crm analystCRM investment is wasted if the intelligence it delivers fails to influence dispatched communications. How can businesses ensure that money spent on CRM analytics actually begins to benefit the messages that are delivered to customers and prospects?

While the importance of getting targeted communications out of the door has achieved mainstream awareness, there is still considerable potential for improved return on investment from CRM systems.

Too often, companies are compromising when it comes to communicating with customers and prospects. The lack of attention to the actual delivery of personalised messages to customers or enquirers is making a nonsense of many companies’ marketing strategies.

Arguably, the need for sophisticated mail has never been greater. Customer retention has become a major issue, with today’s multi-channel environment making it easier than ever for consumers to switch brand allegiance. Consumers are acutely aware that the balance of power has shifted in their favour. It is an accepted mantra that attracting new customers costs more than retaining existing customers, and suppliers operate knowing that bad service, or even perceived bad service, is more likely to be met with defection.

Today, businesses of every size are realising that intelligent marketing to existing customers can have a profound impact on customer retention and customer growth. High volume prospecting activity has given way to tailored, targeted communications to existing customers – the first line of attack in the battle to stem customer churn rates.

Building a relationship with the customer via the mailstream, therefore, is becoming an integral part of any business proposition. You need to make sure there are solid IT management systems in place first, however.

To maximise the effectiveness of these customer communications, it is necessary to integrate them with the appropriate business processes they connect with, however disparate these processes may seem to be.

It is the integration of key business processes and their related information streams into CRM that defines and drives Customer Communication Management (CCM). CCM harnesses the power of specific business processes and ties them to the CRM initiative – in order to create, develop, manage, and maintain more effective customer communications.

CRM is fundamentally customer facing and outwardly focused. CCM takes this to the next level, by capturing the external customer information and linking it to internal business processes in order to create a more comprehensive picture of the customer’s behaviour in relation to the company. The goal is then to stay in repeated contact with customers via a continuing stream of out-bound messages that are highly targeted to individual needs and structured to facilitate easy payment or customer action.

But, with so much channel-choice available, is mail still a viable channel? Undeniably, yes. The EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications, in tandem with local telephone privacy laws, places increasing limitations on unsolicited prospecting. Mail, however, is often seen as a non-intrusive and valued means of communication by both businesses and consumers. What’s more, response figures remain steady.

Any fears about email displacing mail have long since been dispelled. Contrary to popular belief, Internet users receive more mail than non-Internet users and the difference between the two groups is growing. The claim that a wired household is ripe for substitution is unfounded. Wired households include attractive consumers who will continue to receive mail along with other media from businesses eager to get a greater share of their wallets.

CCM can uncover opportunities for lower costs and higher revenues both by developing customer relationships that are more rewarding in every sense and by streamlining business processes so they are less costly, more integrated and more effective. Put simply, CCM is directly focused on determining the best and most cost-effective way for engaging in a continual and profitable dialogue with your customers.

Sophisticated data collection and analysis techniques are not enough. Businesses must ensure that this sophistication translates to customer-facing documents if the full value of the mail channel is to be realised.

Article written by David Jefferies, Marketing Director Pitney Bowes

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