CCM Brings Customer Communications Under One Umbrella
According to business analysts at Forrester, over the next few years, customer communication management (CCM) platforms will continue to “bring better customer experiences, become easier to use, evolve toward broader communication needs and more tightly integrate with other business applications.” This is a wonderful vision of the future, but is much easier said than done. What is required is an overarching communications strategy that brings the various pieces of your communications systems into an integrated whole on a unified platform.
Since the 1990s, communications channels have evolved from mail, fax, and call centers to email, the web, SMS, and social media. This proliferation of channels represents more than a simple shift in technologies; the change has been from one-directional communication to a constant bidirectional process that puts customers and public opinion in control.
Yet today, many—if not most—businesses can only implement the more typical chaotic mix of uncoordinated communications that can easily turn into a fragmented experience, leaving your customers feeling confused or frustrated. For businesses, this mix introduces inefficiencies, opportunities for miscommunication, and costly errors.
The Problem with Silos
Currently, most organizations manage communications through separate teams that use incompatible technologies for individual channels, often multiplying the complexity and cost of your efforts while diminishing the returns—and delivering the worst possible business outcomes. The greatest challenge for most firms is how to evolve from existing, disparate customer communication “programs” that deliver a complex mix of scattered data via isolated systems and/or single-purpose applications to ones that are cohesive, results-driven, and cost-effective.
For example, once prospects become customers, many businesses transfer the communication from a high-touch marketing project to a cost-optimized IT-driven process. Full-color communications are often replaced with black-and-white print on thin paper. But how well this hand-off executes the voice of the company with regular business communications to customers will either support or undermine the sales and marketing teams’ efforts as they try to maintain and grow relationships.
Your prospects could initially be engaged by several types of communications that you control, and some that you may influence but not directly control. Direct marketing, referral programs, and social media campaigns each attempt to increase the number of active and interested prospects in their own way. Some prospects will respond to print, others prefer email and the web, some may seek an agent or call center representative, and some may prefer exclusively mobile experiences.
Developing and effectively managing customer communications requires crafting a CCM strategy for the entire enterprise that considers the perspective of your prospects, your customers, and your employees, and is created with the input of marketing, operations, customer service, and IT. An ideal communication portfolio will effectively manage discrete campaigns across multiple channels, paying attention to the limitations and opportunities offered by each.
A Unified Platform
Determine the best option for each communication piece in the context of your overall strategy. Many companies have a mix of systems that generate communications through isolated islands of technology. In assessing your existing applications, you have the option to refresh, reboot, or remove them, taking into account that today’s thin-client interactive solutions can deliver correspondence, quotes, and proposals quickly and efficiently. The modern CCM platform can also offer document repurposing technology to allow output from legacy systems to be refreshed, updated, and upgraded.
Ideally, a CCM solution should include a design tool, a composition engine, a workflow/rule engine, and multichannel output management capabilities to enable customer interactions through a wide range of communication media: mobile, email, SMS, websites, print, and customer self-service. These systems can replace hundreds of legacy templates with a single, flexible user experience that provides relevant, yet approved, content to your customers in less time.
While Baby Boomer, Generation X, and Millennial customers have radically differing communication preferences, today every demographic expects information to be available 24 hours a day—and your competitors are constantly trying to convince your customers to defect with promises of lower prices or enhanced service as channels proliferate. These external forces put an incredible strain on current communication systems, especially when they are not strategically aligned.
Managing all these moving parts may seem an impossible task, but developing an integrated, enterprise-wide communications strategy that resides on a single, unified CCM platform will support efforts to meet customer expectations, create and maintain positive customer relationships, and provide positive outcomes for your customers and your organization.
Scott Draeger is vice president at Quadient, a provider of software solutions that help companies deliver meaningful interactions with current and future customers. A Neopost Digital Company, the Quadient portfolio of technology enables organizations to create better experiences for their customers through timely, optimized, contextual, highly individualized, and accurate communications for all channels. Draeger’s broad experience includes helping clients improve customer communications in over 20 countries. For more information, visit www.quadient.com or follow him on Twitter @scottdraeger.