There are many reasons that companies need to communicate with their customers. From the practical—billing, service announcements, product upgrades—to the aspirational—membership drives, special offers and free trials—companies have many different functions that need to communicate with customers, and they employ many different mediums to do so. In this post, we’ll look at how the communications landscape has changed, and why companies need customer communications management (CCM) approach.
Digital lead to changing expectations
Over the past decade, the ways that companies communicate with their customers—current and potential—have rapidly evolved. Traditional mechanisms—mail, fax, and customer call centers or hotlines—have given way to new digital methods—email, text messaging, social media, chatbots—that are impacting the very nature of communication, with greater impacts on our society at large.
Thanks to the internet, we’re living and working in a world that is no longer 9 to 5, but always on, and increasingly always online. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey of Americans found that 77% go online daily, 43% do so several times each day, and 26% are constantly online. These numbers increase for those who have mobile connectivity, where 89% of mobile users are visiting the web on a daily basis and 31% are constantly online. The constantly connected are made up of those in the 18-29 and 30-49 age range.
The range of online channels and platforms where customers are present and active have grown significantly in recent years. As a result, it’s not enough for a company to just have a website or to only communicate via email. A survey of executives found that more than half of American businesses utilize at least 10 different channels to interact with customers and those vary depending on the type of business, the target audience, and the type of communications.
These trends have impacted companies in several ways.
Firstly, it means that the flow of communication between customer and company is no longer one way, but bi-directional. Today’s customers can talk back and they have a range of platforms on which to do so. From Facebook to TripAdvisor forums, customers can use social media to share their experiences of your products and services with the world. This means that any experience with your product, your retail outlet, your staff—positive or negative—can be shared with hundreds, thousands, or even millions around the world in a matter of minutes.
Secondly, these trends have changed the very nature of customer-company interactions. Not only is the storefront primarily online, customers increasingly want to engage across a variety of touchpoints, many of which are also online. These could include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Youtube, and most likely a combination of these channels, which they are using to collect or share information, to compare offers, or to consult the market about your products. The result is that companies need to meet customers where they are, on the channels they prefer.
It has also increased the expectations for customer assistance. The always-on customer is no longer content with calling into a customer call center only to be put on hold. Instead, they expect to interact with companies through online chat applications such as Facebook Messenger or using built-in chatbots on your site, and they expect to resolve problems with the same ease and speed that they experience when ordering a pizza or shopping on a mobile app—in other words, in mere clicks.
In this regard, the recent news that it will soon be possible to make appointments directly in Facebook Messenger will be a turning point for companies who typically offer services via appointment, but also for others, as data acquired will become increasingly more accurate.
The importance of customer experience
This brings us to an important concept in the customer-company relationship: customer experience. According to Harvard Business Review, the customer experience is “is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer.” For companies, the challenge is being able to provide a seamless, consistent, and satisfying customer experience across all the ways that customers can engage with the company or its products. This is the customer journey, the path that customers follow in all of the ways that they engage with your product.
Depending on the product or service that your company offers, the customer experience may have a variety of starting points—in-store, online, in-app—and will most likely cross through a variety of touchpoints, on a range of platforms, along the way. McKinsey defines touchpoints as “the individual transactions through which customers interact with parts of the business and its offerings.”
The fact that companies must be present on so many channels means that there are more customer touchpoints for interacting with their brand than ever before. The more touchpoints available, the more complicated the journey and the greater the need for both detailed analytics that can help you understand customer behaviors and influencing factors at each step, and a comprehensive strategy to ensure continuity and consistency every step of the way.
This is where CCM comes into play.
What is Customer Communication Management?
These changes—the evolution of technology/digital environment, the explosion of channels, the shift to bi-directional communication, the evolving customer experience—emphasizes the need for companies to be able to deliver communication that is consistent, relevant, responsive, and customer-driven.
A customer communications management (CCM) approach allows organizations to ensure effective, consistent communication across all channels. Gartner defines CCM as “the strategy to improve the creation, delivery, storage and retrieval of outbound communications, including those for marketing, new product introductions, renewal notifications, claims correspondence and documentation, and bill and payment notifications.” Such interactions can take place via documents, email, text messages, and on web pages.
The goal that CCM aims to solve is ensuring that customer-facing communications are relevant, clear, and consistent regardless of the channel or delivery mechanism. Operating in a digital-first world, despite the complexity and variety of channels, is also an opportunity for companies to leverage the customer data that is an integral part of the digital process in order to provide messaging and promotional offers that are even more targeted and relevant at the segment and even individual level. A study of executives in 2017 found that companies who employ a CCM platform showed more than 60% annual growth in revenue and more than five times the customer retention compared to those who do not use CCM.
And, as more customers are online, sharing their habits, preferences, and activities with apps and platforms, it’s no surprise that they expect for companies to engage with them based on what the platform knows about them through that data. In fact, customers want companies to use this information to provide special offers just for them or to use it to speed up customer service.
There is also a growing trend for content that is customer-specific; more than 65% of buyers actually want 100% personalized content. In 2017, poor personalization led more than 40% of consumers in the US to actually cut ties with a brand, resulting in retail losses of $2.5 trillion.
This hints at the true advantages that a CCM platform enables: the ability to create and deliver communications that are personalized and the ability to centralize and standardize customer-facing communications processes.
CCM platforms such as Doxee integrate with back-end systems that contain customer data so that content such as email and video can be highly personalized according to customer interests, behaviors, and traits. This year, Doxee was named to Forrester’s Now Tech as among the world’s top Customer Communication Management providers.
Learn how about the features of the Doxee Platform for digital customer experience, content personalization and much more in Forrester’s report: Now Tech: Customer Communications Management for Q1 2019.