By Cassandra Balentine
Communication between a client and company is essential to an effective and mutually beneficial relationship. As new channels emerge, many customers expect the ability to communicate with the organizations they regularly do business with to evolve accordingly. Therefore, the importance of customer communications management (CCM) is integral to maintain and evolve customer relations.
Many factors play into the role of defining communication delivery options. Depending on the vertical, compliance issues are prevalent, as well as the propensity for alternative channels. For instance, consumers may feel more comfortable with electronic delivery (e-delivery) for phone bills over credit card statements.
Beyond outgoing communication through statements and bills, it is becoming more important for companies to initiate and maintain a two-way dialog with customers. The ability to track, record, and react to customer behavior as a result allows consumers and companies alike to gain more from their relationships.
“With the tremendous surge in mobile communications and online media where customers are always on and connected, there is an ever-increasing need to deliver consistent and relevant personalized customer experiences across all channels,” suggests Judy Berlin, VP marketing, XMPie. “Now, more than ever, recipient behaviors and responses are extremely important inputs, needed in order to keep the dialogue meaningful and focused, and should be programmed into any marketing campaign that intends to drive results.”
A trend towards what is known as customer experience management (CEM) often serves as an extension of the traditional CCM model, eliminating silos and adding new dimensions to customer relationship management.
Traditional channels, electronic adoption, and social media integration are considerations for every enterprise or organization that follows a customer communications strategy. As the world continues its digital advancement, we watch as these mediums complement each other for the ultimate customer experience.
Print is still a vital form of communication. While e-delivery options are appealing to enterprises for the postal savings, and consumers for easy access and reduced mail, there are still many challenges in the way of total digital adoption.
Avi Greenfield, portfolio innovation manager, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Exstream, says that in his experience, many enterprises have less faith in e-delivery than they do in print and mail, inhibiting the growth of digital channels.
Consumers also still find print appealing. “If it is the intent for customers to receive their communications through the channel of choice, then printed communications are still viable,” states Jamie Harris, VP of Diversified Services, GMC Software Technology, North America. He explains that even with the growing acceptance of customers to receive communications electronically, adoption is slow in certain segments. “Reports show an overwhelming majority of consumers still prefer to receive critical communications in the mail. We believe that certain communications will continue to have a preference of print for the foreseeable future.”
Andrew Thomas, product marketing director, SDL, agrees, noting that while companies should recognize that the demand for print is diminishing as customers embrace e-delivery options, the need to deliver to this physical channel will likely never completely go away, particularity in regulated industries such as financial services and medical devices. “It’s important to maintain high-quality print materials in conjunction with e-delivery options to ensure the best experience for customers,” he adds.
While David Day, product marketing manager, Crawford Technologies, admits that some transactional print is decreasing due to alternative delivery methods, he still sees the value of printed documents. “Print communications remain important as evidenced by still high print levels,” he says, adding that he has witnessed high adoption rates of alternative deliveries in some verticals and low rates in others.
While print remains viable and preferred by many, e-delivery is gaining ground, either as a primary or secondary communications delivery channel.
A push for e-delivery by enterprises is driven by the prospect of reduced postage costs versus paper use, as well as the consumer’s need for instant access to cloud-based information through mobile platforms.
Nick Romano, CEO, Prinova, points out that e-delivery options are an important part of any company’s communications strategy, and that adoption is on the rise. “They must, however, be mixed with other channels to accommodate customer preferences and legal obligations,” he adds.
David Hinrichsen, VP, sales and marketing, Napersoft, believes that e-delivery options are a necessary component to any solution. “In today’s fast-paced world, customer preferences have ushered in new requirements; more customers are either interested in or require access to communications anytime, anywhere,” he adds.
The move for a better customer experience is partially related to the social media revolution. With outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, organizations have an accessible public face where they are free to communicate with customers and prospects in a casual and approachable setting.
Hinrichsen points out that customer experiences not only include interactions through traditional channels, but increasingly through social media as well. “To manage the customer experience, CCM solutions need a strategy that encompasses all customer touch points,” he adds.
Prinova’s Romano suggests that CCM has always acted as an extension of CEM, with customer communications being a key component of the overall customer experience. “Social media outlets fit into the equation as very effective vehicles for sharing and communicating poor and outstanding customer experiences, making companies pay attention to them as communications channels.”
Beyond distribution, social media acts as an interactive medium that companies leverage to engage with customers.
“The advent of social media has added a completely new dimension to the term customer experience, as consumers use the power of social media platforms to be heard and demand a two-way relationship,” suggests GMC’s Harris.
The movement to CEM is happening and requires a change of mind all the way up to senior executives. Bernie Gracy, VP, strategy, Pitney Bowes, says CEM requires the elimination of silos between marketing, lines of business, and operations to effectively orchestrate rich customer experience across all customer interactions.
