As companies expand their product and service offerings to become more competitive, it's common for customers to have multiple relationships within a company.From your customers' perspective, they may carry health and disability insurance, as well as long-term care and life insurance coverage with you as their single provider. It may be more convenient for them to do business in one place, and they'll probably get preferential treatment for being a good customer.

On the downside, the communications they receive may not reflect their whole relationship with your company.

Do your customers receive offers in the mail for a service or product they've already purchased? Do your customers receive a consolidated statement of all their accounts or several statements on different days of the week?

More often than not, inside the organization the customer is really a fragmented series of loosely related profiles. With different lines of business (LOBs) managing different accounts with different technologies, it's difficult for organizations to gain a 360-degree view of each customer. But without this complete view, insurance carriers face diminished customer loyalty and weakened brand identity-and it shows in the inconsistent communications they send out.

Messaging With Inherent Value

One way to overcome this problem is with enterprise personalization, a solution designed to deliver timely and consistent customer communications with inherent value to the customer.

Enterprise personalization is a common platform or infrastructure that enables organizations to produce and deliver coordinated communications through multiple print and electronic channels.

It provides LOBs the ability to maintain and create content for customer communications, reducing reliance on IT and driving timely delivery of documents through the customer's preferred channel.

Any customer-focused organization needs a well-defined strategy for communicating cost-effectively, accurately, and consistently with customers across all touch points.

A successful enterprise personalization strategy protects current IT investments, eliminates integration risks, and enables your business to grow and adapt to changing market requirements.

Consider these points when shopping for an enterprise personalization solution:

* Robust functionality is a must. The solution must be able to easily integrate with your existing business systems-from legacy and CRM to the disparate information management systems in various LOBs. It must be able to develop and deploy new document applications, and it must allow you to get to market on a timely basis with relevant information. It should track what materials go out, when, and to whom, as well as customer responses.

* Look for flexibility that allows you to grow. Find a solution that is flexible enough to meet your current and future business requirements. You must feel confident that the vendor you select is a technology leader and will be a true partner, listening to and accounting for your needs through solution enhancements.

* Think big, but move forward in manageable, prioritized phases. Think blue sky, but start out with a single, high-visibility application, such as a bill redesign or call center correspondence that will deliver results. Ensure that the solution provider offers comprehensive training and consulting services, especially for LOB staff, marketing, and customer service-your biggest users.

* Deliver the right information through the right channel. An enterprise personalization solution must allow you to quickly build document applications that can be driven from any originating system and delivered to internal or external customers through any channel. For example, an outside sales agent may need to access product information from several corporate systems to quickly create a customized document to hand to the customer. And don't forget the customers who want personalized information directly from your Web site.

* Differentiate communications. Smart companies focus on creative ways to retain and grow their top-tier customers, drive down the cost of communicating with the middle tier, and minimize the resources spent on the least valuable customers. Look for a solution that automates the process of differentiating communications based on customer categories, and allows you to manage personalized content for cross-sell and up-sell opportunities on routine business correspondence.

The payoff can be substantial. For many large insurers, being more efficient and providing more effective communications can drive millions of dollars to the bottom line.

Davis Marksbury is president and CEO of Exstream Software.

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