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    What is Customer Communication Management?

    Although consumers see transactional communications every day, few people understand the processes behind them.

    These communications are managed by a service called Customer Communication Management, often referred to as CCM. It manages the transactional communication between a business and its customers, such as contracts, invoices, statements, notices, and letters. It encompasses a broad array of pre-production, production, and post-production services.



    How CCM Communication Differs from Marketing Communication

    Customer Communication Management joins marketing communication as the two main components of enterprise communication. Marketing communication nurtures customer relationships, sells them products, and works to retain them. CCM supports the transactional communication that follows. Because of that, it has different requirements and standards than marketing communication: 

    • While marketing programs often have specific start and end dates, transactional communications are run continually—daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually—to keep the customer informed and responsive.
    • As such, CCM handles large amounts of sensitive personal data, classified as Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and Personal Health Information (PHI). PIIs and PHIs can include information pertaining to loan foreclosures, past due payments, health statements, account balances, and contract obligations.
    • CCM relies heavily on this data to stay on top of critical transactions. Aggressive production deadlines are often 24–48 hours after input data arrives to ensure communication between business and customer is timely and efficient. Conversely, marketing communications are built several months in advance.
    • While marketing campaigns usually focus on marketing output—the advertising product—businesses continually depend on CCM to manage both incoming and outgoing transactions from the customer. This includes 100% fulfillment of all input records, post-production verification of mail/content sent, and business rule programming and testing. These processes involve frequent changes to document templates and content as technology, customer needs, regulations, and business goals continue to evolve over time.  

    History and the Onset of Digital Transformation

    Throughout most of its history, transactional communication was print and mail communication. It was a highly analog industry, relying on pre-printed stock, limited variable content in black ink, few if any graphics, and poor customer experience. However, during the past twenty years, the industry has undergone a significant digital transformation. This has meant full expansion into electronic delivery channels; a greater use of variable data, graphics, and color to improve communication; the rise of self-service solutions; and a focus on the customer experience. No longer just a transactional print service, the industry is now better defined as Customer Communication Management.

    CCM Workflow Components

    The three key components of CCM processing and manufacturing are:

    Processing Input Data 

    Most companies have a collection of internal information systems storing customer data that have been built up over decades of acquisition and expansion.

    Among the most challenging aspects of CCM manufacturing is processing this data, with its wide variety of file formats and data types, to in turn produce communication output. A single customer communication piece may require data from two or more internal sources and often needs to be managed and output within stringent deadlines. Other times, the input is a fully pre-composed PDF document instead of raw data, adding another layer of operational stress.

    Composing Pages

    The processed input data is then used to compose the pages, in paper or electronic format, the customers will eventually read.

    Key aspects of page composition include:

    • Managing both raw and pre-composed data brought into the composition process and their corresponding templates
    • Composing and proofing documents in a way that meets all requirements for the delivery services, including for USPS for mail, ISPs for email, and telecoms for SMS text
    • Enacting programmatic changes to map how the variable input data is integrated into the static content template
    • Creating the file of composed documents according to the requirements of the production and delivery

    Page Output and Delivery

    In the CCM industry, the primary delivery channels are print/mail, email, and SMS text; often, email and SMS channels are used in conjunction with online viewing, using portals or personalized URLs. These pages are composed for each channel from a single source and workflowan omni-channel” approach.

    In previous years, each channel had its own composition and workflow approach, creating a denser, more siloed approach. Omni-channel methods, however, have been proven to reduce costs and create efficiencies that better honor consumer delivery preferences.

    CCM Trends

    CCM trends are too numerous to cover in this article, so we will narrow it down to three key ones. For a more comprehensive list, please see our article on CCM trends.

    In-Plant CCM Production Companies Examining Outsourced Management

    Companies take one of two approaches when producing their CCM communication. Either the document production is manufactured internally (the in-plant option), or it is outsourced to a third-party provider.
    Not surprisingly, the in-plant option is used exclusively by large companies who have the excess capital resources to expend upon a production facility. Some companies with in-plant strategies have begun to look at third-party service providers for their print and electronic CCM needs, allowing them to better focus on and support their core business.
    Government Oversight Continues Unabated
    Because CCM deals with sensitive topics such as payment denials, payments past due, contracts, financial statements, healthcare information, and foreclosures, there are considerable government regulations ensuring their security and compliance. Regulations concern issues like contract change communication deadlines; channel preferences management; the format, font, and size of documents; and language and accessibility requests.
    These regulations are established and enforced primarily by the federal government but can come from state governments as well. Each of the federal regulatory agencies have different compliance focuses, whether it’s equity markets, hospitals, retirement pensions, retirement accounts, or term disclosures. Key agencies include:

