As business leaders return to their desks after Christmas and the New Year, many will be wondering what 2015 holds. Amidst so many uncertainties, from the the price of oil to the outcome of the General Election, what are the factors that businesses can rely on and set their compass by?
One certainty is the continued importance of customer service. This was a key trend in 2014 and is likely to become even more critical in 2015 as businesses expand their marketing activities to build stronger relationships with customers who all the evidence suggests are becoming less and less loyal.
Almost one in three UK consumers (30%) surveyed by Vision Critical for customer service specialist Kana said that they had become less loyal to retail brands in the last five years, with 25% identifying poor customer service as the main reason.
Who’s in charge?
Consumers have always had the power to vote with their feet and take their custom elsewhere. But in the past, it was often easier to endure poor service than find an alternative provider or navigate the complexities of switching supplier. Today, things are very different.
A number of factors, from market liberalisation to the world wide web, mean that in 2015 consumers hold the cards. It is no longer the customer’s lot to fulminate about poor service and then eat humble pie; today, with just a few clicks of a mouse, it is easy to find an alternative supplier and probably one that charges less. The impact of technology is also changing customer expectations.
People know what technology can do; they know what is possible and are therefore less tolerant of delays, errors or obstructive customer service. The twentieth century consumer doesn’t exist to be fobbed off – at least not more than once.
In a recent Censuswide poll commissioned by Netcall, 11% of consumers revealed that they had taken their business to a competitor after failing to get a satisfactory response to a complaint at the first time of asking.
Technology as enabler
However, technology is much more than a stick to beat suppliers with. It is a great enabler for businesses too. Today, those that choose to do so can find out more about their customers than at any time in history.
Electronic payment systems, the rise of e-commerce and even people’s own social media profiles give remarkable insight into the buying habits and preferences of customers and potential customers; while electronic messaging and social networks, allied to commoditisation of computers, smartphones and tablets, enable businesses to interact with customers like never before.Nor is technological innovation limited to electronic communications.
Digital presses that allow businesses to personalise mailings have transformed direct mail, which remains a vibrant and effective means of generating business and deepening customer relationships. New techniques for linking physical documents to websites and other digital content offer new possibilities by adding intelligence to the printed page.
Many businesses have fully embraced these developments and transformed their customer communications by making use of both online and offline channels to communicate with target customers. Others are just starting down this road and taking their first steps towards true multi-channel customer communications encompassing direct mail, email, telephone, SMS & mobile, web and social media.
A necessary journey
To help businesses on this necessary
journey, Neopost, in association with the DMA, the professional body for the one-to-one marketing industry, has produced a free guide explaining the rationale, benefits and pitfalls of a multi-channel customer communications strategy.
How to Really Connect with Your Customers – Smart Ways to Manage Multi-Channel Communications covers:
- The factors driving the uptake of multi-channel customer communications;
- The benefits of such a strategy, including enhanced customer contact, better response levels and lower costs;
- The different channels, and what combinations of media are most effective;
- What’s required for successful multichannel communications;
- Advice on how to construct a campaign;
- Examples of best practice; and
- A useful checklist to refer to when creating a campaign.
Neopost marketing manager Phil Winfield said:
“Customer service is no longer just a question of delivering what’s been ordered within the agreed time-frame. With the emergence of new communication channels, the nature of the customer contact has become just as important. Mobile, social media, email, the web, direct mail and the telephone are all very effective methods of communication – when used in the right way and in the right combination. “However, businesses need to be careful how they use these tools. A telephone call is more intrusive than a letter – especially if made in the evening – and a social media interaction might not be appropriate for communicating sensitive material. Each medium has its own qualities and strengths and businesses need to think carefully about when to use them. That includes taking into consideration individual customers’ own preferences, which might change depending on the nature of the communication or the time of day. Making the right contact with customers will strengthen relationships, but getting it wrong could be damaging.”
The importance of choice
The trap that many organisations fall into is to force customers to communicate in a certain way, usually to further a corporate cost-cutting agenda. A company might fail to publish its phone number online so that customers have to communicate by email or web chat, or it might charge for paper bills in an attempt to migrate customers to electronic billing.
Such tactics are high risk. According to a survey by the Keep Me Posted campaign, which lobbies service providers and the Government to give consumers choice in how they receive bills, statements and other information, 81% of adults want to choose how they receive their information and 84% don’t like it when that choice is taken away.
A consistent experience
The decision to implement multichannel customer communications
presents its own challenges:
Is the quality of your data up-to- scratch?
The Experian Global Data Report 2014 suggests that wasted marketing spend and lost productivity due to bad data costs the average organisation 12% of its income: and 28% of those who have had problems delivering email because of bad data say that customer service has suffered as a result;
How do you ensure a consistent brand identity?
If you communicate with the same person using a variety of methods, it is important to have a consistent image, for reasons of brand integrity and customer reassurance, especially when communicating or transacting online;
How do you maintain communications integrity?
When communicating via multiple channels, how do you make sure that everyone receives the right communications via the right medium? And can you prove it if challenged?
As a customer contact specialist, Neopost has been helping businesses both large and small to answer these questions and implement successful multi-channel communications strategies. To find out how it can help you to develop more profitable and enduring customer relationships, please download a free copy of How to Really Connect with Your Customers – Smart Ways to Manage MultiChannel Communicationsfrom http://www2.neopost.co.uk/MCC or call 0800 731 1334