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Transitioning customer communications from paper to digital

Insights from IDG survey

When it comes to customer communications, Millennials, we’re told, prefer text and social media messages to phone calls and email. While most of the research into customer communications has focused on the customer, few have looked into what companies think and what has been their experience communicating with their customers? So, OpenText teamed up with IDG to ask.

IDG interviewed senior executives from large companies in a wide variety of industry sectors regarding their approach to customer communications. We wanted to know what methods of communication the companies were using and what methods their customers preferred. While some results could have been predicted, there were plenty of surprises too.

Paper is out(ish)

“Sign up now for paperless!” How many times have you received this request to convert your paper bills/invoices/statements to paperless communications? More and more organizations are pushing to transition print-based communications to paperless communications. Can you blame them? In addition to helping to save the planet, the cost-savings alone is astronomical. Eliminate the paper, envelope, postage and time it takes to reach the recipient and replace it with the instant and digital delivery of an email or text message – that’s a no brainer. While there will always be a subset of consumers that prefer paper – which makes paper only out(ish) – the trend from paper to digital is HOT.

Here’s what a few survey respondents said about transitioning from paper to electronic communications:

“It is much easier and quicker to send out electronic communications.”

“Electronic is seamless in comparison – much more efficient.”

“I think it [digital communications] simply provides more value. It’s more reliable for the most part. It makes a company seem like it’s ‘with it ‘, or more modern.”

Digital is in

Given its ability to reduce costs, increase targeting and enhance personalization, it’s no surprise that 86% of those surveyed preferred digital communications methods – and that three out of four believed their customers also preferred those channels.

Fig 1: Communications preferences (Source, IDG)

What are digital customer communications? For the purposes of this survey, we are referring to email, voice and SMS communications. IDG asked, “To what extent does your organization rely on the following technologies in order to communicate with its customers?”  (see Fig 2). Although every company surveyed by IDG was still sending printed statements to their customer base, email is king. It is, far and away, the most used channel. In all, 97% of companies say that they used email to some or a great extent. Next came voice and then printed materials. Interestingly, SMS is currently used the least. (Spoiler alert: SMS use is expected to grow leaps and bounds!)

Figure 2: Reliance on different forms of client communication (Source: IDG)

When asked how they expected communications to change over the next 24 months, the use of email is still king with 70% of organizations stating that they expect it to increase or greatly increase in usage. SMS is a growth leader as well, with 63% expecting SMS usage to increase over the next two years.

Figure 3: Predicted change in customer communications over the next 24 months (Source: IDG)

It’s important to be able to deliver communications across a range of channel options to meet the preferences and needs of customers. One respondent told IDG: “Customers like different forms of communication based on their preferences so to have many options is beneficial.”

How often are you communicating with your customers?

Frequent customer communication has proven to increase loyalty, brand awareness, repeat sales and share of wallet.  As the survey shows, respondents adopt omnichannel communications strategies that are based upon frequent contact with the customer. In fact, on average companies communicate with their customers 22 times, spread across all channels with email, SMS and voice most frequently used.

Figure 4: Number of customer communications per month by channel (Source: IDG)

Timing becomes an important issue. The frequency of communication is seen as critical because customers are busy and messages can be missed so sending the communication over time across multiple channels can help ensure they receive the message.  One executive reported: “People tend to not look at things or read details. Sending out duplicate communications ensures the customer will maybe read the entire notice in detail.”

Of course, this level of communication can lead to redundancy. Of those surveyed, companies admit that over a third of their customer communications are redundant.  Frequency and redundancy can often lead to communication overload, so be careful not to fatigue your customers!

Get the full IDG report and survey results in the IDG MarketPulse white paper, Customer Communications:
Building a Successful Omnichannel Solution.

To find out more about an omnichannel solution from OpenText, please visit our website.

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Amy Perry

Amy Perry is the Director of Product Marketing for fax and secure messaging solutions with OpenText Business Network. Her 20 year career has crossed between Product Management and Product Marketing in the CPG and software industries.

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