    • CFPB - Consumer Finance Protection Board
    • CMS - Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
    • SEC - Securities Exchange Commission
    • DOL - Department of Labor
    • OCC - Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
    • FTC - Federal Trade Commission

    Digital Transformation of CCM

    CCM strategies continue to shift away from print media and toward digital delivery, though at an evolutionary pace rather than a total upheaval. There are several reasons why print and mail remain a prominent delivery channel amidst technology advances:


    • Regulatory mandates (particularly from the CFPB) require hard copy notices to be used for hallmark events such as a property foreclosure, loan default, or payment past due communications. Electronic communication is still used in this setting but only in parallel with the required hard copy communication.
    • Because most CCM communications contain PPI and/or PHI content, there are elevated concerns around the privacy and security aspects of electronic delivery.
    • Consumers often want paper records for key documents such as mortgage and escrow statements, health billing, and student loans; in fact, research shows that many consumers want both electronic and paper versions of key financial and healthcare documents.
    Although total digital transformation is happening at a much slower pace than one would want or expect, digital channels continue to gain ground in the CCM channel mix.

    Customer Communication Platform

    Whether using an in-plant approach or external service provider, a top-tier CCM platform has gone from a “nice to have” to a “must have.” It flawlessly automates and integrates workflow steps to ensure content is properly composed and output is delivered on time. 
    A successful CCM platform should, at the most basic level:

    • Intake and process the many variations of input data from multiple information systems
    • Compose and distribute documents for multiple delivery channels, including mail, electronic, and online viewing
    • Prepare files specific to the manufacturing delivery process, whether it be a specific print production provider, electronic document, or an electronic archive used for online search/display solutions
    • Provide real-time status information to verify that the process is unfolding properly
    • Utilize self-service tools to quickly adjust documents as needed during data processing and page composition
    • Offer an online interface and supporting functionality that allows the average user to manage changes between production runs

    For more in-depth information about CCM platforms, please read our blog, WHAT IS A CCM PLATFORM


    The Expertise Needed to Run CCM Programs

    To successfully navigate and manage these challenging CCM requirements and regulations, a broad variety of specialists is needed. Their expertise concerns: 
    • Legal regulations and compliance
    • Technology infrastructure, including security and business continuity
    • Data input processing
    • Page output composition
    • Business rule gathering and requirements
    • Change management infrastructure
    • Service staff with experience in each industry vertical
    • Self-service online tools
    The ever-growing range of expertise required to successfully manage enterprise programs has led some companies who had been running production internally to utilize third-party providers. 

    Benefits of Working with a Top-Tier CCM Provider

    The costs, complexities, and risks of CCM production are such that working with an external provider who specializes in CCM services delivers significant benefits. You can expect them to:

    • Follow industry trends and make the investments required to stay efficient, current, and compliant. This includes recruiting and retaining staff in an increasingly competitive technical environment. 
    • Handle manufacturing of both print and electronic output, which is rarely within the bounds of a company’s core focus
    • Provide a 360-degree approach that includes not just processing and manufacturing but content management as well
    • Have highly experienced client service professionals who are dedicated to your account for CCM-specific strategic and operational assistance
    • Be familiar with the risk components unique to CCM production and help you manage them
    • Have a disaster recovery program, which has become even more of a necessity in recent years

    Case study of a top-tier CCM provider, Neps

    Neps, based in Salem, NH, has over thirty years’ experience as a top provider of document management solutions for the CCM industry. In 2021, they were given the Application of the Year Award for their CCM platform, NSite™, by Xplor International, a leading industry group supporting CCM issues. Their products are used by some of the most recognizable insurance and financial services companies in the United States. 
    Neps can introduce you to other solutions that strengthen a company’s CCM programs, including:
    Clear™: a professional service that creates positive customer experiences and maximizes ROI with every letter, statement, email, or text delivered. Because the effectiveness of any CCM communication hinges on clarity, Clear™ enhances message intelligibility and impact, thus increasing customer engagement.
    Clear™ Optimize: an AI-driven tool that identifies shared content across document sets. Once identified, Neps evaluates them for two outcomes: either consolidating them into one common document or identifying ways to standardize content across different versions through universal changes.
    TransForm™: a solution that transforms your fillable forms process into one that increases user engagement, produces more usable data, and decreases operating costs. It transforms a one-directional interface that often requires manual processing into an intelligent, interview-style interface with automated processing and integration points.

    If you would like to learn more about CCM platforms and strategies, Neps would be happy to give you a full demonstration of what a CCM platform does via video conferencing. Their staff of solution architects, developers, communication experts, analysts, and client service professionals can provide an excellent overview of what a top-tier integrated services platform does and how they can help support your unique business communication needs.

    Enhance Your Customer Communications Strategy