Companies must recognize the importance of monitoring and managing customer experiences from beginning to end, dynamically learning about customer behaviors, needs, and objectives—and using this data as a feedback loop. “In this way, customers can interact effectively through personalization at every touch point, to provide the right message at the right time,” says XMPie’s Berlin. “This is true whether via social media platforms or otherwise. If marketers allow customer experiences to simply grow organically without collecting data or nurturing the relationship, they will miss crucial opportunities to get them towards the desired goals.”
Nearly every horizontal and vertical technology is currently affected by two major trends—the cloud and mobility. CCM solutions are no exception. A combination of these forces, mixed with the demand for data and multiple delivery channels, challenges software providers to develop solutions that integrate these trends efficiently and effectively.
For instance, HP’s Greenfield finds that cloud-based applications are becoming increasingly popular within CCM. In June of 2013, the company unveiled HP Relate, an extension of the HP Exstream CCM solution. The cloud-based offering integrates with Salesforce to create and deliver compelling, highly personalized customer communications including sales quotes, proposals, direct marketing, and correspondence.
Beyond the cloud, HP Exstream’s Delivery manager is designed to advance its customers’ abilities to move from printed communications by reducing some of the inherent problems with email and SMS messaging. “With Delivery Manager’s ability to reroute communications to another channel after a failed delivery, enterprises can be assured that every attempt will be made to deliver subsequent messages alerting the user why they are receiving communications via a channel other than their preferred communications channel,” explains Greenfield.
The solution also features a built-in integration with market-leading ExactTarget, which enables customers using ExactTarget to seamlessly send out email, SMS, and social communication.
Customers select numerous new online communications to organize their lives, which Pitney Bowes’ Gracy describes as digital “me” oriented environments driven by personal clouds, and digital “we” environments for family organization. “As customers choose which online experiences best meet their needs, our clients need the ability to securely syndicate their brand content to them,” he says.
In partnership with Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc., Pitney Bowes recently announced an interactive digital communications exchange designed to make it easier for businesses to communicate with consumers about transactions. The new platform, powered by Amazon Web Services, enables consumers to securely receive and store documents and manage payments on any participating online channel they prefer. “By consolidating content with a single integration, companies provide customers with tailored communications on the channels they choose to interact and organize their lives,” adds Gracy.
Trends, such as the cloud and new delivery options, consistently reshape the CCM landscape. GMC’s Harris believes that customers will drive even more innovation, such as a robust ability to interact within the communication and make real-time changes via the customer communications they regularly receive.
Many of the company’s new offerings, such as subscription services, Dynamic Communications, Interactive Correspondence, and information tracking, are at the leading edge of the market.
“Rich media content, ubiquitous mobile access, and cloud publishing are all emerging trends that affect CCM within organizations,” says SDL’s Thomas.
The company offers SDL LiveContent Reach, which is fully skinnable and mobile friendly. It utilizes its recent investment in mobile technology to provide easy creation of print, Web, and mobile friendly content to its customers. Thomas notes that the company is also investing in SDL XPP, a mature print publishing engine, to prepare for customizable publishing as a service, which is delivered through the cloud.
“Technology is ever changing. Trends, such as mobile and cloud-based solutions, have a direct impact on CCM. These trends help shape CCM solutions that give customers the power to access communications at the touch of their fingers—all in a one-stop solution,” says Hinrichsen.
Napersoft’s products are engineered to be flexible and robust, allowing customers to take advantage of trends and technology advances. The company deals with evolutionary platform changes, from mainframe computers and client/server configurations to Web Services, and is dedicated to staying at the cutting-edge of CCM technology.
Data is another increasingly important aspect of CCM. While the print industry is well aware of its benefits in a promotional setting, the pressure is on to manage the customer experience with the help of data in terms of when and how consumers want to be reached.
Berlin notes that successful campaigns must be appropriately responsive and not simply include a call to action. “Achieving this is not trivial and requires an approach that supports highly individualized communications management that is able to react and nurture customer interest while at the same time exploit each media to its fullest potential—including print, email, and Web.”
XMPie has supported variable data print functions since its inception approximately 14 years ago. Unique to the company is its approach that data, rules, and design are all key elements integrated into a single framework, achieving a consistent and coherent personalized experience that makes sense across different media outlets.
Incorporating these various channels and technologies to a CCM strategy is critical to maintaining customer satisfaction. However, it is important that organizations pay attention to the workflow that supports this new functionality. “As many organizations address alternative delivery methods, including mobile, cloud, email, digital mailboxes, and drop boxes, the workflows are not coherent, causing additional processing steps, redundancy, and opportunities for error,” warns Crawford Tech’s Day.
