integrating customer communications management

Integrating Customer Communications Management

integrating customer communications management

Integrating Customer Communications Management

July 15 2020 | By Rod Lowe | Blog

Increasingly, we’re seeing more demand for integrating Customer Communications Management (CCM) into other enterprise systems. As companies map their buyer’s journey, they are discovering more opportunities to communicate with customers. 

In the past, we tended to think about how to integrate Customer Communications Management with customer data to enable personalized messaging. Although this is still important, NextGen CCM platforms are finding an increased need to expose capabilities to other business systems. This need is driven by a desire to enable those systems to communicate with customers more effectively, consistently and to maintain compliance.

To ensure compliance and optimize cost, a consistent message, voice and tone and review process for all customer communications needs to be developed. For example, in insurance when a client interacts with the claims team, or member support, communications should be developed with the same rigor as those used for sales and marketing. 

Document composition engines in other business systems tend to lag behind those of NextGen CCM platforms. NextGen CCM provides a much richer authoring and editing experience. NextGen CCM also offers superior versioning, approval, and auditing capabilities.  

To integrate customer communications management with other business systems NextGen CCM offers an Application Programming Interface (API). An API defines the interactions between software solutions. It defines the requests that can be made, how to make them and the data to be exchanged. In short, it enables other software to access the capabilities of an external software platform. 

A good CCM API allows companies to create better customer experiences without significantly increasing cost. The following are some of the key benefits of using a NextGen CCM API:

Ease of integration

Most businesses leverage a diverse stack of technology to support their operations. These desperate systems are assembled out of necessity and weren’t built to work together. This puts the burden on the business’ technical resources to integrate them to support business processes.

For most businesses, the majority of their intellectual property lies in their business processes. These processes are the methods used to deliver their value. APIs help streamline operations leveraging the power of integration. Businesses can efficiently connect desperate systems and achieve synergies that would otherwise be out of reach without APIs. 

Reducing the Cost of Integration

APIs help developers meet business objectives on time and on budget. An API is not an integration itself, but it specifies how an integration can be achieved. Vendors providing APIs often provide documentation and examples to guide developers in their integration efforts. By providing a standard method for achieving an integration, documentation and examples, developers are able to achieve connectivity between systems more efficiently. 

Improving the Quality of Integrations

If you’re a developer you’ve probably heard the phrase “don’t reinvent the wheel” ad nauseam. APIs provide examples and documentation for achieving common integrations. This takes the guess work out of how to do it and ensures developers are using best practices and not reinventing the wheel. 

The vendors that developed the third-party software the business relies upon are in the best position to know how to integrate their software. APIs are their guide for doing this in the most efficient and effective manner. Following the documentation and examples ensures best practices are implemented and quality integrations are achieved.

Automating Common Tasks

Many business processes have been created to fill the gaps between business systems. From moving data from one system to another, to asking a person in another department to complete a task, these manual processes can be automated leveraging APIs. Automating manual tasks takes cost out of the business and improves efficiency. 

Integrations automate manual tasks to generate frictionless links between applications. For example, support software can rely on NextGen CCM to communicate with customers through a problem/resolution process. 

Automation and integration of manual business processes saves cost, time and effort. The integration of manual tasks is the foundation of larger automation strategies.

Innovation

The ability to take two diverse things, in this case two business systems, and blend them together into something new has always been a key part of innovation. NextGen CCM APIs open up this possibility for developers. APIs enable developers to think beyond silo’d systems to find the best solution to business problems.

Advanced Personalization

Exchanging data between other business systems and CCM software enables advanced personalization. Integrating applications brings NextGen CCM closer to how users interact with other applications and allows developers and business leaders to improve customer experiences. APIs enable data scientists to take personalization even farther by bringing together data, content, and profile information across the entire customer experience. 

APIs are a key foundational element of digital transformation and the creation of innovative business models. They enable faster and lower cost development and foster innovation. They also bring the development and execution of communications closer to where the customer interacts with the business. These are all important factors in achieving a superior customer experience. 

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scalable CCM platform

Why is being scalable important to Customer Communications?

scalable CCM platform

Why is a scalable CCM platform important?

