Staying in regular contact with customers is essential for building brand loyalty and increasing customer lifetime value. There are many ways to grab their attention to encourage engagement and repeat business, including promotional campaigns, a regular e-newsletter, sending holiday or birthday wishes and creating interesting new content on your website and sharing it to social media.
But how can you ensure you reach the right customer with the right material at the right time? The answer is customer communication management (CCM). Keep reading to learn what CCM involves, why you need to focus on it for business growth and the communication technologies that will help you with implementation.
What is customer communication management (CCM)?
Customer communication management is the term used to describe the management and optimisation of all the processes, messaging strategies, teams and tools involved in customer communication. The aim is to streamline communications so all promotional, transactional and conversational messaging are consistent and helpful to customers, thus enhancing their overall experience.
Customer communication management is an interdepartmental process; it needs input and action from marketing, sales, customer service, plus other teams and key decision-makers. And it's not just about creating and distributing valuable content for one-way, outbound communications. It's also about two-way messaging and ensuring each customer interaction is recorded, stored and organised, and can be retrieved when needed to provide context and inform future communications.
Customer communication management: activities involved
A good customer communications management strategy involves choosing the right channels, creating high-quality content, mapping out communication flows, sourcing tech, managing customer data, meticulous record-keeping and data privacy compliance. Let's look at these activities in detail:
1. Choosing the right communication channels
Selecting the proper channels for communication is an essential part of the CCM process. Nowadays, there are plenty of choices: email, SMS, social media messaging, your website, phone calls, live chat and in-app messaging, to name a few. So, how do you decide which channels are best to use?
Your first priority should be to determine which channels your customers like to use so they don't need to take any extra steps to communicate with your business. For example, customers using Messenger may not be willing to download Viber just to interact with you. Others may prefer SMS over email because it's quicker to type out and send a message. You can easily find out your customers' communication preferences by sending out a short survey asking which channels they use the most.
Also, consider your communication goals and whether you intend to send out visual, audio or text-based content, as this will impact the platforms you use. SMS isn't suitable for video content, whereas TikTok is ideal. And email has proven to be one of the best ways to share newsletters. If your content is very long, consider publishing it as a blog post on your website and sharing the link to it via email or SMS. Infographics? They're ideal for social media, as they can generate a lot of shares, likes and follows.
2. Creating content
Creating the right content is also vital. Let's look at the different types of content you can create and why you'd want to do so:
SMS marketing campaigns – like flash sale notifications, special offers, VIP loyalty incentives, new product launches and review requests. Texts are short in nature, so you must get your point across succinctly – here are 15 hacks for writing effective SMS copy.
Email campaigns – great for sharing company updates and spotlighting a range of products or services in one communication. You can embed videos and images for extra impact.
Web pages and blogs – for promoting your offering and sharing valuable information. Good web content will attract online visitors and convert them into customers.
Social media – videos, images, infographics and opinion posts help you build a voice of authority in your market and encourage engagement.
Printed flyers – for distribution to visitors at physical locations such as events, during in-store interactions or for use in direct mail campaigns.
Scripts – for salespeople and customer service agents to use when talking to customers over the phone.
Knowledge base – a self-service portal with helpful information and tutorials that answer FAQs and customer concerns.
Templates – to save time when creating monthly invoices or responses for live chat.
Shipping confirmations – these can be standardised and automated to send on autopilot after a customer's order has been dispatched.
Important alerts – such as changes to opening hours or notifying customers about technical problems and downtime.
Whichever types of content your business creates, it's crucial to set up a process for writing, editing, proofreading, approval and publishing to ensure all messaging is consistent with your brand’s voice and style.
3. Laying out communication flows
As you map out the typical customer journey, identify all the possible phases and points where you can anticipate a direct interaction with customers. Think about outbound and inbound conversations across various channels and map out communication workflows around them.
This will help team members anticipate when and how customers are likely to receive communication from your business (and vice versa) so they can respond in the right way. Keep a close eye on message response times and measure customers' response rates and satisfaction levels where necessary (e.g., at the end of a live chat conversation). Automated messaging can improve specific communication flows, such as sending an instant welcome message after someone joins your mailing list.
4. Finding the right tech to adopt or integrate
Once you know what channels and content you'll use and all the ways your business interacts with customers, consider which tools and software will meet your requirements. Do you need omnichannel communications support? Will your preferred solution work for all teams that need access? Should it be customisable, and is the user interface simple to use? Can it integrate with your existing tech stack? These are all questions to consider as you research, shortlist and review software solutions.
5. Managing customer communication data
Customers provide a lot of data while interacting with your business through your website, social media, marketing campaigns, mobile apps and surveys, all of which should be kept safe, secure and compliant with data privacy laws. Data types include:
Personal data – names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, credit card details and any other information that can be used to recognise someone.
Engagement data – web interactions, social media post likes and comments, email and SMS open and response rates, customer support information, etc.
Behavioural data – purchase history, cart abandonment data, average order value, product usage data and website browsing data.
Attitudinal data – survey feedback, customer satisfaction levels, preferences, motivations and pain points.
6. Meticulous record-keeping
All customer communications should be documented clearly. Customer records must be kept updated so that the next team member to make contact has all the information they need about previous interactions. Not only does good record-keeping help staff resolve customer problems faster (in turn, improving the customer experience), but it also acts as proof if issues about compliance or staff performance arise.
