By Wayne Toms, Chief Executive Officer at GhostDraft
Much has been written about the potential for technology to improve a business’ prospects by driving efficiencies and competitiveness. But often, when frantically shovelling at the coalface, business leaders and decision-makers need something more tangible than a promise.
For instance, banks and financial services institutions are faced with immense due diligence challenges in the aftermath of the FATF’s greylisting of this country. This comes on top of existing know-your-customer requirements and regulatory requirements and compliance obligations. And almost every industry is striving to serve an ever-more-demanding customer. Businesses need to find technology solutions that can address evolving customer needs while simultaneously delivering significant value.
Such solutions would be a slam dunk, so to speak. This is what digital transformation should be about – delivering value by reducing complexity and costs, supercharging speed to market and de-risking businesses on the skills shortage and regulatory fronts. The emergence of a new breed of technology called customer communications management (CCM) plays a crucial role here.
Before looking more closely at CCM and why it may well change the face of South African business, let’s cast a quick glance at the business environment. Economic conditions – worldwide, and not just in South Africa – are turbulent at best. Closer to home, interest rates are at their highest since the global recession and while inflation has slowed, many factors have combined to put both corporate and private citizens under pressure. Despite this stark reality, it is also prudent to acknowledge that South Africa and Africa, despite headwinds, have a distinct advantage: A large, untapped customer base – and businesses are looking for effective and innovative ways to bring these new customers into the formal economy.
The old style of business was a model that focused strongly on controlling costs. The problem with this model is that it eventually becomes an exercise of diminishing returns – something has to either bottom out or give in. While still appreciating the absolute importance of controlling costs, we are increasingly seeing businesses pursuing a more sustainable model – growing a loyal revenue base. That revenue base comes from customers buying their products and being delighted with the service and the engagement, and then being sticky enough to buy more from the business in the future. In other words, an investment now – through customer delight – in future purchases.
This is where CCM fits into the picture. It is an ecosystem that can meet evolving customer needs – in record time – while delivering significant value to business. How? Every individual customer can get real-time communication that is both appropriate and appeals to them. And instead of being driven by highly specialised IT teams or partners, or pinned on the older-paradigm document automation technology, CCM is steered and driven by business users themselves.
When looking for a CCM that delivers this kind of value, it is important to understand the pillars of an effective CCM platform.
A CCM solution must provide highly customised communication to specific customers, giving them exactly what they need. In other words it must emphasise all the points being addressed, while being easy to understand, without the business needing to incur the significant overhead costs of building a separate solution for each new customer persona or business unit. In other words, there is one back end with a myriad of front ends that can look and feel different and unique – and personalised – from the customer’s point of view. Many solutions, one engine.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to find the right skills profile or experience to do what needs to be done, including the management of important communication. A powerful CCM platform enables businesses to encapsulate a significant portion of that IP into the system and automate elements of the communications process. In other words, it is codifying (in a no-code environment) what communication should look like. It reduces costs and it plugs the skills gap being faced both locally and abroad.
Speed to deployment
A CCM solution must make it incredibly easy to build, change and adapt communication. Businesses are changing faster than ever. Imagine an asset management company offering a variety of products from different sources. Suddenly a new one comes on board: The business will want to get this new product to market immediately, rather than being hamstrung by the fact that they don’t have communications systems in place to manage it. Rather than ship the problem off to an IT service provider and wait months, the business wants to make that change and bring the product to market now.
CCM is native to the modern concept of an ecosystem of tech applications. It does not come from the legacy era of: Accounting system, procurement system, stock management, customer service all tied together through expensive integrations. Rather the trend is to plug into an ecosystem like an app – the world of APIs makes it easy to plug a good CCM solution into the likes of SAP, or Salesforce, or any other platform. A CCM such as GhostDraft becomes an application that integrates into core business applications. It’s about adding a significant amount of new functionality into existing business applications.
Natural language processing
The gap and tension between business and IT is well documented. CCM tools that can express requirements in natural language are far more likely to be used by business users themselves. It’s precisely because they’re able to get communications up and running faster that they’re more likely to be closely associated with actual business needs and strategy.
CCM represents an exciting evolutionary moment in the greater digital transformation picture precisely because it brings customer-centricity and business value into the same conversation. CCM is already being tracked by analysts looking at businesses, many in the USA where Ghostdraft – despite being SA born and bred – has made significant strides. Local businesses should expect to read and hear a lot more about CCM in the coming months and years.