12 Pivotal Trends in Customer Communication

By Andrew Stevens

Today’s hyper-connected consumers are using mobile technology to communicate in one way or the other all day long. So they expect the financial institutions they do business with to communicate with them on a personalized, relevant and contextual basis, just like their favorite brands do.

And if consumer expectations are high now, what will their demands be five years from now? What foundations do you need to put in place today to be ready and able to engage with customers in 2024?

We took this question to the street by surveying analysts, industry enterprises and banking and customer experience experts. They identified 12 pivotal customer communications trends to watch—many of which are owned or influenced by the marketing department:

  1. Customer experience and digital transformation

These are the links that bind together customer communications management (CCM) and customer experience management (CXM), so it’s no surprise that they will remain high on the priority list. This does not mean that the more traditional customer communications will go away. The need for bank statements and business correspondence will remain, but they will be embedded in digital applications and become part of an overall CX strategy that optimizes customer interaction for financial organizations. This means that more thought will need to be given to:

  • The consistency of communications (in tone of voice and look and feel, for instance)
  • How it fits into the overall customer journey
  • How further interactions are being driven
  • How the information captured can be conveyed in easier and better ways
  1. Bi-directional communications

More and more emphasis will be placed on two-way customer communications versus outbound-only communications. This means data from inbound communications will be extracted and incorporated for data analytics in order to use data more intelligently.

  1. Intelligent use of data

This will be key for banks to demonstrate that they know their customers, understand their needs and are willing to provide the best experience possible—regardless of the customer’s channel preference. CCM will become more interactive with advancements in artificial intelligence technology.

  1. Partnerships between companies

Robust technology solutions enabled by bank/tech company partnerships will allow banks—and bank marketers—to know all the different communications sent out, originating from anywhere in their organization. Whether a bank outsources its document production or does it in-house, it will be able to review the current versions of all documents, emails, texts and social media communications. The bank will also be able to identify the source of data used to personalize these messages, as well as the conditions that trigger them. Banks will be able to extend data-driven, just-in-time marketing offers to their account holders across all channels and follow up on those offers consistently. By sending subsequent e-mails, text messages and mail pieces that continue the conversation, banks can ensure that no lead is left behind.

  1. Customer journey mapping

More emphasis will be placed on customer journey mapping exercises and on journey analytics to understand the complete lifecycle of particular interactions and communications that are exchanged along the way between the bank and the customer. Banks will adapt to the fact that optimizing the customer experience is not just about providing a digital experience—it is about providing easy experiences.

  1. Customer communications management as a key strategic initiative

At many banks, customer experience is already a strategic driver. Now, forward-thinking leaders are beginning to bring customer communications management into a broader coordinated strategy that spans all customer engagement touchpoints. CCM as a purely operational activity, sidelined in customer experience initiatives, will become an obsolete approach. Because the majority of business-to-consumer touchpoints are driven by customer communications-related processes and supported by related technology, customer communications will be recognized as a fundamental role in the execution of a CX strategy.

  1. Channel-agnostic customer communications

To manage the volume of customer communications sent through a variety of channels—and to support all of the interactions a bank has with its customers—financial institutions increasingly require communication hubs. In addition to managing communications, these hubs also help break down organizational silos as they act as a gateway for all types of customer communications, whether they are transactional or related to marketing campaigns. The next big shift in customer communications will be a convergence of transactional and marketing communication technologies: communication unification.

  1. The “connected customer” as the new normal

You’re familiar with the concept. Connected customers expect that banks know them, anticipate their next moves, and communicate in real time with content that is relevant and timely for the journey they are on. Marketers must constantly and continuously use the data crumbs that customers leave behind as they interact with the brand. They must really get to know their customers, to understand their needs and expectations—and then to deliver that personalized and relevant messaging and experience in a way that is authentic and trustworthy, but not creepy. Personalized and proactive communications are critically important now and will continue to be.

  1. The convergence of inside-out and outside-in communications

With an increased focus on the customer experience (an “outside-in” perspective), banks are taking a harder look at the communications traditionally sent to customers by siloed departments (“inside-out” communications). It’s important not to forget that paper-based communications are still part of the customer experience. An integrated, consistent look and feel to all communications will drive richer customer engagement across all channels. Banks will improve communications design to match their better-looking competitors. More people with document design backgrounds will be needed to join the team.

  1. Marketing, IT and compliance partnerships

In some scenarios, digital regulatory communications are created and managed in digital marketing tools that marketers are already familiar with, such as campaign management or CRM systems. These systems are not specifically built for that. The future will see more of marketing, IT and compliance working teams together to improve omnichannel customer communication. Ultimately, this approach will meet the organization’s regulatory objectives while benefiting the customer and elevating the overall experience for all parties.

  1. Balancing the channel to the customer’s needs

As digital transformation moves forward, the danger is the potential to lose sight of the needs of the customer and over-rotate into digital-only channels. Paper-based communications very likely will remain a part of the communications strategy, with the need to minimize their costs and risks. The irony is that failure in the paper channel results in huge costs in the call center—with potentially disastrous impacts on the customer experience. Organizations will need to remain flexible and nimble—the combination of print and digital media is going to shine in coming years.

  1. Personalized communication vaults

Ultimately, customer communication needs to enable true personalization and customer empowerment. The ability for customers to receive more than just a communication is important. In the future, personalized ‘vaults’ will be developed with enriched data that will allow the recipient to view, search and consolidate all their communication in one place, enabling them to take true ownership of their own data. Communication across any channel is important if this is to be achieved.

Five—and even 10—years from now, the communication possibilities will expand to all 12 of these areas. Successful marketers will learn their customers’ preferences and act accordingly to deliver contextually-driven, ultra-personalized, bi-directional messages to reach the recipient at exactly the right time with the right frequency, intensity and style.  Communications will be delivered to prospects and customers through all sorts of new devices, many integrated into cars, clothes, glasses, appliances and other interesting places. The decisions you make today to prepare for this new future are critical.

Andrew Stevens is global banking specialist for Quadient, the award-winning leader in customer communications management software. With nearly two decades of experience at one of the world’s largest banks, Andrew covers all aspects of banking operations and technology with respect to customer communications management and customer experience. Email: [email protected]