Better customer communications can be worth millions in annual revenues. This is because there is a strong correlation between the customers’ experience and loyalty [Forrester Report: Customer Experience Index]. So, companies that manage their communications with a strong contact strategy can create better experiences for their customers and tend to have more customers who will buy from them again, who will not take their business elsewhere, and who will recommend them to a friend. This is why it is so essential to understand that what you communicate and how you communicate has a major impact on all your customers’ experiences with you. (For example, if the customer has had an issue, then an apology can turn a negative experience into a positive one.)
One of the main causes of poor customer contact are the communications silos that are rampant across most businesses today. Communication silos can result in a poor customer experience when there is no cross integration between departments through a contact strategy. With companies sending hundreds of communications to customers, all communications must be integrated so that there are no conflicts in messaging across channels and departments. You must ensure customers are not receiving uncoordinated communications and communications clashes that could bring the customer experience to a halt. Building the right contact strategy is going to deal with various problems that you have with your customer communications, whether those are dealing with negative customer feedback or realising missed opportunities or reducing customer churn. However ultimately, what you communicate and how you communicate has a major impact on all your key performance indicators including your bottom line.
Given the perilously poor state of the contact strategies across business large and small, B2C and B2B, determining the right approach could understandably appear quite daunting. This is why we have divided the challenge of building the right contact strategy into six 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.
(To read more on these steps please see: “Houston we have Contact”)
In many organisations this is as far as they go with a contact strategy and you may have a contact strategy in place that does all this. However, a contact strategy can do much more for you than this. It can form a layer above all your communications that turns your contact strategy into a customer and communications strategy. That is why the final three steps are designed to take your contact strategy from simply protecting the customer from miscommunications to maximising the opportunities that the right communications can bring to your organisation.
4. Define a Customer Vision: This will serve as your platform for all other customer related strategies.
5. Map your customers’ journeys: Map them as they should be in your new world (end to end).
6. Design your contact rules: Design them so that your customers’ journeys are not “interrupted or disrupted”.
(To read more on these steps please see: “The ideal approach to customer contact”)
When we bring these tasks together, it will then become an ongoing task to refine and adjust the strategy to make sure that the changes that you make are having the affect that you want. Therefore, you will need to go back to the beginning once you have completed your first round of implementing contact rules.
If you are now keen to get started then the first auditing step is a relatively simple one and does not require any special expertise or technology for you to do this. Auditing existing communications is just an analysis of your current situation but it will give you the information that you need about what rules should be in your contact strategy.
We recommend that for the audit, you create a spreadsheet that shows by month the type of communication that you send, who sends it, how often and which month it goes out. Also list the channel or other methods that are used to deliver the communication. If you can, get examples of content that is used in these communications as you will need these later when you have to justify your rules to various stakeholders as you will need proof of what the customer is receiving. On the face of it, this is a simple spreadsheet but you will need to visit with colleagues across your business to make sure that you capture everything and they may not all keep good records or keep their records in one place. An important consideration is to make sure that you include all the areas of the business that are sending out functional communications as well such as bills etc. Next, colour code the communications where they are the same communications or where a clash occurs. These items will tell you what rules you need in order to “do no harm”.
Now you need to understand your return on investment for implementing the contact strategy. This can be some complex sums but as a minimum you need to identify what customer churn and dissatisfaction costs your business and then see how much of this is caused by bad communications by relating this back to your spreadsheet. If you have good contact history then you should be able to identify if a customer leaving was caused by poor communications.
This first step analysis will get you started in building your contact strategy. You will also find out from this exercise the scope and the scale of what needs to be done to implement your contact strategy. The next step, the review of your data and contact history, will require expertise in CRM and campaign automation technologies. If that is not you then you need to find who that is within your organisation or you may need to get some external help.
In summary, the steps that we have laid out here will form a roadmap for implementing your contact strategy but they will also help you maintain and optimise it going forward. As you progress through the steps you will get a deeper understanding of the value of a good contact strategy to your business. There can be no doubt however, that this will go a long way to improving your bottom line and fixing any challenges that you currently have with your customers as the research that we referred to at the beginning shows. If you need help implementing your contact strategy, then please do get in contact.