While most companies recognize the need for digital communications, the majority fail to move beyond email and PDF versions of printed documents. These traditional digital approaches don’t provide customers with a great digital experience, particularly on mobile channels and don’t meet the expectations of millennials and Gen Z.
Q. There is a lot of hype around digital experiences. What’s your perspective on what’s really going on out there? Is there a great divide between customer expectations and the digital communications and experiences organizations are delivering?
Kaspar: Aspire’s research has highlighted significant consumer dissatisfaction with the state of digital communications, particularly among the young, wealthy and tech savvy. Though they were the most likely to have taken steps toward digital adoption in the wake of COVID-19, consumers under age 40 were the least likely to be pleased with their digital interactions and the least likely to report that they would continue interacting with providers in this way once the pandemic had run its course. Follow-up questions showed that these young consumers (along with those exhibiting the highest levels of technological sophistication and those living in the wealthiest households) value relevance, personalization and a seamless experience across their chosen channels. Furthermore, all three demographics were far more likely to have switched providers after a negative communications experience and more likely to report that they would pay a premium for superior communications experience.
Steve: We typically work with organizations in regulated industries such as financial services, insurance, healthcare and government. In these segments, we see digital experiences evolving more slowly than in other market sectors, such as retail. For many organizations, delivering the ‘status quo’ is all-consuming, while others remain decidedly cautious, checking the box on digital communications with email and PDF versions of the print touchpoints that they use today. On the other end of the spectrum, we are helping clients provide digital-first communications via a mobile app to support a customer’s new credit card activation. I believe that in two or three years’ time, we will see exponential growth in consumer confidence and demand for more modern digital experiences. Firms that don’t provide those experience will lose out to competitors.
Q. What do you see as the business value of incorporating channels beyond email, or put another way, how many digital channels does an organization really need to support?
Kaspar: This depends on three factors: 1. The organization’s digital maturity: In order to leverage real-time conversational interactions, businesses will need to invest in data platforms, personalization software and targeted metrics 2. Customer needs: Older consumers are often satisfied with print and email/PDFs from a portal, but younger generations prefer mobile messaging, push, personalized videos and other channels 3. The consumer’s place in their customer journey: For example, the desired channel mix may be different for bill collection and payments than for onboarding communications
Steve: Email is okay for reaching Gen X, but as we know, Gens Y and Z live on their phones and eschew email. Text and messaging are their preferred channels of communication. Given the fact that these younger generations form the largest segment of today’s workforce, I think any business would be remiss to ignore them. Text, messaging apps, push notifications and mobile apps are essential parts of the comfortable modes of communication for this segment today. Looking ahead, it’s important to build a foundation that will set you up to support new digital experiences in the future. That means leaning into a technology strategy that provides flexibility not just to expand to new channels, but also to deliver personalized, dynamic content consistently across all channels. That means adopting a solution with a strong approach to content management and headless solutions with solid APIs to get that content where it needs to go.
Q. What are the operational considerations for adopting additional communication channels?
Kaspar: To build effective digital engagement, organizations will first need to reach a certain level of digital maturity. Indicators of advanced digital maturity include relying on a modern technology stack and leveraging cloud-native software, analytics, and automation. Since technology is only as good as the talent using it and the processes governing its use, more mature organizations put their trust in a Center of Excellence to share data and best practices across business units and ensure coordination in style, voice, and branding across all channels. Finally, by setting up a central hub for communications workflow, businesses can put efficient and consistent processes in place to create, manage and deliver customer communications.
Steve: We have seen a lot of inefficient operations and disconnect across channels out there as a result of channel silos. This not only leads to a lot of redundant content operations, it creates unnecessary compliance risk, fragmentation and inconsistency across channels. It’s also time-consuming and expensive. The technology exists today to centrally manage and feed personalized content to a range of digital channels. You shouldn’t have to hand out spreadsheets to four or five teams to get a communication out the door. In short, avoid content silos.
