The way companies communicate has changed. There is no longer a single channel, but many. There is no longer a single device, but many. Customers no longer have a single claim, but many. While these changes can pose challenges for companies, thanks to customer communication management, they can transform even the most ordinary communications into valuable opportunities for customer contact.
For a company, regardless of the sector, communicating is fundamental, since it is only through communication that brand identity can be defined and, above all, that a solid and lasting relationship can be built with customers. Obviously, in order to do this effectively, it is necessary to take into account the transformations that the market and the target audience have undergone.
In this sense, the communication that a company adopts in 2019 must be radically different from those of just 10 years ago. This is because digitization has changed the consumption habits of users and the way in which they interface with businesses.
According to a report by Microsoft, 1 in 10 consumers expect companies to provide its customers with dedicated customer service, which must be able to offer an integrated support experience available via to different devices, since 66% of the same consumers are used to use three or more channels with which to interface with the customer service department.
As far as the method of consumption and purchase is concerned, as Harvard Business Review reports, 73% of consumers use more than one channel, and specifically more than three, to learn more or to purchase a product or service – and preferably from a smartphone or, in any case, from a mobile device in general.
As a result, corporate communication must adapt to these new trends, recognizing that there is no longer a single channel to reach the consumer, but that there are many and that they must all be used correctly.
In the past, the touchpoints, i.e. the points of contact between the company and the customer, present at every stage of the decision-making process, were predominantly offline – for example, radio, television, word-of-mouth between individuals, physical stores. These were also the only sales channels available, and, as a result, companies built a single channel communication strategy. The structure tended to be very traditional, as it exploited the classic broadcasting approach of one to many: the company “spoke” and consumers “listened.”
The same thing happens when you open an online storefront. What matters is that the communication channel is unique.
In this type of approach, communication is unidirectional, since there is no real interaction between the company and the customer, who is in a substantially passive position. It is no coincidence that this type of communication usually prefers functional, product-centric content, in which the product or service, its characteristics and benefits for the consumer, are the focus of attention.
It is with the arrival of the Internet – and specifically with the introduction of e-commerce sections within the different sites – that the marketing approach changes, as it can become multi-channel, since the customer has the opportunity to buy products or services from at least two channels: the physical store and the digital “store,” which remain distinct, however, providing two separate and independent customer journeys.
However, a further radical change comes with digital transformation and its disruptive effects on the use of the internet by consumers. For this reason, every company is now in a position to adopt an omnichannel approach, which is an integral part of the company’s internal digital transformation.
According to this approach, the communication channels that are available to customers must be perfectly integrated with each other, so that the customer journey is unified. It is irrelevant where it starts, whether from a digital or analog touchpoint. Instead, what matters is that the purchasing process can be carried out and concluded independently through an online or offline channel. It is also necessary that these touchpoints are perfectly coordinated, so as to avoid unnecessary overlaps or repetition: only in this way will the customer experience be simultaneously perceived as immersive and efficient.
This approach guarantees many advantages to the companies that implement it correctly, even if it represents a considerable challenge. For example, this makes it possible to precisely define the demographic and behavioral profile of consumers, improving targeting.
In addition, it makes it possible for both the company and the customer to carry out operations or transactions. And, it strengthens and increases the relationship between the customer and the company, which is a key driver for increasing sales.
At the same time, however, such an approach increases the complexity of communication, even in the face of customers, who expect to receive the same quality of treatment across all business channels. For this reason, companies are called upon to redesign their communication according to a cohesive strategic vision shared at all levels of the company in order to provide customers with consistent and effective customer experience.
But how can today’s companies achieve this?
Customer Communication Management
Today, companies communicate with their customers in countless ways: SMS, email, newsletters, social networks (especially Facebook) and many more. If on the one hand, this represents a great opportunity, there is a risk of confusing the customer or being repetitive, to the detriment of the company’s credibility and the quality of the customer experience.
One of the most effective ways to avoid this risk is to adopt a strategy of CCM, or Customer Communications Management, which makes corporate communication more effective no matter the number of channels to be managed.
