Exceptional customer communications are both timely and relevant. But a message that feels timely and relevant to one customer might seem completely off base to another. By paying attention to the context in which your customers operate – and tying your content to it – you greatly increase the chances that your message will resonate, leading to additional purchases and deepened customer engagement.
Here are five crucial aspects of context you’ll want to consider on your journey to customer communications excellence.
The customer lifecycle: The customer lifecycle encompasses all of a customer’s interactions with your organization or brand across time, channels, and products. It begins when she becomes aware of a need, and it continues as she searches for a solution, reaches a decision, completes a purchase, and uses the product or service. The lifecycle can continue indefinitely. Ideally, as the customer becomes more deeply engaged with your brand, she becomes not only a repeat purchaser but also an advocate, sending friends and family your way. Every communication you send should take the customer lifecycle into account. For example, a new customer may not be ready for an upsell but she may be willing to complete a survey. And a longtime customer may be willing to refer friends, with or without an incentive. You can target these customers with messages on your print and digital statements.
Customer personas: Personas are a basic but powerful tool for understanding your customers. By sifting through customer data, you can uncover demographics and other personal information that can be used to target both the content and the channels of your communications. For instance, if many of your customers are suburban women aged 35 to 44, you might develop a persona named Jill – a married mother of three who lives in a single family home in New Jersey, drives an SUV, spends 20 minutes a day on Facebook using her smartphone, and takes care of household business on her laptop while the kids are playing. To reach Jill, you could include targeted content on your website and social media channels. Personas help your customer-facing employees address an entire segment at once while maintaining a personal touch. You can develop them inhouse using online research and internal reports, or you can hire experts to design personas complete with ethnographic research. Most firms develop between three and seven personas.
The decision-making ecosystem: Every day, your customers are influenced by a broad range of factors: personal (life events, values and interests, attitudes and preferences), social (friends’ recommendations and social norms), local (the choice of products available, the weather), and macro (the current economy, the future economic forecast). By continuously collecting and analyzing data about these factors, you’ll have a much better idea why your customers behave the way they do and what they are likely to do next – which in turn helps you create more effective messaging. Data analytics and customer engagement services can help you use rapidly changing ecosystems to your advantage.
The customer journey: Each customer navigates your brand or organization along a unique path called the customer journey. It may take place across several channels, and it doesn’t always move in a straight line. Customer journey mapping can give you tremendous insight into the critical moments in your customer relationships and the catalysts or barriers that lead your customers to become more or less engaged. It’s most common to map the customer journey for one product or service, or for one “trip” around the customer lifecycle. A number of customer journey mapping models exist; the Temkin Group offers some excellent tips and examples.
Touchpoints: Auditing customer touchpoints can help you sharpen your operational focus on the customer. It is best completed in tandem with customer journey mapping. Whereas the journey map provides an outside-in view of what it’s like to do business with you, the touchpoint audit helps you eliminate operational glitches that get in the way of a great customer experience. As Adam Richardson notes on the HBR Blog Network, touchpoints can include interactions, messages, settings, and products themselves. Focus on those with the greatest potential to affect revenue and satisfaction. Be sure to include all departments and lines of business; it’s not uncommon for critical information to fall through the cracks between silos. Services such as database design and management and technologies such as business process management can help you work around and even eliminate silos for more consistent, coherent communications.
Your customer communications – indeed, all of your customer interactions – stand the greatest chance of success if you know what’s driving your customers. The frameworks we’ve discussed here are powerful allies in the struggle to speak to customers individually in a large-scale, rapid-paced environment.
Have you used any of the above frameworks in your business? If so, how did you implement them? What results have you seen?