How Does Your Customer Communication Stack Up?


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Who doesn’t want to keep their customers and bring their biggest fans into the selling process?

Who doesn’t want to decrease customer support costs?

Who doesn’t want to have the pulse of their market to create more profitable products?

The foundation for achieving all of these objectives and more is customer communication. Communication is the basis for all strong relationship. How you communicate, listen, and collaborate with customers determines how well your company builds relationships with your customers.

To examine where your organization falls today and how to develop strong customer relationships, we must first understand the elements of great marketing or communication.

8 Characteristics of Successful Customer Communication

Here are 8 litmus tests used by marketers and customer management professionals to create relationships that move customers to action or creates deeper understanding of an issue, product, or your company. Many of the following principles apply to all types of marketing (prospects, customers, partners, etc.).

Characteristic #1) Relevance

Great customer communication is of value to your customers. Customers receive enough sales and marketing messages throughout the day. Communicate with customers in a way that stands out by using what you know about your customers to make your messages personal, useful, and timely.

Characteristic #2) Dialog

Successful customer marketing is based on listening to customers. However, it is no enough just to hear your customers. Let your customers know that your relationship is rooted in two-way communication and that their voice is important to your company.

Characteristic #3) Reach

Nothing else matters if your customer does not get your message. Your message is one of hundreds that each customer receives each day. Customer marketing must cut through the noise and use the right channel to get your customers’ attention.

Characteristic #4) Credibility

Messages to customers must be authentic and not sound like company-speak. Use stories from other customers, testimonials, and open access to peers to bolster the credibility of your customer marketing messages.

Characteristic #5) Accessibility

Customers want information when they need it, not just when you decide to communicate. Create ways for customers to get support, find answer, and connect with experts on their schedules.

Characteristic #6) Consistency

Customer communication must be able to be sustained at approximately the same level over time. Erratic communication is less effective in reaching customers and garnering credibility.

Characteristic #7) Measurability

Customer communication must provide insight to your organization about your customers that is useful in other interactions. Information that can use used to better serve your customers includes transactional (e.g. past purchases and which calls-to-action appeal to them) and behavioral data (e.g. which online groups they belong to and discussions that have participated in).

Characteristic #8) Scalability

Customer communication must be able to reach a growing number of customers, industry segments, and channel partners without dramatically increasing the cost, infrastructure, and resources needed to do so.

Customer Communication Exists on a Spectrum

The following chart outlines 5 stages of the customer management evolution. The spectrum applies to many types of organizations from multinational companies to user groups to nonprofits, like associations.

Each level on the spectrum plays a role in your customer management strategy depending on the objective and where your organization is in its lifecycle. In addition, many of the levels build upon one another. For instance, you can’t effectively conduct outbound marketing if you don’t have a clean, usable customer database. Also, online communities often include many elements of stages that come before it, such as targeted email marketing and content marketing.

The Customer management Spectrum | Customer Communication

It is Not About Tools

You may be asking, “What about Facebook?” or “Where do I fall if I answer a customer question on Twitter?” Tools like public social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) can be used during almost all stages on the spectrum.

Just as you can use your phone to make a personal call, conducts a telemarketing campaign, or provide a free consultation, public social networks can be used during many stages on the customer management spectrum, including real time, outbound, content marketing, and community building. Effectiveness does not come down to which tools you are using, but how you use them.

Customer Marketing Lessons From Your School’s PTA

The PTA (Parent Teacher Association, sometimes called the Parent Teacher Organization – PTO) is the volunteer-lead group at your local school that advocates for parents’ issues and partners with the administration to help the school meet their goals. If you don’t have school-aged kids now, you might remember the PTA from your elementary school days.

Think about how PTA leader can engage the parents of a school to entice them to get involved, join, and take on volunteer leadership roles.

Real Time Communication. PTA parents can talk to other parents about issues and joining while on the playground afterschool or at back-to-school night.

Database Management. PTA leaders can reach out to parents to make sure that the PTA has the right contact information and information about the students that attend the school.

Outbound Marketing. The PTA can send out mailings, email blasts, the take-home flyers about the benefits of joining the PTA and how to get involved.

Content Marketing. The PTA can create articles for print and the web that are full of insightful information about what is going on at the school, as well as tips for a more successful school year.

Community. The PTA can provide the platform (online or offline) where parents, teachers, and administrators can freely discuss issues and collaborate on solutions. The community-oriented approach creates comfortable culture for both new and veteran parents to voice concerns, get answers when they need them, and help one another.

Evaluate these options using the 8 criteria for successful customer communication listed at the beginning of this article. Which approach would be most effective in converting the “customers” at a school to take action, remian satisfied over time, and advocate for the organization.

Where Does Your Customer Communication Rank?

Now it is your turn! Track all of your customer communication over the next month and categorize it using the 5 levels above. Are you not communicating with customers at all and just maintaining your CRM database? Are your marketing messages company-centric or educational? Are customers encouraged to communicate with their peers?

This snapshot give you a baseline for where you customer marketing stands today. While all of the levels of customer management have merit and should be used in specific situations, use this information to develop a roadmap for moving as much customer communication to the level on the spectrum as you can.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joshua Paul
Joshua Paul is the Director of Marketing and Strategy at Socious, a provider of enterprise customer community software that helps large and mid-sized companies bring together customers, employees, and partners to increase customer retention, sales, and customer satisfaction. With over 13 years of experience running product management and marketing for SaaS companies, Joshua Paul is a popular blogger and speaker on customer management, inbound marketing, and social technology. He blogs at


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