The difficulty lies in achieving a level of customization in Customer Communications Management (CCM) platforms that allows each organization and user to adjust them to their specific situation.

It’s the consumer market (and users in general) what forces companies to move forward and innovate.

Defining Customer Communications Management

According to Gartner, Customer Communications Management (CCM) is defined as a strategy that allows improving the creation, distribution, storage and recovery of customer communications. This includes marketing communications, such as customized TransPromo messages, presentations of new products, correspondence, claims, renewal notifications, invoices, payments, etc. These interactions come to fruition through a wide range of media and channels, from paper-based documents to emails, SMS messages and web sites.

As a definition, it’s perfectly valid. However, as many other definitions that can be read in countless articles dealing with this topic, it is so broad that it turns out to be utopic. Why? Because it assumes that all customers have the same requirements and that, therefore, by applying the same strategy, all will be satisfied. And here lies the difficulty: to reach a degree of customization in CCM solutions that allows each organization and user to tailor them to their specific and personal context.

A priori, this should not sound so unattainable, but reality shows us every day that customers are more and more demanding with regard to the information they receive and how they receive it. Moreover, work teams are increasingly international, multicultural and multidisciplinary and, to make things even more complicated, they are virtual teams, that is to say, each member may be in a different country while pursuing the same objective. In multinational companies, this is an everyday occurrence.

The Perfect Customer Communications Management Platform

Thus, we can safely say that so far there is no 100% comprehensive CCM solution satisfying each and every customer’s requirements. Actually, Forrester conducted some time ago a study that confirms this statement. They analyzed the offering of 12 providers of Customer Communications Management platforms along three dimensions:

  1. Communications structuring (usually in batches, with an established frequency and consistent formats, e.g. invoices and bank statements);
  2. Request for information on demand (requests coming from different channels, e.g. fax, telephone, the Internet and ERP solutions);
  3. Interactivity (meaning that someone has to aggregate customized information in a structured manner).

The conclusion of the study was very clear: there is no indisputable leader in the sector of Customer Communications Management software, which makes it most of the times necessary to combine different solutions with the aim of providing the full functionality required to cover the broad spectrum of customer communications.

Communicating well means gaining the loyalty of both internal and external customers. That’s why the companies in the CCM platform industry keep on working tirelessly to achieve a more and more end-to-end solution. What we are clear about is that there are some requirements all users want fulfilled. They want a customized and simple user interface that looks like the one they are used to handling in their market or consumer environment, i.e. outside the companies they work for. CCM customers are individuals: if they are happy and use the tool, the company profits from their satisfaction and higher productivity.

User Requirements for Customer Communications Management Platforms

Users demand that information be one click or touch of the screen away. For this reason, it is important to prepare CCM tools so that they can be embedded into a company’s existing infrastructure. In this sense, those firms that have considered in their action plans a strong interconnectivity with customers’ solutions will enjoy a significant competitive advantage.

As a rule of thumb, users of Customer Communications Management software want simple solutions that provide exactly the information they are looking for, and nothing else. For instance, let’s say that someone wants to know a customer’s turnover of the previous year or the number of days off remaining. In this latter case, there is no need to call the HR department any more, because the system calculates them automatically. In this way, costs are saved and users are more satisfied, since they get the information immediately. In other words, users now look for a needle in a haystack. The results of search engines with the 10 closest answers to their request don’t do for them any longer.

Another essential requirement of CCM solutions is that they should be multiplatform. They should run not only on different operating systems, but also on different devices. Users expect to carry out the same operation on their laptop, mobile telephone, smart watch, iPad, etc. Here the difficulty lies in keeping the same functionalities when changing devices.

But challenges of Customer Communication Management platforms don’t end here. For companies it is not that easy to determine who manages and has the final say as far as customer communications is concerned. Departments like Billing, Marketing or Customer Service always have something to say, which usually duplicates communications or, even worse, results in different messages. Persuading the Board of Directors to invest in CCM solutions is no easy task either, since both costs and profits are sometimes hard to quantify.

In a nutshell, we are witness to a paradigm shift. In the past, companies used to determine the technological development of solutions. However, now it’s the consumer market (and users in general) what forces companies to move forward and innovate. Here lies the main challenge of CCM platforms. The challenge is considerable, but the potential is also huge.

Sources and relevant information:

  • http://www.gartner.com/it-glossary/customer-communications-management-ccm
  • http://www.cmswire.com/cms/enterprise-cms/no-leader-in-customer-communications-management-software-004984.php
  • http://www.canon.co.uk/business-bytes/articles/customer-communications-management-what-s-your-strategy.aspx