By Pamela MugfordFor banks, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the urgency for digital transformation. While much of the pre-pandemic effort in this direction was focused on driving operational efficiency, the pandemic caused an interesting shift. Recent research shows that 90 percent of enterprises now list customer-facing goals as the top business objective driving digital transformation. This is no surprise in a world where many consumers are now working primarily from home or not willing to venture out, making connecting in more traditional, physical ways a challenge.
When thinking about expanding your digital outreach, apply caution. Most organizations are turning to digital methods to reach their customers, inundating consumers with emails and banner ads, increasing the potential that they will tune out these offers altogether.
We also need to consider the fact that our customers are probably experiencing some stress due to the pandemic, the change to working from home while homeschooling children and other factors. Blanketing them with promotional emails may not be the best marketing tactic at the moment, especially given the fact that many vendors and suppliers are taking this very approach. Customer servicing communications (account updates, billing, service updates, issue resolution) are inherently valuable to consumers—offering important information about their relationship with you and can be an effective way to reach your audience.
Digital servicing communications are often short notifications that contain no specific information of value, but merely point to a portal or PDF where the useful content actually resides. While these communications accommodate the need for fast notification and response, many banks report that the click-through rates have been disappointing. In short, consumers are reading these digital communications less than their printed counterparts.
That said, servicing communications that are being sent digitally can still provide a huge opportunity for marketers to break through the noise. To take advantage of this mechanism properly, taking key steps can cut through the clutter. Here are six tips to transform your digital servicing touchpoints into valuable marketing assets:
1. Increase the value of your servicing communications. The first critical step in leveraging servicing communications for marketing is to get your customers to pay attention to them. Your alert emails and text messages are likely to be ignored if they themselves provide little value. Consider enhancing your servicing messages beyond the typical single line of text to tell customers their monthly statement is available. By adding relevant details and personalization—such as a current account balance, minimum payment and credit card payment due date—your customers will be more likely to read your email or text message, which is critical if you want them to pay attention to accompanying marketing offers.
2. Test both soft sell and hard sell approaches. While you might be tempted to directly promote your products and services, consider testing a more customer-centric approach that always answers the question “what’s in it for me” for the reader. This can enhance the perceived value of the servicing communication and your offers.
For example, you might suggest that the use of credit and debit cards are safer options than carrying and handling currency and coins during the pandemic. Perhaps offer an article outlining strategies for consolidating debt to make monthly payments more affordable. By empathizing with your customers and speaking to them in a way that shows you understand what they need today, they will be more receptive to hearing about other products and services from you. Testing different approaches will enable you to determine the best one for each of your customer segments and offers.
3. Ensure your communications are easy to read and understand. Servicing communications that are clear, concise and easily understood will give customers what they want: information to make the right decisions for their financial needs. Simpler words are always the best choice. Of course, this can be a challenge with mandatory or regulatory information, but if you can steer away from “legalese” or obscure, polysyllabic words and complicated sentences, there is a better chance your message will be understood. Customers trust you more when you write clear, easy-to-understand information, and customer satisfaction is increased. Software exists that can help automate the process of analyzing and assessing the reading levels of your communications. These solutions can ensure this check is always done before a message is sent out the door.
4. Pay extra attention to sentiment and tone. Taking the impact of language one step further—depending on the purpose of your message—ensure you evoke the right feelings and emotions to positively impact the customer experience. This is particularly important when authoring more complex communications or those that traditionally would be seen as negative.
5. Leverage all your digital channels. Often, our customers are searching for the same information across multiple channels. The key is to make the same offers with the same information across all your communications to provide a consistent, trusted message. SMS messages are typically short and to the point and they are more likely to be read by your customers. Leveraged properly, with helpful information versus blatant product pushes, SMS can be a valuable channel through which to provide value-added content and offers.
6. Look for a solution that automates the process of content sharing and management. There are customer communication solutions that enable advanced content sharing across touchpoints and channels to simplify the complex processes of personalization and driving consistency across channels. These solutions can significantly reduce the cost and turnaround time associated with adding marketing offers to your servicing communications. Look for a solution that both enables you to intelligently manage variations of your touchpoints to drive personalization and puts business users in the driver’s seat for content authoring and updates. These solutions will also ideally leverage AI to automate the process of ensuring readability, sentiment and adherence to brand guidelines.
Adopting a strategic approach with your servicing communications sent via digital channels provides an opportunity to rethink your upsell and cross-sell programs. Making these communications more valuable, personalized, relevant and easier to read can help to differentiate you and ensure existing customers remain engaged and looking to you for useful products and services—now and in a post-pandemic world.
Pamela Mugford, CMO, leads go-to-market strategies for Messagepoint, a provider of customer communications management software.