By Chris Jones, managing director, Icon UK Ltd.
Increasingly, customer experience is dictating the direction of travel for customers - whether it's towards a greater involvement with your business, or if it's towards your competitors. In regulated industries, there is a specific challenge for improving the customer experience that relates directly to the regulated communications their clients receive: how does a business maintain compliance with the rules whilst also communicating with customers on a personal level?
There is little doubt that customers who feel valued will remain loyal; they'll also spend more, which is why personalisation really matters in the customer experience. The research supports this: in fact, 70% of buying experiences are based on how a customer feels they are being treated (McKinsey) and 55% of consumers say they would pay more for a better customer experience (Defaqto Research).
Additionally, the risks of losing customers to bad experiences are significant with 52% of consumers reporting a switch in provider based on their poor experiences of customer service (Accenture): this has cost businesses over £1.2billion in the past year (Accenture).
'Compliance and Oversight Takes Too Much Time and Money'
Clearly, keeping customers happy and providing an excellent customer experience is essential for building loyalty and retention. In many regulated industries - such as financial services, healthcare and pharmaceuticals - communications with customers are regulated as part of the wider business activity. It makes sense that the content, timing and quality of these communications are regulated, of course, because it would be unfair for businesses to provide misleading or inaccurate information or even for them to omit key information. But compliance and oversight takes too much time and money.
Even for industries that have more light-touch regulation, it's still important for customers to receive consistent information across standard communications (if at least just to avoid the customer service chaos that would result from a range of different standards, approaches or rules being applied to different customers!) and better still if customers have complete control of the manner in which they receive such communication.
Standard communications serve their purpose: they deliver essential information in an unbiased and transparent way. What they lack, however, is the ability to show any warmth or friendliness to customers and this 'cold' approach can be extremely uninspiring.
At a personal level, when we talk to customers we learn a lot about them and gain very individualised insights into their lives. Call centre operators, for example, will have many conversations with customers through the day where, at the end of a call, they could give you at least a couple of facts about that customer - the type of pet they have or the fact they're due to move home in a few weeks, for example. These insights are precious and can be used to demonstrate an organisation's caring, listening and understanding attitude towards customers; field sales executives and account managers will use such insights to build rapport with their accounts and prospects.
When we communicate with our customers, we can use these pieces of insight to tailor not only the personality of our communications, but perhaps even the nature of our communications. We can leverage insights to include information alongside our standardised paragraphs in a letter or email ('I was sorry to hear about how your dog, Fido, caused a flood in your kitchen, but I'm happy to say we can help get your white goods, flooring and kitchen units replaced.'); these provide a reassurance to customers that the company does listen, does care and takes them seriously. It also means companies can make the most of this information to cross-sell products to existing customers ('On the subject of Fido, I just thought I'd bring your attention to our current offer on pet insurance, available to you as a valued home insurance customer').
Old Technology Limits the Power of Communications
Whilst the theory behind this makes sense, the ability for companies to execute this thinking is limited by the technology they employ. The systems which control these customer communications have been previously very complicated - IT specialists would be required to manage what should be basic user capabilities, often in ridiculously lengthy timeframes. The enterprise-level nature of the systems also means that they required a good deal of investment to acquire and implement at the time of their purchase. Today's technology allows for a more sensible approach to customer communications management (CCM), however its integration with existing systems can simply create another 'silo' that ultimately slows the organisation down if the right choices are not made.
Empowering your customer service operatives to use their individual customer insights in customer communications, giving them an appropriate level of freedom to personalise letters, emails, etc. whilst the organisation retains control over the standardised (sometimes regulated) areas of the communications. With many CCM systems, templates have little flexibility for ad-hoc changes and allow for zero personalisation capability, so any conversation about Fido would be little more than that! Modern CCM solutions, such as Icon UK's Icon Suite, enable reduced compliance effort as reusable content 'objects' only need assuring once for many uses thereafter, across almost all enterprise users.
Compliance with regulation and legislation is essential for your business continuity, but attracting and retaining customers is a similarly powerful priority. The good news is that organisations no longer have to worry that they can only do one or the other, although this capability comes with investment in a modern, more capable communications system.