No surprise: Looking toward customer communications management (CCM) in 2018, we expect to see a continued focus on digital over paper where outbound communications are concerned.
After all, digital delivery serves a wide range of business objectives. First, it’s cheaper. And it’s “sticky”; for many customers, just signing up for digital delivery tends to limit desire to change. Digital delivery is also the prerequisite for offering interactive experiences with customers and thus for deepening the customer experience.
But then you knew all that. What I want to focus on here is some of the other significant trends we’re seeing out there, as firms start to put CCM tools to new purposes—and as the tools are being asked to do more things.
Beyond Marketing: CCM Tracking Capabilities for Operations
Historically, the increasingly robust tracking capabilities of digital communications have been used primarily by the marketing function. Measuring open rates, the degree of response, and buy rates provides the numbers to help Marketing understand the effect of any given campaign and to fine-tune future communications.
But what we’re now starting to see, particularly in financial services and insurance, is an increased interest in the use of those tracking capabilities from an operations perspective.
Let’s take a compliance example. The average financial services firm may have to prove to an auditor that a customer actually received a piece of correspondence. Meeting this requirement is the purview of Compliance. But providing such proof is the purview of Operations—specifically, IT using the tracking capabilities of digital communications to demonstrate and verify customer receipt and customer interaction—so that the organization can prove that the customer who received that correspondence actually performed the intended action. That’s in contrast to Marketing or Sales, which have made use those same tools, but for measuring, as opposed to authenticating, customer interactions with the organization’s communications.
We expect to see more organizations look to the sophisticated tracking functionality of these tools for this Operations-oriented purpose: to allow the company to prove that a specific communication yielded a specified action, such as updating a profile or making a payment.
Improving the Value of Communications—and Tracking that Value
We see a lot of communications-heavy organizations—those aforementioned financial services and insurance companies, plus utilities---whose communications documents reside on old legacy platforms. The likelihood is that those documents were written years ago and are full of 1990s—or even 1980s—legalese and gobbledygook.
We predict that in 2018, those companies will take significant steps to alter the language and intent of their legacy documents. Many of them will spend money to re-write some of these communications, with the goal of improving their ultimate effectiveness and value.
And the most forward-thinking firms will want some kind of metrics or feedback to help them understand whether rewriting documents has produced the intended result. Am I getting a better response rate? Am I reducing (or increasing, if that’s the goal) interactions with my call centers? Do customers understand the intent of my communications? Are our customers less confused?
But there are two things that may hold companies back from rewriting their communications, particularly the “big uglies” of customer communications: statements and policies.
First, there are regulatory concerns: A lot of states have yet to approve many types of digital delivery. (For some state regulators, proof that you’ve reached out to a customer still requires doing it on paper.)
Second, there’s also a perception (whether true or false) that much of what an organization sends out digitally doesn’t get opened anyway. This is why it’s even more important to have the analytics and the ability to track behavior—and to implement the artificial intelligence capabilities which enable you to do this level of tracking—and to verify customer interaction, as discussed above.
So in 2018, we’d like to see the suppliers of CCM tools further develop the measurement and analytics tools to help organizations better track their customer interactions. This ties in with the analytics infrastructure and engines that many organizations have been putting in place, and their ability to make use of the resulting data.
The CCM Vendor Landscape in 2018
What’s likely to change in the vendor landscape? If any tool is in danger of a significant installed base migrating away, especially in financial services and insurance, it would be Oracle DocuMaker. Oracle simply hasn’t kept pace with the needed changes.
The DocuMaker product is widely viewed as Legacy 2.0: It provides limited multi-channel capabilities; it also lacks the effective responsive design to serve multiple channels agnostically. Nor is it as easy to use as the products of certain competitors, notably Quadient Inspire or OpenText Exstream.
But Oracle won’t be too adversely affected; too many companies have huge inventories of documents in DocuMaker, and switching costs are just too high. But the longer Oracle takes to get around to modernizing its solution, the more likely its customers will start looking more closely at the offerings of Quadient and OpenText.
Those two vendors have been making significant improvements to their products. They both have a sharper focus and connection to the increasingly important analytics side mentioned above. What are you doing to measure the impact or the action of the customer? Did the customer do the thing that you wanted them to do? Or are you communicating it just to validate compliance?
Moreover, there are important database, data storage, and (increasingly) privacy issues to consider with respect to customer communications. Everyone talks about these areas in CCM, but few have made a really good case or told a really good story. Look to Quadient and OpenText to tell that story more effectively in 2018.
Increasing Requirements for Document Accessibility
A critical concern for digital customer communications is document accessibility: the ability for a person who is visually impaired to have a screen reader, the digital equivalent of large-font type. Regulations in the U.S. and Canada on this score are likely to become even more stringent, and vendors will continue to push hard on meeting these document accessibility requirements.
But this concern has implications on the customer side, too. Firms will need to update their compliance with these regulations, which may necessitate a larger, wider re-write campaign. It’s possible, too, that the increased accessibility regulation could serve as a trigger to shut down old legacy platforms which lack the capabilities to meet these requirements. The current generation products of most all CCM vendors support accessibility in one way or another.
Greater Centralization of CCM
Finally, as more and more of this process becomes interconnected, firms will take steps to centralize CCM efforts. They’ll combine what’s on the web page with the customer bill, calls-to-action, and inbound request.
Everything will continue to become more interconnected. And the best way to ensure a truly integrated, consistent customer experience across products and platforms is by centralizing the creation and maintenance of communications.
That’s why it’s so important to refresh your CCM strategy: to bring customer communications into the digital experience age, to include analytics capabilities in your CCM efforts, and to get off those ugly mainframe toolsets.
So that’s where we think the CCM market is headed. And if you’d like some assistance in going digital, or in revisiting your own CCM strategy, you can contact us here.