When was the last time you thought about the way in which your business communicates with your customers? Not what you are saying or how you are saying it, or even the KPIs of your call-handling; such considerations are commonplace because they, fundamentally, involve looking at individual communications. Rather, the totality of the communications you have with any single customer. The reality is that very few businesses give this any consideration at all.

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 which may or may not be well targeted where 1% or less customers bite; the sales function will manage their customer accounts; bills will be sent out; letters processed; and so on and so on. Ever wondered what that feels like from your customer’s point of view? And have you ever wondered whether significant issues your business might be facing, such as customer satisfaction, retention and revenue loss might be affected by this?

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 a large number of companies that we receive a plethora of communications from – your phone, broadband and mobile phone providers, your utility providers, your insurance and banking providers, 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 can possibly 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, your savings accounts provider, as well as insurance, loans and 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 at the customer.

However, before we look at marketing and sales communications let’s take a look at another commonplace type of communication which can be grouped together as ‘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, often saying that you have been pre-selected or some such message designed to make you feel special and suck you in. The fact 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 simply does not offer the sort of credit card facilities you desire – perhaps, for example, as a person who never runs up debt you only use cashback credit cards which the bank has never provided. Or similarly when you do pop into the bank for an annual account check-up you religiously 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. The same could be repeated across the bank’s entire product range. The fact is that over the years you have continually provided the bank with the exact information the organisation requires to know what they should or should not target you with and, more importantly, incredibly 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. Actually the more likely attitude is for the consumer to automatically apply filters and resistance to anything the bank offers with increasingly less consideration of the offer as the years go by. This includes the incredibly restrictive measure of the consumer opting out of receiving marketing communications at all. Technically 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 virtually non-existent. The result is, in effect, a massive missed opportunity for the bank and a failure to build a robust customer relationship. The cause? The inadequacy of the bank’s contact strategy. In other words, that customer contact is driven by the needs of product owners to meet their numbers with no consideration of the impact upon the customer.

But this problem is not limited to the world of B2C, it is equally endemic within the corporate world of B2B. Again, put yourself in the shoes of a business customer. Of course you are bombarded by marketing communications, that goes with the territory. However, most B2B communications are dangerously disjointed when it gets to the full spectrum of customer communications. Functional communications about the product or service are carelessly interspersed with customer communications from the marketing team (upcoming events, new products and services and the like) while the account managers are tasked with their timed account calls and meetings.

The problem is that in the world of B2B there is usually a slapdash approach to customer relationship management with the tools that could support this poorly used or not actually fit for purpose. And more worryingly, few B2B companies make the effort 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 the customer is communicated with.

The impact is somewhat similar to the world of B2C with negativity being less of a problem as that of missed opportunities. Closely co-ordinated communications would help with identifying churn risk and generally lead to greater customer satisfaction, while getting the right sort of communication at the right time would enhance cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

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.