Customer Communications Management Needs Affordable, Transparent Pricing
If you’ve shopped for customer communications management (CCM) solutions in the past, you know it’s a real challenge to figure out exactly how much each solution is going to cost you. That’s because CCM deployments are complex, no two implementations are exactly the same, and the situation is compounded by vendors’ widely varying preferred pricing models. Comparing apples to apples — and weighing value versus price — in this market is therefore a daunting task.
In this article, we’ll take you through the two biggest challenges related to evaluating CCM solution pricing and give suggestions on how to overcome those challenges.
The First Big Challenge: Hidden Costs
There are almost always hidden costs involved with CCM that vendors either don’t disclose or are not able to quantify before implementation. For example, sometimes customizations are required, particularly with the user interface, which aren’t apparent before implementation. Some CCM solutions require additional third-party software to work with your systems as well. For example, some vendors require you to have third-party data management software for mapping data sources required for personalization. Many “leading” CCM vendor price sheets contain literally hundreds of line items (e.g., individual line items for each output channel, or even major features like workflow), making it very difficult to price initially.
So make sure when you’re shopping for CCM solutions that you understand exactly what you need, and that each vendor’s quote addresses all of your needs. That’s going to require some due diligence on your part to determine your line-of-business users’ requirements, particularly around data and line-of-business application integration and UX. Fair warning, though: typical CCM pricing models, which tend to be murky at best, won’t make this easy for you.
The Other Big Challenge: Affordability
The other big challenge when shopping for software is that enterprise-grade CCM solutions are generally downright expensive – too expensive for many small- to medium-sized organizations, who have in the past been priced out of the market and been forced to adopt weaker solutions that either don’t meet their needs or don’t offer much in the way of future flexibility. In order to get a true enterprise-grade CCM solution with robust personalization, automation and omni-channel capabilities, you’re typically looking at something easily in the six figures the first year and at least $50,000 every year thereafter.
Tom Benton of Novarica (@novarica) reports that for the most recent Market Navigator for Document Creation / CCM Systems (October 2016), “We asked vendors to report to us the implementation times, and the range of costs of their implementations. Most reported that they could implement in 90 days or less, at a cost of about 100 to 500 thousand dollars.”
As a vendor with nearly forty years in the CCM business, we know that the software portion of that “average” initial implementation is around $250,000. That’s year one. In subsequent years, most vendors charge annual maintenance, which tends to be about 20% of the initial purchase price of the software — so $50,000 on an implementation of that size. If that’s the average vendor charge (and frankly that’s probably a little low), note that it’s also not counting ongoing support costs and time that most solutions require on the technical side, whether that’s internal (IT staff) or external (third-party agency) support.
This is the IT chargeback issue we’ve mentioned before. Many leading CCM solutions require help from developers or other technologists to create and maintain document templates and layouts. That means with most CCM systems you have to get even minor changes scheduled for IT to make the change, so you lose precious time waiting for the change and you’re going to be charged back for the effort.
Cloud-based CCM to the Rescue
The really good news here is that a cloud-based CCM system like INTOUCH®, where the vendor is responsible for maintaining the bulk of the technical infrastructure, and when the software has a simple enough UI that business users can truly manage the entire thing themselves, there should be few to no incremental costs associated.
Combine that with a starting price of just $2,500 per month ($30,000 per year), and you’ll be able to knock down the first year’s price considerably and cut subsequent years’ costs more than in half when you also consider the internal costs you’re saving.
What that means is that CCM pricing is finally becoming transparent and affordable, making it accessible to companies that were stuck with watered down, under-featured CCM “lite” type tools or continuing with homegrown ad hoc solutions because they were priced out of more robust, dedicated CCM software until now. We are genuinely excited to be able to offer this at long last. It’s what the market has desperately needed.
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About John Zimmerer
John Zimmerer is the senior director of marketing at Topdown, where he leads market research and outreach efforts for the company's customer communications and customer experience products. Most recently, John has been researching and writing about the future direction of the technologies that power customer experience, and is regarded as a thought leader in this area. John has nearly 20 years of software product marketing experience. His areas of expertise include market research, analyst relations, public relations and digital marketing.