What you say to your customers, when you say it, why you say it (and most recently where you say it) represent some of the most valuable intellectual property within your organization. The communication style of your company accomplishes many critical things. It establishes your image in the marketplace, sets the tone for important business transactions, influences renewal and referral decisions and differentiates you from your competitors in the marketplace.
However, as a result of an evolving communications landscape driven by factors such as ubiquitous Internet access, the proliferation of new consumer devices and the explosion of social media, many organizations manage customer communications through a series of isolated business systems—usually handled by departmental teams that often create only one type of mission critical document. The problem with this is that it can easily lead to fragmented communications that leave your customers feeling confused or frustrated—and your company with a chaotic mix of uncoordinated efforts.
A study by Forrester Consulting revealed that many financial services firms are striving to achieve a better customer experience by improving technology systems, providing seamless customer onboarding and ensuring accuracy of customer data. However, the study found that many customer experience initiatives do not apply best practices to the entire experience; rather they focus in on sexier digital channels like mobile websites, tablets and applications often pushed by marketing initiatives. High priority (57%) is put on improving mobile websites and on improving mobile apps (53%) with hopes of improving the customer experience through these channels (61%).
As a result, any customer experience that’s document-based remains sidelined by legacy systems and “almost half of respondents said that their technology platforms don’t let them integrate documents into multichannel communications.” Sixty-one percent of the survey respondents said they face hurdles when it comes to creating a consistent look and feel for documents while ensuring they adhere to necessary regulatory requirements. The same percentage of respondents reported that it is tough just to incorporate and enforce compliant language across groups even before visual consistency becomes part of the equation.
Companies are overcoming this communication chaos with a cohesive communications approach in which all departments involved (Marketing, Operations, Customer Service, IT, Corporate, to name a few) understand a wider organizational communication strategy by viewing all the organization’s customer communications as a critical part of the customer experience provided.
In order to imagine the ideal customer communication portfolio for your organization, it is necessary to think about communications from three different perspectives: your prospects, your customers and your employees.
1. Your prospects’ expectations
Your prospects are engaged by several types of communications, some that you control and some that you, personally, may only influence. Direct marketing, referral programs and social media campaigns, for example, each attempt to increase the number of active and interested prospects in their own way. These communications are often the first personalized customer experiences you provide.
Many prospects will engage across a variety of communications before they become a customer. So your communications must be able to be managed effectively across multiple channels, paying attention to the limitations and opportunities offered by each channel. The goal is to ensure consistency from the point of view of the prospect.
Effective coordination of communications can maximize conversion rates and boost the top line of your company. But what hap¬pens when the prospect turns into an actual customer?
2. Your customers’ experience
As soon as prospects become customers, your communications portfolio will experience its most important trials. Onboarding communications are critical, setting the tone for the entire customer relationship. Unfortunately, this is the moment when the typical organization transfers the communication from an ROI-based metric for customer acquisition to a cost minimizing metric for post-sale customer retention.
This switch is a common mistake that often results in a significant change in voice and a noticeable quality drop from the customer perspective. For example, full color communications are often replaced with black and white print on thin paper. This switch often triggers buyer’s remorse, when it could be creating a referral opportunity if executed strategically. At this point, organizations that measure customer sentiment often see a drop in the customer’s perception. This is causing Chief Experience Officers to look at the impact of every communication-related customer experience.
How a communication portfolio reflects the voice of the company on the regular business communications customers receive will either support or undermine the efforts of the sales and marketing teams as they try to maintain and grow relationships over time.
3. Your employees’ needs
From inside your organization, communications need to be handled effectively too. Many companies have a mix of multiple systems that generate communications, several of which are incompatible islands of technology. Employees in the call center may still be communicating using manual Word-based or other thick-client communication systems that force staff members to respond to customer needs with form letters that are not relevant.
Today’s thin-client interactive solutions can deliver correspondence, quotes and proposals quickly and more efficiently. This allows your expert frontline staff to bring context and intelligent content to smart templates that automatically access data from multiple systems to reduce call times and improve the communication outcome for the customer. In turn, it delivers a positive outcome to the business and the customer.
Developing your plan requires analyzing existing systems and workflows
Implementing a portfolio approach to your communications will require a careful review of all three perspectives to see whether the systems and workflows in place are cohesive. Comprehensive analysis of the journey of each individual customer is at the root of recent trends in customer experience thinking in major enterprises.
This requires taking inventory of your communications technology as a critical aspect of your company’s larger customer experience strategy. Carefully examine your communications workflow to determine if it allows for consistent design and quality across touchpoints. You may discover that systems need to be upgraded or replaced to improve the workflow processes. The best approach is to look for ways to assess and maximize the value of existing communication investments while allowing innovation to support customers using new channels.
Striving for a cohesive communications portfolio by carefully considering how to deliver on the expectations of the three critical perspectives discussed will help your organization realize improved customer experience and peer-leading results.