Bluegreen Learning

How to build a client communications strategy

 

By Rachael Wheatley

If you were to look at each point where a client or customer interacts with your business, what would you find?

Like most businesses, you probably have a mixture of good and not so good interactions, When your people are so important to the service delivered, it’s not surprising, given our human capacity for imperfection, that there are some things which might need improving!

Map out each interaction with customers

The first step is to map out those touchpoints in different parts of the business, from the time they join you as a client or customer (and even before then). Follow the customer journey from that point through any interaction they have with you, whether that is the initial welcome letter/pack, in the course of work (email, phone calls, letters), reviews, newsletters or other communications, when feedback is given (solicited or unsolicited), when subscriptions are renewed, and so on. Canvas the thoughts of at least one or two people in each business area to make sure you have captured all points of interaction.

Review each touchpoint

Once you have a map of the customer’s journey, consider each interaction, whether email, phone, letter, website or social media and make sure that: 

  • Communication (whether verbal or written) is friendly, accessible, and clear.
  • That the impression you give lives up to your ‘brand values’ – for instance, if one of these is “reliability”, then that has an bearing on how quickly your staff respond to queries, what they do about constructive criticism, promises vs delivery, and so on.
  • You have the customer’s interests and viewpoint at heart: is that interaction helpful, interesting, as good as it can be and does what the customer wants it to do?

In undertaking this exercise for one client, we found some major gaps. One example of this was that the company had two main subscription services which were renewable every year, at which point an invoice was sent out. However, there was no welcome letter sent when those customers came on board, no feedback was sought at any point, and there was no prelude to the invoice or letter accompanying it to help encourage customers to renew or reassure them that this was the right thing to do.

Make the changes and improvements

Improvements we suggested in this instance were:

  1. To send a letter once customers joined to welcome them, confirm key contacts, telephone numbers and email addresses, service to be provided and what they could expect in terms of client care.
  2. To ensure where emails were sent or phone calls made during the course of work that they were clear and friendly and sought to build a relationship with that client rather than treating it purely as a transactional interaction.
  3. To send a letter three months after the start date to seek feedback and check if the customer had any questions.
  4. One month before annual renewal to say that the renewal date was soon and to articulate any improvements made to the service and the benefits of continuing with this service.
  5. Send the renewal invoice out with a covering letter, reiterating much of what was in the pre-renewal letter and restating what was included in the service.

Results spoke for themselves: at the end of the first renewal year, the number of customers who re-subscribed increased by 15% and the number of customers who were ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’ with the service also increased by 20%.

Make sure all communications are consistent

This point is about branding – both the outward signs such as logo and typeface, layout and images, and the ‘softer’ signs such as the language used, the impression given and the congruence that the communication has with your brand values.

Use technology where you can

Where possible, use technology to take the strain. This might include:

  • Running reports regularly to catch all clients in a certain category (e.g. weekly new clients, clients coming up for renewals).
  • Sending automatic emails where possible, that are triggered by certain events.
  • Making sure you liaise with your IT and finance departments, email marketing person and your CRM manager so that each knows what the other is doing to effect the improvements and where each needs another’s help.