Image by: BrianAJackson, ©2017 Getty Images

Each year, the industry’s leading analysts assess the customer communications management (CCM) landscape using reason, logic, and customer feedback to describe the market to tens of thousands of industry participants. This is an incredible service to the CCM industry, helping to narrow vendor selection, adjust internal vocabularies, assess current capabilities, validate future initiatives, and plan for the distant future.

In 2016, Forrester’s Craig Le Clair authored the Forrester Wave on Customer Communications Management, and in January 2017, Karen Shegda and Pete Basiliere of Gartner provided their most recent view of the market in the Magic Quadrant for Customer Communications Management Software. In both reports, the vendors, who make up the over one billion dollar CCM industry, are evaluated in terms of their strategic vision and performance.

There are some key trends identified in these reports. In particular, the diversity of vendors has increased, reflecting the expanding nature of the communications that are now classified as CCM. These communications are escaping the “box,” which has been narrowly defined for a long time.

The Customer Rules

The Gartner Magic Quadrant states, “The CCM market's origins lie in the convergence of document generation/composition and output management technologies. Traditionally, organizations used these applications to broadcast static, mainly print output to customers. Today's CCM market embraces a more dynamic, interactive model: CCM applications create personalized, on-demand communications via multiple channels, often based on the recipient's preferences rather than the sender's.” This observation covers the major shift in CCM that has been driving the erosion of traditional print and helping digital document delivery gain steam.

The clear trend is that the customer is in control, dictating the speed that new channels are implemented, slamming poor service on social media, and demanding that just the right amount of information is made available on the right channel and at the right time. Failure to deliver on the required positive customer experience will result in loss of new and existing business to savvier communicators.

Trendspotting in CCM

In addition to this focus on the customer, I noticed the importance of other trends within the text of the Gartner Magic Quadrant report, including:
  • Channel is mentioned 22 times
  • Analytics is mentioned 15 times
  • Mobile is mentioned 11 times
  • Social is mentioned 6 times
  • Journey map is mentioned 1 time
Looking at the square world of the Magic Quadrant matrix, it is critical to evaluate how your 2017 projects reflect these trends.

Channel: What is your strategy for multi-channel and/or omni-channel? Your customers have clear expectations in this regard. Are you listening to them?

Analytics: Are your communications performing well? Do you know why or why not? How are you bringing this information to the customer experience team? Capturing the data from multi-step, two-way communications will help you feed the analytic systems.

Mobile: Is your mobile strategy included in the overall communication strategy? Many enterprises still turn to rapid mobile app development (RMAD), mobile application development platforms (MADP), mobile backend as a service (MBaaS), mobile agent specification language (MASL), and agencies to handle mobile tasks. If these tasks are taking your volume, you need to work with these teams to be aligned. The CCM industry is innovating to support this alignment with new design, preview, approval, and deployment tools optimized to include mobile, web, email, print, and other channels.

Social: Social earned a lot of mentions in the report, but it is often seen as a very separate silo. While this might make sense from a marketing perspective, it should still be closely aligned to the overall CCM strategy.

Journey Map: With one lonely mention in the report, customer journey mapping shows up because this is a standard tool of leading customer experience experts to order touchpoints, manage communication project inventory, and bring context to communications. The customer journey mapping paradigm allows mobile, social, print, and other channels to align with customer experience initiatives that are outside the traditional CCM or document area. By participating in this ecosystem, you can help your firm deliver a more consistent customer experience than your competitors.

What the Trends Mean for You

These trends put pressure on people who think too narrowly about CCM. If you look at print volumes, you can see that digital and a focus on customer experiences are taking market share. Put your communications to work in the larger customer experience context of your organization, and pay attention to digital channels when doing so.

A complimentary copy of the January 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for CCM Software mentioned is available here.

Scott Draeger is Vice President of Product Management at GMC Software Technology, a provider of multi-channel and highly personalized document outputs for customer communications management. For more information, visit www.gmc.net or follow him on Twitter @scottdraeger.