Are You Handling Content Management as a Customer-Critical Issue?

Shoddy Content Management Will Adversely Impact the Value of Your Company

July 21, 2005

Here are some quick tips for making content management a higher priority. Content management issues are costing your company big bucks when measured in terms of customer lifetime value. What should you do about it?

Quick Take-Aways:

1. Do you know the value of each customer to your company? Do a back-of-the-envelope guess. Find out who has the best customer lifetime value estimates for your firm.

2. Think about: what’s the one area in which broken content management processes annoy or frustrate your customers the most?

3. What’s your best guess? How many prospects or customers are you losing as a result?

4. Brainstorm: if you were a news publisher, what content management processes would you need to have in place?

5. Can you apply any of those ideas to your most broken customer-impacting content management processes right now?


Your Content Is Your Brand

When customers or prospects visit your Web site, receive a brochure or catalog in the mail, open up a box, read instructions, query a knowledge base, accept the terms in a legal agreement, read your CTO’s blog, or download a thought-provoking article from your Web site--they’re having an experience with your company. If they encounter inconsistencies, inaccuracies, or outdated information you’re at risk of damaging that relationship.

How much is that worth? If you know your Return on Customer 1 in terms of customer lifetime value in cash flow or earnings for each prospect or customer, you know that it probably costs you more than $1,000 per customer-incident––$1,000 in lost customer lifetime value because a prospect got confused or an existing customer got fed up.


Content Changes Hourly

No matter what processes you put into place to quality control all the different types of content and information that flow out to your customers and partners, those quality processes have a hard time keeping up with the rate of change required to keep information up-to-date, accurate, consistent, and findable.

Content Needs To Be Produced for Multiple Uses

Newspapers, broadcasters, and financial publishers do the best job of managing the flow of ever-changing news updates. They have optimized their workflows to presume that content changes minute by minute. News organizations also know how to organize content to track the latest versions, to produce multiple versions of the same information for different purposes and different audiences.

I remember the several times that I was interviewed by Bloomberg. The entire process takes about 30 minutes--from the time you step into its lobby café, to the 10-minute on-camera interview, to the editing and production of the 15 different variants of that interview--text, still photo, video, sound bites, RSS feeds, long and short versions, different topic slants, all with keywords and synonyms, and information management metadata. The Bloomberg process is an amazing content production engine.

How does your content management and production organization stack up? You may not think of yourselves as being in the news production business, but aren’t you, really? How often in the course of a day, around the world, is your business changing--due to internal changes--new products, new policies, new workarounds--and due to customers’ and partners’ questions, issues, and needs?


How Do You Narrow the Scope?

Most business and technology executives bound the scope of the content domain they’ll tackle in order to make it manageable. They try various approaches:

* Web content vs. non-Web content

* External content vs. internal content

* Unstructured content vs. structured information

* Marketing content vs. support content

* Product-specific content vs. all other content

* Customer-critical content vs. non customer-critical content

* Channel-specific content: Contact Center, Web site, Catalog, Store

* Geographic-specific content vs. non-localized content

* Text vs. images and video

* Snippets vs. documents

* Audience-specific content vs. content for any audience

Specialization is fine. It lets you focus and get something done. There is no single solution or process that will work for all these different types of content. But, wherever you decide to focus, make sure that the lessons you learn and the processes that work are re-used as you continue to wrestle your content management problem to the ground.

Don’t Narrow the Scope Based on Application Silos

What you should definitely NOT do is define your scope based on where the content currently resides--in a Web content management system, a customer knowledge base system, a catalog system, or a set of file folders in the marketing or legal departments. Narrowing your scope based on which silo currently houses which kind of content will never get you out of content hell! Your customers and audiences don’t care what application is used to manage content. You shouldn’t either. Content application silos simply exacerbate an already intractable problem 2 . There is good news on the technical front, however. There are now new tools your technical folks can use in order to weave a semantic Web across all of those content silos. The most important of these is a new bridge to connect content islands. It’s a technical solution in the form of an API--an abstract description of how to link content repositories 3 .

Drive Content Management Priorities from Customer-Critical Scenarios

Since you need to focus your content management efforts, we strongly recommend starting with specific customer audiences and their most critical customer scenarios 4 . Ideally, you should gather your requirements across a number of audiences and scenarios first--12 to 24 scenarios across four to six different customer segments will give you a great way to prioritize based on customers’ moments of truth, customer value, and impact on your bottom line. By involving information architects and subject matter experts in your customer co-design activities, you’ll capture the audiences’ contexts, and the most important customer-critical attributes and parameters within each context 5 . These form the basis for your information architecture and process design.


Content Management Needs Business Process Owners

Many organizations run content management initiatives with IT folks as the project managers, businesspeople as sponsors, and consultants doing much of the design and implementation work. This is a recipe for failure. This is not the right way to tackle a customer-critical issue. Content management is an information architecture, change management, and business process initiative. You need your own information architects (librarians and findability experts), audience advocates, and subject matter experts to drive your design and continuous improvement efforts. We offer some advice 6 about a simple structure for managing the quality and findability of your content. This structure works well in a distributed organization.

Content management is a process. Make sure that you’re not tackling content management as an IT problem. It’s not. It’s a business process problem. First, capture the customers’ scenarios and identify and prioritize customer-critical requirements. Then design the processes to deliver content to support those customer requirements. Then select the appropriate IT services to support them 7 .

Customer Experience and Ebusiness Should Drive Content Management

When you’re designing your organization from the outside in, you start with the first touchpoints that your customers encounter, and work inward from there. That means that the most influential business owners and drivers for content management process redesign should ideally report into your ebusiness organization and/or to whomever owns the cross-channel customer experience in your firm. If both of those groups report to your marketing department, then marketing owns content management for the firm. The chances are pretty good that you have different organizations with separate purviews for product information, technical information, customer support information, and so forth. They’ll remain in place. But drive your priorities and process rework from the outside in--from the customer-impacting scenarios and touchpoints. It’s the best way to make real headway on an otherwise insurmountable problem.

1) Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, "Return on Customer: Creating Maximum Value from Your Scarcest Resource" (Random House, 2005).

2) See “ Content Islands: Your Content Management Systems Are Multiplying. What Should You Do? ,” Mitchell I. Kramer, June 23 2005.

3) See “ A Java Bridge to Connect Content Islands: Content Repository API for Java Technology ,” by Mitchell I. Kramer, July 21, 2005.

4) See “ Let Customers Co-Design Your Customer-Critical Initiatives: How and When to Use Customer Scenario(R) Mapping ,” by Patricia B. Seybold, May 26, 2005.

5) See “ Capturing Customer Requirements for Content Management: Using Customer Scenario(R) Mapping to Gather Requirements for Information Attributes, Metadata, Roles, and Responsibilities ,” by Patricia B. Seybold, December 24, 2003, and “ Discovering Findability Requirements from Customer Scenario(R) Maps: Building Your Search and Navigation Approach ,” by Susan E. Aldrich, May 12, 2005.

6) See “ Managing Findability: Critical Core Competency: Roles, Responsibilities, Programs, and Metrics You’ll Need to Make It Easy for Audiences to Find the Right Information ,” by Susan E. Aldrich, March 24, 2005.

7) See “ Service Discovery Using Customer Scenario(R) Mapping: Building Your Services Catalog ,” by Brenda M. Michelson, January 20, 2005.

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