Making customer communications an art form. Miscommunicating with the all-powerful customer — or not providing information at all — can and has cost businesses large amounts of money. Almost all enterprises in every business sector are therefore conscious of how they are presented to their customer base, especially when it comes to marketing, sales and their public persona. Today the customer isn’t just available when they walk through the door — the modern customer talks on Twitter, shares on Facebook and buys online.
The effect of online social media is customer empowerment. A bad review can quickly tarnish a brand’s reputation (United Airlines breaks guitars, anyone?). These empowered customers will be having conversations about your brand whether you are there or not, so it’s best to be there, or at least be listening.
Why is it best to be there? In a word: loyalty. Customer loyalty is becoming the goal for many businesses. There is a lot of noise in the form of advertisements and other communications that bombard customers every day, very few of which are truly of interest to the individual. If a brand becomes associated positively however, its communications are given much more weight, just the same as how an individual with a proven expertise in a field is given more respect than a novice. Becoming that trusted brand, the signal amongst the ever-increasing amount of noise, will be the new point of contention for marketers in the coming decade. You can’t become that trusted brand without clear, consistent communications with your customer base in the places where they are talking.
However for many organizations, achieving customer loyalty through managed customer communications is a difficult thing to do. For one thing, it’s a technical challenge. Multiple communications channels — utilized in a consistent and professional manner — is no small feat and many companies will need to use a customer communications management platform to achieve this. It’s also a cultural shift. In the past, a lot less time and effort went into communications with existing customers, many businesses were simply focused on enticing the next customer. This can no longer be the case in many industries. A company that does not seek to engage with its own customers lives a risky life, however the risk is often downplayed by those less experienced in the nature of social media.
One such area is banking. This sector has routinely underinvested in customer communications over the past 10 years, and when account holders were asked if their bank values them, the results were ugly. Just 27% respondents in the US felt strongly that they are valued customer (20% in Germany, 10% in UK and just 6% in France).
So there’s some work to be done, and not just by the banks. Businesses in all sectors are waking up to this. Both Forrester and Gartner, two of the largest and most respected analyst firms in the world, have released reports analyzing the customer communications management market. The aim is to help these businesses decide on who they can trust to understand them and improve their relationship with customers.
Considering the changing nature of your customer base, and the demands of the business to “catch up with the times,” the modernization of customer communications is inevitable. The opportunity a good customer communications management platform brings to marketers is immense. Being there at the right time on the right channel with the right message will make a business stand out among competitors. Anything else is humdrum. Be there or be square.
Michael Charest is vice president of healthcare, insurance and financial services for GMC Software Technology, a provider of multichannel and highly personalized document outputs for customer communication management. For more information please visit www.gmc.net.