Customer communication is a pretty underrated concept among today’s businesses.  Customer communication strategy often takes a back seat (or is mostly entirely ignored) when it is up against engineering, product and marketing strategies.

Businesses often go straight to measuring customer interaction and engagement with products. For example, a marketplace like Amazon might measure search and order frequency, while social networks measure average screen time. But how do you get users to use, return to and love your product even when they're not actively using it? This is where customer communication comes in.

Customer communication is key to ensuring that you are able to satisfy your customer’s needs without them using your product, and also create a loyalty hook that can drive higher LTV.

Customer communication, if not more, is as important as engineering, product and marketing strategy.  Some would say that it is a part of marketing and sales and does not necessarily become a separate function, but this is a decade-old school of thought.  Both marketing and communication landscapes have evolved very differently over the last couple of decades, and have earned distinct respect.

Communication is essential for marketing, acquisition, and sales, as well as for engagement, loyalty, retention, service, and support.

If you’re building a customer communication strategy, these are 5 simple tips that can help better drive better customer engagement

1. Be Truly OmniChannel

Omni-channel is a strategy to create experiences for customers on all channels and touchpoints.  This would include physical as well as digital experiences. A classic example would be businesses like Ikea, Reliance Digital, Croma etc., who are trying to create both a physical and digital presence.

A sub-set of omnichannel experience strategy would be omnichannel communication strategy which at its core reflects the channels and user touch points through which businesses communicate with their users.  With hyper-scaling businesses and an ever-increasing number of users, businesses automate most of their customer communications through their products themselves.  Hence, the way in which product communication strategy is developed and executed becomes the core of managing omnichannel communication.

A well-developed product communication strategy MUST ensure it can access and leverage all modern communication channels where your users hang out.  Gone are the days when channels like emails and sms were sufficient to communicate with customers.  You need to mandatorily be available on newer and modern touchpoints like Whatsapp, social network platforms, push notifications and in-app communications.  The number of user touchpoints is constantly increasing, so actively track them and ensure that you are able to access these channels sooner than later.

2. Context carries across channels (respect customer’s time and attention)

Omni-channel access without context switching can be hazardous.  If you’re available on multiple channels and are not able to carry the context from one channel to another, it can lead to a very bad experience for users, who have to repeat the communication all over again, leading to churn, drop-offs etc.

67% of consumers say that having to repeat their information more than once would cause them to stop shopping with a business.  Yes, it directly impacts revenue.  For brands and products that do not pay attention to communication strategies, their successes (if any) are likely to be short-lived if they defer/ deprioritise customer communications.

It is necessary to have very tight cross-functional collaboration to ensure that all the customer-facing teams are talking the same language to the customer.  Without this, every silo can reach the consumers with a different message, confusing them and ultimately resulting in churn.

3. Invest in Technology

Data clearly suggests that brands with advanced communication systems have significantly better customer metrics.

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But since customer communications are often not considered revenue-critical, building advanced systems is often deprioritised.  With scale, companies like AirBnB, and LinkedIn ended up building their advanced communication systems (they take pride in what they’ve built).

Thanks to the advancement of products in B2B SaaS, gone are the days when engineering and product had to build internal product communication services from scratch.  Many amazing off-the-shelf SaaS tools are available which offer plug-and-play abilities.

Invest in advanced communication systems platforms early on.  They don’t pinch pockets like ERPs/ CRMs.  However, with more research, I realised that the SaaS tools market in the communication space has become more complicated, with a plethora of tools solving either very generic/ very niche use cases.  The distinction in product categories has blurred. I have included a dedicated section below to demystify this space so that you can have a cleaer understanding before making the investment decision.

4. Personalisation

Unlike products, in communication - there is no one-size fits all.  Communications have to be personalised to create impact. But this is easier said than done

Personalized communication sets the tone for a business and can foster brand loyalty.  Targeted suggestions, curated discount coupons or offers, personalised reminders, follow-ups by a support specialist, reward programs etc, are some of the ways you can personalize your communication.  Thanks to Customer Data Platforms (”CDPs”) like Segment, Mixpanel and Amplitude, businesses can access user-level data insights and create micro-cohorts and segments to have the personalisation effect.

5. Respect preferences and don’t over-communicate:

Yes, when it comes to communication, optimize for meaningful reach over maximum reach.  Customers love it when you nudge them meaningfully.  Be it transactional messages, reminders, product updates, or marketing campaigns-communication should be crisp, and simple and should respect customers’ channel preferences.

Ex: when booking movie tickets, a customer may be happy as long as he can access his tickets on the Application or WhatsApp or email (based on his preferences) but NOT ALL THREE.  Maximum reach is a leading factor for channel abuse.

