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The plague of locusts, partisan bickering, and customer communications management (CCM): Do you see a link? Maybe not at first, but after being in the industry for as long as I have, I sure do. Each cause (or have caused) a group of people stress and anxiety, and if you are reading this, most likely that includes you.

The customer communications market over the past several years is certainly responsible for understandable anxiety among document professionals. Every day, you are no doubt confronted with any number of challenges and frustrations with the CCM technology (or technologies) being used in your organization. Some of the challenges and frustrations that come to mind include rising maintenance costs, long deployment and delivery horizons, and an unclear migration path to new solutions. Oh, and let’s not forget the difficulty of driving content into new digital and mobile channels, scarce information technology (IT) resources, and the rising expectation to converge CCM with a robust customer experience (CX).

Sound familiar? The problem with these challenges (and others) is that they can lead to a kind of paralysis when it comes to executing an effective customer communications strategy that meets your CX goals. We all recognize some things are in our control and some things aren’t. For example, you can’t stop a plague of locusts or partisan bickering, unfortunately, but when it comes to reducing your CCM stress, there is a way to step above the fray. Shift your focus.

"What will endure is your content."

Rather than worrying about how to get the most out of the tools and technologies you are using for CCM (which I call viewing things from the “inside-out”), you can shift your thinking to a more holistic consideration of how your customers perceive the way you are communicating with them—and look carefully at your CCM strategies from the “outside-in.”

Adopting an "outside-in" approach can’t help but change your focus. It will move your attention away from the tools and technologies and toward the impact of your content and messaging—the one aspect of CCM that does endure. However, if your organization is like most, different teams are responsible for communications via different channels, including web, mobile, email, and traditional paper documents. While each of these communication efforts may have merit on its own, many times, there is an issue with them from the customer's perspective. Too often, each communication sent may look and feel like it is coming from a different company or—even worse—fails to acknowledge the customer engagement that has already taken place.

Viewing your CCM world from the "outside-in" requires thinking about your content from the customer's perspective, rather than in the context of the CCM tools used to deliver it. That's because it is important to recognize that the tools you are using today and the channels you are communicating in may not be the tools and channels you will be using six years or even six months from now. Or if you have a situation where your company has bought more than one product, there is no way of telling which product will end up on top and how your communication process will play out in the future. What will endure is your content, and you want that to be the right content and to look and feel the same, no matter where in the organization it is coming from.

In the long run, collaborating within your organization to achieve an "outside-in" approach for your customer communications will benefit your company, no matter what hills and valleys present themselves in the CCM marketplace. It may not stop a plague of locusts, but it is sure to reduce your anxiety and greatly improve the experience of your customers.

Patrick Kehoe is Executive Vice President of Product Management for Messagepoint, Inc. Patrick has more than 25 years of experience delivering business solutions for document processing, customer communications, and content management. Prior to joining Messagepoint, he held the position of Worldwide Head of OpenText Exstream. For more information, visit