We saw the inception of customer communications management (CCM) systems about 20 years ago when what was then known as document composition software evolved to include significant personalization capabilities. Fast forward to today and CCM also has become the foundation for the newer and broader concept of customer experience management (CXM). Over the years, as CCM has become more sophisticated, so have the demands made upon it, such as expectations of conducting personalized query-and-response interactions between an organization and its customers in something close to real time. As CCM becomes more complex, its care and feeding does, too. While the final objective is CXM, CCM still remains technology that requires knowledgeable operation and maintenance to achieve the desired results.
Today, several CCM operational solutions are available. Deciding what fits best with your company’s needs may depend on several things: the size of your organization, what kind of CCM infrastructure you have already, if any, and what kind of resources you’re willing and able to commit to it.
In one scenario, you can acquire a CCM system with the capability to draw upon a variety of internal data sources, including legacy and departmental systems, to aggregate customer data and content. In this case, the IT department usually builds and operates the system, including designing the templates that may or may not allow for adding variable messaging to items like invoices or statements. Modifications to the templates, like changing or updating compliance language, must be done by IT, so this can take time and expensive labor hours, as well as generating hundreds or even thousands of unique templates. Many of the enterprises that run their own CCM systems also do their own printing and mailing and electronic delivery; and they are usually very large organizations that can justify the expense of such a multifaceted operation.'
Hosted systems offer an alternative to software as a service (SaaS) models, in that an outside vendor owns and operates the software and your staff accesses the applications as needed by connecting to them in the cloud. Using a hosted system still requires using your own IT staff to extract and deliver data to the hosted system, but template development, standardized content and other information are hosted and also stored in the cloud. Depending on which vendor you choose, print and mail services and electronic delivery may be available or you may do it yourself or use another service provider. The drawbacks to using a SaaS system are that you still need in-house IT staff and, for many companies, data security is a consideration. Though hosted systems can save money compared to investing in your own infrastructure, these services usually are provided on a subscription basis and, once you’ve partnered with one vendor, moving to another means going through an extensive setup process all over again.
Hosted managed services (HMS) are similar to the SaaS model in that you’re hiring an outside vendor, but often they take on the tasks of aggregating your data, developing templates and setting up document delivery channels. By outsourcing customer communications to an HMS, you don’t have to make the capital investment in technology and salaried staff to build and maintain the infrastructure required to generate and deliver customer communications. A significant benefit is that the pricing models offered by HMS providers are flexible and most often based on usage.
Which way will CCM go in the future? Perhaps every way. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees, including programmers, are working remotely, so SaaS and/or hosted managed services may become especially appealing. If your organization can move the programmers out of the office, they might also consider moving the printing and mailing operations outside to an outside print service provider (PSP). Additionally, because PSPs already do some data manipulation, formatting and print and electronic output, they might consider taking on a larger share of the CCM operation in terms of collecting data and developing document design and generation capabilities.
How to decide which option works best for your organization should start with an assessment of how much you’re spending on customer communications now and exactly where you want to go in the future. In itself, this can be a complex task and should involve all the departments in your company that generate documents for whatever purpose. Here are two initial questions to ask: Will changing your existing CCM operations, no matter how manual or automated, trigger internal resistance or objections? Can you get a buy-in from all stakeholders and the necessary funding? Both these questions need answers to get the most effective and efficient results and reach your final destination of CXM.
Kemal Carr is President of Madison Advisors. Under his direction, Madison Advisors has established a market niche as an independent analyst & market research firm that addresses the needs of the electronic and print customer communications Management (CCM) marketplace. Kemal is regularly sought out by some of the leading output technology publications to write about or comment on the industry’s key issues and topics, including articles on the impact of eDelivery and Multi-channel delivery, advancement in communication technologies and electronic document presentment.