Customer communications have undergone many transformations over the past 30 years, but none have been more radical than the recent transition to omnichannel communications.
Back in the day, businesses simply communicated customer account and transaction information by mapping their line data to preprinted forms and then mailing it to the consumer. Next, preprinted forms were replaced with digital overlays to help reduce inventory and operational costs. Therein lied an opportunity to be creative and make the digital form more dynamic and user-friendly, essentially adding business and consumer value.
Instead, the industry missed the opportunity and made the digital form look exactly like the preprinted one, right down to the ugly mainframe font used to produce it.
The print and mail industry made the same misstep with e-Presentment — the electronic version of transactional documents looked exactly like the printed version. In many cases the digital appearance was the same look as the original design going all the way back to when it was produced on preprinted stock. After all the time and money spent over the years on transformation, it still amazes me how operational and tactically driven the transactional mail market can be when it comes to customer communications. It’s short-sighted, but can be a necessary evil, with a sole focus on the operational cost as the leading metric for doing a good job.
If there’s one thing business has taught me, it’s that if you have the opportunity to add value to something, then you should do it. Yes, the objective is still to create efficient and cost-effective communications, but let’s go beyond that to not only understand the best way to create this messaging but better understand why we’re creating it. This is the business rationale driving healthcare, finance, retail and government agencies to adopt omnichannel communication strategies.
But before we discuss how to implement omnichannel communication services, allow me to practice what I preach, and explore the “why” of omnichannel communications (this often guides the design of the “how”).
Why Omnichannel Communications
The basic intent of omnichannel communications is to inform and guide a consumer’s behavior through the initiation and conduct of a business transaction.
For example, a healthcare consumer accesses a mobile app to schedule a doctor’s appointment for an immunization shot for their child. A confirmation and calendar invite is sent along with a link to the benefits and side effects of the shot. The insured customer goes to the doctor’s office to have the shot administered. A follow-up message is then sent to the mobile app, web portal or online site to see how the patient is doing.
As you can see, we live in a multi-channel/device world and consumers now expect the ability to initiate a business transaction on a given platform like a mobile app, move the transaction along on a second venue such as on the web, and complete the business transaction on yet another platform, or even in person.
This type of messaging and proactive coaching is starkly different than the traditional communications being produced today. The messaging on the insured’s monthly explanation of benefits has no indication that these interactions occurred beyond documenting the actual office visit.
Forward-thinking businesses today are striving to interactively communicate with consumers as a form of competitive advantage to help retain customers and drive consumer behavior to lower cost solutions and services. If questions can be answered on a mobile app or website, then the consumer doesn’t call the higher-cost call center. If consumers are increasingly comfortable with electronic communications, this may reduce the more expensive physical mail channel.
Return on Investment
I’m not suggesting call centers or physical mail will ever go away, but I do believe all customer communication channels need to at least be aware of each other and what they are trying to accomplish. As an omnichannel solution providers, we can no longer only support post transaction communications in a batch mentality. We now need to enable the management and tracking of interactive and upfront communications that drive business transactions, and somehow couple these messages with the current outgoing printed correspondences.
One major objective of an omnichannel strategy is to keep the service provider in question at the forefront of the consumer’s mind. While banking, finance and healthcare services have become somewhat commoditized, omnichannel communications is seen as an opportunity to show the love and be proactive in an effort to retain consumers through improved and proactive customer service.
To put this objective into a financial perspective and better understand the true motivation behind omnichannel services, let’s consider the following:
On average, most companies lose 5 percent of their customer base every year. Generally, this is not due to a deficient product or higher price, as most are competitive and within reasonable ranges of their competition.
The most common reason companies lose customers is poor service. We’ve all heard it before: “I was on the phone for 45 minutes with someone who couldn’t even access my transactions.”
In simple financial terms, a $25 billion company loses $1.25 billion each year due to poor customer service. This means the sales team has to sell that amount just to break even. This is why CEOs and CIOs are investing in proactive coaching and guiding services to help make consumers sticky by providing timely, palatable bits of information that will inform them so they can become smarter, richer and healthier.