When consumers can use the communication channels they prefer, over half are more likely to:

  1. Recommend the brand,
  2. Buy more often from the brand, or
  3. Make a first-time purchase
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🔨 Building a communication strategy using the above 5 levers will not just create delightful user experiences, but will also become a unique differentiator to choosing your product/ offering over your competitors.

Demystifying SaaS in Communications

Now let’s simplify the communication SaaS tools’ space so that you can understand the different product categories that exist and take an informed investment decision

The communication industry, on a standalone basis, has significantly evolved.   With the growth of more and more channels and user touch points, it has created a complicated industry with many categories and sub-categories.  There is no one-size fits all structure or framework that one can apply.  I have attempted to simplify this so that businesses can get some head start while evaluating SaaS tools to invest in.

1. Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs)

CRM system or platform is a tool that helps with contact management, sales management, productivity, and more.  CRM software helps you focus on your organisation’s relationships with individual people — including customers, service users, colleagues, or suppliers — throughout your lifecycle with them, including finding new customers, winning their business, and providing support and additional services throughout the relationship. Examples: Salesforce, HubSpot etc.

The majority of conventional CRMs were created primarily to support B2B organisations. They are clearly designed to assist salespeople in managing prolonged, largely predictable sales cycles.

There are enterprise-level CRMs like Oracle Siebel CRM, SAP C4C etc., which solve for B2C companies with customer bases going from a few hundred thousand to a million.  These are very expensive, and you will not find many early-stage and mid-market companies using them.

B2C startups instead look at new-age cloud-based engagement applications like Braze, Leanplum, Helpshift, intercom etc, to meet their CRM requirements.

2. Communication Platform as a Service (cPaaS)

It is a category of cloud-based services that provides a set of APIs for developers to build and manage communication-based applications, such as voice and text messaging, video conferencing, and faxing.

Examples: Twilio, Gupshup, Bandwidth, and Nexmo. These tools allow developers to add communication functionality to their applications without the need to manage the underlying infrastructure and telecommunication services.

3. Marketing Automation Platforms (MarTech)

Sometimes also referred to as “customer engagement platform” or customer engagement and retention platform”, these are platforms designed to handle large user bases. They come with analytics and segmentation tools that can be used to understand customer behaviour and preferences and trigger marketing campaigns through various channels like sms, notifications, emails etc.

Examples: Braze, Blueshift, Customer.io, Moengage etc.

4. Messaging and Communication Platforms

These are standalone platforms which are designed to facilitate real-time communication and collaboration between individuals and teams. These platforms typically include features such as instant messaging, voice and video calls, and file sharing.

Examples: WhatsApp, Slack, Discord

5. Unified Communications as a Service (UCAS)

These are cloud-based services that combine various communication channels, such as instant messaging, voice and video calls, email, and fax, into a single platform.

Examples: Zoom, Cisco Webex

It is typically used to facilitate internal communication and collaboration within an organisation or between 2 or more organisations.

6. Customer support and service platforms (CSP)

These platforms are designed to help companies to power their customer support and service function. They provide a cloud-based platform to manage interactions with customers, and resolution automation and often include features such as ticketing systems, knowledge bases, and analytics to help companies provide better customer service.

Examples: Zendesk, Freshdesk, intercom

7. Social Media Management Platforms

These platforms allow companies to manage their social media presence and brand visibility across multiple social network channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Examples: Sprinklr, Hootsuite etc.

Summarising

  • UCAS is primarily for internal communication and collaboration between teams and within organisations.
  • Messaging and communication platforms are designed for real-time communication and collaboration between individuals and teams.
  • CRM for tracking sales cycle and managing customer interactions and relationships.
  • CPAAS for integrating communication capabilities into products to access channels like sms, email, voice etc.
  • MarTechs to automate and streamline marketing tasks, and automate and optimize marketing processes.
  • CSP for managing customer service and support interactions.
  • Social media management platforms are for managing social media presence across multiple channels.

Now I know this can be very overwhelming to first understand the categories first, then discover various tools in each category and finally evaluate them to fit your use case.  While each of them solves customer communication in one way or another, none of them is a “communication-first platform”.  This is why we are building Fyno - a new-age modern communication stack for early-stage and mid-market product companies.

Fyno is a single source of customer communications for your organisation!

In conclusion, customer communication is a key aspect of any business and should not be overlooked. It is important to develop a well-rounded strategy that includes omnichannel communication and respects the customer's time and attention. By utilizing modern communication tools and channels, businesses can create a better customer experience, engagement, and loyalty.

In this blog post, we have discussed some simple tips on how to create a customer communication strategy and provided some examples of industry leaders who are doing it well.

Remember, investing in customer communication is investing in the success of your business.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Your feedback is greatly appreciated, as it will help me to improve and create content that you will enjoy. If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider sharing it with your colleagues at work. Your support is greatly appreciated!

Best,

Rohit