Ask a twentysomething if they pay all their bills online and they’ll respond: Is there another way to pay? For a typical 25-year-old, the digital world and real world are intertwined. Born between 1997 to 2012, the newest consumer group of Gen Z are true digital natives — weaned on the Internet, steeped in swipe-and-buy experiences and accustomed to one-day deliveries. When it comes to interacting with organizations, their expectations are abundantly clear: personalized, swift and seamless customer experiences across every channel.
Most companies already have some digital channels in play, such as email or a portal, but as you’re considering expanding your organization’s digital footprint, the best place to start is by carefully analyzing your goals. Are you just trying to reduce the number of printed communications that go out the door? Are you wanting to give your customers more choices in how they receive communications? Are you trying to modernize the customer experience? Rather than rushing ahead and implementing each new digital channel as a standalone silo, it’s important to take a more foundational approach and think about how you will meet the evolving needs of today’s customers.
Here are 5 key questions to ask to help you make smarter choices when it comes to making your digital vision a reality:
1. How will you ensure you are providing a cohesive experience to customers across channels?
One of the challenges organizations have in adding new digital channels is avoiding fragmentation in the customer experience across different channels. In the past, the typical approach to adding a new channel was to hire a focused team to manage it. This resulted in both strategic and operational silos, slowing down time to market and creating inconsistencies and disconnects throughout the customer experience.
It’s important to ask yourself whether you want to pursue an omnichannel strategy, meaning providing a seamless customer experience across channels, or provide purpose-built communications, where each channel’s communications are built and managed on their own. The choice hinges on your goals and budget, but a nuanced approach that keeps the customer experience in the forefront can save time and money in the long term.
- Omnichannel — In an omnichannel world, the customer experience is continuous across touchpoints, giving customers the flexibility to choose how they’ll interact. This requires an organization to choose a system that enables them to understand the latest interaction and orchestrate the next step in a journey by making the same communication available across all channels.
- Purpose-Built — In this scenario, an organization opts to stand up specialized channels aimed at a specific type of customer communication. With this option, the risk of the silos issue is very real and organizations need to pay special attention to how they will create and manage a library of shared content to support all channels. This is the only way to build personalized communications for each channel and ensure consistency for your brand and customer experience.
2. Do you want to leverage new technologies to help improve the quality and speed of communications?
With all the buzz around ChatGPT these days, a lot of organizations are having exploratory conversations around the potential of generative AI. With a range of use cases these technologies can support, organizations need to consider how they might incorporate AI into their digital plans. Harnessed correctly, opportunities exist to help streamline business processes, such as content creation and curation of existing content, to create digital renditions and summaries, rewrite content for plain language or readability, and adjust the tone and sentiment. AI can also improve the customer experience by accelerating responses to customers and selecting the right message or response based upon the particular engagement.
Although some organizations might not be ready to go live with some of these solutions today, we recommend you look to the near future and find content management solutions that incorporate these technologies. The potential benefit to both the efficiency of your operations and quality of your customer experience is significant. Organizations that don’t leverage the support that AI can provide will be left behind.
3. How much flexibility do you want to provide customers regarding their communication preferences?
Offering customers the ability to choose their preferred communication channels can improve engagement and lead to reduced customer service costs. A robust preference management capability supports granular preferences on the types and channels of communication, while making it seamless for you to control.
For instance, if a customer prefers communication via email, but the email bounces, you can provide the option for them to choose whether they want an SMS to notify them that the email has bounced versus a printed letter to be sent out. Some customers might only want to use a specific channel, like SMS, for urgent matters and otherwise prefer print or email for more routine communications.
4. Which partners will enable you to bring your digital vision to life and ensure deliverability?
You need to choose digital services partners that have a proven track record for deliverability, so your content is not treated as spam. With the right standards and encryption, your communications will reach the desired endpoint instead of being rejected. It’s also critical that all communication processes are compliant with laws like the CAN-SPAM Act, GDPR, CASL or other global requirements.
5. What steps do you need to take to ensure accessibility?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 26% of adults have some form of disability, such as sight, hearing or cognitive impairments. Your digital communications should be designed and tested with accessibility in mind, so all customers can engage with your services. Making your communications more accessible enhances customer loyalty and satisfaction and is especially useful with time-sensitive communications.
Providing accessible communications also ensures compliance with standards specified by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and other global regulations and guidelines. Complying with regulations is especially relevant for organizations operating in the public sector, healthcare, financial services, insurance and education.
Invest now in a foundation that will support digital natives for years to come
The new generation of consumers will necessitate innovation across customer communications and experiences. Organizations will remain at a competitive disadvantage if assuming this new cohort will ‘age into’ and ultimately embrace their current communications systems. Your digital transformation should be about more than just turning off print. It’s about adapting today’s technology to create better customer experiences and build loyalty.
You don’t need to transition every communication simultaneously, but you do need to make smart technology choices to avoid having to engage in a rip-and-replace scenario in just a few short years to further modernize experiences. Real transformation happens with a clear digital vision that’s focused on giving customers an experience that takes your brand to the next level.
Patrick Kehoe is Executive Vice President of Product Management for Messagepoint, Inc. an AI-powered customer communications management solution that automates and simplifies the process of migrating, optimizing, authoring and managing complex customer communications for non-technical (business) users. Patrick has more than 25 years of experience delivering business solutions for document processing, customer communications and content management.