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Are Your Customer Messages DOA?
Create a strategy that brings them to life.
Posted Sep 1, 2005
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We know by now that organizations that use what they know about a customer to communicate one-on-one--and through multiple channels--will ensure that customers always understand and appreciate the value they're getting from doing business with those companies. The customer experience will be a positive one, with retention and loyalty the happy result. But companies face a variety of organizational and technical challenges when it comes to implementing an effective communications and messaging strategy. Linking the different silos of information a company has about its customers often requires a reexamination of business processes and a comprehensive strategy that goes beyond a simple message. To be truly successful, the creation of an effective messaging strategy must be a cross-functional exercise that incorporates marketing, customer support, IT, and other lines of business in a team effort to consolidate what each area knows about the customer. It's all about the content An effective messaging strategy, when drilled down, is really all about the quality of the content. But who creates it? Who manages it? Are you sending customers information you want them to know, or are you letting customers tell you (through previous interactions) what information he or she wants to receive? To answer these questions, you need to take a step back and look carefully at your company's process flow. It is important to consider what channels to use to communicate with customers--paper, Web, telephone, front-line staff--as well as your customer touch points, such as direct mail, inserts, statements, and online interactions. Then, prioritize this information based on its ability to drive increased sales, customer retention, or improved customer value. Gathering this type of information will help get a unified view of the needs, preferences, and recent interactions with your customers. In doing so you can better personalize the content with relevant information and cross-product marketing. And you can customize the content and delivery more easily, making it possible to respond better to customer choices and options.
Once you assemble the content, use it wisely With your information process on the road, the next steps require taking a look at the strategy for delivering your messages, driven by the following five considerations: 1. Message zones. Proper presentation of the message content is key. Have you put the most important content first in all communications? Are any messages too long or too short? How can they be adjusted to provide more clarity? 2. Message formats. Consider which delivery formats have been most well-received by customers and which ones should be changed or discarded. Would a teaser on page one be effective in directing the reader to a detailed section or message? 3. Message triggers. Who is getting the message? The things that drive the need to communicate with your customer are usually marketing campaigns, customer transactions, and other drivers such as lifestyle events, changes in account status, etc. 4. Message effectiveness. Test your messages to ensure they are saying what you want them to and are providing the optimum results you desire. Consider whether you are sending the right number of communications to your customers and not over or under mailing communications to them. 5. Message tracking. Establish tracking measures during the strategy phase, including response rates, reductions in contact center calls, and mean call times. As more data becomes available over time, review it for trends often. Continue to adjust your strategy based on the results you find. The benefits reach everyone An effective messaging strategy can bring benefits to the entire company. It can reduce document production costs (including inserts, direct mail, handling, and postage) and reduce calls to contact centers by doing a better job of providing customers with appropriate information. The real benefit comes from the simple fact that messages that are relevant to the recipient and delivered via its preferred method are valued and read. They tell customers you have taken the time to learn what is important to them--and you are using that information to have a dialogue with them. By putting a strategy in place to create personalized messages focused on growing the relationship, you are sure to deliver an experience that will benefit the customer and win you business. About the Author Nick Romano is president and CEO of Prinova, a North American provider of strategic consulting, innovative design, and document engineering for companies in the financial services, insurance, healthcare, retail, and utilities industries. He can be reached at nickr@prinova.com
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