Why do you need to do anything differently when it comes to the way you contact your customers? Because change is inevitable and your customers have already changed and in many ways. When things change and new information comes into existence, it is no longer possible to solve current problems with yesterday’s solutions.

The Hippocratic Oath has as one of its tenets: “First, do no harm”. This is an excellent place to start when considering your contact strategy. If you are looking to deal with negative customer feedback but also deal with missed opportunities and loss of revenue that your existing approach to customer contact is probably causing, one of the first places to find things to fix is often your “own goals”. The best way to find these is to audit your communications to get a clear picture of who is saying what to your customers, when they are saying it, and through what channels. This will highlight to you very quickly how a contact strategy is going to improve your customers’ experience of your brand. Be prepared to uncover some shocking examples of your communications.

The next thing to look at is your customer data. Do you have a single view of all your customer data or a CRM platform that allows you to review the communications history of who has been sent what? A common problem when you get to this point is that communications history is not held on the CRM platform or against the single customer view but maybe held with the individuals, platforms or departments doing the communications. Or maybe not held at all – you may send and forget. If you have got all your communications history in one place then you can move to the next step. If not then your first job is to work out how to get it all if not physically in one place, at least virtually so you can see who is doing what. Most importantly, if you are not doing it, then start keeping a record of what you sent and how the customer responded, if at all.

There are often also organisation issues with your CRM platform in that not every department who communicates with your customer has access to it. Sometimes CRM is just implemented for sales or service and everyone else is on their own. This is not the end of your contact strategy! You have to think about how you enable the parts of the organisation that do not have access to the single customer to use it. That might mean that you extend your implementation, however that could be cost prohibitive but do not worry as this is not the only solution to this problem. One of the ways round this is to consider how different areas could use a data extract from the CRM system to inform their communications and then how recent the data needs to be and frequently they need that data.

The final but perhaps most complicated part that you will need to consider is the rules of engagement. For this there are two areas that you need to find solutions for: how will you design and establish the rules and how you will get people to follow them. The second part is harder as you may have to contend with cultural issues in implementation. It can help to consider how you are organised around the customer. Do you have a customer champion? Re-organising around the customer can be an enormous shift for an organisation. How you design and establish the rules for your contact strategy will depend on your brand, the types of products or services that you sell and your on-going service proposition. But as described above, the place to start is to look at your existing communications and remove the duplications and clashes.

Try to remember the purpose of a commercial organisation is to create a customer and not a product or service. Who are you creating as customers with your contact strategy?

In summary, as you think about how to implement a contact strategy, we suggest you think about these three initial steps:

  1. Review your existing communications; look at both what is being sent and who is sending it. You may find that you have organisation silos that need to be addressed as part of your implementation.
  2. Contact History – data is the tool that you need to audit your communications and to set up your contact strategy. Make sure that you are capturing the contact history and that everyone who needs to use it can get to this data.
  3. “Do no harm” – once you have the complete picture of your communications, start your contact strategy by removing the duplications and the obvious clashes.

Although this may still seem like a lot to do, the harm caused and opportunities lost by not implementing a contact strategy could be immense for your business. In our opinion, you will enjoy some significant returns on customer satisfaction and revenue growth by implementing the right contact strategy for your customer base.