When we talk about customer communication strategy, the most common topic is the context of the communication. We can start by looking at the context of the pressures you face in terms of "more and less." Let’s begin with the things you will experience more and less of in 2016:
- More clients
- More channels
- More frequency
- Less tolerance
- Less budget
So, what does this mean for you in 2016 and beyond? Let’s explore each one:
Markets are growing in interesting ways. Disruptive competitors create new products and services targeted to the lower end of the market by creating app-only offerings. Other tech-savvy players look to serve the top of the market with service-focused business models. In either case, it can force large enterprises into reacting by updating their business models to accommodate new client expectations.
This can present challenges for your communication systems, ensuring they can scale to accommodate the growth of an influx of new demands. It requires friction-free onboarding processes that enable self-service versions of most of your transactions and the ability to proactively address aspects of your products or services that may be confusing for new clients. This is essential to be able to defend against competitors from both the high and low ends of the market.
Your technology team is always under pressure from rising expectations of a gadget-obsessed marketplace. While not all clients are early adopters, the earliest adopters are incredibly vocal about demanding full functionality in a short period of time. In fact, the demands of early adopters can get embarrassing for enterprises. This happened at HSBC in the United Kingdom (UK) where clients took to Twitter to criticize a few weeks of delay in supporting the Apple Pay feature.
When a new combination of an app and a network emerge, users want their enterprises to participate on the new platforms. To do this, you must build an infrastructure that is capable of adapting to the norms and customs of these new networks as they develop, without having to sit out for an entire budget cycle.
As consumer technology brings communications to new places, businesses are now expected to communicate with an increasing frequency. With devices always within our reach, and even automated bots who communicate from our phones, cars and homes for us, the communication frequency increases as the size of each message shrinks to 144 characters or less.
In the insurance industry, phones have replaced insurance cards, increasing communication frequency from two times a year to many contact points on web, email, text and mobile apps. In finance, younger clients often check balances more than 10 times per day. In the airline industry, there used to be a single paper boarding pass. Now, you can print one, text one, move it to Apple's Wallet, watch it from Google Now, view it from an app, send it to a friend, track it in real time and even board a plane from a watch (see photo below). In any industry, customers are asking about status more often, from more devices and at different moments of their lives. So, you need to be able to communicate in real time, optimizing the communication not only for the size of the device the customer is using but also the context of that client.
Even though there are more and more forces putting pressure on you, there is less and less tolerance for error. We work in a market where every mistake can go viral to millions of timelines, destroying the brand equity your chief marketing officer (CMO) has been building for decades (or even over a century for some banks and insurance companies). As organizations staff up the C-suite with new chief digital officers (CDOs) and chief experience officers (CXOs), you can expect tolerance for even the smallest error to drop to zero.
Consumers personally have technology that accesses many types of information instantly to help solve problems. They expect you to provide the same to them. The tolerance level is set by reliable apps, social networks and always-on services. Any communication that is less than perfect is a potentially brand-damaging post. To defend, you need a communication system that is capable of interacting across all the networks and devices that consumers expect.
While overall budgets for communications are increasing, it is not scaling linearly compared to the scaling of the devices, platforms and channels you need to support. Postal increases (or at least structural changes) that cut into the communication budget make enterprises instinctively move communications to the cheaper channels.
There is a way to thrive with a lower budget, however, by centralizing the channel management. Many organizations are finding that they can communicate more effectively if they align on a communication strategy, shut down rogue projects and focus on matching the goals of the communication to the customer’s individual context. By doing this, companies can reduce software maintenance by up to 80%, reduce time to market and deliver communications that offer a consistent customer experience regardless of channel.
Time to get to work!
In a world that demands “More! More! More!” from “less and less,” you need to be smart, flexible and efficient in the way you approach communications. Your customer experience team will be asking you to perform to different metrics. While we strive for perfection, communication systems must incorporate damage control into critical communication projects, providing total situational awareness for any communication problem across any channel, instantly determining the scope of affected clients and remedying that situation through the right combination of channels. This is how a nimble communicator will be able to do “more, more, more” with “less and less.”
Scott Draeger is vice president of product management at GMC Software Technology, a provider of multi-channel and highly personalized document outputs for customer communications management. For more information, visit www.gmc.net or follow him on Twitter @scottdraeger.