This article appears in the Winter 2018 digital issue of DOCUMENT Strategy. Subscribe.

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Customer communications management (CCM) is an industry in transition. Last year, we witnessed further convergence of CCM with customer experience (CX) and saw new approaches in configuration and deployment gaining wider adoption. Yet, a popular question remains: Is CCM still relevant today?

One of the key challenges with this term is its ambiguity. Some think of CCM as a means to describe outbound transactional print communications, and others use it as a synonym for document composition. Still, many people-myself included-take a broader perspective, viewing CCM as the creation, management, and fulfilment of any personalized, omni-channel customer interaction at scale. This is irrespective of the channel, communication type, or touchpoint. Therefore, the domain of CCM could extend to anything from promotional marketing emails, personalized web experiences, inbound scans, mobile forms, printed statements, and even call center communications, which can be transcribed, analyzed, and optimized using virtual customer assistant (VCA) technology.

This definition places CCM right in the center of the customer experience management (CXM) space. This is a natural evolution of how enterprises are managing their customer communications and interactions, which is the result of advancements in information technology (IT), consumer behavior, and enterprise IT deployment models.

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Why CCM Needs to Be Redefined

For the foreseeable future, CCM will remain relevant, but it is distinctively different from CXM, even though both share objectives around leveraging customer interactions to improve CX, leading to increased loyalty or other business objectives. There are two reasons why CCM will remain a distinct subset of CXM. First, many CXM tools have been developed with a marketer in mind and struggle to support more complex use cases, including regulated communications. Second, the CXM technology landscape is very fragmented. There are many niche or point solutions in CXM that operate within functional silos. Thus, the continued distinction of CCM technology provides clarity within the wider CXM ecosystem that may share this purpose or vision.

Remember that the nirvana in CX/CCM is a horizontal, end-to-end communications capability that manages and optimizes customer interactions across all touchpoints under a single control. For enterprise architects, chief information officers, or CX professionals scoping out or building enterprise-wide communications systems, understanding that CCM technology is a subset of CX is very helpful. Within this realigned lens of CCM, buyers should focus on four categories of evaluation:
  • Omni-channel
  • Orchestration
  • Interactive/collaboration
  • Process/content automation

Where Are We Going in 2018?

The continuing convergence of CCM with CX will be one of the biggest trends in the new year. Companies will need to digitally transform their communication processes, become more agile, and link their communications to acquisition and retention strategies. If they do not start to do this, they will increasingly feel the pain from competitors or even new startups and innovators who are disrupting established industries.

In 2018, we can expect to see more interest in cloud solutions, loosely coupled architectures based on APIs and microservices, cloud-to-cloud integrations, content automation, machine learning and analytics, mobile messaging networks and chat bots, and tools to help business stakeholders orchestrate messaging to meet the evolving needs of their customers as well as the business. Further, we will also see a strong interest in connecting customer communications with customer experience economics.

Enterprises should not delay in digitally transforming their businesses. The industry is changing rapidly, and inaction is often the biggest inhibitor to innovation.

Kaspar Roos is the Founder and CEO of Aspire Customer Communications Services, an international technology advisory firm specializing in customer communications transformation and customer engagement optimization. Before starting Aspire, he ran InfoTrends’ global production workflow and customer communications advisory service. Follow him on Twitter @kasparroos.
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