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17 July '14 | Anshuman Singh

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The Lost Art of an Effective Customer Contact Strategy

Posted on: 18 November '09

If I asked a seasoned marketing executive to define a successful customer contact strategy, the responses I received would be something along the lines of:

“Right Message, Right Person, Right Time, Right (Preferred) Channel”

However, in today’s business environment it appears less and less of us are in this idealistic state.

Most firms structure their business around products, services and channels. The result is often uncoordinated and inconsistent communication across lines of business. In extreme cases, it has become almost a “free-for-all effort” within every Company’s industry group/business unit/practice to reach a firm’s top clients frequently. Worse, if you are a company in very diverse businesses, not only is the communication uncoordinated and inconsistent….it also may be conflicting.

As consumers, we’ve all experienced the “fatigue” associated with too much communication. For example insurance companies, banks and credit card companies notoriously contact their clients with billing questions, online statements and numerous upsell opportunities. It can add up to a poor customer experience and a compromised brand.

Forrester Research, in a 2007 survey of database marketers, found that only 9% of them felt their communications was integrated within their company across channels and business units. This percentage was down from their 2005 survey. I imagine if (when) they do the survey again, the downward slide will continue.

Why is this happening? A few reasons:

   – Lack of a centralized contact management tool. All companies should have a database that contains complete customer data and transactional history. Few companies do. Does yours?

   – Organizational structures that don’t encourage business units to work together. Although few companies will admit it, research (and this author’s experience) shows that structure and process are often the biggest barriers to companies mastering a contact management strategy. Divisions or Business Units tend to focus on “what’s in it for them” instead of focusing on enhancing customer experience and as a result, enhancing the Company’s brand.

   – Business Plans, which marketing communication is a part of, are built in isolation. When was the last time you thought about what your counterpart in another business unit was doing to meet his or her numbers? If you share the same customer and prospect target audience, shouldn’t you collaborate?

   – Lack of a centralized owner for customer contact. To adopt a vogue term from the Obama administration, very few companies have a “communication czar” who takes a holistic view of client contact for a company.

In the next blog, I will recommend a few solutions to consider. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you.

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Mindtree blog Archives are a collection of blogs by various authors who have independently contributed as thought leaders in the past. We may or may not be in a position to get the authors to respond to your comments.

  • Vijay. M

    Dear Joe,
    As you have mentioned the need for a holistic customer experience is the most important parameter for success.

    Can the above methodology be applied for B2B Enterprise Software marketing? Is there any enhanced practices to make it effective?

    Regards, Vijay

  • Vijay:

    Sure, why wouldn’t it be applicable? More than the type of business you’re in it is important to look at the characteristics of that business. If a company has diverse business units targeting the same prospect base in a decentralized manner, then there is a good chance that company does not have a unified communication strategy and a platform to support it.

  • Hi Joe,

    I agree, too much communication can lead to fatigue. I see this happening through good old newsletters.

    Newsletters are regarded as a quick way of reaching out. Unfortunately the recipient ends up with the same newsletter from different contacts within the sender’s organisation (this happens even when the mailing is central and different people do want to reach out), or different newsletters sent by different service lines and business units for which he or she has no need.

    Thus, something useful – which is what a newsletter is meant to be, simply ends up in the trash, as the user thinks it best to block such an overdose of emails.

    A subscription list, which enables clients to subscribe to those newsletters which they may find useful and centralised emailing of newsletters would help curb this menace and ensure that newsletters are appreciated. Also providing contact details of experts in newsletters would help get more business.

    Look forward to your next post.


  • You cite a perfect example of why contact management has become a lost art, Lubna.

  • Vijay. M

    Thank you for that nice response Joe!