Customer communication management should be high on any company’s agenda – and yet, 88 percent of organizations aren’t satisfied with how they manage customer-facing communications across the customer journey, according to Forrester.
That’s a worry, because how you go about communicating with your customers is one of the biggest factors in creating outstanding customer experience. And that’s something all businesses should aim for.
But what exactly is customer communication management? And how can it help your business connect with customers?
Let’s take a look.
What is customer communication management?
Customer communications management (CCM) is about creating strategies to improve the way you create, deliver, store and retrieve all types of outbound communications to customers. These communications could take place across a number of different channels such as email, live chat, the website, or even SMS and phone call.
Why is customer communication management important?
Good customer communication management is central to understanding and coordinating customer correspondence. Given how highly customers now value a seamless conversational experience, this has taken on even more significance – particularly in a world where companies often have countless ways and channels to communicate through.
At the end of the day, CCM increases the efficiency of communication and helps find better ways to engage customers. That way companies can improve their communication strategy and so strengthen customer relationships.
CCM vs CRM: what’s the difference?
You might well be thinking that this all sounds an awful lot like customer relationship management. So, what’s the difference?
Well, although both are crucial components of the overall customer experience, there are important distinctions to be made.
CRM is focused on managing customer interactions through data analysis. The end goal is to create sales growth and improve customer retention. CCM, on the other hand, is more concerned with supporting the customer interactions themselves using a variety of different tools and processes and focuses on creating customer engagement.
Getting customer communication right
Improving customer communication doesn’t happen overnight – it’s part of a longer journey. And different companies are at different stages of this journey. Knowing where you sit can help you understand what you need to do to move your company towards the end goal.
The “The State of CCM-to-CXM Transformation” report, breaks down this journey into three specific parts:
- CCM is led by IT departments. Often characterized by a focus on print and documents and lacking a consistency of voice across all channels. Tends to be reactive rather than proactive. Around 30 percent of companies sit in the category.
- CCM is led by organizational departments. Focus is on the relevance of customer communication, interest in data analytics and new communication channels, and how to create cohesive customer messaging across them. The needs of the organization are the primary motivation. Around 60 percent of companies are at this stage.
- CX-led Organizations. Business growth is achieved through focusing on CX, placing customer needs at the forefront. Looking to create a customer-centric approach across the customer journey delivering consistent personalized messaging via a variety of channels and devices. Around 10 percent of companies are at this stage.
Customer communication management strategies for the win
Although the concept of customer communication management has been around for a while, it’s now vastly more complex than ever before – largely due to the shift towards digital communication.
This digitization has given rise to certain trends which in turn shape CCM strategies. Some of these trends include:
- The rise of omnichannel communication. The digital revolution has caused a proliferation of communication channels. In fact, the average customer says they use 10 different channels to communicate with companies. That could be through a chatbot, email (often automated), live chats, SMS, phone call, printed documents, social media, or web page (including links to interactive documents and information) among others.
- Pressure to respond quickly. The pace of life, and business, is always increasing. This trend has bled through to customer expectations when it comes to communication: 90 percent of customers now expect an immediate response – with 60 percent defining “immediate” as less than 10 minutes.
- The rise of the voice of the customer. Communication used to be largely one-way: from company to customer. But no longer. Now customers have a myriad of options to get their message across to companies, too. Platforms such as social media and review sites have given them a vehicle to have their voices heard. Experiences customers have with your company, whether good or bad, can be shared far and wide at the click of a button – and even if you choose not to listen, their fellow customers certainly will.
So, what are strategies you can use to help meet these challenges head on? The following ideas will help you:
- Be omnichannel. Customers want to engage with you through the method of their choice, but you also need to consider that in the context of the overall mix of channels. Communication with customers should happen in a coordinated manner across a range of different channels.
- Be relevant. Maintaining context through historical conversations and remembering previous interactions is a great way to deliver on customer experience. A unified view can help you do that.
- Be clear. Clarity is key to good communication. It helps avoid any confusion and aids in managing expectations. Any content you create must be as easy as possible for your customers to take on board. Avoid using jargon whenever possible.
- Be personal. Different customers may respond in different ways to different things. Always keep communication personalized without seeming invasive (for example, imagine being told your exact movements yesterday – creepy, right?). Even something as simple as using a customer’s first name in an email can make a difference.
- Be understanding. Not all customers have the same needs or access to the same channels. Explicitly ask your customers how they would like to be communicated with and then base your interactions on their preferences. Make sure to give them the opportunity to change their preferences later on down the line, too.
- Be real time. Customers want answers and they want them fast. Train your customer service team to be quick and provide them with the tools they need to succeed. Technology such as live chat can provide instant access to live agents, for example.
Tech to the rescue: tools to help with CCM
Customer communication management software helps companies create, deliver, organize and retrieve customer communications by allowing them to compose, personalize, format, and deliver content from a variety of sources to their customers. These communications can then be distributed through a number of media formats, including mobile, email, SMS, web pages, social media, and print.
The functions of CCM solutions bring positive benefits to your business. And that’s because they can help you:
- Enhance the customer experience. Bringing consistency into communication helps create a single voice – one that represents the brand, regardless of the channel it’s being delivered through. This, in turn, helps decrease confusion among both customers and employees, and helps solidify a brand identity. Targeting and personalization also increases the relevance of communication.
- Create more efficient workflows. Customer communication management software allows you to create, edit, and manage content so there’s no need to always rely on IT to make those changes.
- Mitigate risk. Improved regulation and control in the communication process gives multiple departments and teams the ability to collaborate from the get-go, providing a holistic and centralized view throughout the whole development process – great news for compliance.
- Achieve digital transformation. Many traditional industries, such as banking and insurance, rely on existing infrastructures that have been in place for decades and are geared towards print-based communications. Customer communication management software instead aims to break down boundaries and provide a seamless omnichannel customer experience from a centralized platform.
- Track customer responses. Software helps you get insight into what is working and why. This is fundamental to allowing you to improve on existing communication and create even better results in the future.
So, if you want a truly comprehensive solution that can help you achieve all these goals, keep an eye out for software that can:
- Track inbound and outbound communications
- Analyze and report on communications
- Manage contact information
- Provide communications workflows
- Integrate with CRM
- Keep documents secure
- Personalize communications
- Manage templates
- Format and produce documents
- Automate communications
Looking for a better way to manage your customer communication? Check out a conversational customer experience platform built to help.
CCM software into the future
As the digital revolution changes what’s possible in the world of communication, so customer communication management software is advancing its own capabilities to keep up. Two things in particular to look out for in future are:
- More cloud-based technology. Although customer communication management software is predominantly on-premises at the moment, the movement towards cloud-based solutions looks set to accelerate – and fast.
- More AI. In some cases, the explosion in customer communication on the back of COVID-19 has overwhelmed businesses. Expect to see AI aid businesses in further automating customer communication going forward.
Build a communication culture
Even with watertight processes in place, and the best software at your disposal, ultimately, communication is a human thing. Your team should be ready to go the extra mile to offer the best communication experience to customers – whether that means quickly jumping on a Zoom call, connecting through Skype, or sending a follow up email. Cultivate this open culture and your customers will thank you for it.