Having a customer-centric culture does not make your business customer-centric. Many factors will be behind this but the hardest one to tackle will be the customer communications silos that exist within your business.
So why do customer communications silos impede customer-centricity? There are two ways to answer that question. The first is to look at it from the customer’s point of view.
Starting with a B2C customer, or indeed prospective customer, they receive a lot of communications from you. In any given week they might watch your ad on television, hear your spokesperson on the radio, see your logo as their football team’s sponsor, receive one or more e-mails, receive a bill, receive a DM, spot you being mentioned on social media and possibly even follow you, visit your shop, ring your call centre or go to your website. However, by no means all of those communications will be aligned.
Your press and media activities are almost certainly promoting your products or services and encouraging them to buy or encouraging positive brand recall. You may also be attempting the latter with your sponsorship of my football team although frankly they probably do not really care as long their team wins and has enough cash to buy the best players. Will your e-mails bear any relation to the media activities? Maybe but often not, especially as the e-mail might have come from any number of different functions within your organisation. And what if they are currently in some sort of discussion with your call centre operatives at this time? Could the e-mail clash with that conversation, regardless as to whether the conversation is a positive, neutral or negative one? – how good is your contact strategy? And if they go to your website, how likely is it to correspond with any of these communications?
For those in B2B organisations the situation is not necessarily much less different although many of the channels will be. Brochures, press articles, trade shows, conferences, your website, account management communications, and so on, may make up the bread and butter of communications but there is still considerable room for inconsistencies and disconnects.
Moving on to the second way to understand why customer communications silos impede customer-centricity, you need to ask yourself when you last analysed internally what communications you are actually sending out. After all, do you know how many, by which functions and on what subjects across your entire organisation? Have you ever tried to find out?
In every instance we have encountered, the answers to those questions are ‘no’. This leads to an obvious challenge for any company wishing to become customer-centric, as without knowing what communications your customers are receiving how can you know whether you are behaving in a customer-centric manner? And the problem here is not simply that there is no central control or analysis of what each silo is doing, but often that there is no exact knowledge of how many communications are going out as many are automated and the contact strategy, if there is one, is about suppression based on contact from that silo rather than the organisation as a whole.
The net result of this situation could be described as customer communications chaos. While each communication may have originated from a sensibly thought through strategy or activity, the sum of the whole is akin to a broadside from an old Man of War ship from the great days of sail within the Napoleonic Wars. Success in those battles was judged by rate of fire per minute and the weight of cannonball being thrown at the opposition. Targeting, accuracy, and combined effect were secondary considerations beyond the obliteration of the enemy. Well so to for your poor customer. Each communication is designed with a single goal in mind and the organisation may have the overarching goal of making money from its customers, but what the effect of all this mass bombardment of communications is upon the recipient is rarely considered. And that is about as far from being customer-centric as you can get.
So why does this problem exist at all? The answer to that question is relatively straightforward. To function, a business must have a structure that enables tasks to be accomplished and if this task involves communicating with the customer then this clearly must be done. So, marketing, customer service, billing, digital, etc. all communicate with customers as part of their routine function. As long as those communications processes achieve their individual goals in relation to that function’s KPIs, then there has never been a reason to question what the combined effect upon the customer might be.
But all that is changing. Businesses now want to be customer-centric for a variety of reasons such as driving growth . As the reality starts to sink in that cultural change simply will not cut it alone, so attention starts to turn to the structure and processes that revolve around the customer. What will soon become clear is that no individual business function can make the drive towards customer-centricity alone as customer-centricity is reliant upon customer communications interdependencies that hitherto have not been considered. Failure to tackle this issue will mean that any drive towards customer-centricity will be forever impeded.