According to the definition provided by Gartner, a customer communication management is a strategy aimed at improving the creation, delivery, storage, and retrieval of outgoing communications, whatever they may be, from promotions of new products to notifications related to billing and payments, and whatever “support” they use, such as document management, email, instant messaging (SMS) and web pages. This type of strategy is made possible by platforms that companies can use to manage direct communication to their customers, based on your business objectives.
When it comes to customer communication management, we must emphasize one thing: documents and their management, since the communication between companies and consumers is made, essentially, of documents.
From a simple document to an innovative touchpoint
Documents are still an important touchpoint in communicating with customers. You may use them to share new product features, you may send a receipt after purchase, you may even send a newsletter, which is a type of document.
In general, they can be divided into three categories:
- the most common are “Structured documents“, those already scheduled, formatted, and that do not need any changes, such as invoices, statements and, in general, all documents of a fiscal nature;
- the second category is for interactive documents, which must take into account the choices and preferences of the user. For this reason, this type of document requires a high level of differentiation, to the point that it may be necessary to send a different document for each recipient. This category includes offers, certain types of contracts and sales materials.
- finally, there are documents made on demand (“On-demand documents“) against any solicitation from the customer, which can come from any channel, such as mobile, email, or social media.
Any consumer is reached daily by at least one of these documents, which represent the company, or at least an extension of it. The problem that often arises is that many of these types of documents are perceived as irrelevant, devoid of any added value for the consumer, who often does not read them. This represents not only a waste for the company but can even represent damage, because the brand is associated with communication that is perceived as unnecessary or of poor quality.
Not only that. Maintaining an uninterrupted, punctual, and precise flow of documents from the company to customers, making all channels work properly is not easy and there could be delays in creating content. This inevitably has a significant economic impact on the company, as it generates a sense of dissatisfaction among consumers that can lead them to choose the competition.
This is confirmed by research from Accenture, which has found that a third of customers decide to break off their relationship with a brand simply because the customer experience they received wasn’t up to par.
A proper customer communication management strategy can avoid this type of situation and, indeed, significantly implement any type of document.
For example, with structured documents, CCM software makes it easier and faster to create and manage a series of templates that can then be adapted for different customers and their specific situations. The same applies to interactive documents, which thanks to a correct customer communication management strategy, can be perfectly customized. CCM software makes it possible to create in a simpler way to differentiate document contents based on customer-specific data, in order to provide the right communication according to the relevant phase of the customer journey.
In this way, documents, even the most standard ones, can become effective touchpoints, useful to communicate with customers in an unexpected way and to provide relevant offers and content.
In addition, the implementation of a customer communication management strategy that is able to ensure a coordinated and harmonious communication with customers using all available channels also brings with it considerable economic benefits.
According to a research by the Aberdeen Group, companies with this approach to communication have an annual customer retention index that is almost double compared to competitors who do not employ this approach (6.5% versus 3.4%). Similarly, for those who adopt CCM strategies, year after year, the marginal profit for each individual consumer is higher (6% versus 1%).
This confirms that investing in the implementation of a customer communication management strategy is worthwhile. But the reasons, as we will see, are not strictly financial.
Changes in communication and mentality
Having a CCM strategy with associated technologies means much more: it means changing the approach with which you do business, moving from a product-centric model to a consumer-centric one.
It means no longer conceiving of communication as a functional marketing lever, but as a tool to build a relationship of trust and loyalty with the consumer, giving real importance to his needs and expectations. Because it is not enough to have a good product or good services to maintain or increase the number of customers.
This is confirmed by the fact that one of the main reasons a consumer decides to leave a brand in favor of another is the belief that the brand does not care about the consumer himself. In this sense, the customer experience is important, especially where the relationship between the individual and the company have become closer thanks to the advent of digital tools and especially to the digital transformation of consumer habits.
For this reason, it is essential to adopt a CCM strategy: only by implementing the necessary technologies and sharing a certain approach to communication can one satisfy customer needs, succeeding in distinguishing oneself by the quality of the consumer experience.
This requires the tools to manage the relationship with your customers in an efficient, centralized, and coordinated way, tools that only customer communication management platforms can provide.