7. Ensuring compliance with local or global data protection laws
Data privacy is much more than keeping customers' data safe. It also involves only using data once you have permission and ensuring customers fully understand how you'll use their data. Ensure all departments are well-trained in data protection laws and regulations, such as the TCPA, GDPR, PSD2 and CANSPAM Act, so your business doesn't have to bear any losses due to one ill-informed team member making a mistake. Some general dos and don'ts include:
Don't spam – avoid sending irrelevant 'catch-all' messages; ensure your content is highly valuable and relevant to each customer.
Don't overdo communications – avoid sending out too many messages, and don't send at inconvenient times.
Do get express consent – from every customer to ensure they're expecting your communications and to meet legal obligations.
Do provide an opt-out – you must specify how customers can unsubscribe from your marketing campaigns in every communication.
Do conduct regular audits – to ensure you're capturing, storing, processing and using only the customer data you need.
The importance of customer communication management
The main advantage of good customer communication management is that it leads to an improved customer experience. This means stronger customer loyalty, more word-of-mouth referrals and increased revenue. But there are micro benefits, too:
71% of consumers now expect businesses to make personalised interactions – and 76% are frustrated if they don't. Customer communication management makes it easy to send highly relevant correspondence to each customer, helping you to build relationships beyond the superficial and create real connections.
Use the data you collect to personalise communications – but do so wisely. Don’t get so personal that customers start feeling uncomfortable about the level of data you hold on them. Always make it clear to customers exactly what data you're collecting from all the interactions between them and your business. If you plan to use SMS, follow the correct etiquette when texting customers: watch your tone, check for errors and avoid most abbreviations.
Measurable outcomes and actionable insights
Through customer communication management software, you can collect critical data about all customer interactions and use it to inform your business objectives and marketing strategy.
For example, through text message metrics, you could see how many recipients opened the latest SMS campaign you sent. Through survey results, you can understand how customers perceive your business – how they feel about your brand and whether you need to take action to improve perception. And by monitoring support threads, you'll get insights into what customers are frustrated about and how your support agents are performing.
The CCM progress aids data-driven business decisions, enabling you to continually improve your marketing and communications strategy.
Improved audience segmentation
Centralising customer communications into a single platform gives you a holistic view of your entire audience and helps you understand where they are in their customer journey. Having all the data you need at your fingertips means you can effectively segment your audience into smaller, more manageable, trackable groups. Then, you can cater to their needs and ensure they receive targeted, highly relevant communications according to their position in the sales funnel.
Imagine the awkwardness of sending out a review request to a customer who has yet to receive their order due to a courier delay. With a complete customer profile and communication history, an agent could identify this problem and avoid frustrating the customer. Better still, they could send the customer a message to apologise for the delay and provide an updated delivery schedule.
A well-defined workflow for all organisation members
By digitalising and centralising communications and mapping out workflows, you can avoid data silos, encourage strong collaboration between departments and keep all staff on the same page. From the customer's point of view, they'll receive clear, consistent communication that aligns with your brand's tone of voice for every interaction they have with your business.
An enhanced customer experience
Now for the ultimate benefit of customer communication management: a better overall customer experience. Dynamic messaging, a variety of content, prompt yet relevant responses and convenient, seamless interactive experiences (delivered through a mobile-first approach for the most part) will result in customers actively participating in your communications. And this helps boost customer engagement, satisfaction and public perception.
How can customer communications management software help?
CCM software typically combines all customer conversations in one central place to help marketing, sales and service teams improve customer engagement. There are many cloud-based solutions available, each differing in functionality and pricing. Here are some key features to look out for when doing your research:
Customer data management.
Knowledge management (collaboration tools so multiple members or teams can access the same information but with robust access control.
Website content management system (CMS).
Surveys and forms.
Text blasts integration.
Campaign management, templates and scheduling tools.
Social media integrations.
Automation and AI-based capabilities.
Assignment and routing of tasks to different team members or departments.
CTA performance tracking.
Comprehensive analytics and reporting tools.
Customer support channels.
Able to scale and flex as your business grows or changes.
Note that not all CCM tools will cover all these features. The ones that do are more comprehensive and are effectively more of a customer relationship management (CRM) platform than CCM software.
What is the difference between CRM and CCM?
CRM systems are primarily designed to collect and manage customer data, keeping all records in a single place where all staff can access it (those with permissions). A CRM provides actionable insights to help businesses improve customer relationships and maximise customer lifetime value. On the other hand, CCM tools enable businesses to manage and streamline customer communications to create a positive experience and increase customer satisfaction. In an ideal world, you'd use both solutions together to deliver a successful customer communications strategy.
CCM solutions can be divided into the following broad categories:
Single-channel solutions that focus primarily on SMS, email, webinars or voice calls, for example.
Multichannel or omnichannel solutions that bring together several channels in one platform.
Helpdesk software for customer service and technical support functions.
Customer communication management: explained
A customer communication management strategy requires buy-in and action from different departments and teams. It involves collecting, centralising and optimising customer data to deliver the right communications to the right people in the right way. Doing this leads to meaningful customer connections, increased satisfaction rates and customer retention.
To implement your strategy, you'll need to invest in a CCM software solution that integrates with your existing business systems. To kick off your research, check out 13 of the best customer communication tools in 2023.