Over the past few years, COVID-19 has impacted almost everything we do, from avoiding in-person banking and shopping in retail stores to conducting meetings through Zoom and Teams to doing more transactions electronically. For many organizations, these changes have meant a necessary adoption of mobile and digital interactions with customers, whether related to problem resolution or service changes, onboarding activities or just general customer communications.
In the shadow of what we hope is a fading pandemic, one thing we can be sure of — lots of what we do will not return to the way we did things in the past. Consumers have become comfortable doing things digitally that they would never have considered before. Which means for those of us in customer communications management, the best thing we can do now is to look at how we are communicating with customers and consider how to provide a truly meaningful customer experience across this increasingly digital world. Here are five questions to ask that will get you started:
- Should you kick personalization up a notch — or two? As document professionals, I don’t have to tell you the benefits of personalization. An interesting study of banking customers by Accenture from December 2020 found that going digital led to a weakened personal and emotional connection with customers. This, in turn, can lead to the commoditization of the services, decreased customer loyalty and increased competition based on price. Certainly, companies that have implemented even the simplest personalization initiatives have found that doing so can reduce customer churn and deliver stronger connections. With today’s customer expectations around personalization, it is necessary to go beyond using a customer’s name or simply recognizing what they have purchased and on to the next step toward hyper-personalization. This advanced form of one-to-one communication involves leveraging real-time data to create a richer customer experience by using intelligent approaches to authoring and curating relevant content (text, images, offers) to communicate with each customer based on a total view of the relationship. In order to maintain close customer connections and the loyalty that goes along with that, show your customers that you know them and deliver content that is relevant, personalized and adds value and that goes well beyond a “Dear Jane” or “Dear John.”
- Do your communications show that you care about your customer? Empathy is essential to establishing a strong human connection with your customers. Especially given the events of the past year, it is important to keep in mind that emotions are running high right now and people can end up with a negative emotional response from both low- intensity and high- intensity communications. This ultimately can weaken their affinity with your organization and dampen loyalty and potential sales. By leveraging AI-based tools to analyze the sentiment of your communications, you can neutralize the effect of negative news and elicit positive reactions by expressing the right sentiment in your messaging, especially in those high intensity communications. You can’t always make every message positive, but by adjusting negative sentiment to be neutral, and being careful not to blame the customer, you better communicate your message and strengthen your brand.
- Are you creating communications that people understand? It is important to review the specific language in all your communications: print and digital. Writing at a fifth-grade educational level will help you ensure clarity and understanding for the vast majority of the U.S. population. While many organizations have a goal to write for an eighth-grade level, most of their content is at a twelfth grade or higher level. Readability analysis can help point out these issues and help you to improve the quality of your content. Avoid technical jargon and try to reign in the legalese in regulated communications to ensure they are clear and easy to understand. Using shorter words and clear, concise language will build trust with your customers.
- Are your communications consistent? Many marketers challenge the notion of consistency because they want to test messaging, layout and other variations to drive higher responses. This has some merit of course, but a lack of consistency can come at a significant cost if you are reflecting a different brand personality in your layouts, tone and sending conflicting messages into the market. When considering servicing communications, consistency is essential as it sets expectations and builds trust with your customers. Part of consistency involves branding, the visual identity of your communications: the colors, the fonts, images and layouts. It is important to drive consistency within individual touchpoints across channels, but also across your various customer touchpoints. Equally important to your visual identity is driving consistency in the information that goes into those communications and materials so customers feel they can trust the communications they’re receiving. For many organizations, consistency is challenging because there are different teams responsible for different touchpoints or even channels. Centralizing content into a single hub that feeds all your various communications across print, email, SMS, chatbots and websites can go a long way to standardizing the look, feel and content that goes into your communications. This helps to drive a more consistent customer experience, one that your customers can come to rely on and trust.
- Have you addressed the need for speed? Thanks to some awesome notable brands that understand customer service, customers today expect fast responses and access to information. Borrowing the words of my friend, Jay Baer, “Speed shows you care,” so you also need to ensure you have the systems that enable customer-facing teams to respond quickly, with the right communication that is personalized and expresses the appropriate sentiment. When leveraging legacy CCM systems or when IT or a service provider is in control of your content, this can be difficult to accomplish, particularly if these systems require programming to make any changes. A more efficient way is to allow business users to make the change needed and self-validate it across specific delivery channels to make sure it looks correct in their output. They can then sign off or route the communication to an approval process before it gets moved into production. We’ve seen companies reduce processes from 12 weeks down to one hour by empowering business users to author and manage content.
So, let’s recap: Aim for hyper-personalization and relevancy, optimize the clarity and sentiment in your communications, provide uniformity and consistency and speed up the process you’re using to create those communications. From there, I predict a more meaningful customer experience is in your future.