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The Evolution of CRM Communication Channels

By Shanmugam Gnanasambandam
Feb 22, 2011 5:00 AM PT

Communication is the key to the success of customer relationship management, and it lays the foundation for customer satisfaction and business growth.

The Evolution of CRM Communication Channels

Today, we have a wide range of CRM communication channels that organizations effectively utilize for communicating with their customers to offer their products and services.

The communication channels for CRM have evolved over time, along with the evolution of communication technology. Organizations have been quick to adapt new communication channels, while continuing to utilize old ones, to reach out to their prospective customers.

Communication Options

Different customer communication channels/modes are summarized in the table below.

Table 1– Different CRM Communication Channels/Modes
No. Customer Communication Channel/Mode Description of the Communication Channel/Mode Preference – Sample Situations - When This Communication Channel/Mode Is Preferred (for Marketing, Sales, Service)
1 Meeting individual customers in person Meeting individual customers and having face to face meetings with them For meeting customers and explaining offers, demonstrating products, offering service support
2 Events/road shows Meeting specific groups of customers through events/road shows and having face-to-face meetings with them For meeting customer groups (e.g. specific industry verticals) and explaining offers, demonstrating products to them
3 Postal correspondence Sending correspondence (paper copy) through post (to individual/group of customers) For sending printed copies of letters/offers brochures/contracts etc., on products/services
4 Phone calls Speaking to customers over phone to explain offers, offer service support For communicating on products/services that need an explanation/dialogue (e.g., explaining housing loans, resolving customer problems)
5 Fax Sending correspondence (paper copy) through Facsimile (to individual/group of customers) For sending printed copies of letters/offers brochures/contracts etc., on products/services
6 Email Sending correspondence through email (to individual/group of customers) For sending soft copies of letters/offers brochures/contracts etc., on product/services
7 Short Message Service (SMS) Sending SMS updates to mobile phones (to individual/group of customers) For sending brief text messages on current offers/events/status updates
8 Multimedia Message Service (MMS) Sending MMS updates to mobile phones (to individual or group of customers) For sending picture-based messages on current offers/events
9 Video conferencing (VC) Discussion with a group of customers (located in remote location or in distributed locations) through VC For discussing with a group of stakeholders, demonstrating products, making presentations
10 Chat Having an online chat with customers on products/services For interacting with the customers online and answering their queries related to products/ services
11 Blogs Posting information on products/services on a blog and communicating further with customers For posting information on products/services on a blog; customers start sharing their opinions/experience, post their queries, which are answered by the organization/other customers
12 Social networks Customer communication/product launch through social networks (like Facebook, Twitter) For offering products/services to a larger audience and to enable customers to share their views/experiences with their friends and followers in the social network

Multichannel Communication

Organizations select and use a combination of customer communication channels/modes based on some of the factors listed below:

  • Nature of the products/services being offered (e.g. consumer goods, IT products, banking services)
  • Target customer segments addressed (e.g., individuals, corporate)
  • Geographic locations covered (e.g. urban areas, rural areas)
  • Nature of the interaction and criticalness of the situation (e.g., negotiation meeting, field sales/service)
  • Communication policy /budget factors (e.g., low travel budget, emphasis on face-to-face meetings)
  • Multichannel communication is preferred by organizations, to address their customer needs and requirements.

Social Networks and Customer Communication

Technology advancements have progressively taken customer communication from in-person meetings/events, to phone calls, emails, SMS/MMS, video conferencing, blogs, and recently to social networks.

Today, social networks are really changing the face of customer communication, as it reaches a larger audience through wide networks of friends and followers. A good brand/product/service, when offered through social networks, receives positive feedback; on the other hand, if it is not good, it receives severe criticism.

Both positive and negative feedback spread quickly through social networks to a larger prospective customer base that can influence purchase decisions either in favor or against an organization.

Social networks can effectively be used for marketing (wider reach), sales (reduced cycle time) and service support (quick resolution), due to the collaborative interaction of organizations with their customers and partners.

Face to Face

Marketing, sales and service people should make the best possible use of all communication channels/modes.

Yet in spite of the availability of all these communication channels, meeting customers in person -- showing them the product, explaining the features/services, answering their queries, resolving their problems and finally seeing the smile on their face -- is still the most-preferred communication mode.

Shanmugam Gnanasambandam is a principal consultant with the enterprise solutions unit at Infosys. He has more than 18 years of work experience, with technical/domain experience in telecom and CRM solutions. Shanmugam is an avid blogger at the Infosys CRM Blog.

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