For the last two years or so, a shift has been occurring—and a gap developing—in the customer communications management (a.k.a., document automation) market.

More and more analysts, vendors and companies have begun talking about “customer experience.” Depending upon the source, the meaning of—or relationship to—“customer experience” has, at times, seemed vague or tentative, but one thing has been fairly clear and consistent: the prescription for companies to focus on the customer journey; to understand why and how a customer interacts with various touchpoints (including customer communications); and the impact on customer acquisition, satisfaction, loyalty and retention.

To date, the customer experience conversation has been dominated by marketing voices, with a focus on acquiring customers. Makes sense, in a way. Marketing has lots of tools designed to collect, analyze and act on data. Just ask Scott Brinker, author of Chief Marketing Technologist blog, or check out his marketing technology infographic, illustrating how, in the last year, the number of “customer experience” technology vendors has nearly doubled. There are now more than 1,800 “marketing technology” vendors.

A few luminaries have started to speak more openly and loudly about the need for organizations to be “customer-centric” and to have an “outside-in” view of customers. A realization is spreading that, in order to be truly customer-centric, organizations must consider the entire customer life cycle—to not only win but also serve and retain customers.
For example, Sheryl Pattek, Forrester vice president and principal analyst serving chief marketing officer (CMO) professionals, has proposed the “marketing operating system” as a way to overcome organizational silos and has challenged CMOs to expand their remit to look beyond customer acquisition and assume the role of chief customer officer.

What about the rest of the organization, beyond the marketing department? Don’t they have important interactions with customers that should be considered and incorporated into this 360-degree view of the customer? Shouldn’t they and their systems of record and engagement, including customer communications management solutions, be part of the “digital experience delivery” architecture? If so, then how?

What markets want
In January 2015, Topdown commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a research study to see how the market thinks about customer communications management (CCM) and to explore the shift in market needs that may see a merger between traditional CCM solutions and emerging customer experience platforms.

In the study, only 12% reported being very satisfied with their ability to manage customer-facing communications across the entire customer life cycle, from attracting and engaging prospective customers to serving and retaining existing customers.

The three reasons why the other 88% were not very satisfied should come as no surprise:
  • People: We wanted to know the secrets of success for those that reported being "very satisfied," so Forrester asked those few respondents how they achieved such a high degree of satisfaction. The majority attributed it to a “comprehensive, senior management-led initiative to reform and revise customer communications.” This echoes one of the common attributes that Forrester found in companies with the most improved Customer Experience Index (CXi) scores.
  • Process: We asked those respondents who reported being other than "very satisfied" to rank the top things they thought were getting in the way. The number one reason reported was: “The processes required to coordinate communications across the entire customer journey are not in place.”
  • Technology: The next most frequently cited reason was: “An integrated set of tools, consolidating customer experience management and customer communications management is not available.” What about all of those digital experience delivery platforms? Don’t they do everything? Apparently not or, at least, not well enough.
To better understand the sources of dissatisfaction, Forrester then asked what gaps, if any, exist as a result of multiple departments or lines of business sending customer communications at various points along the customer journey.

The top three customer communications-related gaps were:

1. Automation: 35% of respondents are not able to automate all of the communications they would like because their current tools/technologies do not offer the necessary capabilities.

2. Personalization: 35% of respondents reported not being able to achieve the same degree of personalization across all customer-facing communications.

3. Channels: 34% of respondents reported that not all departments are able to send communications over the same channels or over a given customer’s preferred channel.

Forrester then asked what organizations see as the best way to address these gaps. Given the current research being done around customer experience and digital experience delivery platforms, we were keenly interested in how respondents viewed the role of web content management (WCM) systems in coordinating customer communications across the customer journey.

Role of the WCM in CCM
We were surprised to find that the majority of respondents (51%) were interested or very interested in a WCM-based customer communications management (CCM) solution. Clearly, the WCM has cemented its role as the hub of digital experience delivery, and that role apparently extends beyond the current marketing applications. From the research, the respondents want a dedicated CCM system that can integrate with other WCM-based systems. We believe this reflects a tacit understanding that service-related customer communications have different requirements than marketing-oriented communications and that different solutions may be required, if not desired, at least for now.

For more, explore the executive summary of the study, including detailed findings, on the Topdown website. To stay up to date on this important development, subscribe to the Topdown blog.

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