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Channel integration and the customer experience: What's going wrong?

9th Feb 2012
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As Pitney Bowes Software launches a new report into customer channel integration, MyCustomer caught up with Gary Roberts, the company’s VP of EMEA , to examine the barriers organisations face when integrating channels and what lessons can be learned.

As the number of communication channels continues to grow, 90% of companies want their channels integrated but only 31% actually do so. That’s according to Pitney Bowes Software's new report Disconnected Customer Channels, which surveyed 250 CMOs and marketing directors in B2C organisations across the UK, France and Germany.

Gary Roberts, VP of EMEA at Pitney Bowes Software, attributes organisations' lack of willingness to invest in multi-channel communications as one reason for the disconnect. "It’s really important that CMOs convince their business that it's crucial to have integrated platforms to allow multi-channel communications."

He explains that integration is centred on consistency, drawing from the report’s conclusion: "Unless companies have a consistent approach across every channel in the way they communicate and market to their customers their ability to develop profitable, long-term relationships will be seriously impacted."

Roberts continues: "It's important when you're delivering a message via one channel that you're able to deliver that same message via a different channel either because it's appropriate or because it's the customer's choice. Similarly, if a customer engages with you on one channel, it might mean they want to come back and re-engage on a separate channel but their getting consistency of experience and message."

A lack of capacity to integrate these systems and fear of security are the other obstacles to integration, says the report. 

Roberts explains: "A lot of organisations – particularly in banking and financial space – were worried about the security element of that when using channels such as SMS and web. They have to get over this fear of security. We’ve all got to get over the fear about whether these organisations can actually deliver it."

Additionally, over half of those surveyed (53%) engage with customers via social networks but only 8% provide integrated cross-channel communications based on choice, according to the report.

"As they're growing, organisations are finding it more difficult to be consistent across each one of those channels. The reality is, every time you start to integrate one channel there's potentially a new channel coming out. Whether that's a social media site or another device, there will always be more channels coming on board," he says.

Lost customers

As a result, 32% of organisations surveyed are losing customers during on-boarding – the critical 90-day honeymoon period when customers first come on-board – due to fragmentation and inconsistent communication. "Typically a third of organisations tend to lose customers in that phase either because there's insufficient follow up or the organisation isn't sufficiently connected to help them.

"Or they go the other way where they mass target and the individual doesn't feel that they are an individual," says Roberts. "I heard a great phase recently – for many years we've talked about B2B or B2C but to be successful, organisations must be B2I: the 'I' is the individual, not just consumer."

According to the report, mass targeting attributes for the second highest cause of customer loss. Roberts highlights Pitney Bowes Software's work with Nationwide as an example of an organisation that suffered typical problems such as lack of tools for their staff to be able to treat customers as individuals, systems and process issues, as well as little contact data regarding what products their customers had purchased.

"We did a lot of work with them around 18 months ago - we reduced the churn, improved their customer advocacy and they were then able to provide their employees with customer information."

To combat the rise in channels, Roberts explains there are three techniques organisations must implement. Firstly, once fully committed to a multi-channel approach, companies must create an internal strategy. Secondly, organisations must genuinely focus on this an opportunity for their customers and invest. And, finally, organisations must work with external specialists to help them through what he describes as a "fairly complex area".

"Those who have been able to achieve this have benefited by the fact that they get consistent messaging, reduce their churn, readily manage to upsell and cross sell their services and products," he says.

Customer insight

Organisations using sophisticated marketing segmentation techniques, based on deep customer insights, are also more likely to be using predictive analytic tools and to be delivering communications to their customers through their preferred channel, according to the report,

Roberts says: "There's so much data out there about our customers, most of which sits within our own organisations but we tend to do very little with it. There are a lot of organisations that fall foul of being 'data rich but info poor' but there is an opportunity for customers to do advanced segmentation and modelling so they can start to attack their outbound marketing and get that analytically driven and brought back in house then for the inbound marketing as and when it comes."

As well as those areas covered, the report also focuses on location intelligence, inbound marketing and social media. To view a full copy of the report, click here.

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