Usually, I write predictions for the industry at the start of each year, but let’s try something different. Let’s talk about your predictions and how you will measure your 2022 plan against your 2022 performance. Let’s fast forward to December 31. You are about to deliver your final report on your customer communications plan as the year closes. How well will that discussion go? How much confidence did you have in your plan? How complete was your understanding of your customers? How well do you know your cost structures? How prepared were you for any surprises?
Let’s explore some events that might challenge your 2022 plan and how you will adjust. We will also propose some mid-year corrections that will put you in a position to deliver better outcomes for less spend. If 2020 and 2021 offer any indicators, you will be smart to plan for some surprises. Let’s evaluate the potential impacts and reactions if key assumptions of your plan are challenged.
1. “My customers’ channel preferences were different than I expected.”
The cost of sending communications changes wildly, given they will be delivered by print, SMS, email, social channels and push notifications. If your customers shift to channels with a lower delivery cost, your costs may decrease. However, they may actually increase if you are forced to invest in new technology, set up infrastructure, outsource production or implement custom integrations. If channel switching puts you under a discounting tier, you could see cost per communication increase and if you have digital messages that move from email to SMS, you could see significant delivery cost increases.
If this happens to you during the year, you still have some options. While you want to honor customer preferences, it’s acceptable to encourage customers to use less expensive channels. If your SMS bill is higher than you expect, try highlighting the other valuable content available on the app while asking for customers to opt-in to push notifications and consider rich push notifications. If you have customers who request multiple channels, try positioning a survey that asks their favorite channel. Follow this up with a button that offers to convert their stated favorite channel into the only channel.
2. “Regulations changed and there were expensive new requirements.”
As the pandemic’s impacts ripple across governments, businesses and other organizations, it’s easy to assume that major privacy, security or compliance-related regulations may impact your customer communications. This may increase the number of customer journeys served by customer communications, add communications to your existing journeys or increase the archiving and retention aspects of your current communications.
To correct this, you must look to build as much flexibility into your organization as possible. This means balancing costs of your in-house and outsourced communications, as well as being able to flexibly move your CCM infrastructure across a variety of architectures ranging from full SaaS to on premise and everything in between. If security regulations increase, you may find yourself with unanticipated expenses for multifactor authentication. If you must make a change for a specific application, consider CCM applications that are not bound to a single platform. If costs are increasing through communication expansion, look to offset costs by combining messages with communications or moving messages to less expensive channels.
3. “My customer journeys took more communications to complete.”
This is easy to understand without extensive training in customer empathy. It’s 2022 and we are all managing more information across more accounts. We need reminders, gentle nudges and confirmations more frequently than in the past. Sending a bill may have been one communication in the past, but now it might include four communications: SMS indicating “We are about to deduct money,” SMS confirming a successful payment, an email with the explanation of the charges and final posting of the PDF to the customer portal.
To resolve this, you need some help from other teams. This additional burden on your communication budget requires partnering with other teams to help defray costs. This will be done by adding value to other teams, more accurately attributing collection costs to the finance functions, quantifying increases in customer lifetime value (CLV) or incorporating other customer experience metrics that measure brand value during the customer journey.
While these three challenges may not happen to you, it is worthwhile to consider how they (or others like them) will possibly impact your plan. Be prepared to have tough discussions with your CCM partners. You want to be able to accurately and flexibly model costs that are sure to change. Don’t be locked into per-channel forecasts if you have an omnichannel CCM solution. Look to centralize your channel delivery to capture the maximum flexibility in delivery cost management—and definitely expect the same level of service and customer choice from your CCM vendor as you provide to your customers.