many customers are quickly lost in the verbiage and skip over it, sometimes resulting in less than happy consequences—and a negative customer experience—further down the road.

The language, of course, can be simplified, but the process likely will involve several revisions, input and approvals from the legal department and others, and participation from IT to change the wording on contracts, invoices, statements and other communications. This is compounded by the fact that the laws and compliance requirements can be different in different parts of country, or even for different demographic groups, creating more roadblocks for creating clear and concise communications.

Roadblocks also apply to marketing and promotional messaging, and often with a time-sensitive dimension as well. For example, customers may need to apply for a program within the next 30 days. Cashback programs may change, resulting in customers wanting to change their spending behavior.

Additionally, promotional discounts or other benefits may be limited to certain airlines or to patrons of certain stores or restaurants and only for a specific time period. Time-to-market can be a significant consideration in these cases, and particularly in terms of ensuring opportunities aren’t missed.

What can help to solve these challenges would be a means of quick, yet controlled, access to the content in communications with a technology solution that allows content originators the real-time ability to design new or change content, and then also define who its intended targets or recipients. Additionally, it is important to make managing future messaging requirements as flexible as possible with the ability to create an entire clone of the content and a linkage back to its original source—all with the necessary review and approval to maintain legal and corporate compliance standards.

This type of agile customer communication management capability provides an avenue into existing communications systems without disrupting their functionality and without requiring participation from the IT department. There are solutions available that offer a platform for business users to easily add personalization elements like variables and targeting rules in real time, because all the messaging content is managed in one place, either on premise or in a cloud repository.

Product managers and marketers can quickly find, review or test messaging without digging through massive messaging spreadsheets and manually making updates. In addition, all other relevant stakeholders—such as legal, corporate and compliance staff—can look at and review the same content that will be sent to customers.

Financial institutions and related organizations that regularly service very high numbers of customers face unique challenges in meeting a customer’s individual needs. Technologies like CRM systems are essential to reaching customers per their preferences, but what you say is perhaps even more important than the way the message is delivered.

Organizations that realize they are really in the "customer experience" business—which means how they communicate and deliver to the customer is almost more important than what they deliver—are winning new business and, importantly, keeping it. Arming those closest to the customer relationship with the ability to carefully and quickly create or change messaging can move your organization one step closer to ensuring a seamless, relevant and enjoyable experience for that one customer among millions.

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