January 13, 2016

Customer Communication Evolution in 2016

Adam Caromicoli

Just as many years before it, 2016 brings an expanding array of communication solutions for with your friends, colleagues and customers.  Where Email was once the ultimate time saver, dozens of instant messaging platforms, social media sites and a spectrum of cloud-based storage and efficiency platforms have arisen to make communications easier and more efficient than ever before.   Or have they?

Imagine a major utility company in 2015 adopting an electronic customer communication strategy for thousands of their customers, and then changing direction due to lack of early adoption.  With the change in direction comes a simple Email without guidance on delivery alternatives.  Imagine sitting on the phone trying to obtain a copy of your bill before future interest accrues on an overdue bill.  That was my New Years Day 2016.

The reality is that a communications strategy that retains your customers instead of losing them is simpler than it ever was.  Just put yourself in your customer’s position and follow three simple principles:

  1. Make it Easy
  2. Listen to Your Customer
  3. Commit to your Strategy

Make It Easy.  If it isn’t easy to be your customer, you won’t have customers.   In today’s customer communications, easy doesn’t mean the solution works, it means your customer doesn’t have to work.  Today’s customers, both businesses and consumers expect to exert little to no effort to communicate the way THEY want to.  This means a communication strategy involving verbal, digital and yes paper based communications is just a start.  It is necessary for today’s businesses to explore the use of not just Email and corporate web sites, but also cloud storage and social media to reach customers where they want to be reached.    Most importantly, empower your consumers to EASILY select their preference of how they want to interact with you.   It is no longer your choice.

Listen to Your Customer. Listen to the ideas and preferences for how your customers want to communicate.  The real life utility example above begs the question of whether any customers were polled for their preference. With approximately 50% of North American consumers continuing to receive the majority of their important business communications in a cumbersome and inefficient paper-based format, there is an untapped opportunity to improve communications with your customers by learning about what works for them (even though some will undoubtedly stick with paper).

Commit to Your Strategy.  Whatever resources you provide your customers, make sure you commit to them and see it through.  If you communicate through digital channels, or cloud storage providers to thousands of your customers, abandoning your strategy without letting the effort run its course is a disruptive event in favor of your competitors.  If you adopt a social media element to your communications, keep it active, or if live chat helps your customers keep the queues short.    Broad strategies that do not have resource and executive commitment can do more harm than good (oh yeah I was on a live chat queue that never went to zero on New Years Day).
Most importantly make the effort understand what will work best for your customers. Make it an opportunity to distinguish your level of customer service, not a necessary evil or just save administrative costs.  Remember to use your customer communications strategy to

  1. make your customers’ lives easier with choice and empowerment
  2. listen to your customers
  3. show your commitment to your strategy and your customers’ success

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