Realising the full value of functional communications
At Opus Trust we’ve been supporting businesses to deliver intelligent, connected communications for over 30 years. Our specialism is functional communications – the utilities bills, insurance certificates, travel tickets and bank statements that form an integral and vital part of a customer experience, but are so frequently neglected when it comes to creating engaging customer materials or marketing plans.
We see lots of consumer research addressing areas such as direct mail or marketing channels, but felt that there was a definite gap when it comes to understanding consumer attitudes towards regular and functional communications. We commissioned Market Research Society-accredited OnePoll to survey 2000 UK consumers, across a representative demographic range, to deliver fresh and actionable insight into this field.
The results from that research did indeed reveal that regular communications represent a largely untapped opportunity for companies to reinforce their brand values and nurture positive customer relationships. And there’s certainly an art to it. We’ve compiled the results into a report, “The Hidden Opportunity: Driving customer loyalty and value through functional communications”, which we hope will help businesses to develop informed and effective engagement programmes via their regular communications.
Key findings include:
Choice is king
It may sound obvious, but in today’s omnichannel world, customers expect to be able to drive their own interactions with their service providers. However, one size certainly does not fit all. Our research found that there is no strong correlation between age or gender and communication preference. Instead, the nature of the communication or message being conveyed will be the stronger influencer when it comes to channel preference. Customers value experience and ease of interaction above all else and the more tailored this can be to their individual preferences, the more businesses stand to engender loyalty and build resilience against market competition.
Move with the times
Consumers’ anticipated growth of chatbot and live chat functions was a stand-out statistic from the research. Whilst a relatively small number of respondents use them as a first-choice communications method today, they envisage a sharp uptake over the next five years. And with less than half of businesses currently providing customers with the option to connect via chatbots, it’s certainly an area that must be addressed from now, to accommodate changing customer preferences.
Keep it personal
Customers want to be treated as individuals and to feel that they are important to the organisations with which they choose to spend their money. Today that often means having a capable and responsive team at the end of the phone, but where that individualised interaction can take place digitally, customers are increasingly happy to do so. Live chat and chatbots certainly have a role to play here, but the solution must be sufficiently advanced and personal if it’s to replace telephone conversation.
Intuitive document retrieval
While a proportion of communications have transitioned from hard to soft copies, it’s still important that consumers are able to access those documents, putting greater onus on service providers to deliver intuitive solutions that enable them to do so. Security remains a key concern for customers and must be addressed in document storage solutions.
There remain some documents for which large numbers of customers are reluctant to give up their hard copies – those critical documents that they still wish to file at home, such as insurance and share certificates, mortgage statements and pension statements.
Post is still vitally important
Not all mail is the same – some communication pieces have high retention value for customers because they’re highly regarded in that individual’s world. For these critical documents, many consumers still enjoy the reassurance of a physical copy – a position that is set to remain for the long-term.
Beyond the channel mix
Selecting the right channel mix is only part of the solution for customers. Content quality, frequency and ease of use are all significant drivers of customer satisfaction – or dissatisfaction. Every touch point is a chance to solidify the customer relationship and drive up retention.
Consider outsourced options
Consumer expectations and technological advancements are moving at a pace. This can make it difficult for businesses to confidently build investment cases for the latest customer engagement solutions. Outsourced options provide a welcome opportunity for businesses to adopt a nimble approach to customer communications, upgrading and upscaling as newer technologies arise, using OPEX rather than CAPEX spend.
To read the full report – as well as specific sector highlights – download it here.
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