What is Customer Communications Management?
You’ve probably heard the phrase or acronym – CCM – many times in meetings. You might have even looked it upon Google to see what it was and got a somewhat rudimentary answer. It seems rather self-explanatory though, doesn’t it? Customer communications management … it’s just the management of customer communications. See, easy. Yeah, you know it’s not that simple. So, then, what is customer communications management?
At its core, CCM — there’s that acronym — IS the management of customer communications, but it’s more than that.
Customer Communications Management is software that allows organizations to centralize communications with customers across a diverse range of channels, both analog and digital. It includes printed documents, emails, PDF attachments, interactive documents, SMS text messages and more.
It is easy for businesses to become disconnected from their customers. Many organizations find that while their business grows, properly communicating with customers comes second place most of the time. Communication becomes impersonal and in many cases, it happens because it is seen as a legal need or business requirement rather than a vehicle for connecting with customers.
New-comers in many industries challenge existing organizations by providing better interactions and steal customers away. Unfortunately, this poaching can be easy, as established organizations frequently run obsolete communication systems that are difficult to upgrade.
Now that you’ve seen the big picture, let’s look at customer communications management in a little more detail so you’ll have a greater understanding — and appreciation — of what a good Customer Communications Management solution can do for you.
The Documents of Customer Communications Management
Your organization communicates with your customers at least once a month or so, if for nothing else than to send a statement or invoice. Some companies send out different types of communications, though. Have a new product coming out that your customers would like to know about? Send a text message. Want to know what your customers think about your company? Send an email. A customer would like your company to send them a copy of their bill or invoice for the last four months? Yep, send a document. At the heart of CCM is managing documents. There are three types of documents you will typically send to your customers.
These types of documents are going to be the ones your company will send the most. Structured documents are those that are scheduled, formatted, and rarely need any changes. A great customer communications management solution will provide your business with template management. The templates will pull information from your servers about your customers to fill out the document. These types of documents are usually bills, invoices, or statements.
Business communications often require data packages with hundreds of pages that include various types of documents, such as invoices, contracts, reports, etc. Moreover, these high-volume document packs must be sent out to several recipients according to each of their preferred channel and schedule. Without a solid customer communication management solution in place, overseeing such a process is simply overwhelming. Handling so many different documents manually also increases the likelihood of human error. A CCM solution comes with batch communication capabilities, so the process of assembling and distributing high volume document packages can be done automatically.
View Batch Documents Infographic
Lastly, your organization will always run into times when it needs to produce documents on the fly. CCM solutions allow for greater on-demand document production, which is usually triggered by requests from various incoming channels, such as the web, phone, email, social media, etc. On-demand document production can be automated or done manually.
View On-Demand Documents Infographic
As you might have already figured out, interactive documents are just that — interactive. Nevertheless, they’re becoming a bigger and much more important part of customer communications management. These documents call for a very high degree of personalization, so your customer communications management solution needs to link the customer-specific data to predefined structures, such as a particular text block. The right software will provide more individualized output based on matching customer-specific and customer-relevant data. These documents typically include offers, contracts, marketing materials, or anything that requires your customers to, well, interact.
View On-Demand Documents Infographic
The Advantages of Using a CCM Solution
Now that you know the main types of documents involved in customer communications management, you’ll need a better picture of how it all comes together. For all intents and purposes, a customer communications management solution is simply this: a way to create, deliver, store, and retrieve these documents. Of course, there’s good CCM solutions and, well, let’s just call them “the others.”
If your company doesn’t have a focus on your customers and you don’t really care about retaining or having loyal customers, maybe having one of “the others” is best for you. Guess you’re not interested in increased revenue, happy customers, or a significant ROI.
OK, now that those folks have stopped reading, let’s talk about the importance of good CCM. As a company, your goal for customer communications management should be to optimize the way you communicate with your customers. How do you do that, though?
1. Give Them What They Want
This might actually come as a surprise, but some customers would actually be willing to pay MORE for something if they get great customer service. Creating a stellar customer experience — or, another acronym, CX — provides an incredible ROI, gives you customer loyalty like you wouldn’t believe, and new customers based on what your customers say about your company. Listen to what your customers want.
Streamlining customer service experiences can be intimidating. It may seem like you’re undermining the value of human interaction. Still, it’s important to consider that customer transactions are an opportunity. It’s a chance for you to show your customers that you care about them.
Don’t treat customer service software as a replacement for human connectivity. Instead, go about it a different way. Remember that you can still personalize those customer interactions with your CCM solution.
Your customer communications management solution produces analytical data that will give you insights into every level of business. Use that data to be proactive about generating specific experiences for different customers. By doing so, you’re proving that while you’re using technology, you still value the human touch.
Customers want to feel valued and appreciated. By enabling a CCM solution, you’re optimizing your company’s transactions. As a result, you’re freeing up customers’ time and energy. Then they can spend more personal, one-on-one time interacting with your employees.
2. Give Communications a Personal Touch
“Hello, Customer No. 24601 …” Les Misérables references aside, no one likes being a number. Customers want to feel as though you care about them. Only about 22% of consumers today feel that they get a personalized experience when they work with or make a purchase from a company.
