Which contact channel and when to use it

Running multiple outbound communication channels is the new normal for most organisations today. After all, in a fast-moving and technology-driven landscape, where most customers own multiple communication devices and expect near-constant internet access, being able to reliably and efficiently communicate with those customers in the manner that best suits them is paramount.

But do organisations really understand which forms of outbound communication are best and when and how they should be used?

Traditional core, digital evolution

First, let’s review the major outbound communications that are available. There are three core traditional channels which most organisations will be familiar with: email, SMS and interactive voice messaging (IVM). However, these channels all have different pros and cons, so thought must be given as to which one should be used at each stage of the customer journey.

Email is low cost and usually very efficient at ensuring a customer response, particularly since the advent of the GDPR, meaning customers receive less spam overall. Response rates range from 10% to 20%, which is high. Additionally, emails are a highly customisable method and can link directly through to the organisation’s website, making it effective both for marketing and for encouraging a response such as a payment. However, spam filters can sometimes prevent email from reaching the intended recipient, and of course it requires accurate customer data in order to ensure it reaches the right people with the right information.

SMS messages are also very efficient, with typical response rates of up to 15%, and are delivered directly to the customer no matter where they are. They are also relatively cheap to send. As such, they tend to be better for time-sensitive notifications than email, but they are not as effective at driving action to websites, because recipients are more likely to be on the move or distracted.

IVM, again with average response rates of up to 15%, is a very direct communication channel, compatible with all landlines and mobiles. It offers an array of self-service options and can effectively guide customers through more complex actions. However, the costs can be higher than other methods, and some may feel it’s a slightly more intrusive approach.

More recently, advances in digital technology and the broader communications evolution have pointed towards social media, including WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and other digital offerings such as Rich Communications Services (RCS) and iMessage.

Regardless of the communication channel chosen, customers expect ease and convenience. They expect organisations to communicate with accurate, up-to-date information such as their purchase histories and previous contact, and to strike the right balance between being informative and being disruptive. This means that organisations need to take a thoughtful and strategic approach to choosing the right channel for the right scenario– but they also need to consolidate and centralise their data so that each channel draws on the same dynamic sources of information.

Creating the perfect package for customer communication

The key to creating the right outbound communication strategy is customer understanding. Organisations need to begin by analysing both their customer demographic and their product offering, in order to generate genuine intelligence as to what those customers expect and what they find most convenient.

At Revive, we always undertake a careful analysis of what organisations are currently doing in terms of customer communication, and use this analysis to identify areas for improvement and streamlining with more efficient touchpoints. There is no set rule – instead, organisations need to learn the art of trial and error.

One of the major obstacles to adopting new contact channels is good-quality customer data and being able to effectively extract it from existing databases. It stands to reason that if an organisation has a relatively low saturation of customer email addresses then email might not be the most effective channel. Even if data is available, if it is not regularly refreshed it can generate expense through inefficient campaigns. Consider an SMS campaign which sends out thousands of messages to old and out-of-date mobile numbers. This will be a cost with no return.

An omnichannel approach

Multiple contact channels enable organisations to tailor their communications to the needs of different demographics. For example, a slightly older demographic of customer often responds best to a voice solution, where SMS or email better suits young professionals who are likely to be unable to answer their phones during the day. Learning how different customer groups respond allows strategies to be optimised in order to lead with the most efficient contact channels.

Revive has extensive experience in working with organisations to drive the most efficient outbound communication strategies. Want to get started? Get in touch with us today to book your two-hour analysis workshop to understand your current process and where you could go next.

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