CCM, or Customer Communications Management, has been around for a long time. It often lurks deep in the enterprise stack of IT solutions. Often times, there are many CCM software products in place. There are even companies that do not know how many CCM assets they have.
How can CCM be so important, but also so overlooked?
CCM is an unsung hero of nearly every enterprise. CCM technology creates communications for customers (or employees) by taking data and content from multiple systems and assembling it together into a format useful for the recipient.
In the past, CCM just made “documents” that were one-way B2C communications, like direct mail, bank statements, policies, insurance Explanations of Benefits (EoBs), checks, ID cards, credit and debit card mailers, loyalty statements and other types of correspondence. Today, these messages are delivered to many channels by CCM systems.
Let’s take a look at the inventory of channels. First, there was paper. CCM used to be limited to making somewhat-personalized documents, back when it was called VDP (Variable Data Printing.) Back then, CCM engines were making large batch runs on high-speed toner-based machines. Then highlight color emerged. Then high-speed inkjet technology. Then full-color toner-based systems, and finally super high-speed inkjet, making over 5,000 fully variable pages per minute. While paper is still important, the mid 1990s started to expand the channels.
The popularization of HTML on the web, combined with the rise of email and the creation of the PDF format opened up a series of new channels. This was a moment that created a fork in the road CCM technology was traveling down. I bet many in the business (myself included) wish we made some different choices in the late 1990s to incorporate these new channels early on. However, the email and HTML (for web presentment) projects were generally assigned to the IT or webmaster to start. This created a divide that still exists in many companies today, which separates projects by channel, multiplying design investment and approval costs by the number of channels.
Then, in the mid-2000s, social and mobile created a slew of new combinations of social networks, app delivery options, SMS-augmented communication and new types of notifications. This was again generally sent off to a new silo, which again increased design and approval costs by yet another channel.
Today the CCM industry has created design, proof, approval and deployment technology to unify the separate channel outputs of the CCM projects. The industry found you can improve your customer experience (CX) strategy by minimizing your channel investments, even while multiple your number of delivery channels.
Reduce internal friction
There is no Customer Communications Management without the communication. Therefore, the underlying assumption is that you have something to say to your customer, some of which is:
• We have a great new service to tell you about
• We need to update you on this event
• Here is some money for that insurance claim
• Here is some important legal information
• Your next payment is due
• Sorry, but the government compelled me to send this
Many different people in an organization would like to participate in the creation of the design, the writing of the text, the style of the channel and the coordination of the message delivery into the mix of other messages the customers will receive. But, those communication silos often prevent this.
Most enterprises experience incredible amounts of friction to make even simple changes. If the CMO changes the company logo, often enterprises have to make thousands of changes across tens or even hundreds of systems. A full-view CCM strategy can reduce this burden by focusing design efforts at the right level.
In the context of CCM, technologists can make data and content sources available to business users and designers. Designers can create templates that business users can utilize for quick projects. CCM specialists can ensure that data, rules and content are efficiently shared and minimally replicated. Business users can create, manage and deploy their messages into production. CX professionals can monitor the entire portfolio of customer communication projects, including the look and feel of every channel manifestation. Finally, compliance can easily approve changes when they are presented in a way that includes an image of the change in every channel.
To create and curate a consistent customer experience, we need to remove the design, implementation and approval friction from our traditional—and arguably irrelevant—communication silos. The power of CCM applied in a channel-agnostic, customer experience-focused business may make all the difference in your customer relationships.