However, the same study referenced above found that nearly 50% of all consumers say that they’re willing to wait to hear back from a company if it means they’ll get some kind of personalized communication or product suggestion.
When you’re not at work, you’re a customer for other businesses. How do you like to be treated by these businesses? Are you just a number to them? Do they even show the slightest interest in learning anything about you? Compare that with how your company currently treats your customers. Could you do better?
As part of the template management with good CCM, it’s possible to include ads, up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, and more, in a relevant way for your customers. For example, the right customer communications management solution can evaluate a customer’s bill, see they shop at a certain store, and provide a coupon to that store right on their bill.
Or, if you work for a telecommunications company, a template can be set up so if a customer continues to hover around one level of data usage, a message can be added to their bill that says something along the lines of, “Hey, we noticed you continue to use X amount of data. For a few dollars more, you can upgrade to this new plan.”
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3. Help Them Help Themselves
Believe it or not, your customers want to have a say in how you communicate with them. A customer communications management solution helps empower your customers while reducing the strain on your support staff.
By creating a system of self-service, your company will be able to build on your customer engagement and satisfaction by allowing them to receive documents in their preferred language, the format that makes the most sense to them, at a time that is convenient for them, and that they receive correspondence on their preferred communication channel (for example, through a text message or an email.) A strong CCM solution enables you to set up this kind of service easily and efficiently.
When you treat your customer as an individual, not as part of a larger segmented group, you’ll reduce your call center load, boost your customer satisfaction and engagement, and gain loyal long-term clients.
It all goes back to creating the best possible CX. If your customers are happy, your company will be happy. If they’re not, you won’t have any customers and you won’t have to worry about customer communications management.
4. Focus on Omnichannel Engagement
A Customer communication management solution must focus on omnichannel engagement. By the year 2021, the average North American consumer will own about 13 different devices that connect to the Internet.
Think about how many different kinds of networked devices you already own. You connect to the Internet on your smartphone, on your desktop computer at work or at home, on a tablet, on your laptop, and maybe even through your television.
No matter where you are, having lots of different devices to choose from makes it easy for you to get the information you want anywhere, at any time. And you want to be able to pick up right where you left off the last time you visited a website, started writing a document, or began filling out a form.
Omnichannel communications enable you – and your customers – to do exactly that.
This means that you provide customers with cohesive multi-channel marketing, customer service, and shopping experiences, no matter how many different devices they use to connect with your business.
The right CCM solution also allows for both traditional and modern omnichannel communication with your customers. For example, some clients may prefer email, PDF files, and printed documents, while others want to fill out forms on their smartphones.
You need to be able to provide several different channels of communication, based on customer preferences, simultaneously. No matter what channel your customers want to hear from you — postal mail, email, social media, SMS or text messaging, phone calls, etc. — you will be able to deliver those communications easily and correctly using your CCM solution.
5. Map the Customer Journey
It’s 10:00 AM — do you know where your customers are?
If your customer communication management solution doesn’t include some form of journey mapping, then the answer is likely no.
Use your CCM solution to help you understand the ways in which your customers interact with your company in real-time. Customer journey mapping also makes it much easier for you to understand how may touchpoints you need to turn a lead into a sale.
You can even create sample customer journeys based on past client data, and then continue to tweak the way you engage with customers to speed up the buying cycle.
For example, you’ll learn where the roadblocks are in your current customer journey, and understand where you can implement automation or even use interactive documents to help you fix things.
You can also decide exactly when you’ll directly interact with your customers and leads. For example, you can send out automatic correspondence after a specific event, or reach out when a customer gets to a specific phase of their buying journey.
Use this information to streamline communications between different teams in your office, so that everyone’s lives — not just those of your customers — are made a bit easier.
6. Orchestrate Teamwork and Inspire collaboration
With divided á la carte solutions, your team is also divided. Departments almost have to work blind to each other while siloed in programming, writing, design, oversight, and more.
These tasks have been isolated in the past, because the assumption – for whatever reason – was that they are different specializations that don’t need to be understood by other members of the team.
There’s also the inverse of this, where the IT department simply does everything – from programming to design, because in-house solutions are sometimes so complex that you need a background in computer science to use them.
Whatever the case, a solid customer communication management solution allows for a divide-and-conquer approach, syncing the individual aspects of the work in such a way that, while they get to be isolated and focused, they are not blind to each other.
This is accomplished by a simpler interface shared by the whole community, not just siloed off to a specific department. Programmers deal with their part and likewise does everyone else in the team, but the CCM solution translates it across departments and gives even the most non-technical managers the ability to oversee every part of the process.
Of course, this is merely a sampling of everything that makes up a solid customer communications solution. Other things to consider are document automation, customer experience automation, digital experience, and more. Also, our staff here at MHC is friendly, knowledgeable, and will work with you to answer your questions and, if your company is ready, find the right customer communications management solution for you. We look forward to helping you down the path to better customer communications.
Free Customer Communications Management Resources
Below are some downloadable papers that will help fill in any blanks in the CCM puzzle you might have. For even more info, make sure you check out our resource library, our infographics library, and our CCM blog!
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