Customer Service

EXPERT ADVICE

The Evolution of CRM Communication Channels

Communication is the key to the success of customer relationship management, and it lays the foundation for customer satisfaction and business growth.

Today, we have a wide range of CRM communication channels that organizations effectively utilize for communicating with their customers to offer their products and services.

The communication channels for CRM have evolved over time, along with the evolution of communication technology. Organizations have been quick to adapt new communication channels, while continuing to utilize old ones, to reach out to their prospective customers.

Communication Options

Different customer communication channels/modes are summarized in the table below.

Table 1– Different CRM Communication Channels/ModesNo.Customer Communication Channel/ModeDescription of theCommunication Channel/ModePreference – Sample Situations – When ThisCommunication Channel/Mode Is Preferred (for Marketing, Sales, Service)1Meeting individual customers in personMeeting individualcustomers and having face to face meetings with themFor meeting customers andexplaining offers, demonstrating products, offering servicesupport2Events/road showsMeeting specific groups ofcustomers through events/road shows and having face-to-facemeetings with themFor meeting customergroups (e.g. specific industry verticals) and explaining offers,demonstrating products to them3Postal correspondenceSending correspondence(paper copy) through post (to individual/group ofcustomers)For sending printed copiesof letters/offers brochures/contracts etc., onproducts/services4Phone callsSpeaking to customers overphone to explain offers, offer service supportFor communicating onproducts/services that need an explanation/dialogue (e.g.,explaining housing loans, resolving customer problems)5FaxSending correspondence(paper copy) through Facsimile (to individual/group ofcustomers)For sending printed copiesof letters/offers brochures/contracts etc., onproducts/services6EmailSending correspondencethrough email (to individual/group of customers)For sending soft copies ofletters/offers brochures/contracts etc., onproduct/services7Short Message Service (SMS)Sending SMS updates tomobile phones (to individual/group of customers)For sending brief textmessages on current offers/events/status updates8Multimedia Message Service (MMS)Sending MMS updates tomobile phones (to individual or group of customers)For sending picture-basedmessages on current offers/events9Video conferencing (VC)Discussion with a group ofcustomers (located in remote location or in distributed locations)through VCFor discussing with agroup of stakeholders, demonstrating products, makingpresentations10ChatHaving an online chat withcustomers on products/servicesFor interacting with thecustomers online and answering their queries related to products/services11BlogsPosting information onproducts/services on a blog and communicating further with customersFor posting information on products/services on a blog; customers start sharing theiropinions/experience, post their queries, which are answered by theorganization/other customers12Social networksCustomer communication/product launch through social networks (likeFacebook, Twitter)For offering products/services to a larger audience and to enable customers toshare their views/experiences with their friends and followers inthe social network

Multichannel Communication

Organizations select and use a combination of customer communication channels/modes based on some of the factors listed below:

  • Nature of the products/services being offered (e.g. consumer goods, IT products, banking services)
  • Target customer segments addressed (e.g., individuals, corporate)
  • Geographic locations covered (e.g. urban areas, rural areas)
  • Nature of the interaction and criticalness of the situation (e.g., negotiation meeting, field sales/service)
  • Communication policy /budget factors (e.g., low travel budget, emphasis on face-to-face meetings)
  • Multichannel communication is preferred by organizations, to address their customer needs and requirements.

Social Networks and Customer Communication

Technology advancements have progressively taken customer communication from in-person meetings/events, to phone calls, emails, SMS/MMS, video conferencing, blogs, and recently to social networks.

Today, social networks are really changing the face of customer communication, as it reaches a larger audience through wide networks of friends and followers. A good brand/product/service, when offered through social networks, receives positive feedback; on the other hand, if it is not good, it receives severe criticism.

Both positive and negative feedback spread quickly through social networks to a larger prospective customer base that can influence purchase decisions either in favor or against an organization.

Social networks can effectively be used for marketing (wider reach), sales (reduced cycle time) and service support (quick resolution), due to the collaborative interaction of organizations with their customers and partners.

Face to Face

Marketing, sales and service people should make the best possible use of all communication channels/modes.

Yet in spite of the availability of all these communication channels, meeting customers in person — showing them the product, explaining the features/services, answering their queries, resolving their problems and finally seeing the smile on their face — is still the most-preferred communication mode.

Shanmugam Gnanasambandam is a principal consultant with the enterprise solutions unit at Infosys. He has more than 18 years of work experience, with technical/domain experience in telecom and CRM solutions. Shanmugam is an avid blogger at the Infosys CRM Blog.

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