Venture Resources

What is Transactional Communication? Navigating CCM Terminology

Mark Lammers
by Mark Lammers

June 18, 2024

The final product of a good CCM program is usually a few pages of black text printed on white paper, folded, and inserted into a standard-size window envelope.  On a surface level, it doesn't seem that complicated.   

However, the people who work with CCM programs know that couldn't be further from the truth.  Mixing government policies, incorporating variable content full of PII and PHI data, and keeping up with unending change management and lightning-speed turn-times make this complicated work.  

These complications would be easier to understand if there was a common language within the CCM industry – and there is one.  However, a few twists can add a layer of unnecessary confusion to a CCM discussion.   

We'll identify some areas of confusion and offer clarity so we can help you better navigate the CCM buzzword bingo and make your work life a little easier.   


Three Synonymous Terms 

When discussing documents such as invoices, statements, or notification letters, you'll most likely hear one of three terms applied:   

Customer Communication Management
This has become the de facto term for financial transactional information between a company and its customers – invoices, monthly statements, explanation of benefits, tax documents, etc. – and communications that include sensitive and legal topics – payment past-due letters, mortgage default notices, denial of coverage letters, mortgage warnings, etc.  Given the broad topics a company needs for its enterprise communication program, the term' customer communication management' is the most appropriate, all-encompassing moniker.   

Transactional Communication   
Perhaps the second most common term used for enterprise communication programs, 'transactional communication,' gives only half the picture.  From welcome letters to highly sensitive, mandated notices, communications can go well beyond 'transactional' and touch upon highly consequential, legal, and emotional topics.  

Critical Communication  
This term is the other side of the CCM coin that 'transactional communications' didn't touch upon; it focuses on sensitive communications while missing the transactional component.  Additionally, the term loses some of its precision in the digital world, as modern digitally transformed companies would say their marketing communication – particularly its electronic channels – is equally 'critical.'   

These three terms are synonymous; however, customer communications management is the most inclusive and comprehensive term.  


Additional Terms Encountered in CCM Work 

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During the 90s and 00s, CCM providers used multiple communication channels.  The key channels were print & mail and email, while online viewing and SMS text also started to take hold.  These channels were "siloed" – they operated separately, with their own composition engines, work groups, deployment mechanisms, and reporting apparatus.  Coordinating them into a single, efficient workflow was a challenging approach often called multi-channel delivery.  However, as technology evolved, producing and deploying any channel from a standard workflow made it an 'omni-channel' solution.

Data Processing  
In the CCM world, data processing refers to specific tasks required to produce customer communications successfully.  In our digital world, few things can be done without data processing. 

 Given that most medium to large companies have several legacy information systems, many of which feed data into customer communications, there is a need for data processing expertise to consolidate the many types of input coming from these systems.  There's also often a need for 'on the fly' list editing to remove records that should be suppressed. 

 Additionally, like the analog print & mail channel, the new electronic output channels of email, SMS, ISPs, and telecoms have rigorous requirements around what they will accept for output.  For example, the USPS has strict standards around address hygiene, move updates, and IMb coding.  It's within data processing that these requirements are programmed and processed.  

Page Composition  
This workflow step defines CCM production – where all business rules, processed data, and graphic design elements come together to form pages the consumer reads.  As discussed in the previous section, the composition must conform to the exacting requirements of the delivery channel, whether print, email, SMS text or online viewing.  

Given CCM communications contain significant amounts of variable data, each page for each record is essentially one-to-one communication.  For example, if a monthly mortgage statement has one million records, the output will contain one million unique pages.  This workflow step must also happen at lightning speed to deliver the service level agreements to which CCM programs must adhere.   

These heavy demands mean a CCM program can only succeed with:  

  • Up-to-date software that can perform the required tasks.
  • Expertise on input data and how it influences page composition.
  • Deep understanding of delivery entities (USPS, ISPs, telecoms) to ensure compliance.
  • Automated capabilities, with human monitoring and interaction as needed. 


CCM Platform
Though ubiquitous, each industry has a slightly different definition of what the word 'platform' means to them.  In the CCM industry, a platform is a solution that combines propriety programming, software products, real-time information, and a user interface built specifically to handle the early stages of CCM production.  

 More specifically, a CCM Platform:  

  • Integrates software solutions that process input data, compose variable content pages, and output files to mail, email, and SMS text channels. 
  • Monitors tasks using a dashboard to keep the workflow moving between steps and provides alerts and reports when there are problems. 
  • Provides online self-service engagement with business rule programming and template content  
  • Create files for each document in its original form for archiving and future reference.  This allows the early production steps to be fully automated and service level agreements to be met.  

For additional information, please see our blog post What is a Customer Communication Management Platform?  

Business Continuity versus Disaster Recovery  
Business continuity refers to a short-term interruption of services, while disaster recovery is longer-term.  Short-term events, such as weather interruptions from snow or ice, can shut down a facility for a few days, often because production workers cannot safely commute.  As soon as the weather improves, production starts back up.  While the interruption is brief, it impacts the quick service level agreements common in CCM production.  Even when a facility shuts down for only two or three days, a backup option must be activated to comply with deadlines.   

On the other hand, disaster recovery describes facility shutdowns that go on for a week or longer due to catastrophic weather like a hurricane, tornado, or fire.  Physical space may need to be rebuilt, new equipment acquired, material re-assembled, and new data servers configured.  As such, activating a redundant site during a longer recovery period becomes a more comprehensive endeavor.  A top-tier service provider can provide both types of emergency response.   

 Relationship Marketing  
As the first section of the article details, enterprise communication is divided into two basic areas: transactional and marketing communication.   

However, working with some of the most forward-thinking companies in America, Venture Solutions noticed the rise of a third type, a hybrid of the two: relationship marketing.   

It combines the non-selling aspect of transactional communication with the personal touch of marketing communication.  Some topics common in relationship communication include important policy changes, such as diversity initiatives, leadership changes, or updates on civic engagements.  Such communication often strengthens relationships with current customers and fosters ongoing loyalty.   

Digital advancements and quality improvements from service providers like Venture Solutions have given rise to the relationship marketing approach.  New capabilities in electronic delivery, including email, SMS text, and high-speed inkjet printer improvements, deliver quality omni-channel output for marketing communication.  


Thinking About Enhancing Your Transactional Communications? 

Venture Solutions offers comprehensive transactional communication platforms that drive digital transformation through omni-channel delivery, focusing on personalization, automation, and customer experience.   

Venture Solutions has everything you need to deliver next-level customer communication service, whether you already have an omni-channel communication strategy or need help getting started.  Our customer communications management software helps organizations realize the benefits of omni-channel delivery, including reduced costs, improved customer experience, and greater operational efficiencies.   

Our CCM platforms include:  

Venture NSite™: A unified technology platform that empowers your business to compose, edit, proof, and approve synchronized communications in real time across multiple channels through one user-friendly interface.  With role-based user access, simplified workflows, 24/7 visibility, iron-clad data storage, and secure deployment, it's a seamless CCM experience.  

Venture Access: Our innovative self-service customer communication portal offers companies total transparency and control of their critical communications.  Venture Access™ lets you see all your customer communications in one place, so you know exactly what's happening as it happens.  From ad hoc custom messaging to fulfillment and delivery tracking, statement archives, and detailed reports, Venture Access™ makes it easier than ever to manage your customer communications.  

Venture Editor™: A user-friendly, self-service customer communication tool that centralizes the creation of omni-channel communications. Venture Editor™ streamlines processes through sophisticated automated workflows, allowing your business to avoid the added costs of elaborate programming and composition software

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