Five steps for better customer communications you can take right now

Having been involved with technology most of my career, I was very interested in the evolution of the Apple Watch. Along with designing an amazing interface, Apple studied Swiss watch designers to find out what would make people want to strap something like this on their arm. What they gleaned from this study is that people like to have different options, not just one-size fits all.

Implementing personalization behind the design of the Apple Watch doesn’t seem that surprising. It’s actually the thought that most likely should be behind the business model of every company—deliver the experience each customer wants, and how they want it.

We all know the importance of creating communications that recognize customers as individuals and acknowledge their interactions. However, achieving this throughout the client relationship is becoming more challenging as customers now expect high levels of service through a multitude of channels.

And the challenge is not only inside the walls of the business. Customers can also be challenged with overly complex communications sent to them. The last thing a person wants to do is spend time calling customer service with questions regarding their latest invoice, statement, or health care document. And the last thing a company wants is a prospect or customer that doesn’t respond to a marketing offer or pay a bill on time because the transactional document wasn’t clear.

Just like Apple, being able to offer a personalized experience with a competitive edge requires having the capability to deliver the superior service that customers expect and the technology to make it possible. However, communicating with customers in a way that is meaningful to them is not as complicated as one might think. Below are five initial steps that every business can take right now toward enhancing customer communications—and it starts with the customer.

  1. Get the customer’s perspective. Each communication sent to your customers should be reviewed from their customer’s point-of-view prior to delivery. Too often companies send correspondence that doesn’t take into consideration the needs and expectations of individual customers — a perfect example where one size does not fit all. Take the time to gather some of your favorite customers together and ask them how they like to receive correspondence from your company — and how easily is the information you send understood. This activity is the first step in ensuring the creations of communications that are clear and provide information the way — and through the delivery channel — customers want.
  2. Find a technology platform that easily accomplishes your goals. The good news is affordable technology now exists that makes it possible for a company to easily link all its customers’ information together and provide customized communications that address specific customer interests. They are solutions that can be deployed either on premise or in the cloud and enable a company to communicate complex information in a relevant, consistent way through a customer’s channels of choice.
  3. Hire experts to help you enhance your correspondence. There are firms that specialize in the design and language of customer communications and can help facilitate customer focus groups, conduct surveys and build internal agreement on direction. Their accumulated knowledge and experience in this field will go a long way to avoid many common mistakes, offer solutions for saving costs in printing and mailing and create a correspondence that is clear to the recipient and easily deployed through all channels.
  4. Initiate a soft launch of the newly designed correspondence to a subset of your customer base. In spite of your best efforts to create the perfect template needed to correspond effectively, there will always be things not caught that can result in continued confusion. Invite “alpha testers” in different segments or regions of your customer base to view and provide feedback that you can implement before the actual launch of your new communications.
  5. Be prepared for questions. Change, whether it is good or bad, always results in some level of upset or confusion. Be prepared when introducing anything new for the call volume to increase, especially if they involve transactions of any type. However, this initial period will subside and soon you can expect happier customers due to better understanding and readability of the communications you are sending them.

Back to my fascination with Apple. In reality, Apple is not a software company or a hardware company. It’s an experience company. While we can’t all be Apple, at the least a positive customer experience should be the goal of every company.

With a laser focus on how we communicate in a way that addresses customer differences as much as possible, and the technology to make it happen, every business can be in the enviable positions of establishing long-term and profitable relationships with customers through the simple act of communicating with them on their own terms.

Sohail Malik is business product manager with Elixir Technologies. Visit www.elixir.com for more information.