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The context of communications will matter
As the 2015 trend of focusing on customer experiences extends, you will feel pressure to discuss each of your communications in the context of other communications. In 2015, many enterprises are investing in the creation of customer journey maps, which plot out every possible customer interaction. The more detailed ones track channel distribution, customer sentiment and revenue impacts of the communications. These projects have brought a strong focus to the role that every touchpoint can play for each individual’s customer experience. However, these have been described to me by an analyst as “million dollar pieces of art,” because they just hang on the wall, garnering only an occasional glance.

In 2016, effective communicators will connect context to every customer communication, including ones that are assumed to be "business as usual" from the operations department. This is great news for managers of statement, policy, invoice and renewal applications, because it is an opportunity to improve the production value of these cost-center communications.

To prepare for 2016, start asking, “Then what?” If a prospect becomes a customer, then what? They need a welcome kit. That welcome kit will affect social media recommendations. That social media interaction may need a communication that turns word of mouth into another sale and so on.

Some new wearable thing or social network will pop up
Whether it’s a virtual reality headset-based content sharing network, a gamified energy-saving experience or Google Glass 2.0, there will certainly be a new way to share some sort of new content. The sales and marketing teams will probably want to explore this new network as soon as possible. The information technology (IT), compliance and operations teams probably want to wait until next year’s budget to test this.

Physical production and delivery will increase
Paper, envelopes, postage and other physical delivery costs tend to rise. A smart planner will get ahead of this potential event by managing channel strategy to drive outcomes that reduce these expenses. Don’t be surprised by a postage increase in 2016. In 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, the United States Postal Service (USPS) increased many postage rates that affect delivery of printed items. We are lucky if we make it to May without hearing from the USPS.

At the same time, email and short message service (SMS) delivery expenses tend to decline, pushing cost-minded communicators to optimize their channel strategies by implementing customer preference management systems that are linked to customer communications management (CCM) systems. Channel preference can be built into the process in a way that increases the adoption of digital channels.

Putting it on your plan
As we look at these likely 2016 trends of the new CXO—creative new metrics, building context into communications and cost—you can get ahead of them by effectively planning now. Start by looking for new ways to measure the performance of your communications in the wider context of both your customers and your business. Get ahead of price increases by controlling channel strategy for communications that can be delivered in a variety of ways. Some effective strategy, budgeting and planning today will help you be a trendsetter in 2016. After all, it’s better to set the trends than to follow them.

Scott Draeger is vice president of product management at GMC Software Technology, a leader in customer communications management solutions. For more information, visit www.gmc.net or follow him on Twitter @scottdraeger .
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