June 11 2020 | By Rod Lowe | Blog

What happens to customer communications when a business faces a crisis? Well we should all know because Covid-19 just taught us this lesson. What happens to CCM during a crisis goes something like this:

  • Customer communications become critical
  • Many more people want to engage in crafting and approving messages
  • There’s a desire to communicate across all channels (make sure customer sees it)
  • The volume of messages spikes

What happens to your CCM platform when all this occurs? You need to quickly add users, adapt workflows, and demand for computing and output resources skyrockets.  This is just one instance where having a scalable platform to meet demand matters.

Is this a one-time crisis thing or does volume fluctuate more frequently?

Many companies have seasonal demand. Take for example, the health insurance industry. Most companies do annual healthcare enrollment in the fall. This creates a massive communications peak for health insurers. Financial services has a similar communications challenge at tax time or when the market wildly fluctuates as it did when the Covid-19 crisis hit.

scalable CCM platform

Some peaks are predictable (enrollment periods and tax time), while others are not (virus outbreak).  Do you build your communications infrastructure to meet these demand spikes or do you build it for the rest of the year? If you build it for the average volume, how do you handle the peaks?

It would be great if customer communications volume was consistent throughout the year. The reality is it isn’t, for many different reasons. A scalable Customer Communications Management (CCM) infrastructure isn’t just important, in most cases it is necessary.

Benefits of a Scalable CCM Platform

A scalable CCM platform has many advantages, which is why most NextGen CCM platforms have moved in this direction. Here’s a quick look at the scalability benefits of NextGen CCM.

Elasticity – Respond Faster to Macro Market Changes

We started this article discussing how communications volumes fluctuate. Many industries see wild peaks and valleys, which puts a significant strain on legacy platforms. Next-Gen CCM Platforms are scalable or elastic – expanding and contracting as needed.

It’s important to note not all market changes call for scaling the infrastructure up. In some instances, you’ll need to rapidly scale down. This usually occurs when there is a downturn in the business. This might be caused by an external force like the virus or be due to a product failure or recall.

The point is that NextGen CCM Platforms can expand and contract as the business requires and customers only pay for what they are consuming.

Reduce Capital & Operating Expenses

The first, and most obvious benefit, of being scalable is cost. Most NextGen CCM platforms achieve scalability by being cloud based. The cloud provides scalability and eliminates upfront large capital expenditures on computing equipment. With a cloud platform you can pay for the computing and storage you consume, as you consume it.

There is also a human savings with the cloud. Those IT resources that maintain data centers, install operating system patches and trouble shoot issues, are no longer required. With the cloud you share those resources with many other customers and the cost gets bundled into the consumption fee.

Future Proofing

Another hidden benefit is future proofing. Computing equipment, especially data center servers, typically has a life span of three to five years. Every three to five years you’ll need to do another capital outlay, install and migrate all applications. This is time consuming, disruptive and costly. This burden shifts to the CCM provider with NextGen platforms.

It isn’t just the hardware that needs to be future proof. Underlying operating systems are also constantly changing. Security and other patches are issued on almost a daily basis. This requires staff to keep these systems up to date. This burden also shifts to the CCM platform provider.

Security

Along with the servers and operating systems goes a good portion of the effort to secure the platform. Keeping security patches up to date, monitoring the platform and adapting to the threat landscape, detecting and containing attacks, and orchestrating incident response all shifts to the platform vendor with NextGen CCM.

Failover & Disaster Recovery

What happens when the system goes down, for example when a server or hard drive fails? Who’s responsible for maintaining continuity? Who manages the backup and restoration? What are the procedures?

The NextGen CCM Platform provider takes on these burdens. From providing failover to recovering data the burden is shifted from the customer with legacy CCM to the provider with NextGen CCM. This eases the compliance burden and enables IT and line of business managers to sleep better at night.

Having a scalable CCM platform has many benefits that impact cost, security and compliance. Learn more about the benefits of NextGen CCM Platforms in our new eBook.

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CCM Trends

CCM Trends for 2020

Over three decades starting in the late 1980’s there wasn’t much to talk about year over year when it came to CCM trends. The big trend was best described as slow incrementalism. If you subscribe to no news is good news, well you got a lot of it.

As we moved into the 21st century the pace of change in CCM software accelerated. We’re seeing new social and interactive communication channels and the cloud playing an increasing role in delivery. 2020 starts a new decade and it seems like an appropriate time to look at some of the current CCM trends. Here are five CCM trends you should pay attention to in 2020.

