In the year to March 2012, the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK received more than 7,000 complaints about unsolicited electronic marketing – a big rise on the previous year.
Automated telephone calls generated the most complaints (35%) followed by unwanted text messages on mobile devices (29%), live phone calls (19%) and email (14%).
What’s gone wrong?
Electronic marketing was seen as a good way to cut costs but no one seems to have consulted their customers!
Companies have been boycotted
Consumers feel they are being overlooked for the sake of cost reduction, to the point that some companies have been boycotted and others have experienced a decline in their customer numbers.
Businesses who really put their customers at the centre of their operations will have been unlikely to be among those criticised but, given the need for virtually all businesses in all sectors to slim down costs, the temptation to use cheaper communication methods is considerable.
The good news is that electronic communication channels can still work so long as they are planned and executed with deep knowledge of your customers behind them. In fact, some customers actually prefer not to deal with a real person.
Organisation silos just won’t do
The trick is to know which channel(s) your customers prefer, to use the most appropriate for the message you want to deliver and to be able to react fast to customer feedback.
To achieve this, your systems have to be customer focused and integrated with the whole of your business; organisation silos and legacy systems just won’t do.
At this point pound signs may be flashing before your eyes but if you don’t pay attention to how you communicate with your customers your competitors will be delighted.
Although your communication systems do need to be able to run customer-focused (as well as legal and compliant) messages, the good news is that your existing systems may provide the right foundation for doing so. It’s not always a case of discarding what you have and starting all over again.
An audit of your current capability is the place to start, along with comprehensive knowledge of your customers.
You must have flexible systems
Even if your business doesn’t use automated telephone calls, text messages or email at the moment (that would be quite unusual), you may be planning to expand your customer communications to use these channels.
The thing is, electronic channels can be effective and need not lead to complaints if the messages they contain are targeted and customer focused. To be able to ensure this is the case your systems will need to be flexible.