By Head of Marketing for Pitney Bowes, David Jefferies
While the importance of getting targeted communications out of the door has achieved mainstream awareness, there is still considerable potential for improved return on investment from CRM systems.
Too often, companies are compromising when it comes to communicating with customers and prospects. The lack of attention to the actual delivery of personalised messages to customers or enquirers is making a nonsense of many companies’ marketing strategies.
Arguably, the need for sophisticated mail has never been greater. Customer retention has become a major issue, with today’s multi-channel environment making it easier than ever for consumers to switch brand allegiance. Consumers are acutely aware that the balance of power has shifted in their favour.
It is an accepted mantra that attracting new customers costs more than retaining existing customers, and suppliers operate knowing that bad service, or even perceived bad service, is more likely to be met with defection.
Today, businesses of every size are realising that intelligent marketing to existing customers can have a profound impact on customer retention and customer growth.
High volume prospecting activity has given way to tailored, targeted communications to existing customers – the first line of attack in the battle to stem customer churn rates.
Building a relationship with the customer via the mailstream, therefore, is becoming an integral part of any business proposition.
To maximise the effectiveness of these customer communications, it is necessary to integrate them with the appropriate business processes they connect with, however disparate these processes may seem to be.
Businesses need to make these processes talk to one another, then take those integrated information streams and plug into their CRM effort. This allows the organisation to benefit from examining all customer information before reaching out to the customer.
It is the integration of key business processes and their related information streams into CRM that defines and drives Customer Communication Management (CCM). CCM harnesses the power of specific business processes and ties them to the CRM initiative - in order to create, develop, manage, and maintain more effective customer communications.
CRM is fundamentally customer facing and outwardly focused. CCM takes this to the next level, by capturing the external customer information and linking it to internal business processes in order to create a more comprehensive picture of the customer’s behaviour in relation to the company.
Customer information becomes customer knowledge. The goal is then to stay in repeated contact with customers via a continuing stream of out-bound messages that are highly targeted to individual needs, flawless in appearance and assembly, and structured to facilitate easy payment or customer action.
Take the example of a particular organisation we dealt with recently. This organisation offers its customers (consumers) a credit facility to encourage product purchase.
Some 65% of its customers make use of that line of credit, making it a fundamental part of the buying decision. However, marketing and credit management have traditionally been at loggerheads in this company, marketing wanted to increase sales volumes, and credit wanting to clamp down on payment defaults.
Eighteen months ago, the firm decided to ‘join up’ customer management, and build a bridge between these departments, through a CCM initiative.
Through the joined-up nature of the initiative, credit pre-screening was introduced into marketing campaigns so that likely defaulters did not receive inappropriate marketing offers.
However, at the same time, account statements and other communications from the credit and accounts department were harnessed to also carry appropriate and targeted advertising messages.
Credit policy was implemented pre-marketing, creating better default management and fewer customers disappointed through refusal of credit. Marketing costs also fell as a result.
And existing customer communications were put at the disposal of the marketing department to carry lead-generating messages at minimal additional cost.
But, with so much channel-choice available, is mail still a viable channel? Undeniably, yes. The EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications, in tandem with local telephone privacy laws, places increasing limitations on unsolicited prospecting.
Mail, however, is often seen as a non-intrusive and valued means of communication by both businesses and consumers. What’s more, response figures remain steady.
Any fears about email displacing mail have long since been dispelled. Contrary to popular belief, Internet users receive more mail than non-Internet users and the difference between the two groups is growing.
The claim that a wired household is ripe for substitution is unfounded. Wired households include attractive consumers who will continue to receive mail along with other media from businesses eager to get a greater share of their wallets.
Mail is here to stay, and businesses face a very real need to ensure that their customer-facing communications stand out amongst the weight of competition.
The ability to translate the sophistication in place at the data extraction and data analysis stage to the despatch stage of the communication cycle is critical.
Lack of investment in the hardware and software responsible for physically producing mail-packs will mean a compromise in terms of segmentation and personalisation in order to ensure communications actually leave the door on time and on budget. Any such compromise runs the risk of being punished by today’s choice conscious consumers, for whom alternative suppliers are never more than a mouse-click away.
CCM can uncover opportunities for lower costs and higher revenues both by developing customer relationships that are more rewarding in every sense and by streamlining business processes so they are less costly, more integrated and more effective. Put simply, CCM is directly focused on determining the best and most cost-effective way for engaging in a continual and profitable dialogue with your customers.
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