The Customer Experience (CX) Standard is Rising

One of my favorite statistics comes from Bain & Company which indicates over 80% of companies believe they deliver a “superior experience” to customers, but only 8% of customer believe they are really delivering a “superior experience.” This disconnect seems to be occurring because consumer expectations are rising.

A recent survey revealed over 90% of companies are focused on improving their customer experience. Those companies are constructively working to improve CX, so of course they believe the consumer should be seeing a difference. What they are missing is the standard is rising.

To draw a similar analogy, prior to Amazon Prime everyone thought getting a package delivered in a week to ten days was acceptable. Now anything over two days is unacceptable. The same thing is happening with CX. What was acceptable yesterday is no longer acceptable tomorrow. This is what happens when everyone works to raise the bar.

As for the CCM trends, two things are clear: first, you must improve your CX or risk falling behind your competitors, and second differentiating through CX is getting harder and harder.

Digital First CCM Experience

When it comes to CCM trends “digital first” is about prioritizing content delivery. In this case we’re specifically referring to prioritizing social, web and mobile content over tradition voice and print channels.

What’s driving this change is the approach many companies are taking to improving CX. One of the first steps in improving CX is mapping the customer journey. As most businesses begin to do this, they realize the consumer starts shopping for most products and services online. In fact, major analysts estimate 50% to 70% of the customer’s buying experience happens online prior to engaging anyone at the selling company.

As this change in consumer behavior has occurred, companies have shifted their focus to digital media, and we don’t see this changing anytime soon.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Emerges

With all the change occurring with these CCM trends, one thing that hasn’t changed is the need to get information in front of the customer when and where they want to consume it. This is how AI has found its way into being on the CCM trends list.

We live in a content driven world, and as mentioned above, upwards of 70% of the buyer’s journey is occurring online. Almost 100% of the information and educational part of the journey occurs this way. Consumers are educating themselves prior to any engagement with a company.

New AI based marketing solutions are emerging to monitor the customer’s online behavior for indications of interest and progress along the buyer’s journey. These AIs then surface information when/where the customer needs it. The customer enjoys a better experience which in turn makes a favorable impression of the brand.

This is just the start of how AI will begin impacting the customer experience and integration of traditional CCM outputs will be critical to delivering on this.

Cloud Migration Continues

For highly regulated industries CCM software has been a must for years. Therefore, it is one of the oldest components in the technology stack. As large companies move major portions of their infrastructure to the cloud, they’ve found migrating legacy CCM solutions problematic.

Legacy CCM software often relies on out-of-date infrastructure which isn’t supported by the mainstream cloud infrastructure providers. This leaves companies with limited good choices. You can keep legacy CCM on-premise and remain on out-of-date infrastructure and walk a slow death march towards obsolescence or lean on vendors to update their core infrastructure components. Most companies push for the later solution which is why cloud migration remains on our list of CCM trends.

As painful as that migration was, it isn’t over. The CCM migration alerted companies to the security and obsolescence risks of legacy CCM technology. At the same time a new breed of CCM providers has emerged with technology built for the cloud. When we refer to a continuing cloud migration, we’re referring to this new breed of born in the cloud CCM platforms.  

These new cloud CCM platforms are architected to that take full advantage of cloud infrastructure scalability and security. They also have a lower cost structure. We’re seeing a mass migration from legacy bespoke solutions to cloud first platforms and there is no sign of this slowing. 

Emphasis on Connectivity & Configurability

A residual benefit of the move to born-in-the-cloud CCM platforms is easier configuration and integration. Cloud CCM vendors aren’t standing up a new instance for every customer. Their platforms are multi-tenanted and rely on standardized methods for both configuration and integration.

Gone are the days of bespoke solutions that required vendors to code when changes were necessary. Now business users can manage and maintain business rules and build workflows.  Business rules resemble the spoken English language versus something only a coder could understand. Workflow configuration requires simply dragging and dropping standard workflow components. This is shifting control from the vendor to the business user.

CCM software has always required some level of integration with other components of the corporate technology stack to access critical customer information. This reliance remains, but integration is bolstered through standardized APIs which makes building these connections easier and more maintainable over time.

When it comes to CCM software we’re experiencing some of the biggest changes we’ve seen since the early days of the technology. A new era of platforms has arrived, and customer expectations are rising. It’s important to stay abreast of the changing landscape or you risk falling behind. We hope this list of CCM trends help you stay informed and in front of the curve.

Learn more about the latest CCM Platforms.

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