News flash: Customers do not think in silos. They expect a consistent experience across every facet of your business and organization. 

So why do businesses continue to create customer services and applications in silos? The customer experience for the websites, support site, call centers and offline account management programs need to be integrated. 

The division usually starts at the brand level and the marketing websites. But once you have defined your customer experience at a brand level, it's time to unify the experience across the entire customer lifecycle. It's time to build bridges between your CX silos. 

Building CX web experiences on one content management platform is one way to bridge the silos. Doing so allows you to develop a set of design patterns and a content model which help create cohesive customer experiences across every customer touchpoint, reduce your costs and effort, and unify content management tools and capabilities. 

A modern CMS should be able to manage the user identity and authentication to keep the user within a common experience, even when accessing data and applications that live outside of the CMS. 

So how do you do that?

Create a Shared Content Model

A content model is a description of all content types and how they relate to each other. 

What usually happens though is that every department creates its own content model. When every department maintains its content model, overlapping content types result, often with different names and metadata attributes and no relationships with content in other departments. 

While this may have worked at one time, customers don't want to deal with different departments to get information, and get frustrated when they receive similar types of content, but with different information. 

You created a holistic view of the customer when you created your brand experience for the website. Now it's time to create a holistic view of all the information you need to provide customers to help them not only decide to purchase your products but also use them. 

A cross-organizational content model doesn't describe how the content is presented, but what information the content provides. It describes the content itself, separated from presentation, so that you can use it in different ways: a mobile app for customer support, a widget on the brand website, a section in a web application or customer portal. 

This new single content model provides one view of the content, so each department uses the most current version and the information is consistent, regardless of how the customer gets it (from marketing, sales, support or service).

Creating a unified content model for the organization is the first step in unifying the experience across the entire customer lifecycle.

Create Reusable Design Patterns

Software design defines design patterns as:

"... a software design pattern is a general reusable solution to a commonly occurring problem within a given context in software design .... It is a description or template for how to solve a problem that can be used in many different situations. Design patterns are formalized best practices that the programmer can use to solve common problems when designing an application or system."

Think about applying design patterns to the customer experience. How would they help create the seamless, consistent experiences your customers expect?

When you create a series of web experiences for each part of the company, you want to ensure they have a consistent look and feel. You want your customers to understand how to navigate to find their information, and you want consistency in how that information is delivered.  

Design patterns should support the base functionality, then add specifics for the application where you use the design pattern.

One example here is the search experience

Whether the customer is searching for information about your product in a service portal or a technical documentation website, providing search results in a consistent way helps the customer find the right information quicker. Website searches for content and searches in your portal for cases, KBs and community content all have different requirements, and need slightly different user interfaces. But you can start with the core design pattern and then apply any changes to meet the requirements of the application. 

Having a pattern for “Search Experience” will save you money, decrease your development time and provide a better customer experience because search will work more or less the same across all of your digital properties.

Design patterns can also help with things such as recommended reading, similar or complementary products, or navigation.

Design patterns describe how you would display your content on different web channels and devices so that the customer can easily and quickly find the information they need regardless of what web experience they connect with.

Tying it Back to the CMS

What do a content model and design patterns have to do with using a single CMS for customer experience? Using one CMS to manage customers' web experiences (whether mobile or desktop) enables you to create your unified content model and set up modules, or other reusable components based on your design patterns within the CMS. 

The right CMS enables you to create multiple publishing targets (websites or web applications, etc.), yet use a common content model and common components/modules. When one department updates content, the updates reflect automatically across all websites and applications. The same occurs when components or modules are updated, ensuring consistency across the customer experience.

Could you do this using multiple content management platforms? Maybe, but you'll put in a lot more time, effort and work to integrate all of the different parts.

Enabling Agility and Innovation

Of course everything won't happen in the CMS. The content management system manages content and creates consistent experiences across the web. But you'll still need to connect other customer-focused systems such as CRM, service and support apps, and other back office applications.

Not every CMS is built to manage multiple websites, or to structure content in a way that supports reuse or adaptation for different channels and devices. But a modern CMS should support these requirements, and is a key tool in driving digital transformation and customer experience. 

Locating your customer experience in a single CMS enables you to innovate more quickly and adapt web experiences as customers' needs and demands change. A single CMS with a single content model and a common set of design patterns supports agility and innovation — all elements of a successful customer experience.

So the next time you launch a customer-facing project, take a step back from the specifics of the project and see how it fits into the total customer experience. A holistic approach to design and web development will start connecting the dots to break down your silos. Start with the great work you have done on your website and extend it across the organizations to create a seamless customer experience. 

Title image Jakob Owens