Customer communications management (CCM) is a vital component of any business. Last November, we saw the first Gartner Magic Quadrant for CCM, highlighting just how significant this software market has become. In January, the Forrester Wave: Document Output For Customer Communications Management report was released, which emphasizes the need for enterprises to realize the potential of CCM to improve customer experiences and to more tightly integrate with other business applications. So what can we expect to see for the future of CCM?
1. CCM errors
A high profile mistake will draw attention to today’s generally haphazardly managed customer communications. As communication channel proliferation continues, due to smartphone and tablet adoption, enterprises will start to understand that serious problems lurk within their collection of hundreds, or even thousands, of disconnected CCM projects.
I suspect this year at least one major enterprise will have a high profile gaffe, most likely starting with a free-form text area that delivers an offensive or inappropriate communication to a customer with a large social media presence. Upon seeing this, other enterprises will evaluate their policies on outbound communications of all sorts.
Leaders will start to resolve this issue by focusing on preservation and management of the voice of the company. The marketing team will most likely be charged with managing this voice across every customer touch point, but will encounter difficulties.
2. New design concepts
Responsive design concepts will jump out of the agency and into the lines of business. For the past few years, the most impressive mobile applications, tablet applications, and portal-based presentations of customer data have been designed and implemented by a handful of specialized outsourced digital agencies. As their skills have delivered results, best practices in cross-channel and responsive design will enter the line of business as design expertise is passed on through successful projects. Enterprises are great at absorbing skills, and onmichannel CCM design skills are ripe for absorption.
Armed with these new skills, enterprise CCM experts will insist that all CCM applications start their design phase with these valuable skills. The leaders who incorporate responsive design into their communications will see initial resistance until the stakeholders understand the business improvements of responsive design and high quality information display.
3. Communication measurement
Progressive C-suites will incorporate metrics that include measurements of CCM performance. While not deliberate, social media and mobility-based metrics will reach the top level dashboards. Expect dashboards to include things like; “communication cost per customer,” “cost of interaction by channel,” “acquisition cost by channel,” and “90-day retention costs.”
These metrics will shed light on the interconnectedness of communication channels during critical stages in the customer lifecycle, especially the first 90 days. Measuring these costs and the long-term customer retention will direct focus to the communication infrastructure.
4. New C-suite officers
More major insurers and banks will appoint Chief Experience Officers or Chief Mobile Officers to the C-suite as these issues affect top-level corporate strategy.
5. CCM investment
Savvy IT departments will take a look at their CCM investments and measure their “Return on Maintenance,” ultimately challenging CCM technology providers who are not delivering enough innovation at market speed. As major mobile carriers actively advertise to reduce the upgrade cycle to 12 months, CCM technology providers with long (over 18-month) release cycles will struggle to retain existing customers. The savvy customers will demand innovation or consider faster-paced vendors.
6. Shared implementations
Early successes in outsourced mobile and social communications will meet challenges in coordinating with other communication touch points. Some early success stories from outsourced cloud-based CCM implementations will experience issues as the project scales to other locations in the business. Portability of corporate IP in a proprietary-hosted environment will become an issue. Several early cloud-based CCM projects will change to other models that are easier to connect with a larger portfolio of critical and non-critical applications.
7. Marketing to provide the company voice
CMOs will seek involvement in controlling the voice of CCM. As customers continue to use social media to increase pressure on enterprises, CMOs will begin to eliminate these issues before they occur. This means gaining access to all customer-facing communications. Most importantly, CMOs will begin to care about some “operations only” communications that have been running for years on legacy systems. The first questions will start with:
Can we get this design current in terms of look and feel?
How can we integrate our other programs on these communications?
What do you mean it takes three months to change this?
Leading CMOs will roll up their sleeves and take accountability for the entirety of the voice of the company, across all touch points and all departmental communication projects.
Agile businesses will seek opportunities to deliver innovation on top of legacy systems, instead of replacing them, realizing that the time to implementation can be shorter than the evaluation and budgeting cycles required for platform replacement.
Some businesses will also be forced to take this path after mergers or acquisitions. With the dynamic moves in today’s global economy, enterprises that grow inorganically will be required to deliver innovation without the luxury of 18 to 36-month core platform replacement projects. The business people who realize this early will deliver incredible benefits, starting with what they already have.
9. Line of business focus
IT organizations, tired of unnecessary “re-keying” work, will accelerate the shift of responsibility of project effort to lines of business (LOB). In the past, the LOBs were typically leading the charge to seek alternative solutions for complex CCM projects. I foresee IT teams will accelerate this trend, understanding that the least efficient tasks, like content authoring, editing and approvals, can become more efficient when self-directed by the line of business’ stakeholders.
IT teams will seek technology that makes it easy for their LOB customers to manage their projects within the LOB’s constraints. By adopting this view, the IT team can separate their calendar of proactive architectural improvements from the calendars of their various customers.
10. A new customer demand
On a global level, customers will continue to express a preference for clear communications, but in they will start to have a choice of businesses that differentiate themselves by actually communicating clearly throughout the customer lifecycle, on every customer channel and at any time.
As customers communicate from a growing variety of supported devices, clarity of communication and ease-of use in interacting with the business will become a key differentiator. More enterprises will market towards low-frustration or low-friction interactions to connect with prospective customers who find it difficult to deal with all of the devices and channels that are available.
Scott Draeger is customer communication strategist for GMC Software Technology.