In most ways content management is very mature, but in one important way it is not: there is too much focus on new projects, new toys, and new buzzwords, and not enough on maintaining and managing content, technology, and process lifecycles – in other words, on operations.
This scenario is not unique to content management and is easy to fall into because new marketing or technology projects are both more exciting and good for the résumé. Unfortunately, the promise and hope of a new project can also serve as a way to come up with an easy answer to a demand from senior management, and to delay dealing with a frightening challenge while you figure out what you really need to do. After all, digital transformation in general is hard, and multichannel content management in particular remains largely aspirational.
It is not possible to get very far with large web initiatives without a certain level of operational planning for changes to content strategy and flow, infrastructure and application integration, new skills, and workflow practices, to name a few. But even with the best upfront effort it is extremely unlikely that operations post project completion can be sufficiently anticipated. This is one area where engaging with experienced service providers can be hugely advantageous.
The push and pull between new technology capabilities, evolving business models and requirements, user and customer feedback, and discovery of potential improvements to processes, guarantee that agility has to be ingrained and permanent. If there is one thing all multichannel content management projects, and all digital transformation efforts, have in common it is constant ongoing care and feeding. This is nowhere truer than where much of todays’ marketing, IT, and C-suite focus is: customer experience management (CX).
Whatever your definition of CX, if it doesn’t include the entire “customer journey” it is incomplete. And if you consider all of the customer lifecycle touchpoints, digital and analog, direct and indirect, you quickly see how far and deep in the organization the CX connections reach.
Most of the focus of CX is on the front end; “front” as in early in the customer journey, and also what is front and center in the customer’s face: the ad, the landing page, “native” content. This is surely a good place to start because it is low-hanging fruit, exposing many of the most irritating customer experiences, but also pointing where else to look among all the back-end operational systems to optimize the CX. Conflicting descriptions of a product could be a simple web editor error, or it could point to unsynchronized marketing and e-commerce databases, which in turn might be due to a product feature update communicated to customer support and marketing but not to the group running the e-commerce system – a flaw in ongoing operations.
With insufficiently smooth and consistent operations you are doomed to providing a janky digital and human customer experience, making you both unhip, and unfriendly to your customers.
At a company level a bad customer experience is not a technology problem, it is a human and organizational, hence leadership, problem. Software, hardware, design, and quality assurance are also still mostly human domains.
The way a product is presented on a screen or described by a customer service representative is a result of corporate messaging which is in turn influenced and interpreted by product managers, user experience designers, developers, salespeople, and researchers. These are different departments with their own perspectives and incentives. Yet they are all in the CX sausage. This is why you hear talk about a Gödel-like impossibility of managing a complete and consistent customer experience. But that is no reason not to try – perfect should not be the enemy of good. How effectively and rapidly these functions communicate and cooperate on an ongoing basis have a huge impact on the quality of operations and CX.
Integrating all relevant internal functions may be unrealistic because of organizational inertia. But every alignment of the internal digital experience, content flow, and communication between departments will increase the ability to respond to customers with the consistency and immediacy necessary for a good CX. And then there is the improvement in employee morale and productivity. After all, employees need a good CX too.
We see the natural tendency to focus on the front end all the time and it is reflected in the proposals we receive to speak at Gilbane conferences. But this year there was a noticeable increase in proposals addressing operational issues and we have included a number of them across tracks. Are organizations getting better at planning for ongoing operations? Is it because they are on their second or third or fourth large-scale digital effort? What are they doing differently? Join us at the Gilbane Digital Content Conference and find out.
Note: This article was first published in eContent Magazine in September 2016.