The big picture – the totality of your communications – why you need a communications audit

Have you thought about how your business communicates with your customers? Not what you are saying or how you are saying it, or even the KPIs. Such considerations are commonplace because they involve looking at individual communications. Rather, the totality of the communications you have with any single customer. Very few businesses give this any consideration at all. A communications audit is what is required.

Instead, what businesses do is continue to communicate with their customers based on the specific requirements of individual parts of the business. So the marketing department will, for example, continue blasting out e-mail campaigns; the sales function will manage their customer accounts; bills sent; letters processed. Ever wondered what that feels like from your customer’s point of view? And have you ever wondered how this might affect issues your business faces, such as customer satisfaction, retention and revenue loss?

To understand this better, we need to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes. Let’s start in the world we can all relate to, B2C. As a consumer, there are many companies that we receive a plethora of communications from. Examples include your broadband and mobile phone company, your utility providers, your insurance companies and banks, to name just a few. Let’s pick the last one on that list – your bank.

Your bank wants as much of your financial custom as they might get from you and boy, do you know it. Not satisfied with just having your current account. They will fight hard to be your credit card provider, your mortgage provider, for your savings accounts, as well as insurance and loans. Indeed, any possible financial product that is possible to sell the ordinary man on the street. The result is a constant stream of communications broadcast to you, the customer.

Functional Communications

However, before we look at marketing and sales communications, let’s look at another commonplace type of communication – ‘functional’ communications. These are communications such as statements, changes to your terms and conditions or regulatory updates. All good so far and just what you, as their customer, would expect. But then you receive yet another letter through the post offering you a credit card. “You have been pre-selected”, or some such message designed to make you feel special and suck you in. That your bank has been bombarding you with the same or similar offers for a decade or more is irrelevant. As is the fact that when your client account manager rings you up once or twice a year, offering you the same thing. You tell him that the bank does not offer the sort of credit card facilities you desire which the bank has never provided. Or when you pop into the bank for an annual account check-up you state the same thing. But that will not, of course, stop the bank putting up a credit card promotion when you log-in to your online bank account.

That is just one example. We could repeat the same across the bank’s entire product range. The fact is that over the years you have provided the bank with the exact information. The organisation should know what they should or should not target you with. They have valuable information about your personal finance attitudes. But that is neither captured nor reflected in the communications received.

The consequence could be a negative attitude towards the bank. The more likely attitude is for the consumer to apply filters and resistance to anything the bank offers. And with less consideration of the offer as the years go by. This includes the restrictive measure of the consumer opting out of receiving marketing communications at all. You are a loyal customer because you are sticking with the bank, but the cross-sell and up-sell opportunities decline to the point they are non-existent. The result is a massive missed opportunity for the bank and a failure to build a robust customer relationship. And the cause is the inadequacy of the bank’s contact strategy. The needs of product owners drive customer contact to meet their numbers with no consideration of the impact upon the customer.

Business to business is worse

But it does not limit this problem to the world of B2C, it is endemic within the corporate world of B2B. Again, put yourself in the shoes of a business customer. Of course, they bombard you with communications. However, most B2B communications are disjointed when it gets to the full spectrum of customer communications. Companies carelessly intersperse functional communications about the product or service with customer communications from the marketing team. While they task the account managers with their timed account calls and meetings.

The problem is that in the world of B2B, there is a slapdash approach to customer relationship management. The tools that could support this are not used well or not fit for purpose. And more worryingly, few B2B companies attempt to analyse the way they communicate or the impact upon the customer. The limited research that is done will concentrate on satisfaction with the product or service being provided and pay lip service to the way they communicate with the customer.

The impact is like the world of B2C, with negativity being less of a problem than that of missed opportunities. Co-ordinated communications would help with identifying churn risk and lead to greater customer satisfaction. While getting the right sort of communication at the right time would enhance cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

Communications Audit

So the final thought to think over is whether you know the extent of the problem within your organisation or not? Do you have any form of internal customer communication audit? Do you research this customer communications experience? If not, you should.