Crawford Tech’s PRO Channel Manager interfaces with today’s delivery methods, creating a bi-directional flow to communicate to and from the source to verify transmission and delivery.
Romano adds that companies are asked to do more with less, and need the tools and solutions that allow them to do this. “What this means is pushing content control to the line of business, getting rid of expensive change management cycles that require a lot of overhead and resources, reducing infrastructure costs and burdens by using cloud-based solutions, and partnering with organizations that can help them scale on an on demand basis.”
Prinova’s Messagepoint is a hybrid cloud-based solution that is delivery channel agnostic, allowing for the delivery of customer communications across multiple channels. “It gets customer communications in the hands of the business users, letting them make the changes they need without burdening IT. This allows communications to get changed quicker, letting businesses react to changes that could impact the customer experience,” he adds.
Many software solutions are available to facilitate effective cross-channel document creation and delivery for a range of organizations from large enterprises to smaller print providers.
Crawford Tech provides solutions to enhance document print streams for both print and e-delivery. This eliminates the need to re-code all customer legacy applications. The company’s CCM solutions are flexible, scalable, and adaptable to any sized company. Ideally, the company would produce some form of transactional document, including print, alternative delivery, or a combination of two.
GMC Inspire is a robust CCM software solution designed to help businesses increase customer engagement. The solution enables enterprises to effectively streamline and advance the creation and delivery of marketing, transactional, and operational communications. It also includes comprehensive content management capabilities for highly regulated industries allowing businesses to ensure corporate and legislative compliance across all communications. GMC serves thousands of clients of all sizes worldwide across banking, insurance, retail, business services, telecommunications/utilities, healthcare, and service provider industries.
The core capabilities required for a complete CCM solution that supports on demand structured and interactive projects include input, design seats, production engine capabilities, integration connectors, and output generation. These are the base modules found in HP Exstream Design and Production. Due to its modular design, HP Exstream allows organizations to choose to only license modules that meet their immediate requirements. If the requirements change, they can license additional modules and quickly access the functionality. Key markets targeted by Exstream include insurance, financial services, utilities, telecommunications, and public sector.
Napersoft CCM solutions holistically manage customer communications across all lines of business within an enterprise. Its solutions are designed to empower business users to quickly and easily compose, format, and deliver relevant and personalized customer communications at the right time in the customer’s preferred channels. Its offerings include a distributed Microsoft Windows server platform solution, Napersoft CCM Document Platform; along with a z/OS mainframe computer platform solution, Napersoft zCCM Document Platform. The distributed authoring tool, Napersoft CCM Author, assists business users with the template authoring process. The company provides commercial and governmental customers of all sizes with innovatve document creation and distribution solutions.
Pitney Bowes offers a range of products that fit within CCM, including its EngageOne eMessaging, Interactive, Liason, Server, and Viewpoint; DOC1; Content Author; Vault; P/I OfficeMail; and StreamWeaver. The company’s traditional markets include enterprise organizations looking for on-premise, enterprise-class solutions across all verticals. It also notes success with larger mid-sized businesses.
Prinova Messagepoint is a centralized, Web-based CCM software platform that allows business users to control the entire messaging lifecycle for all print or digital communications, independent of IT. The solution is built for organizations with sophisticated CCM requirements for print and other channels. Many companies that utilize the solution are in the financial services, insurance, healthcare, telecommunications/utilities, and retail space.
SDL’s CCM solution consists primarily of the SDL LiveContent suite. The three products in the suite include Architect, an XML component-based content management system; Create, a WYIWYG browser-based XML editor; and Reach, a dynamic publishing and collaboration system complete with publishing analytics. Additionally, the company offers SDL Media Manager for rich media integration. According to the company, the solution’s strongest presence is with high-tech and software, with consumer electronics closely behind. The company reports recent adoption of CCM by manufacturing and medical device companies, as well as insurance and financial service companies starting to update legacy systems to meet emerging customer demands.
XMPie software enables the efficient creation and generation of personalized print and digital media communications that are both relevant and effective. The company offers powerful variable data publishing software, which is designed to unite customer databases, logic, and creative content for print service providers, marketing service firms, small- to medium-sized businesses, as well as large enterprises.
The Communication Experience
CCM is an integral component of the overall customer experience. While e-delivery methods receive a lot of buzz, printed communications are still an important—and often preferred—channel. However, as customers adapt to an electronic lifestyle, relevant and electronic channels are also in demand and should not be left out of a company’s overall communications strategy.
Sophisticated CCM software solutions enable organizations to meet evolving customer demands by providing both traditional and next-generation delivery options. dps
Mar2014, DPS Magazine