Q. You’re both from the customer communications management (CCM) space. What role, if any, does CCM play in these newer digital experiences?
Kaspar: CCM is often tightly coupled to back office or legacy systems, so it’s now evolving to becoming a CX layer that digitally transforms systems output into modern digital experiences. CCM vendors and service providers see CX as a way to evolve and drive upsell opportunities while CCM professionals are ideally placed to provide the plumbing to make CX a reality (rather than a deceptive façade that looks good, but doesn’t actually work).
Steve: CCM is evolving. In the past, CCM was about developers coding individual templates for handling complex printed communications. Modern CCM solutions are no longer centered on managing the individual, page-based communication, but rather, are focused on managing the content and information customers need to receive, regardless of the delivery channel. Whether that means the solution is leveraging headless APIs to deliver the content to a customer via a mobile app or via a printed letter. To that end, I believe CCM solutions today are essential to supporting a range of channels efficiently while ensuring personalization, consistency and compliance.
Q. How should someone get started in defining the right digital experience for their customers?
Kaspar: Our Aspire Online Assessment is a great way for businesses to gauge their current CXM maturity and better understand what they need to do to improve communications experience for their customers. After they’ve completed a quick online survey, Aspire provides a personalized report they can use to spread the word throughout the organization about the importance of approaching the CCM-to-CXM evolution with more purpose and direction.
Steve: A great starting point is Aspire’s online assessment tool. Before diving into deploying any one channel, it’s important to take a step back and think about the bigger picture of what you are trying to accomplish. Ask yourself, where should we be in two to five years' time, both from a customer experience and an operational perspective? Borrow from other progressive industries in forming that vision and investigate the art of the possible from a technological perspective. It’s not about just using tech for the sake of it; be obsessed with removing the friction in your systems and processes today. But again, above all, avoid building communication silos as you lean into digital-first communications.
Q. With the recent release of ChatGPT, there has been a lot of buzz around how enterprises might leverage generative AI to support customer experiences. What are your thoughts on the potential of this kind of technology? Do you see it having any impact on the speed with which digital experiences are embraced?
Kaspar: I thought generative AI was still a few years away, but the development of ChatGPT has demonstrated that the speed of change is accelerating. While I don’t believe this tech will replace content authors (at least right now), it will make editing and revisions much more efficient. In some nations, new regulations will force companies to communicate with their customers in a simpler way, and I expect tech like this will help businesses meet these requirements in a more cost-effective manner.
Steve: I think the rate of attraction/adoption of new users for ChatGPT provides an early and compelling indication of the potential upside so many have already ascribed to this new technology. These large language models are rapidly shedding light on the power of AI in generating human-like responses as part of communications that feel normal, natural, conversational and often tailored for the recipient, (depending on the prompts provided). ChatGPT has the potential to expedite the enablement and the proliferation of digital experiences by accelerating the curation of digital renditions that are personalized and crafted at the right reading level with the right tone, sentiment and brand compliance.
Kaspar Roos is a leading expert, consultant, and recognized thought-leader in the Customer Communications Management (CCM) industry. He is the founder and CEO of Aspire, a consulting firm specializing in the CCM, Customer Experience Management (CXM), and Digital Customer Experience (DCX) industries. Roos has more than 15 years of experience in the space and is a regular speaker at industry conferences and events. He has worked with every leading CCM technology vendor and many leading service providers to help them with strategy and business development.
Steve Biancaniello, CEO, leads Messagepoint’s strategic direction and operations. With more than 25 years of experience helping Fortune 1000 customers transform how they communicate with their customers, Biancaniello is widely recognized as a leading expert on the design, development and management of enterprise-class customer communications. He uses this expertise to continually drive innovation across the Messagepoint solution while generating the best possible results for customers. Biancaniello has a B.A.Sc. (Systems Design Engineering) and M.A.Sc. (Management Sciences – Information Systems) from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.