Technologies for implementing more advanced customer communications management (CCM) emerged over two decades ago and since then have expanded their capabilities through the development of more sophisticated automation. Over time, CCM platforms have become a comprehensive means of launching and sustaining personalized and interactive communication with customers. This is especially important today as the way a company communicates with its customers along the customer journey often defines the nature of the customer experience.
While organizations utilizing CCM traditionally worked with in-house CCM technology and staff, various types of third-party services have developed to take on some or all functions of a company’s CCM operations. Termed hosted managed services (HMS), they are built on various and flexible business models and offer different service levels to fill in the gaps of an in-house operation and/or to perform specific, often specialized CCM functions. Madison Advisors’ February 2021 study on CCM HMS is its third surveying this field, uncovering how the market has changed since its previous 2015 study, and focusing on the in-depth analysis of six successful organizations offering CCM HMS. Of these six, three are print service providers (PSPs) that have branched out from offering primarily print output to becoming increasingly involved in offering CCM HMS.
A Closer Look
For those companies considering CCM HMS, it is important to understand the seven critical components that need to be incorporated into a single fully integrated CCM platform. Summarized, these include:
1. Data management and processing: the collection, aggregation, standardization, and storage of data in a standard data model from a variety of sources
2. Content management: a centralized repository that stores all the components necessary for the document composition process
3. Preference and customer profile management: the collection and management of customer profile information, delivery channel preferences, and customer consent for electronic interactions
4. Composition: the process that combines data and variable content with document templates according to pre-determined business rules to create customer communications that are optimized for the delivery channel(s)
5. Omnichannel delivery: delivering communications in the appropriate format to a variety of channels, including print, email, web portal, mobile, tablet, SMS, and social media
6. Archive: a single repository to store all customer communications as delivered for future retrieval and delivery to support customer service requirements and regulatory requirements
7. Dashboard reporting: a thin-client or browser-based user interface that provides business users full visibility into the entire communication workflow
CCM HMS provides a complete end-to-end solution and, similar to SaaS (software-as-a-service), is designed to deliver a better return on investment than an on-site installation because of the shift from a capital expenditure model (CapEx) to an operational expense model (OpEx). However, unlike SaaS, where a company that purchases the SaaS solution is responsible for its deployment and integration within its existing technological environment, in the HMS model, the client and provider are jointly responsible for the system’s implementation and utilization. Additionally, CCM HMS providers, in some cases, have tailored their offerings to serve specific industry segments, such as financial or insurance organizations.
Trends to Be Aware of
The entrance of PSPs into the CCM HMS marketplace has introduced a second category of providers in this space. Many PSPs are experiencing a reduction in production volumes as their clients move from print to electronic communication channels and these PSPs are seeking additional revenue streams. The Madison Advisors study differentiates between those companies that focus wholly on HMS and the PSPs currently offering HMS. While both business models can be described broadly as CCM outsourcers or third-party providers, these companies come from different backgrounds with different perspectives and they offer a different range of services within the general framework of CCM HMS. For example, one key differentiator between the two is that the more traditional CCM HMS providers may not offer a print output option at all, though they will work with a client’s print provider or partner with a PSP of their own. On the other hand, PSPs generally bundle CCM HMS services with their printing capabilities and continue to emphasize print output.
Madison Advisors asked how the study’s six participants address the customer experience (CX) issue and how the conversation with new and prospective clients has changed over the last three to five years with respect to CCM and CX. The unique responses provided by each participating organization offer additional insight into how CCM and CX are being positioned to meet client requirements. Each company takes its own approach, but in every case, clients of a CCM HMS that offers customer journey mapping can expect to share much of their consumer data with the HMS provider and to develop complex enterprise-wide relationships due to the need to draw on information collected and managed by different internal departments. The study notes that once a client is committed to one or another CCM HMS, it can become complex to disengage and move to another provider.
Key Takeaways to Note
Madison Advisors found that CCM HMS is a field that is growing slower than expected, largely due to the reluctance of potential clients to share their internal customer data. However, as CCM platforms become more sophisticated and complex, outsourcing these operations to providers that have the specialized hardware, software, and staff to manage them efficiently has the potential to become an attractive option. Just as many organizations already outsource their high-volume transactional print production, CCM HMS firms relieve clients of the need to invest in and maintain in-house CCM operations and allows them to focus on their core business.
For those open to exploring the financial and business benefits of moving to a CCM HMS model, the information provided in the Madison Advisors study demonstrates how each of the traditional and emergent CCM HMS providers have built successful and often innovative businesses around a range of client demands. Their stories are instructive and can be inspiring for those open to the new opportunities in this field.
Kemal Carr is president of Madison Advisors, an independent analyst and market research firm that addresses the needs of the electronic and print customer communications management marketplace. Visit www.Madison-Advisors.com. To purchase the full report, “Customer Communications Management Hosted Managed Services Market Study, 3rd Edition,” visit the Madison Advisors website at https://madison-advisors.com/product/customer-communications-management-hosted-managed-services-market-update-3rd-edition/.
This article originally appeared in the May/June, 2021 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.